ASSIGNMENT- 5 CLASS IX CHAPTER- SHEHNAI OF BISMILLAH KHAN The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan Introduction The lesson has been divided into two parts. Both are associated with the subject of music and the personalities who made music their life. Evelyn Glennie turned out to be the most sought after musician internationally in spite of her disability. He was profoundly deaf but learnt to listen to music with her body instead of the ears. She became the perfect player of the xylophone and earned a huge name and fame. Bismillah Khan, on the other hand, became India’s most revered shehnai maestro. He was the winner of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award of India. He performed not only in India but abroad too. The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan Summary of the Lesson This part of the lesson throws light on the origin of the shehnai and the contributions of Ustad Bismillah Khan to bring this musical instrument onto the classical stage. Pungi, a musical instrument, was banned by Emperor Aurangzeb because of its unpleasant sound. It was improved by a barber of a family of professional musicians. The barber brought several changes in this instrument until it produced soft and melodious sounds. He then played it before royalty and got immense appreciation. Since it was first played in the Shah’s chambers by a nai, the instrument came to be known as the ‘shehnai’. The sound of shehnai began to be considered auspicious. But its use was limited to temples and weddings. It was Bismillah Khan who popularised this instrument in India and abroad. Bismillah Khan belonged to the Benaras Gharana. He was born on 21 March 1916 at Dumraon in Bihar. His father, grandfather and other paternal ancestors were great shehnai players. Bismillah Khan began to show his interest in music when he was just five-year-old. As a young child he would regularly go to the Bihariji temple to sing the Bhojpuri ‘Chaita’. He watched his maternal uncles practising the shehnai with great fascination. Slowly, he started getting lessons in playing the instrument and would sit practising throughout the day. He made the river Ganga his favourite spot to practise in solitude. At the age of 14, he accompanied his uncle to the Allahabad Music Conference where he got huge appreciation at the end of the recital. The opening of the All India Radio in Lucknow in 1938 proved to be a big break for him. His shehnai came to be heard very often on radio afterwards. Bismillah Khan greeted the independent India with his shehnai from the Red Fort on 15 August, 1947. He travelled far and wide giving many memorable performances and won many national and international awards. He became the first Indian to perform at the prestigious Lincoln Centre Hall in the United States of America. He also took part in the World Exposition in Montreal, in the Cannes Art Festival and in the Osaka Trade Fair. The national awards conferred on him included the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan. In 2001, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna. India’s highest civilian award. Bismillah Khan loved his country deeply. When he was in a foreign country, he kept yearning for India. He was very fond of Dumraon and Benaras. He could not stay away from Benaras because the river Ganga was there. He also got huge success in the celluloid world. He gave his music in two films. His composition ‘DU ka khilona hai toot gay a….,’ turned to be a nationwide record-breaker. But he could not come to terms with the artificial glamour of the film world and remained a true devotee of music throughout his life.
I. ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS- 1. Why did Aurangzeb ban the playing of the ‘Pungi’? 2. How is Shehnai different from Pungi? 3. Where was the shehnai played traditionally? How did Bismillah Khan change this? 4. When and how this Bismillah Khan get his big break? 5. Where did Bismillah Khan play the shehnai on 15th August 1947? Why was the event historic?
II. REFRENCE TO CONTEXT- The king of Afghanistan was not the only one to be fascinated with Bismillah’s music. Film director Vijay Bhatt was also impressed after hearing Bismillah play at a festival that he named a film after the instrument called Ghunj Uthi Shehnai. i. What impressed the king of Afghanistan? ii. Who was Vijay Bhatt? iii. How did he react on hearing Bismillah’s play? iv. What did he do in reaction to Bismillah’s music? Awards and recognitions came thick and fast. Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to be invited to perform and the prestigious Lincoln Centre Hall in USA. He also took part in the world exposition in Montreal, in the Cannes Art Festival and in the Osaka Trade Fair. i. Explain “Award and Recognition came thick and fast.” ii. How did he create a record in India? iii. Did he take part in world exposition? iv. Where did the world exposition took place?