The Shennai of Bismillah Khan
By- Deborah Cowley I
Moral/ Message of the lesson – The Shennai of Bismillah Khan
The life sketch of Bismillah Khan teaches the important lesson that Indian music is very rich and invigorating. Great musicians like Bismillah Khan not only adopted and inherited traditional music but also enhanced it with their original contributions. The feature conveys the message in Bismillah Khan’s own words: “Teach your children music, this is Hindustan’s richest tradition; even the West is now coming to learn our music.” Another message that the feature gives is that one must love one’s country and rise above communal feelings.
Main Characters of the Story- The Sound of Music
Evelyn Glennie: Evelyn was a determined and hardworking girl. With her strong will power, she overcame the obstacle that was gifted to here by Nature. In childhood, she lost her hearing capabilities gradually. At the age of eleven years, her hearing power was severely damaged. In spite of her handicap, she did not want to give up. She took music as her passion. Her teachers discouraged her but percussionist Ron Forbes guided her. She joined a three-year course at the Royal Academy of Music. She captured the most of top awards at the Royal Academy. She is the world’s most sought multiplayer of drums and tables.
Ron Forbes: He was a percussionist. He identified Evelyn potential and supported her in achieving her goal. He trained her to sense the music through different parts of her body. He certainly played a great role in helping Evelyn achieve her goal. He was a perfect teacher and lift his marks in the world of music.
Bismillah Khan : Bismillah Khan In “The Sound of Music” (Part II), Bismillah Khan has been portrayed as a great musician, a devout patriot, and a liberal human being. Bismillah Khan has been one of the most eminent musicians of India who honoured rich, cultural heritage of Indian music. Born and brought up in the family of musicians, he inherited and learnt a lot from his paternal and maternal families. But he further enriched the shehnai music by his improvised raagas which he harmonised with the waves of the Ganga. His passion for music started at the early age of three and continued up to his death at ninety.
Starting with playing music in temples and on the banks of the Ganga, Bismillah Khan rose to fame with international conferences and concerts. Such was his fame that he was invited to play shehnai at the Red Fort on the occasion of the independence of India on August 15, 1947. Many awards like the Padamshri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan were conferred on him. He has also been honoured with the Bharat Ratan, the greatest civilian award in India. He played shehnai in Afghanistan before King Zahir Shah; was invited to perform at Lincoln Central Hall, USA; participated in the World Exposition in Montreal, in the Cannes Art Festival and Osaka Trade Fair. Such is his international fame that in Teheran, an auditorium has been named after him.
Bismillah Khan was a great patriot who declined the offer of his student to settle down in the USA. He had a profound love for the Ganga in Benaras and his birthplace, the estate in Dumraon, Bihar. Such high regard does he have for the rich heritage of India, that he was not allured by the glamour of the film world.
Bismillah Khan was a liberal human being who had respect for all religions. Though a devout Muslim, he played shehnai every day in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, Benaras. Thus, a great musician and a great human being, Bismillah Khan earned international repute for himself.
Ustad Bismillah Khan: He was a great Shehnai player. His contribution to Shehnai will always be remembered. From his very childhood, he was a great learner. He watched his maternal uncle Ali Bux at Benaras and learnt the lessons of Shehnai from him. As he was dedicated to Shehnai, he practised for hours on the peaceful bank of Ganga in Benaras. He developed different varieties of Hindustani ragas and became popular. He was unable to forget the Ganga, Benaras and the Mattha of Dumraon. He had visited several countries but never tried to settle there. He got the opportunity to celebrate the Independence of India by playing Shehnai on the ramparts of the Lal Quila. His music really moved the country. Finally, he was given the highest civilian award — the Bharat Ratna.
Ali Bux: He was the maternal uncle of Ustad Bismillah Khan. Like a true teacher, he peacefully gave Bismillah the lessons of Shehnai. Bux was a hard working Shehnai player. He used to practise playing Shehnai for hours. The great quality of his character was that he had no difference between religions. He was employed as the Shehnai player in the Vishnu temple of Benaras. Here he tried to please Lord Vishnu with the charming music of Shehnai. His character was very influencing. He taught Bismillah the importance of constant practice and dedication of work.