21 March: Remembering Ustad Bismillah Khan on Birthday

OV Digital Desk
3 Min Read
Ustad Bismillah Khan

Image Courtesy: Google Doodle

Ustad Bismillah Khan (21 March 1916 – 21 August 2006) was a legendary Indian musician often referred to by the title Ustad, was an Indian musician credited with popularizing the shehnai, a reeded woodwind instrument. He played it with such expressive virtuosity that he became a leading Hindustani classical music artist.

Life and Career

Bismillah Khan was born on 21 March 1916 into a family of traditional Muslim musicians at the town of small town called Dumraon in the state of Bihar, India. He is widely regarded as the finest exponent of the Shehnai, a traditional Indian wind instrument, and is one of the most celebrated classical musicians in India.

Bismillah Khan was born to a family of musicians and was introduced to music at a very young age. His father, Ustad Paigambar Baksh, was a Shehnai player in the court of the Maharaja of Benares, and Bismillah learned to play the instrument from him. He also received training in vocal music from his uncle, Ali Bux ‘Vilayatu’, who was a famous singer.

Bismillah Khan made his debut as a musician at the age of 14, when he was invited to perform at the All India Music Conference in Allahabad. He quickly gained fame as a Shehnai player and was soon invited to perform at various concerts and music festivals across India.

Bismillah Khan passed away on 21 August 2006, at the age of 90, but his legacy continues to inspire and influence generations of musicians in India and around the world.

Award and Legacy

Bismillah Khan’s career spanned over seven decades, during which he gave numerous memorable performances both in India and abroad. Some of his notable achievements include:

  • Recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, and the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
  • Performed at the Red Fort in Delhi on the eve of India’s Independence Day in 1947, and later at the first Republic Day ceremony in 1950.
  • Gave memorable performances at several international music festivals, including the Edinburgh International Festival in 1966 and the Cannes Film Festival in 1971.
  • Recorded several albums and composed music for films, including the classic Hindi film, ‘Goonj Uthi Shehnai’.

Ustad Bismillah Khan’s contribution to Indian classical music, particularly to the Shehnai, is unparalleled. He not only popularized the instrument but also elevated it to the status of a solo concert instrument. He also played a significant role in bringing classical music to the masses and in promoting communal harmony through his music.

On 21 March 2018, Google celebrated Ustad Bismillah Khan’s 102nd Birthday with a doodle.

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