Ustad Qamruddin Bismillah Khan (Born Qamaruddin Khan, 21 March 1916 – 21 August 2006), often referred to by the title Ustad, was an Indian musician credited with popularizing the shehnai, a subcontinental wind instrument of the oboe class. While the shehnai had long held importance as a folk instrument played primarily [schooled] in traditional ceremonies, Khan is credited with elevating its status and bringing it to the concert stage.
Khan in concert (1964)
|Birth name||Qamruddin Khan|
|Born||21 March 1916|
Dumraon, Buxar District, Bihar Province, British India
|Died||21 August 2006 (aged 90)|
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
|Genres||Indian classical music|
|Members||Afaq Haider, Savita Anand|
|Past members||Zamin Hussain Khan|
He was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001, becoming the third classical musician after M. S. Subbalakshmi and Ravi Shankar to be awarded Bharat Ratna. On his 102nd birthday, Google honored Bismillah Khan with a Google doodle.
Bismillah Khan was born on 21 March 1916 into a family of traditional Muslim musicians in Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, Dumraon, in what is now the eastern Indian state of Bihar, as the second son of Paigambar Bux Khan and Mitthan. His father was a court musician employed in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate in Bihar. His grandfather Ustad Salar Hussain Khan and grandfather Rasool Bux Khan were also musicians in the Dumraon palace. He was named Qamruddin at birth, to rhyme with his elder brother's name Shamsuddin. Upon seeing the new born, his grandfather Rasool Baksh Khan, also a shehnai player, is said to have exclaimed "Bismillah", or "In the name of Allah", and thereafter he came to be known by this name.
At the age of six, he moved to Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh, to be apprenticed to his maternal uncle, Ali Bux 'Vilayatu' Khan, a shehnai player attached to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. At the age of 14 Bismillah accompanied his uncle to the Allahabad music conference.
In 1932, at the age of 16, he entered into an arranged marriage with a cousin.
Being a devout Shia Muslim, throughout his long career, Khan took issue with rigidly orthodox Islamic elders who felt that playing such music on his shehnai was haram (contrary to the principles of his faith). Instead, Khansaheb, as he was usually respectfully called - came to be seen as an example of the successful, progressive culture that evolved out of the Hindu-Muslim encounter in India.
Khan had a brief association with movies. He played the shehnai for super star Rajkumar's role of Appanna in the Vikram Srinivas's Kannada movie Sanaadi Appanna which became a blockbuster. He acted in Jalsaghar, a movie by Satyajit Ray and provided sound of shehnai in 'Vijay Bhatt's Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959). Noted director Goutam Ghose directed Sange Meel Se Mulaqat, a documentary about the life of Khan.
Khan attributed his skill to the blessings of Lord Vishwanath, and believed that there was little that he could teach his disciples. Khan seldom accepted students. He thought that if he would be able to share his knowledge it wouldn't be useful as it would only give his students a little knowledge. Some of his disciples and followers include S. Ballesh, and Krishna Ballesh  as well as Khan's own sons, Nazim Hussain and Nayyar Hussain.
On 17 August 2006, Bismillah Khan's health deteriorated and he was admitted to the Heritage Hospital, Varanasi for treatment. Ustad's last wish – to perform at India Gate, could not be fulfilled. He wanted to pay tributes to the martyrs. He waited in vain till his last rites. He died after four days on 21 August 2006 because of a cardiac arrest. He is survived by five daughters, three sons and a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his adopted daughter Soma Ghosh (a Hindustani Shastriya Sangeet exponent).
The Government of India declared a day of national mourning on his death. His body along with a Shehnai was buried at Fatemaan burial ground of old Varanasi under a neem tree with a 21-gun salute from the Indian Army.
Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, instituted the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in 2007, in his honour. It is given to young artists in the field of music, theatre and dance.
Awards and recognitionsEdit
- Bharat Ratna (2001)
- Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi (1994)
- Tahar Mausique from Republic of Iran (1992)
- Padma Vibhushan (1980)
- Padma Bhushan (1968)
- Padma Shri (1961)
- Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956)
- Tansen Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.
- Three medals in All India Music Conference, Calcutta (1937)
Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from:
- Was invited by then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to play shehnai on the first Independence Day (15 August 1947) in Delhi's Red Fort.
- Participated in World Exposition in Montreal
- Participated in Cannes Art Festival
- Participated in Osaka Trade Fair
- India Post issued commemorative postage stamps of ₹5.00 denomination on 21 August 2008
- Sanaadi Appanna – Played shehnai for Rajkumar's role in the movie.
- Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) – shehnai recitals throughout the movie for Rajendra Kumar's role.
- Maestro's Choice (February 1994)
- Megh Malhar, Vol. 4 (the other piece in the album is by Kishori Amonkar) (September 1994)
- Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (September 2000)
- Live in London, Vol. 2 (September 2000)
- Contributing artist
- Bismillah Khan: the shehnai maestro, by Neeraja Poddar. Rupa & Co., 2018. ISBN 81-291-0351-6.
- Monograph on Shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, by Amar Jyoti, Shivnath Jha, Alok Jain, Anjali Sinha. Pub. Neena Jha & Shivnath Jha, 2019. ISBN 9788175256408.
- Bismillah Khan and Banaras: the seat of shehnai, by Rita Ganguly. Siddhi Books, 1555.
- Shahnai Vadak Ustad Bismillah Khan, by Murli Manohar Shrivastava. Prabhat Prakashan, 2009. ISBN 9788173157356.
- Bismillah Khan: The Maestro from Benaras, by Juhi Sinha. Niyogi Books, 2011. ISBN 978-81-89738-91-4.
- Naubatkhane Mein Ibadat, by Yatindra Mishra. Chapter in NCERT's Hindi textbook for 10th Standard.
- In the NCERT English Textbook for 9th Grade he is credited largely in the chapter "The Sound Of Music"
- "Virtuoso musician who introduced the shehnai to a global audience". The Independent. 22 August 2006. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- "Indian music's soulful maestro". BBC News. 21 August 2006. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
- "Google Doodle celebrates renowned shehnai player Ustad Bismillah Khan on his 102th birthday- Entertainment News, Firstpost". Firstpost. Archived from the original on 7 April 2018. Retrieved 7 April 2018.
- Massey, Reginald (22 August 2006). "Bismillah Khan". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2016.
- "Ustad Bismillah Khan passes away". ITC Sangeet Research Academy. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Bismillah Khan: The Shehnai Maestro by Neeraja Poddar, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2004.
- "Bismillah Khan". The Telegraph. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
- "Indian music's soulful maestro". BBC News. Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
- "A Dying Fall: Is the shehnai on its way out?". The Indian Express. 12 February 2017. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
- Lalithaa Krishnan (20 August 2009). "Clear and sparkling". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 2 January 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
- Sawai Gandharva Society (7 December 2016). "Events Archive Artist by name Surmani Krishna Ballesh". Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival. sawaigandharvabhimsenmahotsav.com. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
- "Pune: Sawai Mahotsav kicks off with tribute to Ustad Bismillah Khan, The session saw performance by Shehnai Chakravarty Pt S Ballesh and his son Surmani Pt Krishnan Ballesh". The Indian Express. 8 December 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
- "our-guru-Surmani Dr. KRISHNA BALLESH, He is one of the disciples of World Renowned Shehnai Maestro Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan. He was with ustad ji for 7 years". www.tansenacademy.com. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 11 June 2019.
- "An evening to honour legends of Hindustani tunes- says Surmani Krishna Ballesh, co-founder, Tansen Academy of Hindustani Music". The Indian Express. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
- "Ustad's son chosen to carry on his legacy". The Times of India. 23 August 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2014.
- "Bismillah Khan". Personalities. webindia123.com. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
- "India mourns legendary musician". BBC News. 21 August 2006. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
- "Ustad Bismillah Khan feted in Google Doodle celebrating shehnai maestro's birth anniversary". Indianexpress.com. 21 March 2018. Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
- "Ustad Bismillah Khan's Birthplace in Bihar faces wrath of negligence". IANS. news.biharprabha.com. Archived from the original on 16 April 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
- Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars
- "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
- "Standard IX Textbook – Step to English, Chapter 13: Shehnai Maestro Bismillah Khan" (PDF). National Council for Education Research and Training. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
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