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Ustad Bismillah KhanBritish media pays tribute to Ustad Bismillah Khan
23rd Aug 2006  09.19 IST
By Agencies  


Describing him as a symbol of Muslim-Hindu unity, British media on Tuesday paid rich tributes to Ustad Bismillah Khan and praised his single-handed efforts in giving respectability to the shehnai.

"Khan single-handedly gave the shehnai classical respectability and introduced it to the concert platform and recital hall," said The Times in an obituary on the maestro who died of a heart attack at Varanasi on Monday aged 90.



Khan's mastery of shehnai made him a national hero, it said. "He was awarded all four of India's top honours. He also played widely outside India, following such pioneers as Ali Akbar Khan on the sarod and Ravi Shankar on the sitar in introducing classical Indian music to Western audiences."

Despite his renown, he remained a modest and simple man whose favoured form of transport was the cycle rickshaw and whose only vice appeared to be the Wills cigarettes that he smoked with obvious relish, the newspaper said.

A pious Shia Muslim who lived almost all his life in the holy Hindu city of Varanasi, he came to symbolise Hindu- Muslim unity in India, it added.

Describing him as "India's virtuosic master of the shehnai - a favourite of nawabs and nationalists alike - 'The Guardian' said for more than 70 years, Khan captivated his listeners with the range of his musical genius. "He was also held up by many of his fellow countrymen as an icon of the secular spirit of the Indian constitution for his open- mindedness on questions of religious affiliation."

The Daily Telegraph described Khan as a musician whose compositions were said to represent 'the sound of India'. It said Khan was widely regarded in India as an Ustad, musical genius, "and his playing of the shehnai is considered to represent all that is best about Hindu-Muslim unity."

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