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Individual Issues

Bismillah Khan
Issue : 264
Published on : September, 2006



2 Sruti Box

7 News & Notes

13 Special Feature

25 Heritage Landmarks In Music

35 Main Feature

43 Seres For The Younger Generation

45 The Book Shelf

47 The Record Rack

52 Editor's Note

Front Cover: Ustad Bismillah Khan
(Photo: Avinash Pasricha)

Special Feature
Ustad Bismillah Khan

Ustad Bismillah Khan, the shehnai maestro, and possibly the most popular Hindustani classical musician of the 20th century, breathed his last at the age of 91 in Varanasi at 2.20 am on August 21. In his death, the nation mourns the fading away of the musical magic that heralded the dawn of Independence at the Red Fort on August 15, 1947, and regaled free India for six decades.

Bismillah Khan was one of the chief architects of India's post-Independence musicscape. He elevated the shehnai, an ancient ceremonial instrument, to the status of a concert instrument. Through the 1960's and 70's, his formidable musicianship, along with that of instrumentalists like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, and Ustad Vilayat Khan, enabled instrumental music to overtake vocal music in terms of stature and popularity. Bismillah Khan, however, achieved much greater popularity than other instrumentalists of his generation because he straddled the worlds of classical, folk and popular music with equal ease and distinction.

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Main Feature
Dhondutai Kulkarni

The reigning queen of khayal vocalism, Kishori Amonkar, holds her in the highest esteem. As a "musician's musician", she shoulders the mantle of the larger-than-life Kesarbai Kerkar (1890-1979), with neither a rival nor a successor in sight. The lady is Dhondutai Kulkarni (born: 1927).

Dhondutai's stature is well earned. Five maestros of the gharana (stylistic lineage) have trained her over three decades of tutelage. She became an "A" grade artist of All India Radio at the age of 20, and currently occupies the "Top" grade. She has been decorated with several honours, the foremost being the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi award and the Maharashtra Gaurav Award of the State Government, both in 1990. She ran a busy concert schedule upto 1970, and retreated gracefully as entertainment began to encroach upon the territory of art. In defense of her stance, she quotes Oscar Wilde: "Good art should never try to be popular".

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The Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Mylapore

The Mylai Sangeetha Sabha (MSS), which was featured a few months ago in this magazine (see Sruti 260) was quite strict when it came to nagaswaram performances not being allowed in its premises, thanks to a peculiar prejudice that existed then against the nagaswara artists and also a belief that the instrument was meant to be performed only in the great outdoors.

A.K. Ramachandra Iyer, music lover, munificent patron and the owner of Midland Theatre who resided in North Mada Street, Mylapore, was a great lover of the nagaswaram. He decided to found a sabha that would patronise the instrument among other performances. Joining hands with M. Loganatha Mudaliar (industrialist) and K. Natesa Iyer (hosiery merchant) he founded the Rasika Ranjani Sabha in 1929. Strangely, the first few programmes were held at the same venue as the MSS, namely the Vanniyar Sangam Hall at the intersection of Nadu Street and Salai Street.

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A Series For The Younger Generation
Stamp On Swami Haridas

The Department of Post issued a commemorative stamp in memory of Swami Haridas on 19 September 1985. The multi-coloured one-rupee stamp with perf. 13x13, was printed on un-watermarked PG Matt coated paper by photogravure process at India Security Press, Nasik.

The stamp shows the saint with a tambura in his asram, Nidhivan.

It is said that his only possessions were 'kopeen' (a loin cloth), 'karua' (a small water pot)—both shown in the stamp, and 'kantha' (a sweet voice).

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