Google Doodle honors shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan on his birthday

Joanna Estrada
March 21, 2018

The music world is celebrating the 102 birth anniversary of Ustad Bismillah Khan, today. However, it was his performance at the All Indian Music Conference in Kolkata in 1937 that brought him fame across the country.

On the eve of India's Independence in 1947, Bismillah khan performed at the Red Fort in Delhi.

The shehnai maestro is credited for popularising shehnai, a subcontinental wind instrument. He died on August 21, 2006, at the age of 90.

The shehnai found a global audience when he performed at the Edinburgh Music Festival nearly three decades later. To this day, Republic Day celebrations are broadcast to the opening notes of his music.

Ustadji Bismillah Khan's shehnai also graced a couple of Hindi films, Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959) and Swades (2004) being the most memorable ones.

He performed shehnai music at the Red Fort on India's Independence Day and also on the first Republic Day ceremony on January 26, 1950. He is said to have often referred to his shehnai as his begum (wife). He acted in Satyajit Ray's much acclaimed Jalsaghar and played the shehnai in Goonj Uthi Shehnai, a 1959 film directed by Vijay Bhatt.

Famous for his common man behaviour and simplicity, he was a recipient of all four highest civilian award, including the Bharat Ratna, awarded to only a few musicians. From there he went on to play for audiences around the world including at the Edinburgh Music Festival in 1966 and Cannes Art Festival, France in 1969. Did you know, his shehnai music was used in Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar? He was buried along with his shehnai under a neem tree at Fatemaan burial ground in old Varanasi with a 21-gun salute from the Indian Army.

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