Born as Qamaruddin Khan, the Ustad is generally commended for bringing the shenai into mainstream music and popularizing the concept across the nation. For those who don’t know what shenai is, it’s a wind instrument that’s belongs to the oboe family.
For his contributions, Khan was awarded the Bharat Ratna, Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri and Padma Vibhushan among others. Despite his fear of flying, he participated in the World Exposition in Montreal and the Cannes Art Festival.
His foray as an performing artist started at an early age of 14 but it was his performance at the All India Music Conference in Kolkata when he was 21 that launched him into the spotlight.
One of the most epic moments from his career is when he performed at the Red Fort on the eve of India’s independence in 1947. This started the tradition of Khan performing live after every Prime Minister’s address to the nation on state-owned channels.
He had a brief gist with Bollywood music in between which quickly turned sour when a music director asked him to play a particular note in a different way. He never looked towards film again.
Near the end of his life, Khan wasn’t financially well-off and was supporting his joint family of nearly 60 members that included five sons and three daughters of his own as well as the children that they had. That's a lot, right? Fortunately after repeated pleas to the government, Khan was given Rs 5,00,000 in ‘delayed-aid’.