Ustadji played at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947 when India was declared Independent.Ustad Bismillah Khan, who popularised the humble shehnai with an unparalleled exploration of its musical capacity, was born on March 21, 102 years ago.
Music was in the genes for this Bharat Ratna. He was born in the small town of Dumaraon in Bihar, to shehnai player Paighamber Bux. It is believed that when the news reached his grandfather, the latter exclaimed 'Bismillah!' in gratitude and that's how the name came into being. He was formally named Qamruddin to rhyme with his brother’s name, Shamsuddin. As the magic of his mastery grew, people honoured him with the title of 'Ustad'.
Bismillah Khan got his training under Ali Bux, his maternal uncle, known for his unorthodox style of teaching. The musical genius came from a very humble background.
Bismillah Khan's performance at the All India Music Conference at Kolkata in 1937 became one of the defining moments of his career. Ustadji played at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947 when India was declared Independent. To this day, the Republic Day celebration broadcast begins with his musical notes
It was his ability to mix emotions with melody on the shehnai, often criticised for being loud and shrill, that made him one of the greatest exponents of the instrument, and of Indian classical music itself.
Other than bringing the instrument to concerts for a global audience, he also delved into film music for a bit but on his own terms. “He played for films but on his own terms — no head phones and the seating would be like in a concert. His playing for the song Karedaru Kelade sung by S. Janaki, under G.K. Venkatesh’s baton, is still remembered by Kannada film music lovers. Even today in my concerts in and around Karnataka, when I play these bits, the crowd goes into raptures. Ustad has also played in a few Hindi films, the most notable being Gunj Uthi Shehnai,” Pt S. Ballesh, a disciple of Bismillah Khan, recalled
A secular artist, known for his simplicity and dedication to his craft, he remains unparalleled till date. Today's Google doodle captures the colourful world Ustad Bismillah Khan created with his powerful, distinctive music.