"Bismillah of Benares"

Ramachandra Guha pays tribute to the late Ustad Bismillah Khan in The Hindu:

IN a delicious paradox that can only be Indian, the man who best embodied the spirit of the holy Hindu city of Varanasi was a Muslim. Although he was born in Bihar, Bismillah Khan moved to Varanasi as a young man, and lived there until he died, spending some seven decades in an old, crumbling haveli, surrounded by his shehnais, a large extended family, and an even larger circle of hangers-on…
… That a Muslim musician personified Kashi so stuck in the gullets of Hindu bigots. Not that the orthodox Muslims had much time for Bismillah either. In the wonderful documentary that Nasreen Munni Kabir made of him — whose title I have stolen for this column— Bismillah explains how for some mullahs, music is the work of the Devil, haram. “Harrraaam”, he repeats, and then cackles delightedly.





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