Ustad Bismillah Khan though no longer among us , continues to hold a position of rare stature and respect among music lovers in South Asia and across the world. The honors bestowed upon him are also rare. One of only three musicians to be awarded the highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna, by the government of India (the other two: Ravi Shankar and M.S. Subbalakhsmi). When he and the country were very young, he was invited to play his shehnai, at the Red Fort to mark the occasion of Independence from Britain. He maintained this honour for decades, delighting fans each August 15 with a live concert, broadcast throughout the country.
Born into a family of court musicians in Bihar Bismillah Khan nearly single handedly transformed the Indian oboe, shehnai, from a folk and ceremonial instrument into a full fledged member of the Hindustani classical orchestra. During his career he travelled far and wide promoting not just the shehnai, or Indian classical music, but inter-communal harmony and the transcendency of music generally. In 1986 I had the pleasure to hear him in a concert in Lahore’s Alhamra Art Center, a concert I will never forge
The wonderful album we share today is from a performance in the UK. It is simply intoxicating in its beauty and completeness and balance between shehnai and accompanists.
01 Raga Shuddh Kalyan [Alap]
02 Raga Shuddh Kalyan [Gat in Vilambit Ektaal]
03 Raga Shuddh Kalyan [Drut Teental]
04 Raga Shankara [Alap]
05 Raga Shankara [Gat in Ektal]