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A life sketch of the shehnai maestro

The sound of Bismillah Khan's shehnai has ceased to exist. Here's a look at this great maestro's musical life.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2006 09:04 IST

Shehnai maestro, Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1916 in Dumraon, Bihar. His family comprised of professional shehnai players. As a child, Khan lived with his maternal uncle and teacher Ustad Ali Bux, who had established himself as an eminent shehnai player in Varanasi.

Bismillah Khan learntthe intrinsic crafts of the instrument under the able guidance of his maternal uncle and since the tender age of six, he started his practice (Reyaz) in solitude on the Banks of the Ganges and in the devout temples of 'Balaji', and its adjacent temples like 'Jarau Mandir' and 'Mangala Maiya' etc. His performances, both in India and abroad have always-forged links between men, temples and river, a bond whose depth few can comprehend.

Recognitions and laurels came fast and Bismillah Khan became themost prized artists at concerts as well as with the broadcasting organisations and the record industry in India and abroad. He fought to win a place of dignity and honour for the instrument he loved.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was blessed by the holy temples of Varanasi and observed many transcendental events during his practice in the temples. He however, avoided quoting them as advised by his great maternal uncle and teacher.

He turned down many an offer luring him overseas, including one in which he was promised a replica of Banaras in USA. He rejected it saying,"You will not be able to bring my Ganges here". It was precisely this deep attachment to the temples and the holy Ganges that held him back from pursuing the glamorous carrier abroad.

He also rejected various offers as Music Director in films and only obliged his friends late Vijay Bhatt and Shanker Bhatt for the film Goonj Uthi Shahnai and another ardent fan Vikram Srinivas, a film producer of Madras by performing in his film Sanadhi Apanna. Despite the grand success of both films, he could not adjust himself with the artificiality and glamour of the film world due to his pious and God fearing temperament and didn't accept any more offers.

First Published: Aug 21, 2006 09:04 IST