Described as the ‘treasure trove’ of Indian classical music the NCPA Archives has over 5000 hours of music of the ‘who’s who’ of classical music both in the Hindustani and carnatic styles. Maintained for over 4 decades in the most ideal conditions of temperature and humidity, and on the best recording formats the NCPA archives preserves and protects India’s rich musical heritage.
According to the Artist themselves the work recorded on the archives feature some of their best works recorded at the prime of their careers. This wonderful khazana beings presented to the music loving public for the first time.
Bismillah Khan was born at Dumraon in Bihar. He was named Quarnaruddin, until his grandfather uttered the word 'Bisrnillah' on seeing the newborn. When Bismillah was a child, he was sent to Varanasi to study from his maternal uncle, Ali Bux who was a shebnai player at the Kashi Vishwanath temple and who noticed the interest and talent Bismillah displayed in the instrument. Ali Bux began trainiug young Bismillah and while he was a hard taskmaster, it was only through his rigorous training that Bismillah Khan was able to sharpen his skills and master the shehnai.
The shehnai, a traditional folk instrument, was already an integral part of the Varanasi culture, played at most households he it festive occasions sucb as weddings or baby showers or even poignant moments such as funerals etc. Bismillah Khan however elevated the Sbehnai to the concert stage and gave it international recognition, becoming one of the few legends in classical music who enabled their instrumental music to match or even surpass vocal music in stature and popularity.
Bismillah Khan's music was focused mostly on popular ragas and the semi-classical genres of Uttar Pradesh. Befitting the breath-driven nature of a wind instrument, be rendered his music in the vocalized idiom. He also frequently deployed a staccato form of modulation, similar to the 'tantkar' idiom of plucked instruments. While he rendered his ragas in the classical khayal style, he also often brought in ornamentations from the semi-classical and folk music genres, experimentations that added immensely to bis popularity among the masses.
Ustad Bisrnillah Khan is also deeply respected for his human qualities as much as for his stature as a musician. Inspite of making a lot of money through his concerts around the globe, he led a frugal life in order to support the needs of his extended family of over a IOO people. He was a deeply religious man, but without any religious biases and would be equally at home in the Balaji temple, where he practiced his music, as he would be on his prayer mat where he practiced his faith.
Ustad Bismillah Khan was a recipient of numerous awards and distinctions. He has the singular distinction of being the only musician to be invited to play on the eve of India's Independence in 1947 at a ceremony at the Red Fort. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1961, the Padma Bhushan in 198, the Padma Vibhushan in 1980 and the Bharat Raina, India's highest civilian honor, in the year 2001.
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