The Eminent Musician Ustad Bismillah Khan 

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Ustad Bismillah Khan

The Bharat Ratna awardee, Ustad Bismillah Khan is a legend of Shehnai in India. Despite being a devout Muslim, he managed to step outside the religious boundaries through his music. He became a symbol of harmony, performing at Hindu and Muslim ceremonies. His talent was recognized on the national stage when he was chosen to play the shehnai at the historic Red Fort on India’s Independence Day in 1947, a performance (in Raag Kafi) that continues to be televised annually. In this article, we will cover everything about Ustad Bismillah Khan. 

Overview of Ustad 

The legend of Shehnai had a lot of things that people would talk about. Here is an overview of the Ustad. 

NameQamaruddin Khan (AKA Ustad Bismillah Khan)
Lifespan1916 – 2006
InstrumentShehnai (reeded woodwind)
GenreHindustani Classical Music
LegacyPopularized the shehnai, and elevated its status to concert halls
Symbol ofReligious Harmony
Notable PerformanceIndia’s Independence Day (1947)
International RecognitionEdinburgh International Festival (1966)

Personal Life- Ustad Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan was not the only musician in his family. He was born into a family of musicians. 

  • He is a Bharat Ratna awardee, which is the highest civilian honour in India. 
  • Bismillah Khan, born Qamruddin, came from a long line of musicians. His father and both grandfathers were musicians in the Dumraon palace.
  • He received his nickname “Bismillah” from his grandfather at birth.
  • At age 3, he moved to Varanasi to apprentice under his maternal uncle, a renowned shehnai player at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
  • By 14, he was already accompanying his uncle to music conferences.
  • His big break came in 1937 with a performance at the All India Music Conference that brought the shehnai to national attention.
  • He became an international performer, travelling to countries across the globe throughout his career.
Source- ThePrint

Also Read- 20 Facts About Music That Will Amaze You

Tributes to Bismillah Khan

The legendary Ustad Bismillah Khan has been honoured many times with many different titles. Here is a list of his major tributes. 

Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva PuraskarEstablished in 2007 By Sangeet Natak Akademi For young artists in music, theatre, and dance
MuseumTown HallStatueProposed by the Bihar government 
Google DoodleFeatured on Google India homepage For his 102nd birth anniversary in 2018
Eric Clapton DocumentaryClapton cites Khan’s influence and attempts to mimic his music on guitar

Also Read- 50 Inspiring & Great Personalities of India and the World!

Ustad Bismillah Khan’s Career

Here is everything you should know about the career of Ustad Bismillah Khan. 

  • While others may have played shehnai before him, Bismillah Khan is credited with significantly elevating its status by bringing it to concert halls and classical music performances.
  • Undoubtedly, Bismillah Khan possessed exceptional talent, greatly contributing to the shehnai’s rise in popularity especially in India. 
  • His 1937 All India Music Conference concert marked a turning point, showcasing the shehnai’s potential to a wider audience.
  • Playing the shehnai at India’s independence ceremony in 1947 and during Republic Day speeches solidified the instrument’s association with national celebrations.
  • Bismillah Khan’s performances extended beyond India, garnering him international recognition.
  • His fondness for his shehnai is evident in his unique term of endearment, “Begum” (wife).


Is Bismillah Khan a true Indian?

Although he practised the Muslim religion, he was still a true Indian because he would play Shehnai in temples. 

Which musical instrument did Ustad Bismillah Khan play?

Ustad Bismillah Khan used to play Shehnai. Born Qamaruddin Khan (1916-2006), Ustad Bismillah Khan became a legendary Indian musician, breathing new life into the shehnai.

Why was Banaras so important to Bismillah Khan?

In Banaras, under the tutelage of his uncle Ali Bux, Bismillah Khan found his musical calling, forever weaving the city with his artistic soul.

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