Bismillah Khan's legacy will continue: PM

PM called Bismillah Khan 'a great son of India', who transformed shehnai into a renowned musical instrument.

india Updated: Aug 21, 2006 19:41 IST

In a break from usual practice, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday came out of his office in Parliament to pay his tribute to legendary shehnai maestro Bismillah Khan, who died of cardiac arrest in Varanasi.

The Prime Minister usually issues statements to condole any death. But on Monday he spoke to the media outside the Parliament gate. He paid glowing tributes to Bismillah Khan, saying his legacy would continue to inspire generations.

"This is truly a sad day for the world of music. A legendary person, Bismillah Khan, is no more with us. His passing away brings an era to end," Manmohan Singh said.

The maestro died at a Varanasi hospital at age 91 in the early hours on Monday after a brief illness.

"He was a phenomenal exponent of the composite culture of our country. I join millions of his admirers and friends all over the world in mourning the passing away of this great personality, whom the nation has honoured with the highest civilian award of Bharat Ratna," Manmohan Singh said in an impromptu statement.

He said Bismillah Khan's "legacy will survive his passing away. His ideas and ideals will continue to inspire generations of people in India".

In a written statement, the prime minister added: "Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib single-handedly elevated this simple instrument of popular folk music into a famous vehicle of Hindustani classical music."

He conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the maestro's family, disciples and his admirers around the world, and said: "May his music continue to bring peace and harmony to our lives."

The parliamentarians joined him in paying tributes to the shehnai maestro.

"He was an icon of creativity at an international level, a person whose music enthralled the listeners for decades," said Tatagatha Satpathy, a Lok Sabha MP from Orissa and an admirer of the shehnai player since 1970s.

Hyderabad MP, Assadudin Owaisi, who never missed Khan's shehnai programmes on television, said: "He's a great exponent of India's classical music and brought international fame to it. It is very hard to find a replacement."

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed held Khan as a "great example of India's secularism".

"Bismillah Khan is one of the precious gems of Indian classical music who will shine forever," said Ahamed.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) senior leader VK Malhotra said Bismillah Khan's demise was a personal loss. "I used to enjoy his music. He has come to my house and shared time with my family. So his death is a personal loss for me."

Paying tributes to the maestro, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said: "Ustad Bismillah Khan's love for music transcended the narrow confines of caste, creed and religion and his performance took music to the level of spirituality.

"Though the void created by his demise would never be filled, the universal appeal of his music would continue to inspire generations of music lovers."

Commenting on his simple life and old world charm, Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat described the maestro's death as "an irreparable loss to Indian classical music".

Members in both houses of parliament observed a minute's silence to condole Bismillah Khan's death.

First Published: Aug 21, 2006 14:53 IST