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Volume 1 | Issue 3 | October 2006 | 

Ustad Bismillah Khan


Ustad Bismillah Khan was born on 21 March 1916 in Dumraon, Bihar, learnt Shehnai-playing under Ustad Ali Bux who was attached to the Vishwanath temple of Benaras. He has performed his first public concert at the age of 14 at the Allahabad All India Music Conference.
Over a long concert career Ustad Bismillah Khan has been acclaimed as one of the country’s most popular and respected musicians. An instrumentalist of exceptional abilities, he has developed a highly individual style and has elevated the shehnai to its present position in classical music. He has performed in prestigious festivals all over the world including the Festivals of India in France and the Soviet Union.
Ustad Bismillah Khan received the Padma Shri in 1961, the Padma Bhushan in 1968, the Padma Vibhushan in 1980 and the Sangeet Natak Academi Award in 1956. He has been conferred honorary doctorates by the Vishva-Bharati University and the Benaras Hindu University. The Republic of Iran conferred on him the title Talar Mausiqee in 1992. He was elected Fellow of Sangeeth Natak Akademi in 1994.

Jugalbandhi refers to a concert where two equals perform on their chosen instruments (or vocal) and their traditions. It can be either two Hindustani artists, two Carnatic artists or one from each tradition. Usually groups who normally perform together are not called jugalbandhis (like Mishra Brothers, Bombay Sisters or Parveen Sultana with Dilshaq Khan), since it is more of a collaboration rather than a bit of competition too, that makes Jugalbandhi so popular.
Earliest recorded jugalbandhi was with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan in the 60s. Being students of the same Guru, they were ideal JugalBandhi partners. Ustad Bismillah Khan's first jugalbandhi was with Ustad Vilayat Khan. Jugalbandhi of V.J.Jog's violin and Ustad Bismillah Khan's Shehnai, were recorded such that they played the notes from different octaves and were again very popular. Jog and Bismilla Khan recorded a series of Jugalbandhi's, just like Ravi Skankar and Ali Akbar Khan did. Nikhil Banerjee too was involved in several of them with Ali Akbar Khan.
The vocal jugalbandhi's are rare. There have been some involving Carnatic and Hindustani vocalists. There were a couple of them between Bhimsen Joshi and Balamuralikrishna which became popular. There have also been interesting ones like the one between Balamuralikrishna and Hariprasad Chaurasia.
Almost all top artists have now been performing in JugalBandhis.
Ustad has left us at the mature age of ninety. But even at this age he said he had not reached even the shore of the ocean that is music.

We condole the demise of the Ustad










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