Certain instruments become indelibly linked with particular performers. In the Hindustani realm, the santoor is closely associated with Shivkumar Sharma and the rudra vina with Zia Mohiuddin Khan, but historically, perhaps the closest and most intimate association has been with Bismillah Khan and the shehnai.
Born in 1916, he has raised the status of one of India's most distinctively voiced instruments unprecedentedly. In its folk form this double-reeded instrument is used on a variety of ritual occasions but is especially associated with weddings. Bismillah Khan has recorded extensively and like many Indian classical artists most of his early work was released by EMI India or its overseas partners. His historic jugalbandi with Vilayat Khan was chosen to inaugurate the Music of India series on EMI India's parent company in Britain. This series licensed the work of masters such as Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan and Nikhil Banerjee. The debut release in the Music of India series, however, featured in the terminology of the album duettos on "Chaiti-Dhun" and "Bhairavee Thumree." The third in the series was another shehnai jugalbandi, this time with violinist V.G. Jog. It was a further indication of the esteem in which Bismillah Khan was held. Time has only reinforced that. ~ Ken Hunt
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