The Sound of Music: Part I and II


The Sound of Music

By Deborah Cowley

The Sound of Music: (Part I – Evelyn Glennie Listens to Sound without Hearing It) Introduction

Let's talk about the title now. The title is interesting in and of itself. Evelyn Glennie, according to the author, listens to sound without hearing it. We're all perplexed right now. When you can't hear, how can you listen to sound? So, this is something we will learn – how Evelyn Glennie was able to listen to sound despite her inability to hear.

The Sound of Music: (Part I – Evelyn Glennie Listens to Sound without Hearing It) Summary

Evelyn Glennie is a multi-percussionist. She has attained mastery over almost a thousand musical instruments despite being hearing–impaired. She learnt to feel music through the body instead of hearing it through the ears.

Evelyn was discovered to have lost her hearing ability due to nerve damage when she was eleven years old. The specialist recommended that she wear hearing aids and attend a deaf school. Evelyn, on the other hand, was determined to live a normal life and pursue her musical interests. Despite being discouraged by her teachers, Ron Forbes, a master percussionist, recognised her potential. He taught Evelyn to feel music rather than hear it with her ears. This worked well for Evelyn, who discovered that she could detect different sounds using different parts of her body.

Evelyn began her musical career after overcoming this obstacle. She was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music in London and received the highest marks in the academy's history. Evelyn relates her success to hard work and dedication to her goal. Evelyn performs solo and even gives free concerts in hospitals and schools. She received the Royal Philharmonic Society's prestigious 'Soloist of the Year Award' in 1991. Evelyn's storey serves as motivation for people with disabilities who want to achieve their goals in the same way she did.

The Sound of Music: (Part I – Evelyn Glennie Listens to Sound without Hearing It) Lesson Explanation

RUSH hour crowds jostle for position on the underground train platform. A slight girl, looking younger than her seventeen years, was nervous yet excited as she felt the vibrations of the approaching train.

  • jostle: push roughly
  • slight: small and thin

The scene is of a train platform, which is underground, and there is a huge rush at the platform, with people pushing each other to get through. Evelyn is the name of a small, thin girl. Evelyn is waiting for the train on the railway platform. And when she feels the vibrations of the approaching train and realises it is about to arrive, she becomes nervous and excited. This is the train that Evelyn will take to get to London. She is going to London to study music because she has been admitted to the Royal Academy of Music. Evelyn is currently in Scotland. (Evelyn is from Scotland.) Scotland is a European country. Life in Scotland is slower than it is in London. Life in London moves at a fast pace. It is more urban than Scotland, which has farms and countryside.) That is why Evelyn is nervous about leaving Scotland for London. She is also excited because she is doing something she has always wanted to do. She is studying music at the Royal Academy of Music.

It was her first day at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London and daunting enough for any teenager fresh from a Scottish farm.

  • daunting: frightening, Scary
  • teenager: a person who is in his teens

Evelyn is a seventeen-year-old girl. She is a teen who has just moved from a Scottish farm. Evelyn is from Scotland, where there are more farms and countryside, so she hasn't experienced fast life. That's why she's nervous, and the writer claims she's just moved from a Scottish farm.

But this aspiring musician faced a bigger challenge than most: she was profoundly deaf.

  • aspiring musician: a person who wants to be a musician
  • Profoundly deaf: absolutely deaf.

Evelyn couldn't hear, which made things even more difficult for her. Moving from a rural area to a fast-paced lifestyle was a smaller challenge. Evelyn faced a much greater challenge: her inability to hear.

Evelyn Glennie’s loss of hearing had been gradual.

  • gradual: in phases

She gradually began to lose her hearing ability, and one day she was completely deaf.

Her mother remembers noticing something was wrong when the eight-year-old Evelyn was waiting to play the piano. “They called her name and she didn’t move. I suddenly realized she hadn’t heard,” says Isabel Glennie.

Evelyn's mother's name is Isabel Glennie. Isabel, Evelyn's mother, recalls an incident when Evelyn was eight years old. Evelyn, she says, was waiting her turn to play the piano when her name was called, but she did not respond. And her mother noticed that Evelyn did not respond to her name, implying that she did not hear her name called.

For quite a while Evelyn managed to conceal her growing deafness from friends and teachers.

  • conceal: to hide

Evelyn's hearing loss occurred in stages, so it was a gradual process. She was able to hide her disability from her friends and teachers at first, when she could only hear partially.

But by the time she was eleven her marks had deteriorated and her headmistress urged her parents to take her to a specialist

  • Specialist: a doctor specializing in a particular part of the body.
  • Deteriorated: worsened, reduces
  • Urged:  requested

Evelyn's grades began to decline when she was eleven years old. The Headmistress asked Evelyn's parents to take her to the doctor.

It was then discovered that her hearing was severely impaired as a result of gradual nerve damage.

  • impaired: weakened

When the doctor checked on Evelyn, he found that she had lost her hearing.

They were advised that she should be fitted with hearing aids and sent to a school for the deaf.

Evelyn's parents were advised by the doctor to get her hearing aids. (A hearing aid is a piece of equipment that is fitted into your ear and helps you hear to some extent.) He also suggested that Evelyn be sent to a special school for deaf children.

“Everything suddenly looked black,” says Evelyn.

Evelyn's world became colourless when she discovered she couldn't hear and would be sent to a school for deaf children because she wasn't as good as other children. It went black. What does it mean when "everything suddenly looked black"? It means that you get such bad news all of a sudden; you get some news that you don't expect. As a result, you see nothing but blackness all around you. That's how Evelyn reacted to the news.

But Evelyn was not going to give up.

This demonstrates Evelyn's grit and determination. Despite the fact that Evelyn had received such shocking news, she remained determined and refused to give up.

She was determined to lead a normal life and pursue her interest in music.

  • pursue:  to follow

Evelyn was a music lover, so this news didn't break her heart. She was determined to live a normal life and pursue her musical interests.

One day she noticed a girl playing the xylophone and decided that she wanted to play it too.

  • xylophone: a musical instrument with a row of wooden bars of different lengths

Evelyn wanted to play the Xylophone after seeing a girl do so.

Most of the teachers discouraged her but percussionist Ron Forbes spotted her potential.

  • percussionist: a person who plays the drum, the tabla, etc, a person who play different musical instruments
  • potential: quality or ability that can be developed

On the one hand, Evelyn's teachers discouraged her because they knew she couldn't hear, and hearing was an essential part of music. But when Ron Forbes noticed Evelyn's enthusiasm for music, he made a decision.

He began by tuning two large drums to different notes.

Ron Forbes intended to teach Evelyn to feel music. He picked up two large drums and tuned them to different pitches. He tuned the drums, which are musical instruments. He had each drum tuned to a different note. As a result, the sound produced by the drums was distinct. As a result, it was distinct. Both drums produced distinct tones. Then he informed Evelyn –

“Don’t listen through your ears,” he would say, “tryto sense it some other way.

Don't try to listen with your ears, he said. Try to sense it, he said. Try to feel the music in a different way.

” Says Evelyn, “Suddenly I realized I could feel the higher drum from the waist up and the lower one from the waist down.”

(The waist refers to the centre of your body.) Now that Ron had tuned both drums to different notes, Evelyn's upper body, above the waist, could feel the higher notes of a drum and her lower body, below the waist, could feel the lower notes of a drum.

Forbes repeated the exercise, and soon Evelyn discovered that she could sense certain notes in different parts of her body.

Evelyn can listen to sound in this way despite her inability to hear. She can detect different notes in various parts of the body.

“I had learnt to open mymind and body to sounds and vibrations.” The rest was sheer determination and hard work.

Ron Forbes taught Evelyn to respond to different sounds; different parts of Evelyn's body responded to different sounds, allowing her to identify the sounds and vibrations. Evelyn's career took a step forward after she was able to identify the sounds and vibrations. She was determined to become famous, a good musician, and she also put in a lot of effort.

She never looked back from that point onwards.

Evelyn advanced in her career after she overcame the obstacle and began sensing different sounds through different parts of her body.

She toured the United Kingdom with a youth orchestra and by the time she was sixteen, she had decided to make music her life.

  • youth: Young people, people like who are in college or high school
  • orchestra: group of musicians

As a result, Evelyn toured the United Kingdom with a youth orchestra. Evelyn had decided to make music her career by the time she was sixteen years old.

She auditioned for the Royal Academy of Music and scored one of the highest marks in the history of the academy.

  • auditioned: gave a short performance so that the director could decide whether she was good enough

Evelyn auditioned for admission to the Royal Academy of Music, and her score was the highest in the Academy's history. Evelyn was the only person who received such a high score.

She gradually moved from orchestral work to solo performances.

  • orchestral work: group performance, performing in a group of musicians
  • Solo: to perform single, alone.

So Evelyn began by performing in a group, and as she progressed in her music and gained confidence, she began to perform alone.

At the end of her three-year course,she had captured most of the top awards.

By the end of her three-year course at the Royal Academy of Music, she had won every major award.

And for all this, Evelyn won’t accept any hint of heroic achievement.

If someone tells Evelyn she's accomplished something great, she doesn't acknowledge it; she's very humble and down-to-earth.

“If you work hard and know where you are going, you’ll get there.”

Evelyn believes that two things are essential for success: hard work and goal-setting. She believes that if you work hard and have a goal, a target that you must achieve, you will succeed.

And she got right to the top, the world’s most sought-after multi-percussionist with a mastery of some thousand instruments, and a hectic international schedule.

  • most sought after: most popular, in-demand

Evelyn, too, accomplished her goal. She worked hard, and her goal was to become the world's best, most famous, and most sought-after musician, which she accomplished. She has mastered nearly a thousand musical instruments and is the world's most popular multi-percussionist, with a very busy schedule. She performs and has programmes all over the world.

It is intriguing to watch Evelyn function so effortlessly without hearing.

  • intriguing: fascinating and curious

When you watch Evelyn work or perform so effortlessly despite the fact that she cannot hear, you become very curious because Evelyn can identify the smallest, most insignificant sound made by musical instruments.

In our two-hour discussion, she never missed a word.

Deborah Cowley, a writer, conducted Evelyn's two-hour interview, and Deborah says that Evelyn never missed a single word she spoke.

“Men with bushy beards give me trouble,” she laughed.

Evelyn says that men with long, massive, bushy beards irritate her. Why do they bother her? Because when they speak, she can't see their lips move because their beards cover their lips.

“It is not just watching the lips, it’s the whole face, especially the eyes.”

Evelyn says that she does not rely solely on the movement of a person's lips to determine what they are saying. Evelyn sees the entire face, which means that the entire expression on the speaker's face helps Evelyn identify or understand what the person is saying. She adds that the expression of the eyes aids Evelyn in understanding what the person in front of her is saying.

She speaks flawlessly with a Scottish lilt.

  • flawlessly: without a fault or mistake
  • lilt: a way of speaking like we say accent

Evelyn's speech, according to the author, is flawless, and she speaks with a Scottish accent. (Because she is from Scotland, her voice has that accent.)

“My speech is clear because I could hear till I was eleven,” she says.

Evelyn says to be able to speak clearly because she has studied the language. She studied until she was eleven years old, or until she could hear.

But that doesn’t explain how she managed to learn French and master basic Japanese.

Evelyn, on the other hand, learned two new languages after becoming deaf. She has a basic understanding of French and Japanese. So one wonders how she managed to learn these two new languages despite her deafness.

As for music, she explains, “It pours in through every part of my body. It tingles in the skin, my cheekbones and even in my hair.”

  • tingles: causes a slight prickling or stinging sensation

So Evelyn explains how she recognises music in this section. It causes a sensation in her skin, cheekbones, and even hair. As a result, Evelyn's entire body reacts to music.

When she plays the xylophone, she can sense the sound passing up the stick into her fingertips.

When she plays the Xylophone, she uses sticks, and she can feel the vibrations of the Xylophone's sound pass through the sticks and up into her fingertips.

By leaning against the drums, she can feel the resonances flowing into her body.

  • resonances: echoes of sounds

Evelyn leans towards the drum as she plays, and she can feel the echo flowing into her body.

On a wooden platform, she removes her shoes so that the vibrations pass through her bare feet and up her legs.

Evelyn performs on a wooden platform and removes her shoes to feel the vibrations of the musical instruments pass through the floor, into her feet, and up her legs. That is how she is able to perceive the sound of the musical instruments.

Not surprisingly, Evelyn delights her audiences. In 1991 she was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s prestigious Soloist of the Year Award.

Evelyn is now a joy to listen to. She gives excellent solo performances. She received the Royal Philharmonic Society's prestigious Soloist of the Year Award for solo performance in 1991.

Says master percussionist James Blades,“God may have taken her hearing but he has given her back something extraordinary. What we hear, she feels — far more deeply than any of us. That is why she expresses music so beautifully.”

Now, James Blades is a master percussionist, and his words were read before we began reading the chapter. According to James, God took away Evelyn's hearing ability but gave her a strong sense of sound, allowing her to become a great musician.

Evelyn confesses that she is something of a workaholic.

  • workaholic (informal): a person who finds it difficult to stop working

Evelyn is a hard - working who never stops.

“I’ve just got to work . . . often harder than classical musicians.

Evelyn is now working very hard to catch up with those who can hear and are classical musicians.

But the rewards are enormous.”

  • enormous   – big

Evelyn claims that the rewards she receives for her efforts are huge.

Apart from the regular concerts, Evelyn also gives free concerts in prisons and hospitals.

Evelyn also donates to charity. She performs for free in hospitals and prisons.

She also gives high priority to classes for young musicians.

She also teaches music to young people. For children who want to learn how to play an instrument.

Ann Richlin of the Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children says, “She is a shining inspiration for deaf children. They see that there is nowhere that they cannot go.”

Evelyn is an inspiration to everyone; she is the ideal. Evelyn is an inspiration for children who cannot hear, according to Ann Richlin of the Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children. And after learning Evelyn's storey, they believe they can accomplish anything. They are capable of realising all of their ambitions.

Evelyn Glennie has already accomplished more than most people twice her age.

  • accomplished: achieved

Evelyn Glennie has accomplished so much in her life that people twice her age have not accomplished as much, as much popularity, and as many awards as Evelyn has. Evelyn Glennie has accomplished so much in her life that people twice her age have not accomplished as much, as much popularity, and as many awards as Evelyn has.

She has brought percussion to the front of the orchestra and demonstrated that it can be very moving.

The orchestra is a group of people who play various musical instruments. Generally, percussion instruments such as drums and xylophones are placed at the backend of the orchestra or on the side, but because Evelyn performs solo and gives special performances with these percussion instruments, the percussion instruments have moved to the front of the orchestra.

She has given inspiration to those who are handicapped,people who look to her and say, ‘If she can do it, I can.’ And, not the least, she has given enormous pleasure to millions.

Evelyn's storey serves as motivation for people who are physically disabled. They believe that if Evelyn can achieve her goals, so can they. And Evelyn has given her audience a lot of pleasure by playing such good music.

About the Author

Deborah (Mason) Cowley is a broadcaster and freelance writer. She grew up in Toronto, attended the University of Western Ontario, and then relocated to Ottawa to work for the Unitarian Service Committee. She worked for UNHCR (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in Beirut for two years before returning to Ottawa and taking a job with CIDA. She worked as a reporter for CBC radio in Washington, D.C. while travelling the world with her diplomat husband, and during a posting to Cairo, she worked on several TV documentaries for CBC's Man Alive. She also wrote the first official guide book to Cairo since Baedeker's guide in the 1940s while in Egypt.

The Sound of Music: (Part II The Shehnai Of Bismillah Khan)

The Sound of Music: (Part II –The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan) Introduction

The lesson is divided into two sections. Both are associated with the subject of music and the people who have made music their life's work. Bismillah Khan, rose to prominence as India's most revered shehnai master. He was the recipient of the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award. He performed not only in India, but also in other countries.

The Sound of Music: (Part II –The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan) Summary

Ustad Bismillah Khan was the first to introduce the "shehnai" instrument to the classical music stage. The shrill sound of the pungi instrument was modified by the barber of Emperor Aurangzeb's kingdom to create the Shehnai. Bismillah, who was born into a musical family, learned the Shehnai and began practising at a young age. He practised in temples in Bihar and on the banks of the Ganga, seeking inspiration from them. Bismillah got his big break when All India Radio launched in Lucknow, and he quickly rose to prominence.

On August 15, 1947, Bismillah was the first Indian to greet the nation with music, performing from the Red Fort to an audience that included Gandhiji and Nehruji. He also received a few film offers, but he soon resigned because he disliked the industry's artificiality. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan, and the Padma Vibhushan. He declined an offer to travel to the United States because he did not want to leave his motherland. Hearing his shehnai music at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, as a devout Muslim, is the best example of India's rich cultural heritage.

The Sound of Music: (Part II –The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan) Lesson Explanation

The sound of the shehnai began to be considered auspicious. And for this reason it is still played in temples and is an indispensable component of any North Indian wedding. In the past, the shehnai was part of the naubat or traditional ensemble of nine instruments found at royal courts. Till recently it was used only in temples and weddings. The credit for bringing this instrument onto the classical stage goes to Ustad Bismillah Khan.

  • Auspicious: promising to bring good fortune, luck
  • indispensable: necessary, cannot be without
  • ensemble: things considered as a group

The sound of the shehnai was liked by everyone and was thought to be auspicious, or promising good fortune. It is still played in all temples because it is considered auspicious. There can be no North Indian wedding without shehnai music, which has become an absolute necessity. Shehnai was one of the nine instruments in the palace known as the naubat in ancient times. Shehnai has progressed from temples and weddings to the classical music stage thanks to Ustad Bismillah Khan.

As a five-year old, Bismillah Khan played gillidanda near a pond in the ancient estate of Dumraon in Bihar. He would regularly go to the nearby Bihariji temple to sing the Bhojpuri ‘Chaita’, at the end of which he would earn a big laddu weighing 1.25 kg, a prize given by the local Maharaja. This happened 80 years ago, and the little boy has travelled far to earn the highest civilian award in India — the Bharat Ratna.

Born on 21 March 1916, Bismillah belongs to a well-known family of musicians from Bihar. His grandfather, Rasool Bux Khan, was the shehnai-nawaz of the Bhojpur king’s court. His father, Paigambar Bux, and other paternal ancestors were also great shehnai players.

  • paternal: related to the father's side
  • ancestors: one from whom a family is ascended, above the grandparents, usually

This paragraph is about Bismillah Khan's childhood. He used to play gillidanda, a traditional Indian game, near a pond in Dumraon, Bihar, when he was five years old. He also sang the Bhojpuri Chaita, a collection of classical songs, at the Bihariji temple near the pond on a regular basis. For this, he received a prize from the local king of the Dumraon estate. The prize was a large 1.25kg laddu (Indian ball-shaped sweet). This occurrence occurred eighty years ago. Bismillah rose from earning laddus for song recitals to receiving the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award.

Bismillah Khan was born on March 21, 1916. He comes from a family of well-known musicians from Bihar. He is descended from a family of shehnai players. Rasool Bux Khan, his grandfather, was the Shehnai-Nawaz of the Bhojpur palace. His father Paigambar Bux, as well as other ancestors on his father's side, were accomplished shehnai musicians.

The young boy took to music early in life. At the age of three when his mother took him to his maternal uncle’s house in Benaras (now Varanasi), Bismillah was fascinated watching his uncles practise the shehnai. Soon Bismillah started accompanying his uncle, Ali Bux, to the Vishnu temple of Benaras where Bux was employed to play the shehnai. Ali Bux would play the shehnai and Bismillah would sit captivated for hours on end. Slowly, he started getting lessons in playing the instrument and would sit practising throughout the day. For years to come the temple of Balaji and Mangala Maiya and the banks of the Ganga became the young apprentice’s favourite haunts where he could practise in solitude. The flowing waters of the Ganga inspired him to improvise and invent raagas that were earlier considered to be beyond the range of the shehnai.

  • took to: start to do something as a habit
  • maternal: relating to mother
  • fascinated: strongly attracted
  • captivated: charmed, attracted and held on the interest
  • apprentice: a person learning a trade from a skilled person
  • years to come: continuing for many years in the future
  • haunts (noun): a place frequented by a person
  • solitude: a lonely place
  • improvise: create and perform without preparation
  • inspired: motivated/stimulated
  • hours on end: for a long time without stopping
  • beyond the range: not within the scope

Bismillah Khan began studying music as a hobby when he was a child. His mother took him to his maternal (mother's side) uncle Ali Bux's house in Varanasi when he was three years old. Ali Bux used to practise the shehnai every day, which drew Bismillah in. Soon after, he began working in his uncle's office. Ali Bux was the official shehnai player of Varanasi's Vishnu temple. Ali would play the shehnai, and Bismillah would be so enthralled by the music that he would listen to it for hours on end.

Gradually, he began to learn from his uncle and began to practise throughout the day. He practised at the Balaji temple, Mangala Maiya, and on the Ganga riverbank. Bismillah frequented these places because he liked the lonely, uninhabited calmness that was best suited to his practise. He did this for many years. The Ganga, in all its glory, served as an inspiration for him. He was inspired to improvise on existing ragas and create new ragas that were previously thought to be impossible to play on the shehnai instrument.

At the age of 14, Bismillah accompanied his uncle to the Allahabad Music Conference. At the end of his recital, Ustad Faiyaz Khan patted the young boy’s back and said, “Work hard and you shall make it.” With the opening of the All India Radio in Lucknow in 1938 came Bismillah’s big break. He soon became an often-heard shehnai player on radio.

When India gained independence on 15 August 1947, Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to greet the nation with his shehnai. He poured his heart out into Raag Kafi from the Red Fort to an audience which included Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who later gave his famous ‘Tryst with Destiny’ speech.

  • Accompanied: go somewhere with (someone) as a companion or escort
  • Recital: a performance of a programme of music
  • big break: big chance that leads to professional success

Bismillah went to the Allahabad Music Conference with his uncle when he was 14 years old. Ustad Faiyaz Khan, a Hindustani music expert, praised the young boy after the performance. He patted Bismillah on the back and encouraged him to work hard in order to make it big in the music industry. In 1938, the All India Radio service began operations in Lucknow. It was Bismillah's big chance to show off his abilities. Bismillah's shehnai music became popular on the radio after he was given numerous opportunities to perform for the station.

Bismillah's radio appearances gone on for years. He was the first Indian to play the shehnai and greet the country after India's independence on August 15, 1947. He performed the Raag Kafi with all of his deepest emotions on display. He was playing from the Red Fort. Among those who heard his performance that day were Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his famous speech, 'Tryst with Destiny,' following Bismillah's performance.

Bismillah Khan has given many memorable performances both in India and abroad. His first trip abroad was to Afghanistan where King Zahir Shah was so taken in by the maestro that he gifted him priceless Persian carpets and other souvenirs. The King of Afghanistan was not the only one to be fascinated with Bismillah’s music. Film director Vijay Bhatt was so impressed after hearing Bismillah play at a festival that he named a film after the instrument called Gunj Uthi Shehnai. The film was a hit, and one of Bismillah Khan’s compositions, “Dil ka khilona hai toot gaya ...,” turned out to be a nationwide chartbuster! Despite this huge success in the celluloid world, Bismillah Khan’s ventures in film music were limited to two: Vijay Bhatt’s Gunj Uthi Shehnai and Vikram Srinivas’s Kannada venture, Sanadhi Apanna. “I just can’t come to terms with the artificiality and glamour of the film world,” he says with emphasis.

  • Memorable: unforgettable
  • Maestro: a distinguished performer of classical music
  • Souvenir: a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event
  • chart buster: record breaker
  • ventures: projects that often involve risk
  • taken in by: attracted or charmed by
  • celluloid: old-fashioned way of referring to films

Bismillah Khan delivered a number of unforgettable performances both inside and outside the country. His first trip abroad was to Afghanistan. The performance was such a success that Afghanistan's King, Zahir Shah, was enthralled by his distinguished talent. As a token of appreciation, the King presented him with valuable Persian carpets and other mementos. His skilled music captivated more than just the King.

Vijay Bhatt, the director of the film, had heard Bismillah perform at a music festival. Vijay Bhatt was so taken with the shehnai instrument that he made a film based on it called "Gunj Uthi Shehnai," which translates as "The Wedding Bells (shehnai sound) Have Started Ringing." The film was a huge success, and it featured Bismillah's composition "Dil ka khilona hai toot gaya...", which translates as "heart is broken..." This song broke a lot of records. Bismillah went on to work on another film with director Vikram Srinivas called "Sanadhi Apanna," which translates to "Shehnai Apanna." The film was about the life of a rural shehnai artiste named Apanna. This film was also a huge success. Despite his enormous success in the film industry, Bismillah did not continue. He disliked the artificiality and glitz of the film industry.

Awards and recognition came thick and fast. Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to be invited 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. So well known did he become internationally that an auditorium in Teheran was named after him — Tahar Mosiquee Ustaad Bismillah Khan.

National awards like the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan were conferred on him.

In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. With the coveted award resting on his chest and his eyes glinting with rare happiness he said, “All I would like to say is: Teach your children music, this is Hindustan’s richest tradition; even the West is now coming to learn our music.’’

  • Conferred: given, usually an award or a degree
  • thick and fast: rapidly and in great numbers
  • coveted: much desired
  • glinting: flashing or shining

Bismillah Khan received awards and recognition at an increasing rate. He was well-known throughout the world. He received the following national honours. Padmashri award, Padma Bhushan award, Padma Vibhushan award. He was also the first Indian to perform at the prestigious Lincoln Centre Hall in the United States. He took part in the Montreal World Exposition., He took part in the Cannes Art Festival., He attended the Osaka Trade Fair. Tahar Mosiquee Ustaad Bismillah Khan Auditorium in Teheran was named after him.

In 2001, Ustad Bismillah Khan was awarded the nation's highest civilian honour, the prestigious Bharat Ratna. He was holding the award on his chest, and his eyes were beaming with joy, which was not a common sight. He encouraged people to teach their children music, citing music as India's most important and valued tradition; he also stated that Westerners were visiting India to learn our music.

In spite of having travelled all over the world — Khansaab as he is fondly called — is exceedingly fond of Benaras and Dumraon and they remain for him the most wonderful towns of the world. A student of his nce wanted him to head a shehnai school in the U.S.A., and the student promised to recreate the atmosphere of Benaras by replicating the temples there. But Khansaab asked him if he would be able to transport River Ganga as well. Later he is remembered to have said, “That is why whenever I am in a foreign country, I keep yearning to see Hindustan. While in Mumbai, I think of only Benaras and the holy Ganga. And while in Benaras, I miss the unique mattha of Dumraon.”

Ustad Bismillah Khan’s life is a perfect example of the rich, cultural heritage of India, one that effortlessly accepts that a devout Muslim like him can very naturally play the shehnai every morning at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

  • Exceedingly: extremely
  • Replicate: make an exact copy
  • yearning: a feeling of intense longing for something
  • Devout: believing strongly in a religion and obeying its laws and following its practices

Bismillah travelled far and wide, as evidenced by the preceding paragraphs. But he adored Benares and Dumraon, where he grew up and learned the shehnai. For Bismillah, it is still one of the most beautiful towns in the world. People around Bismillah Khan referred to him as "Khansaab."

Bismillah's student wanted him to run a shehnai school in the United States. Bismillah was promised by the student that he could recreate the atmosphere and surroundings of Benares. He even stated that he would recreate the temples there. Khansaab, on the other hand, asked him if he could transport the Ganga to the United States. He is said to have stated that whenever he is in a foreign country, he longs to return to his motherland. Even when he was in India, he missed Benares and the River Ganga, and he missed the unique Dumraon mattha where he grew up practising his shehnai.

Bismillah Khan's life is an excellent example of India's rich and diverse cultural heritage. Even though Bismillah was a devout Muslim, he could be found playing the shehnai in the Kashi Vishwanath temple every morning. His music transcended religious boundaries. Our country's unity in diversity is exemplified by this. 

About the Author

Bismillah Khan, original name Qamruddin Khan, (born March 21, 1916, Dumraon, Bihar and Orissa province, British India—died August 21, 2006, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India), Indian musician known for his expressive virtuosity on the shehnai, a ceremonial oboelike North Indian horn. His name became inextricably linked to the woodwind instrument.