How old was Evelyn when she went to the Royal Academy of Music ?
She was then seventeen.
When was Evelyn’s deafness first noticed ? When was it confirmed ?
Evelyn’s deafness was first noticed when she was eight years old. It was noticed by her mother. Evelyn was waiting for her turn to play the piano. Her name was called when her turn came. But Evelyn didn’t move from her place. It was the first indication that there was something wrong with the girl. Evelyn had been trying to hide her deafness from her friends and teachers. But her performance at school was going from bad to worse. Her headmistress urged her parents to take her to a specialist. It was then confirmed that Evelyn’s hearing was severely damaged. The parents were advised that Evelyn should be fitted with a hearing aid. They were also advised to send her to a school for the deaf.
Who helped Evelyn to continue with music ? What did he do and say ?
Ron Forbes was a great percussionist. He helped Evelyn to continue with music. He saw the girl’s great potential. He tuned two large drums to different notes. He said to Evelyn, “Don’t listen through your ears. Try to sense it some other way.” Suddenly Evelyn found that she could feel the higher drum from the waist up. She could feel the lower one from the waist down. Forbes repeated the performance. Soon Evelyn discovered that she could sense certain notes in different parts of her body.
Name the various places and causes for which Evelyn performs.
Evelyn gives regular performances as her profession. Apart from this, she gives free performances in prisons and hospitals. She gives great importance to classes for young musicians. She tries to inspire deaf children with her example.
How does Evelyn hear music ?
Evelyn is deaf. She doesn’t hear music. She feels music. She feels it through the different parts of her body. What we hear, she feels. And she feels it far more deeply than any of us. She says, “Music pours in through every part of my body. It tingles in my skin, my cheekbones and even in my hair.” When she plays the xylophone, she can sense the sound through her fingertips. She can feel it as it passes up the stick into her fingertips. When she plays the drums, she leans against them. Thus she can feel the sound flowing into her body. When she performs on a wooden platform, she removes her shoes. She can thus feel the vibrations pass through her bare feet and up her legs. Thus Evelyn has learnt to feel music through the different parts of her body. She feels it through her mind and body as we hear it through our ears.
1. The ____________ was a ‘reeded noisemaker’.
2. ___________________________ transformed the pungi into a shehnai.
3. Bismillah Khan’s paternal ancestors were ______________________ .
4. Bismillah Khan learnt to play the shehnai from ______________________________.
5. Bismillah Khan’s first trip abroad was to _____________________.
Find the words in the text which show Ustad Bismillah Khan’s feelings about the items listed
Then tick (✓) the correct column. Discuss your answers in class.
Why did Aurangzeb ban the playing of the pungi ?
He banned it because of its shrill sound.
How is a shehnai different from a pungi ?
A pungi is made of a reed. But a shehnai is a pipe with a natural hollow. It is longer and broader than the pungi. It has seven holes on its body. It makes a soft and melodious sound. But the pungi makes a shrill sound.
Where was the shehnai played traditionally ? How did Bismillah Khan change this ?
Traditionally, the shehnai was played in courts. It used to be a part of the naubat. Bismillah Khan gave the shehnai a spiritual status. He played it in temples and on auspicious occasions.
When and how did Bismillah Khan get his ‘big break’ ?
In 1938, the All India Radio was opened in Lucknow. It came as a big break for Bismillah Khan. His shehnai was now often heard on radio.
Where did Bismillah Khan play the shehnai on August 15, 1947 ? Why was the event historic ?
On this day, Bismillah Khan played the shehnai at the Red Fort on the occassion of the first independence day of India. He was the first Indian to do that. He poured his heart out in Raag Kafi. His audience included such great men as Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Thus it was a historic event.
Why did Bismillah Khan refuse to start a shehnai school in the USA ?
Bismillah had lived all his life in Benaras. He was deeply attached to the Ganga. He could never think of living away from it. So he refused to start a shehnai school in the USA.
Find at least two instances in the text which tell you that Bismillah Khan loved India and Benaras.
Bismillah Khan played the shehnai for two films. These films were a great success. Now he could stay in Mumbai and earn a lot of money by giving music for films. But he loved Benaras more than money. He could never think of living away from Benaras. A student of his wanted him to start a shehnai school in the USA. The student promised that he would recreate all the atmosphere of Benaras and also its temples. But Khansaab asked him if he could bring the Ganga as well. The Ustad often said, “Whenever I am in a foreign country, I keep yearning to see Hindustan. While in Mumbai, I think only of Varanasi and the holy Ganga.’’ All this shows Bismillah Khan’s great love for India and Benaras.
Name some of the awards and honours conferred on Bismillah Khan.
Bismillah Khan won numberless awards and honours in his life. The history of his awards began from his very childhood. When he was five years old, he used to sing the Bhojpuri Chaita in a temple. The local Maharaja would give him a big laddu weighing 1.25 kg as a prize. When the country gained independence on 15 August, 1947, Bismillah greeted the nation with his shehnai from the Red Fort. He was the first Indian to do that. Bismillah Khan won the highest civilian awards in India. He was awarded the Padmashri, the Padma Bhushan, the Padma Vibhushan and also the Bharat Ratna. Bismillah Khan was honoured not only in India but in other countries also. The king of Afghanistan gifted him priceless Persian carpets. In Teheran, an auditorium has been named after him. He was invited to perform in the USA, in Cannes, Montreal and Osaka. Truly, the list of Bismillah Khan’s awards and honours is endless.
How did the shehnai get its name ?
Pungi is a musical instrument. It makes an unpleasant shrill sound. Emperor Aurangzeb banned it. A nai improved upon the pungi. He made a new instrument. He played it before the shah. Everybody liked its music. Thus the instrument came to be called shehnai (shah + nai).
Describe Bismillah Khan as a boy in Dumraon.
Bismillah Khan used to play gilli-danda near a pond. After playing, he would go to a nearby temple. There he would sing the Bhojpuri ‘chaita’. The local Maharaja would be very pleased. He would give Bismillah Khan a big laddu as a prize. The laddu weighed 1.25 kg.
Why was Benaras so important to Bismillah Khan ?
Bismillah Khan lived in Benaras most of his life. He came here when he was a little boy. He lived with his uncle. He learnt from him how to play the shehnai. He would play the shehnai in the temples of Balaji and Mangala Maiya. He would go to the banks of the Ganga. There he would sit for hours and play the shehnai. The flowing waters of the Ganga inspired him. He invented many new ragas. Thus it was in Benaras that his music took shape. And Benaras became the most important city for Bismillah Khan.
Why did Bismillah Khan not venture into films ?
Bismillah Khan had no love for money. Music was his only love. He was a very simple person. He didn’t like the artificial life of films. He didn’t like to live a life of glamour. So he was never drawn into films. No doubt, he played music for some films. His music was very successful. But Bismillah Khan never thought of migrating to Mumbai. He said, “Whenever I am in Mumbai, I think only of Varanasi and the holy Ganga.” He didn’t find in films anything that could attract him. That was why he never ventured into films. He wanted to remain a shehnai player only. And Varanasi for him was the most wonderful place in the world.
Who decided to improve upon the pungi ? Did he succeed in his endeavour ?
The pungi used to be a musical instrument in the past. It was played in palaces before kings.
Aurangzeb did not like its shrill sound. He banned the playing of the pungi. There was a nai
He improved upon the pungi. He chose a hollow pipe. It was longer and broader than the pungi. He made seven holes on it. When he played on it, a very impressive sound was produced. The nai played it before the king and his courtiers. Everybody liked its music. The instrument came to be called shehnai (shah + nai).
Write a note on the life and achievements of Ustad Bismillah Khan.
Ustad Bismillah Khan was a great shehnai player. He was born in Dumraon in Bihar. He belonged to a family of professional musicians. As a little boy, he used to play gilli-danda with the other boys. After playing, he would go to a nearby temple. He would sit there and sing the Bhojpuri Chaita. The local Maharaja felt pleased to hear him sing. He would give him a big laddu as a reward. At the age of six, he went to Benaras. There his uncle taught him how to play the shehnai. Bismillah Khan would practise for hours in the temples of Balaji and Mangla Maiya. He would also go to the banks of the Ganga. He would practise there in solitude. Bismillah Khan won many awards. He got his first big award when he was only 14. He got it at the All India Music Conference in Allahabad. On 15 August, 1947, he played at the Red Fort. He was invited by Jawaharlal Nehru himself. In 2001, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna. It is the highest civilian award in India.