The Sound of Music Part I

Evelyn Glennie listens to Sound without Hearing it

The story of a girl who could feel music.

Evelyn Glennie was deaf. She was seventeen years old and was nervous as it was her first day at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. Being deaf was a challenge for her. Evelyn became deaf gradually because, according to her mother, she could barely hear at the age of eight, and year after year, she became deaf. She suffered from severe nerve damage.

Evelyn’s obsession with music encouraged her to play the xylophone. All the teachers discouraged her because of her hearing problem, but Ron Forbes (a percussionist and her teacher) helped her learn to sense music vibration with her body. She was a huge success all across the United Kingdom. She switched to solo performances at the age of sixteen and secured one of the highest marks in the Royal Academy of Music in London.

She became the world’s most sought-after percussionist and could play multiple musical instruments. She also learned French and Japanese. Music tingled her skin and hairs. She also used to remove her shoes while playing to sense the coming vibrations of sound waves.

She was presented with the Royal Philharmonic Society’s prestigious Soloist of the Year Award. She gave free performances in prisons and hospitals. Evelyn was an inspiration for thousands and millions of disabled people all over the world.

The Sound of Music Part 2

The Shehnai of Bismillah Khan

The story of a boy who went from getting laddu to Bharat Ratna.

Pungi (a musical instrument) had an unpleasant sound, so a barber modified its structure and designed a new instrument. It had seven holes, and a melodic sound was produced when the player blew the air. It was named Shehnai.

The sound was very musical and impressed everybody. Soon, it became an integral part of every auspicious event. Bismillah Khan is remembered as a man who brought Shehnai to the limelight.

At the age of five, Bismillah Khan played Gilli-Danda in Dumraon, Bihar. He used to play Chaita in the Biharji Temple and would receive a laddu of 1.25 Kg as a reward from the local Maharaja. He received Bharat Ratna at last by the Indian Government. He was born on 21 March 1916. His grandfather Rasul Bux Khan was a Shehnai player of the king’s court. His father, Paigamber Bux, also belonged to the same profession. 

Bismillah Khan’s obsession with Shehnai came when her mother took her to his maternal uncle’s house. Soon, Bismillah Khan started to accompany his uncle, Ali Bux, to the temple. When his maternal uncle played Shehnai, Bismillah Khan would sit for hours watching him play.

At 14, he went to the Allahabad Music Conference, and Ustad Faiyaz Khan patted his back. In 1938, with All India Radio’s opening, Bismillah Khan was often the most heard Shehnai player on the radio.

After the Indian independence, Bismillah Khan played Raag Kafi from the Red Fort to an audience that included Jawahar Lal Nehru. Bismillah Khan also played Shehnai abroad. His first abroad visit was to Afghanistan, where King Zahir Shah gifted him many expensive things. He also excelled in Bollywood.

He became the first Indian to perform at the Lincoln Centre Hall in the United States of America. He also took part in the World Exposition in Montreal, in Cannes Art Festival, and the Osaka Trade Fair. An auditorium in Teheran was also named after him.

He was given many national awards. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2001, and in his speech, he said that we should teach our children music as it was India’s richest tradition.

He was offered a top position in a music school in the USA but declined the offer. He only yearned for Benaras and Dumraon. He passed on 21 August 2006 at the age of ninety.