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Riyaz and raags

Pt. S. Ballesh and son Krishna are nurturing the Hindustani classical genre in the Carnatic bastion.

Nearly a dozen students sit around their guru, and engage themselves in interpreting raag Malkauns. They are there on request for a photo shoot. What starts as a posing session becomes a serious class where gurus and sishyas forget the presence of our photographer and get completely immersed in the music.

The place is a music room on the third floor of a traditional home on a rather non-descript lane in Saligramam and the school is the Tansen Academy of Music. And the driving force? Hindustani vocalist and shehnai maestro Pt. Ballesh and his son Krishna Ballesh.

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Pandit S Ballesh, a disciple of the late Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan holds classes for aspiring musicians at his modest suburban home in Saligramam when he is not recording background scores for Tamil movie songs with the likes of maestros Illayaraja and A R Rahman.

The tunes flowing from the wood wind instrument as Pandit Ballesh blows with controlled breaths into a bamboo reed fitted at the tip of the Shehnai, is music to passers by on AVM street where the family resides.

At their home christened 'Shehnai Nivas' Panditji is assisted by his son and disciple Krishna who picked up the nuances of Shehnai from Ustad Bismillah Khan in Varanasi towards the latter part of the icon's lifetime.

Celebrating the shehnai

November 10, 2016

Ras Barse Utsav will pay tribute to Ustad Bismillah Khan.

This year we celebrate the centenary birth anniversary of another legend — Ustad Bismillah Khan. The image of his eyes crinkled and that gentle smile are imprinted in the minds of music lovers. The ustad became synonymous with shehnai. From the banks of the Ganges to auditoria across the world, he elevated the simple shehnai to a classical instrument. He brought out the nuances of ragas through his gentle blowing. He was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2001.

The Chennai-based Tansen Academy of Music is organising a festival, Ras Barse Utsav, to celebrate the ustad’s unique artistry. To be held on November 12 (6 p.m.) at The Music Academy, it will also pay tribute to shehnai exponent Pandit Sanna Bharamanna.

Making Hindustani audible in the Carnatic heartland

November 06, 2016

CHENNAI: As a ‘bandish’ (a short composition) in raag Yaman.

On a celebratory note

March 15, 2017

He elevated the status of shehnai, played only during festivities and brought it to the concert platform. Ustad Bismillah Khan sought worldwide recognition for the humble instrument by exploring its musical capacity. Inspired by his journey, many took to learning the shehnai. As music-lovers and his disciples gear up to celebrate the maestro’s 101st birth anniversary on March 21, Chennai-based Pt S. Ballesh recalls his association with the Ustad. Ballesh who hails from Hubli, established the Tansen Academy that conducts an annual festival ‘Ras Barse’ in memory of his revered guru. The Academy imparts training in Hindustani music and composing for films.

Chennai musician duo to pay tribute to the Ustad Bismillah Khan Saheb in his own tunes

March 29, 2019

CHENNAI: "I was about 13 years old when I first performed in front of Ustad Bismillah Khan Saheb. The memories are still fresh — I got his blessings and played the shehnai in Raag Madhuvanti for about 30 minutes. I even have a video recording of the moment. We at Tansen are extremely happy to celebrate his birth anniversary by doing what he loved — playing the shehnai and promoting Hindustani classical music,” says Krishna Ballesh of Tansen Academy,  ahead of Guru Samarpan, a tribute concert to commemorate the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna recipient Ustad Bismillah Khan.

Familial notes of magical melodies

December 02, 2016

Under the sombre lights of the vast hall we sat, our eyes and ears swaying to the melodious tunes of the Shehnai; Raag Bhairav, it was, to be precise. Accompanied by the mellow whump of the tabla, the musical rendezvous, which lasted a little over two hours, kept the audience glued to their seats till the very end, leaving them wanting for more.

It was the Ras Barse Utsav at the Music Academy in Chennai in the mid of November. The concert was held on the birth centenary of Shehnai Shahensha Ustad Bismillah Khan, and was  presided over by his disciples—Pandit S Ballesh and his son Krishna Ballesh on shehnai, and Ustad Bismillah Khan’s youngest son Nazim Hussain on the tabla.

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November 07, 2018

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A free-flowing musical dialogue at Ras Barse Utsav

November 14, 2018

Tansen Academy’s Fourth Edition of the Ras Barse Utsav brought together well-known instrumental artistes for a memorable evening

“The energy of the audience is absolutely amazing. Especially for a Hindustani classical event, such as this, in a city like Chennai,” said Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt with a smile. The enthusiasm of the students and parents of shehnai artistes S. Ballesh and son Krishna Ballesh’s Tansen Academy left him floored. It was his fourth trip to Chennai in a span of two months.

With the support of its 500 students spread across campuses in Chennai and Bangalore, the Academy presented the fourth edition of Ras Barse Utsav, a concert dedicated to Ballesh’s gurus and shehnai maestroes, Ustad Bismillah Khan and Pandit Sanna Bharamanna. The evening, which brought together Pt. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, S. Ballesh and Krishna Ballesh and Pt. Yogesh Samsi, highlighted the Academy’s mission to popularise Hindustani music in Chennai.

Following the Strains of Shehnai

April 08, 2015

CHENNAI: Tunes of the shehnai used in the interludes of the song Tum Tak from the film Raanjhnaa still linger in our minds and ears. In fact, the composer A R Rahman had used tunes from the instrument in almost all the songs in the album, as a tribute to Ustad Bismillah Khan, a recipient of  the Bharat Ratna, who popularised it in the classical arena.


.“Earlier, before Ustad came to the fore, the shehnai was played in weddings, processions and was being used mostly as a folk instrument. It was through his efforts that the shehnai had made its way into classical music. For decades now, almost all concerts begin with a shehnai rendition, as it has an auspicious feel while being played,” says S Ballesh, shehnai player and one of Bismillah Khan’s students,  who has been playing the instrument for film songs and concerts for 39 years now. He and his students at Tansen Academy of Music, Chennai were gearing up for a tribute Ras Barse Ustav on Saturday to mark the maestro’s 99th birth anniverary.

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