Class 9- Chapter 2- The Sound Of Music Part 2

The Sound of Music Part 2,Bismillah Khan,Ustad Bismillah Khan

Chapter 2, “Bismillah Khan: The Sound Of Music Part 2” Summary, Important Passages, Character Sketch, Textbook Exercises, Question Answers and Extra Questions.

The Sound of Music

Part II:  The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan:

Next: “The Sound of Music: Evelyn Glennie“, “Wind” by Subramania Bharati


  • Apprentice: A person learning a trade from a skilled employer has agreed to work for a fixed period at low wages.
  • Artificiality: The quality of being produced by humans rather than occurring naturally, often implying a lack of authenticity.
  • Captivated: Attract and hold the interest and attention of charm.
  • Chartbuster: A piece of music that is a tremendous commercial success.
  • Civic: Relating to a city or town, especially its administration; municipal.
  • Civility: Formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour or speech.
  • Conducive: Making a particular situation or outcome likely or possible.
  • Coveted: Strongly desired or sought after.
  • Devout: Deeply religious or committed to a particular religion.
  • Eminent: Famous and respected within a particular sphere or profession.
  • Ensemble: A group of musicians, actors, or dancers performing together.
  • Eulogy: A speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly, typically someone who has just died.
  • Evoke: Bring or recall to the conscious mind; elicit.
  • Fascinated: Held the attention of someone to the point of intense interest or curiosity.
  • Generic: Relating to or characteristic of a whole group or class; not specific.
  • Glitz: Extravagant showiness, often implying superficiality or excess.
  • Haunts: Places frequently visited by a person.
  • Improvise: Create or perform spontaneously or without preparation.
  • Maestro: An eminent musician, usually a conductor or composer.
  • National mourning: A period of mourning a nation observes as a mark of respect for a deceased public figure.
  • Naubat: A traditional ensemble of nine instruments in royal courts.
  • Prolonged: Continuing for a long time or longer than usual; extended.
  • Prominent: Important; famous.
  • Recital: A music or dance performance, especially by a soloist.
  • Raagas: Melodic modes used in Indian classical music.
  • Repertoire: The range or selection of a particular person or group’s skills, aptitudes, or notable accomplishments.
  • Replicating: Making an exact copy or reproduction of something.
  • State funeral: A funeral organised and funded by the government for an eminent figure.
  • Thick and fast: Occurring rapidly and in large quantities.
  • Tonal: Relating to or having tones or a tone.
  • Ventures: Risky or daring journeys or undertakings.
  • Yearning: A feeling of intense longing for something.

Summary “The Sound of Music Part 2”:

Bismillah Khan, born in 1916 into a family of musicians from Bihar, became a legendary Shehnai player. He transformed the shehnai from a temple and wedding instrument to a classical stage staple. Khan’s musical journey began in childhood, enchanted by the shehnai’s melodies. His talent blossomed with Ustad Faiyaz Khan’s encouragement and All India Radio exposure. He gained international acclaim, performed globally, and earned numerous awards, including the Bharat Ratna. Khan’s devotion to Benaras and rejection of partition highlighted his deep-rooted Indian identity. His life reflects India’s cultural richness, transcending religious boundaries. Khan passed away in 2006, leaving a musical brilliance and cultural unity legacy.

Theme “The Sound of Music Part 2”:

The theme of “Part II:  The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan” revolves around the life and legacy of Ustad Bismillah Khan, a renowned Shehnai player, and his contributions to Indian classical music. It highlights his journey from humble beginnings to international acclaim, emphasising his devotion to music, cultural heritage, and refusal to leave his homeland despite opportunities elsewhere. It touches upon broader themes such as the richness of Indian cultural traditions, the significance of music in society, and the importance of preserving and honouring one’s roots and heritage. The biographical piece celebrates the life, achievements, and cultural impact of Ustad Bismillah Khan.

Character Sketch: Ustad Bismillah Khan:

Ustad Bismillah Khan emerges as a figure of immense talent, dedication, and humility through the biographical piece. 

  • Talented Musician: Bismillah Khan displayed a natural affinity and talent for music from a young age. His fascination with the shehnai, influenced by his family’s musical background, led him to become a master of the instrument. His ability to evoke melodic tunes and improvise ragas showcased his innate musical prowess.
  • Dedicated Apprentice: Bismillah Khan spent countless hours honing his craft as a devoted student. He accompanied his uncle to the Vishnu temple, where he absorbed the nuances of shehnai, playing with unwavering focus. His commitment to practice, even in solitude by the banks of the Ganga, reflects his dedication to mastering his art.
  • Cultural Ambassador: Bismillah Khan’s contributions extended beyond his musical talents. He pivotally elevates the shehnai from its traditional settings in temples and weddings to the classical stage. His performances captivated audiences in India and garnered international acclaim, earning him recognition as a cultural ambassador for Indian classical music.
  • Humble and Grounded: Despite his fame and accolades, Bismillah Khan remained humble and deeply connected to his roots. His refusal to leave his beloved Benaras exemplifies his attachment to his homeland and traditional values. His fondness for Dumraon and Benaras reflects his appreciation for simplicity and authenticity amidst a changing world.
  • Spiritual and Devout: Bismillah Khan’s spiritual inclination is evident in his deep reverence for music and tradition. Despite being a devout Muslim, he found solace in playing the shehnai at the Kashi Vishwanath temple every morning, transcending religious boundaries through his music.
  • Resilient and Patriotic: Bismillah Khan’s refusal to leave Benaras during Partition underscores his resilience and love for his country. His brief visit to Pakistan symbolises his unwavering commitment to his homeland, as he humorously greets Indian and Pakistani nationals with warmth and humour.

Ustad Bismillah Khan emerges as a multifaceted character—a musical genius, dedicated apprentice, cultural ambassador, humble individual, spiritual devotee, and patriotic citizen—all woven together to create a remarkable legacy in the history of Indian classical music.

Comparison/Similarities: Part 1 and Part 2

Evelyn Glennie and Ustad Bismillah Khan: 

Despite coming from different cultural backgrounds and musical traditions, Evelyn Glennie and Ustad Bismillah Khan shared similarities in their lives and careers.

  • Firstly, both musicians faced significant challenges and obstacles on their respective paths to success. Evelyn Glennie, who has been deaf since the age of twelve, encountered scepticism and doubts about her ability to pursue a music career. Similarly, Ustad Bismillah Khan, born into a modest family in Bihar, had to overcome financial constraints and societal expectations to establish himself as a renowned shehnai player. Both artists encountered adversity but remained undeterred in their pursuit of musical excellence.
  • Secondly, Evelyn Glennie and Ustad Bismillah Khan displayed remarkable dedication and commitment to their craft. They devoted countless hours to practising and refining their skills, striving for perfection in their performances. Despite facing setbacks and challenges, they remained focused on their goals, driven by a passion for music and a desire to excel in their art.
  • Both musicians achieved international acclaim and recognition for their contributions to the music world. Evelyn Glennie’s innovative approach to percussion and ability to transcend barriers of perception earned her widespread admiration and accolades on the global stage. Similarly, Ustad Bismillah Khan’s mastery of the shehnai and his unique improvisational style captivated audiences both in India and abroad, earning him prestigious awards and honours.

While Evelyn Glennie and Ustad Bismillah Khan hailed from different backgrounds and musical traditions, their lives were united by their unwavering dedication, perseverance in the face of adversity, and remarkable achievements in music.

Background and Early Life:

Evelyn Glennie: Deafness and Musical Pursuits.
Ustad Bismillah Khan: Heritage in Musical Family.

Challenges and Obstacles:

Evelyn Glennie: Overcoming Hearing Impairment.
Ustad Bismillah Khan: Financial Constraints and Societal Expectations.

Dedication to Craft:

Evelyn Glennie: Commitment to Percussion Mastery.
Ustad Bismillah Khan: Devotion to Shehnai and Musical Tradition.

International Recognition:

Evelyn Glennie: Global Acclaim for Percussion Innovation.
Ustad Bismillah Khan: Prestigious Awards for Shehnai Mastery.

Legacy and Impact:

Evelyn Glennie: Breaking Barriers and Inspiring Others.
Ustad Bismillah Khan: Elevating Indian Classical Music on the Global Stage.
Similarities Between The Sound Of Music Part 1 & 2

Important Passages/Lines:

1. “Few had thought that it would one day be revived.” This statement highlights the unexpected revival of the musical instrument, the shehnai, which was transformed from the generic and unpleasant-sounding pungi by a barber with innovative modifications.

2. “The sound of the shehnai began to be considered auspicious.” It indicates the growing cultural significance attached to the shehnai’s sound, which became associated with auspicious occasions such as temple rituals and weddings, contributing to its popularity and traditional usage.

3. “This happened 80 years ago, and the little boy has travelled far to earn the highest civilian award in India—the Bharat Ratna.” Providing a timeframe emphasises Bismillah Khan’s journey, from his childhood experiences to achieving the highest civilian honour in India, the Bharat Ratna, highlighting his remarkable life journey and accomplishments.

4. “Born on 21 March 1916, Bismillah belongs to a well-known family of musicians from Bihar.” This line offers essential biographical information about Bismillah Khan, including his birth date and his familial background in a family renowned for their musical talents, situating him within a rich musical heritage.

5. “The young boy took to music early in life.” This statement highlights Bismillah Khan’s early affinity for music, indicating his natural inclination towards the art form from a young age, setting the stage for his eventual mastery of the shehnai.

6. “With the opening of the All India Radio in Lucknow in 1938 came Bismillah’s big break.” Highlighting a pivotal moment in Bismillah Khan’s career, it signifies his gaining significant exposure and recognition through All India Radio, marking a turning point that propelled him towards greater prominence and opportunities in the music world.

7. “When India gained independence on 15 August 1947, Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to greet the nation with his shehnai.” This highlights Bismillah Khan’s historic performance on India’s Independence Day, where he played the shehnai from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi, symbolically welcoming the dawn of a new era for the nation. His rendition became iconic in Indian history, marking his contribution to the country’s cultural fabric.

8. “His first trip abroad was to Afghanistan where King Zahir Shah was so taken in by the maestro.” This illustrates Bismillah Khan’s early international recognition and appreciation for his musical talent. His performance in Afghanistan left a lasting impression on King Zahir Shah, showcasing his music’s universal appeal and impact beyond India’s borders.

9. “Awards and recognition came thick and fast.” This line emphasises the rapid accumulation of accolades and honours in Bismillah Khan’s career, indicating the widespread acknowledgement and appreciation of his musical genius nationally and internationally.

10. “National awards like the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan, and the Padma Vibhushan were conferred on him.” This enumerates some of the prestigious national awards bestowed upon Bismillah Khan, highlighting the official recognition of the government of India’s exceptional contribution to Indian classical music and culture.

11. “In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.” This signifies the pinnacle of Bismillah Khan’s recognition and honours, as he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award in India, in 2001. This acknowledgement reflects his unparalleled mastery of the shehnai and his significant cultural legacy, cementing his status as a national treasure.

12. “In spite of having travelled all over the world — Khansaab as he is fondly called — is exceedingly fond of Benaras and Dumraon.” Despite travelling extensively worldwide, Bismillah Khan, affectionately called Khansaab, profoundly loves Benaras and Dumraon. This highlights his enduring attachment to his homeland, reflecting his deep-rooted connection to the places where he grew up and honed his musical skills.

13. “Ustad Bismillah Khan’s life is a perfect example of the rich, cultural heritage of India.” Ustad Bismillah Khan’s life is a quintessential representation of India’s rich cultural heritage. Through his devotion to music and mastery of the shehnai, he embodies the essence of Indian culture, becoming a symbol of artistic excellence and tradition that resonates nationally and internationally.

14. “[Ustad Bismillah Khan passed away on 21 August 2006 at the age of ninety after a prolonged illness.]” Ustad Bismillah Khan’s passing on August 21, 2006, at the age of ninety, following a prolonged illness, marks the conclusion of an extraordinary journey. It signifies the end of a life dedicated to music and cultural preservation, leaving behind a lasting legacy that inspires future generations.

Question Answers “The Sound Of Music Part 2 “:

Thinking About The Text:

I. Tick the right answer.

1. The (shehnai, pungi) was a ‘reeded noisemaker.’

2. (Bismillah Khan, A barber, Ali Bux) transformed the pungi into a shehnai.

3. Bismillah Khan’s paternal ancestors were (barbers, professional musicians).

4. Bismillah Khan learnt to play the shehnai from (Ali Bux, Paigambar Bux,Ustad Faiyaaz Khan).

5. Bismillah Khan’s first trip abroad was to (Afghanistan, U.S.A., Canada).

II. Find the words in the text which show Ustad Bismillah Khan’s feelings about the items listed below. Then mark a tick (✔) in the correct column. Discuss your answers in class.

Bismillah Khan’s feelings aboutPositive Negative Neutral 
1. teaching children music        ✔
2. the film world        ✔ 
3. migrating to the U.S.A.        ✔
4. playing at temples        ✔
5. getting the Bharat Ratna        ✔
6. the banks of the Ganga        ✔
7. leaving Benaras and Dumraon


  1. Bismillah Khan expresses positive feelings about teaching children music, as he considers it Hindustan’s richest tradition.
  1. He holds negative feelings towards the film world, expressing discomfort with its artificiality and glamour.
  1. His feelings toward migrating to the U.S.A. are negative. He firmly rejects the idea, emphasising his strong attachment to Benaras.
  1. Bismillah Khan’s feelings about playing at temples are positive, as he finds it a significant aspect of his musical practice.
  1. He feels optimistic about receiving the Bharat Ratna, considering it a great honour and achievement.
  1. Bismillah Khan expresses positive feelings toward the banks of the Ganga, which inspired his music.
  1. He feels pessimistic about leaving Benaras and Dumraon, indicating a strong emotional attachment to his hometowns.

Answer these questions in 30–40 words.

Q1: Why did Aurangzeb ban the playing of the pungi?

A1: Aurangzeb banned playing the pungi due to its shrill and unpleasant sound, which was disruptive in the royal residence.

Q2:  How is a shehnai different from a pungi?

A2: A shehnai differs from a pungi because it has a longer and broader natural hollow stem with seven holes on the body, producing softer and more musical sounds.

Q3: Where was the shehnai played traditionally? How did Bismillah Khan change this?

A3: Traditionally, the shehnai was played in temples and weddings. Bismillah Khan changed this by bringing the shehnai onto the classical stage, expanding its usage beyond traditional settings.

Q4: When and how did Bismillah Khan get his big break?

A4: Bismillah Khan got his big break with the opening of All India Radio in Lucknow in 1938, where he became a frequently heard Shehnai player, gaining significant exposure and recognition.

Q5: Where did Bismillah Khan play the shehnai on 15 August 1947? Why was the event historic?

A5: Bismillah Khan played the shehnai from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi on 15 August 1947, marking India’s Independence Day. The event was historic as he became the first Indian to greet the nation with his music on this significant occasion.

Q6: Why did Bismillah Khan refuse to start a shehnai school in the U.S.A.?

A6: Bismillah Khan refused to start a shehnai school in the U.S.A. because he couldn’t accept the artificiality and glamour of the film world, emphasising his deep-rooted attachment to his homeland and its traditions.

Q7: Find at least two instances in the text which tell you that Bismillah Khan loves India and Benaras.

A7: Instances indicating Bismillah Khan’s love for India and Benaras are his refusal to migrate to Pakistan during Partition and his fondness for Benaras and Dumraon despite travelling worldwide.

Thinking About Language:

Complete the following sentences. Beginning with a to-verb, try to answer the questions in brackets.

  1. The school sports team hopes to win the championship. (What does it hope to do?)
  1. We all want to make a positive impact. (What do we all want to do?)
  1. They advised the hearing-impaired child’s mother to seek professional assistance. (What did they advise her to do?)
  1. The authorities permitted us to access the restricted area. (What did the authorities permit us to do?)
  1. A musician decided to pursue a career in music. (What did the musician decide to do?)

II. From the text on Bismillah Khan, find the words and phrases that match these definitions and write them down. The number of the paragraph where you will find the words/phrases has been given for you in brackets.

  1. the home of royal people (1) – Royal residence
  1. the state of being alone (5) – Solitude
  1. a part which is absolutely necessary (2) – Indispensable component
  1. to do something not done before (5) – Improvise and invent
  1. without much effort (13) – Effortlessly
  1. quickly and in large quantities (9) – Thick and fast

III. Tick the right answer.

  1. When something is revived, it lives again.
  1. When a government bans something, it wants it stopped.
  1. When something is considered auspicious, we welcome it.
  1. When we take to something, we find it interesting.
  1. When you appreciate something, you find it good and useful.
  1. When you replicate something, you do it for the second time.
  1. When we come to terms with something, it is no longer upsetting.

IV. Dictionary work:

Consult your dictionary and complete the following table. The first one has been done for you. 

AdjectiveOnly before noun Not before nounBoth before and after the verb be 
Indispensable Indispensable 
Impressed  Impressed
Afraid  Afraid


  1. Rohit’s role in the project was indispensable for its success.
  2. He was impressed by her performance at the concert.
  3. I am afraid of spiders.
  4. Outdoor activities are great for physical health.
  5. His paternal instincts kicked in when he held his newborn baby.
  6. There are countless stars in the night sky.
  7. The antique vase was priceless and held significant sentimental value for the family.



Introduction to Kishori Amonkar
1. Parentage:
   1.1 Born 1931
   1.2 Daughter of Smt. Mogubai Kurdikar
2. School of Music:
   2.1 Belongs to Jaipur-Atrauli ghar.
   2.2 Influenced by Ustad Alladiya Khan
3. Achievements:
   3.1 Finest fem. vocalist
   3.2 Unique variant of Jaipur-Atrauli ghar. style
   3.3 Intellectual approach to ragas.
   3.4 Ability to dissect ragas.
4. Inspiration:
   4.1 Inspired by ancient Vedic sages
   4.2 Vocal music highly dev.
5. Awards:
   5.1 Sangeet Natak Akad. Award (1985)
   5.2 Padma Bhushan (1987)
   5.3 Sangeet Samradhini Award (1997)

Key to Abbreviations


Introduction: Kishori Amonkar:

Class 9- Chapter 2- The Sound Of Music Part 2


“If you work hard and know where you’re going, you’ll get there,” says Evelyn Glennie. You have read about two musicians, Evelyn Glennie and Ustad Bismillah Khan. Do you think that they both worked hard? Where did they want to ‘go’? Answer these questions in two paragraphs, one on each of the two musicians.

Evelyn Glennie, renowned percussionist, and Ustad Bismillah Khan, legendary shehnai player, exemplify hard work and perseverance in their musical journeys. Evelyn Glennie’s dedication to mastering percussion despite her hearing impairment demonstrates her unwavering commitment to her craft. She faced numerous challenges and barriers along the way but remained determined to pursue her passion for music. Her relentless work ethic and focus allowed her to break through societal barriers and establish herself as one of the most accomplished percussionists in the world. For Evelyn Glennie, ‘getting there’ meant not only achieving excellence in her musical endeavors but also challenging perceptions about disabilities and inspiring others to pursue their dreams regardless of obstacles.
Similarly, Ustad Bismillah Khan’s life story is a testament to the power of hard work exemplified by a family of musicians; Khan displayed an innate talent for the shehnai from a young age. He devoted countless hours to practising and refining his skills, drawing inspiration from his surroundings, particularly the holy city of Benaras. Khan’s aspiration was not just to master his instrument but to elevate the status of the shehnai and Indian classical music on the global stage. He achieved widespread acclaim through tireless efforts and became a cultural icon, earning accolades such as the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award. For Khan, ‘getting there’ meant achieving personal success and preserving and promoting India’s rich musical heritage for future generations to cherish.

Extra Questions “The Sound of Music Part 2”:

Short Answer Type Questions:

Q1: What was the origin of the shehnai, and how did it differ from the pungi?

A1: The shehnai originated when a barber improved the tonal quality of the pungi by crafting a longer, broader pipe with seven holes. Its melodic sound earned it distinction, differing significantly from the shrill pungi.

Q2: How did Bismillah Khan’s early life shape his musical journey?

A2: Bismillah Khan’s musical journey began in childhood near a Bihar pond. Influenced by his family’s musical legacy, he learned shehnai from his uncle in Benaras, where he found inspiration on the banks of the Ganga.

Q3: What pivotal moment propelled Bismillah Khan’s career forward?

A3: Bismillah Khan’s breakthrough came with the establishment of All India Radio in Lucknow in 1938. His frequent appearances on radio broadcasts significantly boosted his recognition as a talented shehnai player.

Q4: How did Bismillah Khan contribute to India’s independence celebration?

A4: Bismillah Khan marked India’s independence on August 15, 1947, by playing Raag Kafi from the Red Fort. His heartfelt performance, witnessed by Jawaharlal Nehru, became an iconic part of the historic event.

Q5: Describe Bismillah Khan’s international recognition and contributions.

A5: Bismillah Khan garnered international acclaim through performances in Afghanistan, the USA, and Canada. His mastery of the shehnai transcended borders, leading to honours such as having an auditorium named after him in Teheran.

Q6: How did Bismillah Khan perceive the world of cinema?

A6: Due to his limited involvement in film music, Bismillah Khan remained detached from the glamour of the film industry, emphasising his preference for traditional music over artificiality and glamour.

Q7: What awards and honours did Bismillah Khan receive?

A7: Bismillah Khan received numerous accolades, including the Padmashri, Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan, and ultimately, India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in 2001.

Q8: What was Bismillah Khan’s perspective on his roots and homeland?

A8: Despite international acclaim, Bismillah Khan cherished his roots in Benaras and Dumraon. His unwavering attachment to his homeland showcased his deep love for his culture and heritage.

Q9: How did Bismillah Khan respond to relocating after Partition?

A9: Bismillah Khan firmly rejected the notion of leaving Benaras, even when confronted with Partition. His humorous encounter at the India-Pakistan border highlighted his unwavering attachment to his homeland.

Q10: What does Bismillah Khan’s life exemplify about India’s cultural diversity?

A10: Bismillah Khan’s life epitomises India’s cultural richness. It highlights how a devout Muslim seamlessly integrated into Hindu traditions by playing in the  Vishwanath temple, showcasing India’s inclusive ethos.

Q11: How did Bismillah Khan’s performance at the Allahabad Music Conference impact his career?

A11: Bismillah Khan’s performance at the Allahabad Music Conference at 14 garnered praise from Ustad Faiyaz Khan, providing validation and encouragement that propelled him in his musical journey.

Q12: What was significant about Bismillah Khan’s performance at India’s independence celebration?

A12: Bismillah Khan’s rendition of Raag Kafi from the Red Fort on India’s Independence Day marked a historic moment, symbolising the nation’s cultural richness and unity during a pivotal juncture in its history.

Q13: How did Bismillah Khan’s international tours contribute to his legacy?

A13: Bismillah Khan’s international tours expanded his reach and introduced global audiences to the richness of Indian classical music, solidifying his status as a cultural ambassador and elevating the shehnai on the world stage.

Q14: What was Bismillah Khan’s attitude toward fame and recognition?

A14: Despite receiving numerous awards and honours, Bismillah Khan remained grounded and focused on his craft, prioritising the purity of music over the fame and glamour of his achievements.

Q15: How did Bismillah Khan’s philosophy reflect in his music?

A15: Bismillah Khan’s deep connection to his roots and homeland, as well as his unwavering devotion to music, infused his performances with authenticity and emotion, resonating with audiences worldwide.

Q16: What challenges did Bismillah Khan face in preserving traditional music in a changing world?

A16: Bismillah Khan encountered the challenge of preserving traditional music in the face of modernisation and changing tastes, yet he remained steadfast in upholding the integrity and essence of classical Indian music.

Q17: How did Bismillah Khan’s legacy endure beyond his lifetime?

A17: Bismillah Khan’s legacy lives on through his recordings, disciples, and continued reverence for his contributions to Indian classical music, ensuring that future generations cherish and celebrate his artistry.

Long Answer Type Questions:

Q1: What early experiences influenced Bismillah Khan’s musical journey?

A1: Bismillah Khan’s musical journey was profoundly influenced by his early experiences. At three, he was captivated by watching his uncles play the shehnai in Benaras. He accompanied his uncle, Ali Bux, to the Vishnu temple, where he would sit for hours, mesmerised by the melodies. His apprenticeship began there as he started receiving lessons and practising diligently. 

The temple’s serene ambience and the Ganga banks became his favourite practising spots. Inspired by the flowing waters, he began experimenting and inventing new ragas, expanding the shehnai’s traditional range. These early encounters laid the foundation for his lifelong dedication to mastering the shehnai and exploring its musical possibilities.

Q2: Describe Bismillah Khan’s family background in music.

A2: Bismillah Khan hailed from a renowned family of musicians from Bihar. His grandfather, Rasool Bux Khan, served as the shehnainawaz in the Bhojpur king’s court. This lineage of musical talent continued with Bismillah’s father, Paigambar Bux, and other paternal ancestors, who were also accomplished shehnai players. 

Growing up in this musical environment, Bismillah Khan was exposed to the rich traditions of Indian classical music from an early age. The familial legacy instilled a deep appreciation for the art form and gave him a solid foundation to build his illustrious career as a master shehnai player.

Q3: How did Bismillah Khan begin his training in playing the shehnai?

A3: Bismillah Khan’s training in playing the shehnai began when he was young, influenced by his family’s musical background. At age three, he moved to his maternal uncle’s house in Benaras, where he was fascinated by watching his uncles practice the shehnai. He accompanied his uncle, Ali Bux, to the Vishnu temple, where Bux played the shehnai. Bismillah would sit captivated for hours, absorbing the music. 

Eventually, he started receiving formal lessons from his uncle, employed at the temple to play the shehnai. These early lessons, his dedication and practice laid the foundation for Bismillah Khan’s remarkable journey to becoming one of India’s greatest shehnai players.

Q4: What pivotal event marked Bismillah Khan’s entry into the classical music stage?

A4: Bismillah Khan’s entry into the classical music stage was marked by a pivotal event: At 14, he accompanied his uncle to the Allahabad Music Conference. After his recital at the conference, Ustad Faiyaz Khan, a prominent figure in Indian classical music, praised the young Bismillah Khan and encouraged him to continue his efforts. 

This recognition from such a respected figure in the music world boosted Bismillah Khan’s confidence and provided him with validation of his talent. It also opened doors for him, leading to opportunities to perform on platforms where classical music was celebrated, thus launching his career as a professional shehnai player in the classical music realm.

Q5: How did Bismillah Khan contribute to India’s Independence Day celebrations 1947?

A5: Bismillah Khan significantly contributed to India’s Independence Day celebrations in 1947 by becoming the first Indian musician to perform from the ramparts of the Red Fort. On August 15, 1947, as India celebrated its newfound freedom, Bismillah Khan played the shehnai, pouring his heart into the rendition of Raag Kafi. His performance resonated with the historic moment, capturing the emotions of the nation’s transition to independence. 

Notably among the audience was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who delivered his iconic “Tryst with Destiny” speech following Bismillah Khan’s performance. Through his soulful music, Bismillah Khan became integral to the nation’s collective celebration and marked a historic moment in India’s musical and cultural landscape.

Q6: Can you recount Bismillah Khan’s international recognition and achievements?

A6: Bismillah Khan garnered widespread international recognition and achievements throughout his illustrious career. He performed at prestigious venues globally, including the Lincoln Center Hall in the United States of America, the World Exposition in Montreal, the Cannes Art Festival, and the Osaka Trade Fair. His mastery of the shehnai captivated audiences worldwide, earning him accolades and admiration. 

King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan was so enthralled by Khan’s music that he gifted him priceless Persian carpets and other souvenirs. Furthermore, Bismillah Khan’s influence extended to the film industry, where his compositions featured in successful movies like “Gunj Uthi Shehnai.” His international acclaim solidified his status as a cultural ambassador, showcasing the rich heritage of Indian classical music to audiences around the world.

Q7: How did Bismillah Khan express his sentiments towards his homeland and foreign travels?

A7: Bismillah Khan expressed profound sentiments towards his homeland and foreign travels. Despite travelling extensively and receiving international acclaim, he remained deeply attached to his homeland, particularly Benaras and Dumraon. He often reminisced about these places, feeling nostalgic and longing. 

Even when offered opportunities abroad, such as heading a shehnai school in the U.S.A., he declined, emphasising his enduring connection to India. Khan’s fondness for Benaras and Dumraon was palpable, highlighting his strong sense of identity and belonging. While appreciating foreign experiences, he consistently yearned for his homeland’s familiar sights and sounds, showcasing a deep-rooted affection and loyalty towards India.

Q8: How did Bismillah Khan exemplify India’s cultural diversity and tolerance?

A8: Bismillah Khan exemplified India’s cultural diversity and tolerance through his music and personal beliefs. Despite being a devout Muslim, he played the shehnai every morning at the Kashi Vishwanath temple, showcasing religious harmony and acceptance. His ability to transcend religious boundaries through music symbolised India’s rich cultural tapestry and inclusive ethos. 

Moreover, Khan’s repertoire included compositions from various Indian musical traditions, reflecting the diversity of the nation’s cultural heritage. He embraced diverse influences and collaborated with artists from different backgrounds, promoting unity amidst diversity. Through his life and music, Bismillah Khan embodied the spirit of pluralism and tolerance as a beacon of harmony in India’s multicultural landscape.

YouTube: The Sound of Music Part 2 Explanation:


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