Ustad Bismillah Khan (21st March 1916?21st August 2006) was a shehnai player from India. The term "Ustad" or "Pandit" in relation to Indian classical music means Master or Guru. He was the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna (in 2001), the highest civilian honour in India. He also had the distinction of being one of the few people to be awarded all the top four civilian awards.
He was the third classical musician to be awarded the Bharat Ratna (in 2001), the highest civilian honour in India. He also had the distinction of being one of the few people to be awarded all the top four civilian awards.
Ustad Bismillah Khan was born on 21st March 1916 at Bhirung Raut Ki Gali, in Dumraon, the second son of Paigambar Khan and Mitthan. He was named as Qamaruddin to rhyme with Shamsuddin, their first son. His grandfather, Rasool Baksh Khan uttered "Bismillah" after looking at the newborn, thus he was named Bismillah Khan.
His ancestors were court musicians in the princely states of Bhojpur, now in Bihar state. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate, now in Bihar. He received his training under his uncle, the late Ali Baksh "Vilayatu", a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath Temple.
Ustad Bismillah Khan was perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument. He brought the shehnai to the center stage of Indian music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai are almost synomyms.
He has played in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Europe, Iran, Iraq, Canada, West Africa, USA, USSR, Japan, Hong Kong, and almost every capital city across the world.