10 Names Of Famous Indian Musicians And The Instruments They Play

India and its culture, tradition, art, and music are so famous all around the world. Speaking of music, the number of instruments, artists, and different genres is uncountable, for example, Folk, Classical and Pop music.

Our country has been gifted lots of talents in the music industry. The people from India have mastered the art of playing music with every instrument.

There are a lot of honorable and famous mentions of Indian musicians and the instruments they play. They have created a substantial impact on their listeners not only in India but around the world, and I’ve tried my best to cover 10 Famous Indian musicians and instruments they play below. (I’ve also added a few more musicians to a table at the end.)

10 Names Of Famous Indian Musicians And The Instruments They Play

list of famous indian musicians and their instruments

1. Ustad Bismillah Khan (Shehnai)

An astonishing shehnai player Qamruddin Bismillah Khan was very well known for his spectacular sense of music; he could play different ranges of ragas that were nearly impossible for any shehnai player that he could come with ease.

Ustad Bismillah Khan was also selected to perform for India’s first Independence Day on August 15, 1947, and on Republic Day, which gave him and his music a new light of fame. Ustad Bismillah Khan’s music was played on TV every Independence Day.

In 2001 Khan was granted the Bharat Ratna, the most honorable civilian award. He also won Padma Vibhushan, Padam Bhushan, and Padma Shri.

2. Hariprasad Chaurasia (Classical Flautist)

Hariprasad Chaurasia is a classical flautist who plays bansuri in the Hindustani Classical Tradition: Born in 1938 in Allahabad, he didn’t belong to a musical background; his father was a wrestler, he wasn’t interested in wrestling and wanted to learn music; at the age of 15 he secretly started learning classical vocal music from his neighbor. 

Hariprasad Chaurasia

Shri Pandit Bholanath Prasanna, a famous flutist from Varanasi, had a significant impact on him. He, later on, learns to play the flute under his guidance.

He joined All India Radio (AIR) in Cuttack, Orissa in 1957, and worked as a composer and a performer. Later on, he was transferred to AIR Bombay, where he played for the film industry, drama theatre, and concerts. He was also a renowned composer. 

His audience was worldwide; he also collaborated with ‘John McLaughlin’ and ‘Ken Lauber.’ 

In 1984 he won the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Padma Bhushan in 1992, and Padma Vibhushan in 2000.

Suggested for flute lovers – Best Punam Flutes For Beginners

3. Pandit Ravi Shankar (Sitar)

A known Indian musician, composer Pandit Ravi Shankar Chowdhary, was a famous Indian sitar player. He was born in 1920 in a Bengali Brahmin family. He spent his youth touring alongside his brother ‘Uday Shankar’ as a dancer in Europe and India. 

Pandit Ravi Shankar

At the age of 19, he gave up dancing and started learning sitar. After completing his studies in 1944, he began composing music and worked as a music director for AIR (All India Radio) in New Delhi until 1956.

He believed that touring in the west would help make Indian Classical Music more popular, so he traveled all around Europe and America; he made friends with ‘George Harrison’ the guitarist from the Beatles. He was promoting his music by writing compositions for Sitar and Orchestra while touring around the world. 

He has been awarded innumerable awards with many art titles and India’s highest civilian honors like  Padma Bhushan in 1967, Padma Vibhushan in 1981, Bharat Ratna in 1999, and Grammy Awards for his collaborative album with Menuhin (WEST MEETS EAST) in 1966.

4. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (Santoor)

A renowned Santoor player, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, was Born in Jammu – Kashmir in 1938, a legend who individually made Santoor a popular instrument in classical music.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma

Sharma started learning music at the age of 5; Santoor was a known instrument in the Sufi music only in the Kashmiri region, not in the Hindustani traditional part. 

His father taught him vocals and tabla at first and later on introduced Santoor to him when he was a teen, his main center of attention was to learn and play Santoor and perform it in Hindustani music. 

He gave his first performance playing the Santoor in Bombay in 1955; Santoor is a popular instrument in classical music only because of him. He has contributed a lot to the film industry, his compositions in Silsila and Chandini are breathtaking, and nobody could do it like him.

He was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 2001 and Padma Shri in 1991, India’s highest honorable awards. 

5. Ustad Zakir Hussain (Tabla)

The eldest son of Ustad Allah Rakha, a Tabla virtuoso, composer, actor, percussionist, a music producer, in short, a multi-talented living legend. Born in 1951 in Mumbai, currently settled in San Francisco.

Ustad Zakir Hussain

His father was also a great well-known tabla player, and he started teaching him music when he was nearly 3 years old; he would vocally narrate different rhythms so he could grasp them better and faster; he gave his first performance at the age of 7. He has toured almost 150+ international concerts every year to date.

In 1970 he toured alongside Ravi Shankar, a sitar maestro, in the United States. He also decided to complete his studies and has a Ph.D.  

In 2002, India’s president Abdul Kalam awarded him with Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri in 1988.  

6. Ustad Asad Ali Khan (Veena)

A Rudra Veena (a string instrument) player Ustad Ali Khan was born on 1 December 1937 in Alwar. The seventh generation of the Rudra Veena players and one of the most vigorous and flawless players in one of the four schools ‘Dhrupad’ in Khader school.

Ustad Asad Ali Khan

He worked at the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts University in Delhi for nearly 17 years. Even after his retirement, he gave private classes to his students. His desire for music was unbelievable. Before teaching in the university, he was at All India Radio. 

He has also performed internationally in Australia, Italy, Afghanistan, the United States, and many countries all over Europe.

In 2008, he received Padma Bhushan by President Pratibha Patil and many honorable musical awards renowned and a Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1977. 

7. Amjad Ali Khan (Sarod)

Amjad Ali Khan, an ideal Sarod player, was born on 9 October 1945 in a classical musical family. His father, Hafiz Ali Khan, taught him music as a court musician in Gwalior.

Amjad Khan was popularly known for clear and fast ‘Pokhara Taans.’ He gave his first-ever sarod recital at the age of six. In 1963 he first performed in the United States, and till 2000 he continued to perform with his two sons and made few moderations to the instruments during his career. 

He was also a part of the ‘Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra’ and was also a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico till the year 2011. He was also awarded Padma Bhushan in 1991 and Padma Vibhushan in 2001 and has also won an award for a documentary on him directed by Gulzar.

You can get a more detailed history about the Padma Awards on, Padma Awards’ official website.

8. Thetakudi Hrihara Vinayakram (Ghatan)

He was born on 11 august 1942 a Ghatan player Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram also known as ‘God of Ghatan’ who plays Carnatic music with the instrument. 

At the age of 13, he started doing concerts; in 1957, on March 5 he gave his first-ever performance in Thoothukudi at the ‘Ram Navami’ festival. He makes ghatam this popular as a percussion instrument; he has also attended many shows where he could give company to the famous Carnatic vocalists.  

Around the 70s, he started his journey as an international artist when he joined ‘Shakti’ alongside John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussian. 

He is the first-ever South Indian Musician to win a Grammy for his participation in Mickey Hart’s ‘Planet of Drum’; he played the Ghatan and Morsing in that album. And he donated the funds to charity. 

He had also received Padma Shri in the year 2002 and Padma Bhushan in 2014.

9. Ramnad V. Raghavan (Mridangam)

A Mridangam genius player was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, on 19 June 1927. His skills and talent both made him an incredible mridangam player. 

His desire to teach and share knowledge is admirable. He started teaching music at the Wesleyan University in Connecticut in the United States in the year 1970. Later on, he moved to Chennai after working in the United States until his retirement. 

Few famous students whom he trained were Glen Velez, Frank Bennett, Joseph Getter.

10. Pt. Ram Narayan (Sarangi)

Pt. Ram Narayan, an Indian musician born on 25 December 1927 a successful sarangi player who internationally made sarangi a solo concert instrument.

At a very young age, Ram Narayan started learning sarangi under professional sarangi players and singers; He also started working as a traveling musician and a music teacher during his teens. 

All India Radio hired him as an accompanist for the vocalists at the radio station in Lahore in 1944. After the partition in 1947, he moved to Delhi and started working in the Indian Cinema from 1949, and his work was immensely praised by the whole industry.

In 1956 he officially became a solo artist and performed in extensive Indian festivals and even in Western countries accompanied by his brother Chatur Lal, a tabla player. He has even recorded solo studio albums. He has taught both Indian and international students. 

Aside from many other honorable musical awards, he received Padma Shri in 1976, Padma Bhushan in 1991, and Padma Vibhushan in 2005.

Table Of Names Of Famous Indian Musicians And The Instruments They Play

Above, I’ve mentioned 10 Famous Indian Musicians with their instruments, including their pictures and descriptions.

Below is the list of famous Indian musicians and their instruments.

Ustad Bismillah KhanShehnai
Hariprasad ChaurasiaClassical Flautist
Pandit Ravi ShankarSitar
Ustad Zakir HussainTabla
Pandit Shivkumar SharmaSantoor
Ustad Asad Ali KhanVeena
Amjad Ali KhanSarod
Thetakudi Hrihara VinayakramGhatan
Ramnad V. RaghavanMridangam
Pt. Ram NarayanSarangi
Ali Akbar KhanSarod
Alla RakhaTabla
Annapurna DeviSurbahar – Bass Sitar
Shakoor KhanSarangi
MS GopalakrishnanViolinist
U SrinivasMandolin
Braj Bhushan KabraGuitar
Vishwa Mohan BhattVeena
Totaram SharmaTabla
Pudukkottai Dakshinamurthy PillaiMridangam and Kanjira
Pannalal GhoshFlute
Kishan MaharajTabla
SivamaniPercussionist – Drums, Octoban, Ghatam, Kanjira
AR RahmanIndian composer, singer, songwriter

Last Words

Above I have mentioned the top 10 famous Indian musicians who have made a massive contribution to the music industry and made Carnatic music so renowned that even today’s youth are interested in it. I have added a few more musicians to the table with the instrument they play.

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