Bismillah Khan

Indian shehnai player

Bismillah Khan (Urdu: استاد بسم اللہ خان صاحب‎; March 21, 1916August 21, 2006) was a legendary Indian musician of the wind instrument the Shehnai which he popularized and brought it to a pinnacle of glory and for which he got the honorific Ustad prefixed to his name. The Shehnai, which was a folk instrument played primarily during traditional ceremonies was elevated to the status of playing solo on the concert stage. During his life time he was one of the few artists who received all the four Padma awards, and topped with the India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001. He was a pious Shi'ite Muslim, but an Indian devotee of Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of wisdom and arts. He often played at Hindu temples, including the famous Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi on the banks of the river Ganga.

Bismillah Khan at a concert

Quote edit

  • Music lets me forget bad experiences. You cannot keep ragas and regrets in your mind together.

Power Profiles edit

Harihar Swarup (1 January 2010). Power Profiles. Har-Anand Publications. pp. 64–65. ISBN 978-81-241-1525-1. 

  • After a year and half Mamu told me if you see anything don’t talk about it. One night I was playing deep in meditation. I smelled something. It was an indescribable scent, something like sandalwood and jasmine. I thought it was the aroma of Ganges but the scent got more powerful. When I opened my eyes , there was Balaji standing right next to me, exactly as he is pictured. My door was locked from inside; nobody was allowed to enter when I did riyaz. He said ‘play my son’ but I was sweating. I stopped playing.
    • Khan used to do riyaz (practice) before the temple of Balaji as advised by his mamu (maternal uncle) who had also told him not talk to any body about anything that might happen. But when he told his mamu about his seeing Balaji, mamu was annoyed and slapped him.
  • If music is haraam then why has it reached such heights? Why does music make me to soar towards heaven? The religion of music is one; all other are different. I tell the Mullas that this is the only haqeeqat (reality). This is my world. My Namaaz is the seven ‘sudh’ [pure] and five ‘komal’ [soft] surs
    • His reply to the hardliner Shia mullas who wanted to ban music.
  • Allahee...Allah-hee... Allah-hee....I continued to raise the pitch. When I opened my eyes I asked them: Is this chutiyap? I am calling the God. I am thinking of him. I am searching for Him. Why do you call my search chutiya?
    • In reply to the Shia Maulvis in Iran who were arguing with him that Music should be banned, he sang the song in Raag Bhairavi and posed a question to them to which they had no answer.

Encyclopedia of Bharat Ratnas edit

Murthi, R.K.. Encyclopedia of Bharat Ratnas. Pitambar Publishing. pp. 215–216. ISBN 978-81-209-1307-3. 

  • God knows no religion. God belongs to mankind. I realized this while playing at the Balaji temple.
  • I wish I could hold a concert....It is unfair that the Shehnai is not played at concerts. Why should not the Shehnai be played at the concerts?... Then let me do it now. Let me break tradition....May Lord Balaji help me.
    • When he was perturbed at not being invited to play in concerts when other instrumentalists held solo performances, and it is when Lord Balaji whispered in his ears “All good things begin with Shehnai”.
  • Tradition takes time to change. But it changes, all right. All that I have to do is to keep trying.
  • Sukriya. An image can never be the real thing. Varanasi is where the Ganga flows, where I can play the Shehnai for Lord Balaji. I shall be at home, nowhere else but in India.
    • When he was asked to stay back in America following his concerts there, even with a promise that a Varanasi would be replicated for him there.

About Bismillah Khan edit

  • Khan saheb’s music has found its way, penetrating barriers of religion, caste and class, to the hearts of millions of our people, uniting them in a shared ecstasy....He has never accepted that there is any contradiction between music and his religious faith, rather he sees perfect unity , a connection between the two....
  • K.R .Narayan, former President of India quoted in Ahuja, M. L. (2006). Eminent Indians : Musicians. Rupa & Company. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-81-291-1015-2. </ref>
Shehnai,double-reed musical instrument
  • Along with the steady diet sitar, sarod, and tabla, several new instruments and players came to my attention. The first of these was Ustad Bismillah Khan, master of the sonorous double-reed instrument known as shehnai. This beautiful wind instrument, with finger holes and a bell-shaped opening at the bottom, sounded to me like a hybrid of soprano saxophone and oboe, and Bismillah Khan’s tone very much influenced what Coltrane and Terry Riley would do with the soprano sax. Primarily used at weddings, the shehnai had been rejected as a classical instrument until Bismillah Khan elevated it to a higher status among listeners. His unique fingertips and sublime breath control produced the necessary range of sounds for raga making shehnai one of the more popular instruments in North India.
  • These are the people who made the instrument become identified with them. If you said shehnai, you said Bismillah Khan. You did not say anybody else, it became synonymous.
    • Zakir Hussain, the famous tabla player quoted in "The Dawn of Indian Music in the West" page=121
  • Ustad Bismillah Khan’s specialization lies in his ability to produce intricate sound patterns on the Shehnai, which was hitherto, considered impossible on this instrument.
  • I just acted in the role but Ustad Bismillah Khan is the real soul of the film. He gave life to the character I played in the film.
    • Raj Kumar in whose film Sanadi Appanna Khan had given the background music in Shehnai.
  • He was the undisputed jewel in the crown of Indian music; one who will not be born in the next few centuries. He gave a new meaning to shehnai.
  • He did not even leave his favourite Banaras where the notes of his shehnai wafted across the Kashi Vishwanath and Sankat Mochan temples and intermingled with the placid waters of the Ganga,"

External links edit

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