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Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib (March 21, 1916 August 21, 2006) was a shehnai maestro from India. The term "Ustad" or "Pandit" in relation to Indian classical music implies Master or Guru. He was the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna (in 2001), the highest civilian honour in India.

Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1916 at Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, in Dumraon as the second son of Paigambar Khan and Mitthan. He was named as Qamaruddin[1] to rhyme with Shamsuddin, their first son. His grandfather, Rasool Baksh Khan uttered "Bismillah" (the basmala) after looking at the newborn, thus he was named Bismillah Khan.

His ancestors were court musicians and used to play in Naqqar khana in the princely states of Bhojpur, now in Bihar state. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate, now in Bihar.
He received his training under his uncle, the late Ali Baksh 'Vilayatu', a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath Temple

Shehnai and Ustad Khan

Khan was perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument. He brought the shehnai to the center stage of Indian music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai are almost synomyms.

Khan is one of the finest musicians in post-independent Indian Classical music and one of the best examples of hindu-muslim unity in India. His concept of music was very beautiful and his vision, superb. He once said, "Even if the world ends, the music will still survive" and he often said, "Music has no caste".

He has played in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Canada, West Africa, U.S., USSR, Japan, Hong Kong and almost every capital city across the world. Shehnai was so close to Ustad that after the demise of his wife, he used to call it begum (wife). After his death, his begum (shehnai) was also buried underneath.

Awards and recognitions

Awards
* Bharat Ratna (2001)
* Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi (1994).
* Talar Mausiquee from Republic of Iran (1992).
* Padma Vibhushan (1980)
* Padma Bhushan (1968)
* Padma Shri (1961)
* Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956)
* Tansen Award by Govt. of Madhya Pradesh.
* Three medals in All India Music Conference, Calcutta (1937)
* "Best Performer" in All India Music Conference, Allahabad (1930)

Recognitions Bismillah Khan had honorary doctorates from
* Banaras Hindu University
* Visva Bharati University
* Santiniketan.

Others include
* Was invited by the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to play shehnai on the first Independence Day (August 15, 1947) in Delhi's Red Fort.
* Participated in World Exposition in Montreal
* Participated in Cannes Art Festival
* Participated in Osaka Trade Fair
* His 80th birthday was celebrated by World Music Institute in New York
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