Ustad Bismillah Khan, who popularised the humble shehnai with an unparalleled exploration of its musical capacity, was born on March 21, 102 years ago.
Music was in the genes for this Bharat Ratna. He was born in the small town of Dumaraon in Bihar, to shehnai player Paighamber Bux. It is believed that when the news reached his grandfather, the latter exclaimed 'Bismillah!' in gratitude and that's how the name came into being. He was formally named Qamruddin to rhyme with his brother’s name, Shamsuddin. As the magic of his mastery grew, people honoured him with the title of 'Ustad'.
Bismillah Khan got his training under Ali Bux, his maternal uncle, known for his unorthodox style of teaching. The musical genius came from a very humble background.
Bismillah Khan's performance at the All India Music Conference at Kolkata in 1937 became one of the defining moments of his career. Ustadji played at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947 when India was declared Independent. To this day, the Republic Day celebration broadcast begins with his musical notes.