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Varanasi blasts: Shehnai wizard puts off 91st b'day bash

Written by: Staff
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Lucknow, Mar 21 (UNI) Bharat Ratna shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah, Khan today put off the celebrations to mark his 91st birthday in the wake of the recent twin blasts in the holy city of Varanasi.

Talking to UNI over phone from Varanasi, Javed, secretary of the Ustad, said that early this morning hordes of music lovers, trooped to his house in Dalamandi area here to celebrate the occasion, but the music legend, accredited with transforming shehnai to a classical instrument from marriage accompaniment, sounded a clear no.

''He did this only to show a protest against the March seven blast that rocked the Varanasi railway station and the Sankatmochan temple, where the Ustad performed during his learning days as well as those of greatest success,'' Javed said.

The occasion of Chehallum -- the 40th day of Moharram -- was another reason why Ustad shelved the celebrations, Javed added.

The shehnai virtuoso, however, refused an interview following ill health.

The 91st birthday of the Ustad, will now be celebrated on March 25, at the Dalmandi residence of the great musician, where a 200-page monograph on his life will be released by the Ustad himself, Mr Javed added.

Talking over phone from New Delhi, scribe and writer of the monograph Shivnath Jha confirmed that ''A Monograph on Ustad Bismillah Khan'' will be released by the Ustad himself on March 25. The occasion will be attended among others by Union minister for Science and Technology Kapil Sibal, who will gift a silver shehnai weighing three kg to the music legend.

A cake weighing 91 kg will also be cut by the Ustad during the occasion, symbolising long life to the music icon, Mr Jha said.

Jha said that the book is the culmination of efforts to elevate further the persona of Khan Sahib, besides preserving and promoting the melody of shehnai in the Indian classical music arena, he added.

The foreword in the book has been given by Rita Ganguly, the disciple of Begum Akhtar, who sang the song in Hindi bloskbuster 'Parineeta'.

Jha, who, alongwith wife Neena Jha, has worked hard over the book, further said that 25 per cent of the book's sale proceeds will go through out the life to Khan Sahib, while 25 per cent will be devoted towards three scholarships to promising shehnai players.

The book, narrated the life of Khan Sahib and establishes and unending relation that the Ustad shares with Lord Kashi Viswanath, God Balaji, besides the river Ganga and the peerless culture of Varanasi, Jha added.

UNI ARS NAB RP KN1549

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