Google paid tribute to Ustad Bismillah Khan, an unparalleled shehnai player, who was born on March 21, 102 years ago. Bismillah went on to receive the Bharat Ratna. He was born to shehnai player Paighamber Bux, in a small town of Dumaraon in Bihar. It is said that when his grandfather heard the news, he exclaimed ‘Bismillah!’ in gratitude, which eventually became his name. Bismillah was formally known as Qamruddin, to rhyme with his brother’s name, Shamsuddin. As Bismillah became more popular, his fans honoured him with the title of Ustad.
Bismillah Khan received his training under his maternal uncle, Ali Bux, who was known for his unorthodox style of teaching.
One of the most defining moments in Khan’s career was his performance at the All India Music Conference at Kolkata in 1937.
Bismillah played at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947, when India gained independence. Even today, the Republic Day celebrations start with his musical notes. Though Bismillah was often criticized for being loud and shrill, it was his unique potential to mix emotions with music through his shehnai that made him one of the best advocates of Indian classical music.
“He played for films but on his own terms — no headphones 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. Ustad has also played in a few Hindi films, the most notable being Gunj Uthi Shehnai,” said Pt S. Ballesh, a disciple of Bismillah Khan, in an interview to The Hindu.