Ustad Bismillah Khan on riyaaz, divinity, his love for music, and above all, his faith in humanity …

The legendary Shehnai mestro, Ustad Bismillah Khan Sahib, is perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai, a famous classical instrument. The shehnai is thought to bring good luck, and as a result, is widely used in North India for marriages and processions. In 2001, Ustad Khan became only the 3rd classical musician to recieve the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor.

On religions, Ustad Khan reiterates ” They are one, absolutely one. It’s impossible for there to be division. This voice you hear, it’s that that we call sur (melody)”. Ustad Bismillah Khan is a pious Shia Muslim, and like many Indian musicians regardless of creed, a devotee of the Hindu godess of knowledge Saraswati.

In this article, The 91-year-old maestro talks to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24×7’s Walk the Talk programme about his riyaaz, the oneness of divinity, his unflagging love for music, and above all, his faith in humanity.

Some excerpts:

Let me tell you I have very little to say, if it’s to talk nonsense. I don’t know anything but music; if you ask about that, I can say many things.

Is there no joy in music—is it all to be this foolishness? There is beauty in my voice—I could sing, and after a while there would be tears in your eyes.

Here’s what I say—if anyone wants to meet me, they will have to come here. I will not go anywhere, whether it’s for a raja, a maharaja or anyone else. If I’m not in the mood, I won’t go anywhere for any amount of money. Look, this is my means (touches shehnai to forehead). By the grace of God, when this is in my hands, all the wealth of the world could be brought to me, and I’d say: Get about your business, take it away.

God forbid. Me, leave Benaras? Never.

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