Rhythm & Sound
THE shehnai (an aerophonic instrument) is thought to bring good luck, and as a result, is widely used in North India for marriages and processions.
The shehnai is believed to have originated in the Kashmir Valley, where people use the instrument in band-i-pather. It is thought to have been created by improving upon the pungi (a woodwind folk instrument used primarily for snake charming).
There are varying legends of the shehnai's origin. In one of these, a Shah initially banned the playing of the pungi in his court due to its shrill sound. A barber, belonging to a family of musicians, improved on it and created the shehnai. As it was played in the Shah's court and giving due reference to the 'nai' or barber, the new instrument was called 'shehnai'.
This tube-like instrument gradually widens towards the lower end. It usually has between six and nine holes. It employs two sets of double reeds, making it a quadruple reed woodwind. By controlling the breath, various tunes can be played on it
Bismillah Khan was perhaps single handedly responsible for making the shehnai a famous classical instrument. He brought the shehnai to the center stage of Indian music with his concert in the Calcutta All India Music Conference in 1937. He was credited with having almost monopoly over the instrument as he and the shehnai are almost synonyms. Khan is one of the finest musicians in post-independent Indian Classical music and one of the best examples of hindu-muslim unity in India. His concept of music was very beautiful and his vision, superb. He once said, "Even if the world ends, the music will still survive" and he often said, "Music has no caste". He played in almost every capital city across the world. His shehnai was so close to him that after the demise of his wife he began to refer to it as his begum, or wife. After his death, his shehnai was buried with him.