Born: March 21, 1916
Died: August 21, 2006
Achievement: Brought shehnai to the center stage of Indian
classical music; Became the third classical musician to be awarded the
Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour.
The legendary shehnai player, Ustad Bismillah Khan was one of India's
most celebrated classical musicians. Bismillah Khan has been credited
with taking the shehnai from the marriage mandap to the concert hall.
Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1916 at Dumraon, Bihar. His
ancestors were court musicians in the princely state of Dumraon in
Bihar. Ustad Bismillah Khan was trained under his uncle, the late Ali
Bux `Vilayatu', a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath
Bismillah Khan brought Shehnai to the center stage of Indian classical
music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in
1937. He had the honor of performing at Delhi's Red Fort on the occasion
of India's Independence on August 15, 1947. Bismillah Khan mesmerized
everyone with his heart-touching rendering of Raga Kafi from the Red
Fort on the eve of India's first Republic Day ceremony, on January 26,
Ustad Bismillah Khan was an icon of the composite culture of India. He
was a worshipper of both Allah and Saraswati. Ustad Bismillah was
greatly attached to the city of Varanasi and the river Ganga. Once, a
rich American university invited Bismillah to be their
musician-in-residence, and asked him to state his terms. Bismillah Khan
replied, he would only come if he could bring his beloved Ganga with
him. Ustad Bismillah Khan performed in various parts of the world. He
performed in Afghanistan, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Canada, West Africa, USA,
USSR, Japan, Hong Kong and almost every capital city across the world.
Ustad Bismillah Khan was a recipient of many honors and awards. These
include: Padma Vibhushan (1980), Padma Bhushan (1968), Padma Shri
(1961), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956), and Tansen Award by Govt. of
Madhya Pradesh. In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan became the third classical
musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian
Ustad Bismillah Khan died on August 21, 2006 due to cardiac arrest.