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The prose “The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan” tells the story of this world-famous shehnai exponent. The piece follows the development of both the shehnai and Bismillah Khan. On March 21, 1916, Ustad Bismillah Khan was born into a well-known musical family. He took to music quickly after being born into a family of acclaimed shehnai players. Bismillah was captivated by the shehnai even at the age of three, and began accompanying his uncle, Ali Bux, to the Vishnu temple of Benaras, where his uncle was hired to play.
He soon began receiving lessons from his uncle and spent hours upon hours practising on the Ganga’s banks. The Ganga’s flowing waters inspired him to innovate and invest in Raagas that were previously thought to be beyond the shehnai’s reach. Bismillah Khan’s big break came with the establishment of All India Radio in Lucknow, and he quickly rose to prominence.
He delivered a number of memorable national and international performances. On 15 August 1947, Ustad Bismillah Khan was the first to greet the nation after independence from atop the Red Fort. His talent, creativity, and expertise with the shehnai were quickly recognised, and he received numerous awards and accolades. The Indian government also bestowed various honours on the maestro, such as the Bharat Ratna in 2001. He died on August 21, 2006, at the age of 90. On the death of this great man, the Government of India declared a day of national mourning, despite the fact that he remained humble and down to earth despite achieving such great heights. Ustad Bismillah Khan was a true son of the soil who remained indelibly in love with India, particularly his Benaras and the Ganges, until his death.
Textual questions and answers
1. The (shehnai, pungi) was a ‘reeded noisemaker’.
2. (Bismillah Khan, A barber, Ali Bux) transformed the pungi into a shehnai.
Answer: A barber
3. Bismillah Khan’s paternal ancestors were ( barbers, professional musicians).
Answer: Professional musicians
4. Bismillah Khan learnt to play the shehnai from.
Answer: Ali Bux
5. Bismillah Khan’s first trip abroad was to (Afghanistan, the U.S.A., Canada).
Answer these questions
1. Why did Aurangzeb ban the playing of the pungi?
Answer: The shrill, unpleasant sound of the pungi had been banned in the royal residence by Emperor Aurangzeb.
2. How is a shehnai different from a pungi?
Answer: In comparison to the pungi, the shehnai is made from a wider and longer pipe with a natural hollow stem. Furthermore, it has a much more pleasant sound than the pungi, which makes a shrill noise.
3. Where was the shehnai traditionally played? How did Bismillah Khan change this?
Answer: Historically, the shehnai was one of nine instruments found in royal courts. It was only played in temples and at weddings until recently. By introducing the shehnai to the classical stage, Bismillah Khan changed this.
4. When and how did Bismillah Khan get his big break?
Answer: Bismillah Khan’s big break came in 1938, with the establishment of All India Radio in Lucknow. For he began playing there on a regular basis and quickly became a well-known and frequently heard shehnai player on radio.
5. Where did Bismillah Khan play the shehnai on 15 August 1947? Why was the event historic?
Answer: On August 15, 1947, Bismillah Khan performed the shehnai from the top of the Red Fort.
Bismillah Khan’s performance was historic because it took place on the anniversary of India’s independence, and it was followed by Jawaharlal Nehru’s famous “Tryst with Destiny” speech. On our very first independence day, Bismillah Khan became the first Indian to greet the nation from the red fort, and his audience included the great men of the time.
6. Why did Bismillah Khan refuse to start a shehnai school in the U.S.A.?
Answer: Bismillah was completely in love with India, particularly Benaras. He refused to open a shehnai school in the United States because he couldn’t bear the thought of being away from India and the Ganges.
7. Find at least two instances in the text which tell you that Bismillah Khan loves India and Benaras.
Answer: First, he turned down an offer from one of his students to relocate to the United States and open a shehnai school there because he couldn’t bear being away from his beloved Ganga. Second, he is presumed to have stated that whenever he is in a foreign country, he longs to visit India.
Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions
1. How did Bismillah Khan’s students intend to recreate Benaras’ atmosphere in the United States?
Answer: Bismillah Khan’s student intended to recreate the atmosphere of Benaras in the United States by replicating all of the temples that once stood there.
26. Make a note about the Shehnai’s origin.
Answer: It is said that in the old days, a musical instrument called pungi was played in palaces before the Kings and Nawabs. The screechy and uncomfortable sound of the pungi, on the other hand, bothered Aurangzeb. As a result, he outlawed the use of this musical instrument in the royal residence. There was a barber from a musical family. He had significant exposure to the royal palace. He worked hard to improve the instrument’s tone: Ile chose a pipe with a natural hollow stem that was longer and wider than the original pungi. On the body of the item, seven holes have been carved. When he played on it, it produced a remarkable sonorous tonal sound. The barber performed it in front of the king and his courtiers. Everyone was taken aback. The musical instrument It was named Shehnai because it was created in the Shah’s chamber by a ‘nai’ (barber). There is another story about Shehnai’s origin. It is said to have been invented by an Iranian doctor. I laquim Bu All Saina was his name, and the instrument was named after him.
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