The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan
Answer these questions in 30–40 words
Question 1: Why did Aurangzeb ban the playing of the pungi?
Answer: The pungi had an unpleasant shrill sound. Due to its irritating quality Aurangzeb banned the playing of pungi.
Question 2: How is a shehnai different from a pungi?
Answer: Shehnai is the refined version of pungi. A barber, who was a regular visitor to the king’s palace, used a naturally hollow stems to put pungi’s reed into and made shehnai. Shehanai had pleasant sound unlike pungi. As it was played by a barber (nai in Hindi) before the king (shah in Urdu) so it was given the name Shahnai.
3. Where was the shehnai played traditionally? How did Bismillah Khan change this?
Answer: Traidtionally the Shehnai was played in temples and during wedding ceremonies, as it was considered an auspicious instrument. Bismillah Khan brought Shehnai into mainstream music and changed the way people perceived shehnai.
Question 4: When and how did Bismillah Khan get his big break?
Answer: In 1938, when All India Radio started, Bismillah Khan got the big break of performing for the All India Radio.
Question 5: Where did Bismillah Khan play the shehnai on 15 August 1947? Why was the event historic?
Answer: On 15th August 1947 Bismillah Khan played shehnai near the Red Fort in Delhi. It was the day when India became an independent nation. The gathering was full of eminent luminaries like Nehru and Gandhi.
Question 6: Why did Bismillah Khan refuse to start a shehnai school in the U.S.A.?
Answer: Bismillah Khan was in love with Benares and the Ganges flowing there. He used to get inspiration from the ambience of numerous ghats in Varanasi. He knew that he won’t be able to get that ambience in the USA. So, he refused to start a shehnai school in the USA.