Ustad Bismillah Khan
Born on 21st March, 1916 in Dumraon, Bihar, Ustad Bismillah Khan is the most outstanding and popular Shehnai player of contemporary times. His ancestors were court musicians in the princely state of Dumraon in Bihar and he was trained under his uncle, the late Ali Bux `Vilayatu? a Shehnai player attached to Varanasi? Vishwanath Temple. His first major public appearance was in 1930 at the age of 14, when he played in the All India Music Conference in Allahabad. Ustad Bismillah Khan? specialisation lies in his ability to produce intricate sound patterns on the Shehnai which was hitherto, considered impossible on this instrument. For his outstanding services in the field of music, he has been bestowed with several honours and awards including, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1956), Shehnai Chakravarti by the National Cultural Organisation (955), Padma Shri (1961), Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibhushan and the Tansen Award. A jugalbandi of the Shehnai and Sitar performed by Bismillah Khan and Sitat Nawaz Abdul Halim Jaffar Khan, for the film Gunj Uthi Shehnai was an outstanding success. He performed at the Edinburgh Festival along with Ustad Vilayat Khan and the album produced, known as Thumri Piloo, is considered as one of the best by the Ustad. He has also been conferred with honorary doctorates from the Benares Hindu University and Shantiniketan.