25 Famous Indian Musicians of All Time Who Deserve Our Praise

Stressed, blessed and Indian music obsessed!

Aaliya Sheikh

8 months ago|13 min read

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Indian classical musicians have played a great role in popularising Indian music all across the globe. The music of India is diverse as it has many cultures and this diversity of India contributes to a broad range of musical styles within Indian music.

Famous Indian Musicians
Famous Indian Musicians

India has over a billion people and hundreds of dialects and languages spread across the world. Indian classical music can be learned in many institutions. The credit for making Indian classical music popular goes to famous Indian musicians.

Our country has produced many Indian classical musicians, who have created an aura, enriched the world of music and provided solace to the hearts through their soulful music. They have created an infinite impact on the hearts and souls of their audience not just in India but worldwide.

If you are tired of listening to the same tunes, lend an ear to these classical musicians. We are sure that their melodic and soothing tunes will definitely put your mind and heart at ease. Here is a list of some of the famous Indian musicians along with their instruments for you.

1. Miyan Tansen

Starting our list of famous Indian musicians, we have Miyan Tansen, a composer, musician and vocalist, was a prominent figure in the North Indian Tradition of Hindustani classical music.

Tansen began his career and spent most of his adult life in the court of the Hindu king of Rewa, Raja Ramchandra Singh, where Tansen's musical abilities gained him widespread fame and following. He was greatly praised for his dhrupad and raga compositions and for his vocal performances.

2. Ustad Bismillah Khan

Qamruddin Bismillah Khan was one of the famous Indian musicians, who played the shehnai with such an expressive virtuosity that he became a leading Indian classical music artist. He learned numerous musical forms and ragas, and he improvised patterns that had been considered impossible for the shehnai. 

He was selected to perform for the ceremony at Red Fort as the Indian flag unfurled at the hour of India’s independence on August 15, 1947, his music was played on television every Independence Day. In 2001 Khan was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, and the country observed a national day of mourning following his death in 2006.

3. Pandit Ravi Shankar

Ravi Shankar Chowdhury was an Indian sitar specialist and a composer. He was the best-known sitar player in the second half of the 20th century and influenced many other musicians throughout the world. 

Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999. During his lifetime he won Grammy Awards for the albums West Meets East (1966), a collaboration with Menuhin; The Concert for Bangladesh (1971), a compilation of performances by Shankar, Harrison, Bob Dylan, and others from the benefit concert Shankar inspired Harrison to organize; and Full Circle (2001), a live recording of a performance at Carnegie Hall. 

In 1997 he received the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for music.

4. Hariprasad Chaurasia

Hariprasad Chaurasia is an Indian music director and classical flautist, who plays the bansuri, an Indian bamboo flute in the Hindustani classical tradition whose performances and compositions brought global recognition to the bansuri (a simple side-blown bamboo flute).

In 1958 he performed and composed music for the All India Radio (AIR) in Cuttack, Orissa. When he was transferred by AIR to Bombay, he played both for the film industry and at concerts. His unique adaptation of raga forms for the flute reflects his complete mastery of the idiom.

Chaurasia’s style popularized classical music and had a wide audience. In 1984 he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi award for his outstanding contribution to music. He was awarded two of India’s highest civilian honours, the Padma Bhushan (1992) and the Padma Vibhushan (2000).

5. Pandit Shivkumar Sharma

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma is an Indian music composer and Santoor player. Sharma began studying music when he was five years old. When he was a teenager, his father introduced him to the santur that was well known in the Sufi music of the Kashmir region but foreign to Hindustani tradition. 

Encouraged by his father, Shiv Kumar shifted his instrumental focus to santur with the aim of using the instrument to perform Hindustani music. In 1955 Sharma gave his first major public performance of Hindustani music on the santur. Although his playing drew praise from the more-progressive listeners. 

Sharma released numerous albums of Hindustani santur music, such as The Last Word in Santoor (2009), The Elements: Water (1995), which was cast in the smooth and soothing style of New Age popular music. He also played music for films, including Silsila(1981) and Chandni(1989). 

He received a Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1986. He was also awarded two of the country’s top civilian honours: the Padma Shri (1991) and the Padma Vibhushan(2001). Sharma also published his autobiography, Journey with a Hundred Strings: My Life in Music in 2002.

6. Ustad Zakir Hussain

Ustad Zakir Hussain is an Indian tabla player, composer, percussionist, music producer, film actor and eldest son of tabla player Ustad Allah Rakha. He gave his first concert at the age of seven and was deemed a child prodigy. He was touring by the age of eleven. 

Zakir Hussain went to the United States in 1970 to accompany sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. After the tour was complete, he planned to study for a PhD but instead, he moved to the Bay Area to accompany Ali Akbar Khan, who was in need of a tabla player. 

After that, he began his international career, including more than 150 concert dates a year. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1988,  and the Padma Bhushan in 2002,  by the Government of India presented by President Abdul Kalam. 

He was also awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1990, given by the Sangeet Natak Academy. In 1999, he was awarded the United States National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship, the highest award given to traditional artists and musicians.

7. Amjad Ali Khan

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Bangash is an Indian classical sarod player. Amjad Ali Khan gave his first recital at age six.  He learned from his father Hafiz Ali Khan,  who was a court musician in Gwalior up until Independence in 1947. 

His work is certainly a large part of why the sarod has found such an important role in today’s new iteration of classical Indian instrumental music. Amjad Ali Khan has played at WOMAD festivals in New Zealand and the UK, with a memorable late-night Siam Stage session with cellist Matthew Barley. 

He was awarded 21st Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavna Award, Padma Shri in 1975,  Padma Bhushan in 1991,  and Padma Vibhushan in 2001, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1989 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for 2011. He was also awarded the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize in 2004. 

The US state of Massachusetts proclaimed 20 April as Amjad Ali Khan Day in 1984. He was made an honorary citizen of Houston,  Texas,  and Nashville,  Tennessee, in 1997, and of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2007. He received the Banga-Vibhushan in 2011.

8. Pandit Ram Narayan

Ram Narayan is an Indian musician who popularised the bowed instrument sarangi as a solo concert instrument in Hindustani classical music and became the first internationally successful sarangi player. 

He studied under sarangi players and singers and, as a teenager, worked as a music teacher and travelling musician. He was hired as a vocalist in All India Radio, Lahore, 1944. For over sixty years, Pt. Ram Narayan has pursued and perfected the art of Sarangi playing.

With his endeavours he went winning for the once lowly instrument, a national and international position of honour and respect, Raag: Gaud Sarang, Raag: Malkauns, Raag: Mishra Kafi. He was awarded India's second-highest civilian honour,  the Padma Vibhushan, in 2005.

9. Ustad Asad Ali Khan

Asad Ali Khan was an Indian musician who played(plucked string instrument) Rudra Veena. He performed in the style Dhrupad and was considered as the best living Rudra Veena player in India by The Hindu.  

He worked at All India Radio, taught the sitar in the Faculty of Music and Fine Arts at the University of Delhi for 17 years, and continued to train students privately after his retirement. 

Khan received several national awards, including the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1977 and the civilian honour Padma Bhushan in 2008, which was awarded by Indian President Pratibha Patil. 

He was described as the best living Rudra Veena player in India by The Hindu and lived in Delhi. He was awarded the Indian civilian honour Padma Bhushan in 2008.

10. Ali Akbar Khan

Ali Akbar Khan composer, expert sarod player and teacher. Trained as a classical musician and instrumentalist by his father, Allauddin Khan and also composed numerous classical ragas and film scores. 

He was the first Indian musician to record the long and elaborate manifestations of Indian music performances. He founded music schools in Kolkata (Calcutta; 1956); San Rafael,  Calif.  (1967); and Basel,  Switz. (1985). 

In 1991, he received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. He was awarded India's second-highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan in 1989. He was also nominated five times for the Grammy Award, he was a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and the National Endowment for the Arts's National Heritage Fellowship.

11. Alla Rakha

Ustad Allarakha Qureshi also known as Alla Rakha,  was an Indian tabla player and niche in Hindustani classical music. As a regular voice of Indian sitar expert Ravi Shankar in the 1960s and ’70s, he was largely responsible for developing interest in the tabla among non-Indian audiences. 

He left All India Radio to work in film music in 1943. Using his family name, A. R.  Qureshi, he composed soundtracks and served as musical director for various movies. On the occasion of his 95th birthday, he was featured on 29 April 2014 in a Google doodle. 

Alla Rakha was awarded two of India’s most prestigious awards: the Padma Shri (1977) and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1982).

12. Bhimsen Joshi

Pandit Bhimsen Guracharya Joshi was an Indian classical vocalist from Karnataka. He was also known for the khayal form of singing, as well as for his popular renditions of devotional music bhajans and abhangs. 

Between 1964 to 1982 Joshi toured Afghanistan,  Italy, France, Canada and USA for his concerts. He was the first musician from India whose concerts were advertised through posters in New York City, United States. 

Pt Joshi first performed live in 1941. His debut album, which includes devotional songs in Marathi and Hindi, was released by HMV in 1942. Joshi also worked as a radio artist in 1943. 

Joshi sang for several films like the well-known song ‘Ramya Hi Swargahun Lanka’ in the Kannada movie Sandhya Raga (1966), and collaborated with renowned artists like Manna Dey in the Marathi movie ‘Swayamvar Zale Siteche’ (1964); with Carnatic vocalist M. Balamuralikrishna in the song E Pariya Sobagu and with Pandit Jasraj in the film Birbal My Brother (1973). 

He won National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the film Ankahee(1985). In 1998,  he was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship,  the highest honour conferred by Sangeet Natak Akademi,  India's National Academy for Music,  Dance and Drama. He received the Bharat Ratna in 2009.

13. Annapurna Devi

An Indian surbahar (bass sitar) player of Hindustani classical music. The famous name 'Annapurna' was given by former Maharaj Brijnath. She was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 1977 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1991. 

The Sangeet Natak Akademi appointed her as the prestigious ‘Ratna’ fellow in 2004. Annapurna Devi was an acclaimed instructor and one of the first women gurus of note in modern times.

14. Jagjit Singh

Jagjit Singh was an Indian composer,  singer and musician. He composed and sang in numerous languages and is credited for the revival and popularity of ghazal,  an Indian classical art form. He is considered to be the most successful ghazal singer and composer of all time. 

In terms of Indian Classical music, his style of composing and Gayaki (singing) is considered as Bol-pradhan, one that lays emphasis on words. In his entire journey. Jagjit has more than 40 private albums to his credit and has lent his voice to many Bollywood films, impressing and enchanting an entire generation of music lovers. 

His songs like Hontho Se Chhoo Lo Tum, Tum Ko Dekha and Meri Zindagi Kisi Aur Ki Mere Naam Ka Koi Aur Hai are evergreen favourites. The Government of India awarded him the Padma Bhushan in 2003 and released a set of two postal stamps in his honour in February 2014.

15. Shakoor Khan

Shri Shakoor Khan is Sarangi players. Receiving early training from his grandfather, Ustad Mehboob Khan and his father, Ustad Gafoor Khan, he was trained both in vocal music and Sarangi by Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan of the well known Kirana gharana.  

Shri Shakoor Khan is a great exponent of ragas in the classical style and has from time to time accompanied by his Sarangi all the great vocal musicians of the country. 

Chosen to present the music of India abroad, Shri Shakoor Khan has played in Russia, Afghanistan and other neighbouring countries and has thus projected our music to people of those countries bringing us closer in cultural ties. 

For the eminence, he has attained in the world of music and his services to its cause Shri Shakoor Khan receives the Akademi Award for Hindustani instrumental music.

16. MS Gopalakrishnan

MS Gopalakrishnan was a violinist in the field of Carnatic music. A top-ranking violinist, outstanding soloist and accompanist, MSG has been in the music arena for over fifty years playing both Hindustani and Carnatic Music. 

MSG has done vast research on violin playing techniques. He has developed a new unique style called the "Parur style". He accorded many awards which include Sangeetha Kalanidhi, 1975 Padma Shri, 1976 Violin Vadhya Chakravarthy, 1998 Sangeetha Kalanidhi, 2012 Padma Bhushan, 2012 Sangeetha Kala Shikhamani and 1979 Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award.

17. U Srinivas

Uppalapu Srinivas was an Indian mandolin player and composer in Carnatic classical music. He was also called the Mozart of classical Indian music. He made his debut public Carnatic concert performance in 1978 during the Thyagaraja Aradhana festival at Gudivada in Andhra Pradesh.

He was the first musician to use the electric mandolin in Carnatic music: he modified the electric western instrument, using five single strings instead of using the traditional four doubled strings to suit the Carnatic pitch, raga system, and especially gamakas. 

Srinivas recorded over 137 albums, in diverse genres from Carnatic music solos to jugalbandis with Hindustani musicians and world music. He also performed with western artists such as John McLaughlin, Michael Brook, Trey Gunn, Nigel Kennedy, Nana Vasconcelos and Michael Nyman, as well as with Hindustani music artists such as Hariprasad Chaurasia and Zakir Hussain. 

He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998,  by the Government of India and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 2009.

18. Braj Bhushan Kabra

Brij Bhushan Kabra was guitar player in Indian classical music. Kabra became the first Indian musician to play raga on the guitar, performed publicly, and recorded the successful album Call of the Valley (1967) with bansuri player Hariprasad Chaurasia and santoor player Shivkumar Sharma.  

His guitar playing gained popularity in the 1970s. He recorded solo albums and concentrated on teaching since the 1990s but continued to perform. He was awarded the Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1983–84, was made a fellow of the Rajasthan Sangeet Natak Akademi for 1995–96, and received the national Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 2005.

19. Vishwa Mohan Bhatt

Vishwa Mohan is a Hindustani classical music instrumentalist who plays the Mohan veena.  He is recently announced as one of the awardees of the prestigious Padma Bhushan. Vishwa Mohan has also worked in several films including Lagaan (2001), Saathiya (2002), Dedh Ishqiya (2014) and 7 Khoon Maaf (2011). 

His achievement includes 1993 Grammy Award (Best World Music Album) – A Meeting by the River(With Ry Cooder), Sangeet Natak Akademi Award(1998), Padma Shri(2002) and Padma Bhushan(2017).

20. Totaram Sharma

Shri Tota Ram Sharma is an outstanding performer and top-grade artist of All India Radio.  He has performed widely at prestigious music festivals, accompanying famous Dhrupad musicians such as Aminuddin Khan Dagar, Ram Chatur Mallik and Beenkars such as Gopal Krishna and Asad Ali Khan.  

He has served as Guru at Rajasthan University, Jaipur and Kathak Kendra, Delhi. For his dedicated work in the field of music, he has received several honours including the title of Talmani conferred by the Sur Singar Samsad,  Mumbai. Shri Tota Ram Sharma receives the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Hindustani instrumental music.

21. K. V. Prasad

Shri K. V. Prasad is acknowledged as a front-ranking Mridangam artist. He is known for his deftness on the instrument, characteristic of players groomed in the Thanjavur style, and his deep knowledge of rhythm.  

He has worked with well-known music directors in Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu cinema. He has issued a number of commercial recordings of his music. 

He is awarded Kalaimamani bestowed by the Tamilnadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram (2000), the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award (2010) and the Vani Kala Sudhakara conferred by the Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha, Chennai (2011). 

Shri K. V.  Prasad received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for his contribution to Mridangam music.

22. T. H. Vinayakram

Thetakudi Harihara Vinayakram also known as Vikku Vinayakram. He plays Carnatic music with the ghatam,  an earthen pot, and is credited with popularising the ghatam, also known as the God of ghatam. He is the first South Indian to win a Grammy Award. He gave his first performance on 5 March 1957 at the Rama Navami festival in Thoothukudi.

He accompanied many famous vocalists in Carnatic music, includes Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar, Dr Sirkazhi S. Govindarajan, Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna, G. N. Balasubramaniam, Madurai Mani Iyer, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, M. S.  Subbulakshmi and Maharajapuram Santhanam, among others.

23. Pudukkottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai

A powerful personality Dhakshinamoorthy Pillai was a leading mridangam and kanjira artist who accompanied musicians in Carnatic music concerts from 1875 to 1925. Starting his career in Balamani Ammal’s drama troupe and musical discourses, he rose to fame with the concert opportunities that started coming to him. 

He played for many leading artists of the day and was an inspiration for many like Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer and Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer.

24. Pannalal Ghosh

Pandit Pannalal Ghosh also known as Amal Jyoti Ghosh, was an Indian flute (bansuri),  player and composer.  He was a disciple of Allauddin Khan, and is credited with popularizing the flute as a concert instrument in Hindustani classical music and also the "Pioneer of Indian Classical Flute". 

He was the first to introduce the seven-hole flute.  His debut film as an independent music composer was Sneh Bandhan(1940) and the popular songs of the film were "Aabroo Ke Kamaanon Mein" and "Sneh Bandhan Mein Bandhe Hue" sung by Khan Mastan and Bibbo.

25. Kishan Maharaj

Pandit Kishan Maharaj was an Indian tabla player of Hindustani classical music. When he was eleven, Kishan Maharaj began performing in concerts. 

Within a few years, Kishan Maharaj was sharing the stage with Faiyaz Khan, Omkarnath Thakur, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan, Vasant Rai, Vilayat Khan, Girija Devi, Sitara Devi and many others. 

Maharaj was extremely versatile and capable of playing the Sitar, Sarod, Dhrupad, Dhamar or even dance. Maharaj was awarded the Padma Shri in 1973 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2002.

These are some famous Indian classical musicians along with their instruments. So plugin and get ready to escape into the world of these Indian classical musicians. Their soulful singing has brought solace to many hearts and souls. Listening to the music of the famous Indian musicians,  you will feel mesmerised and proud that your country has produced such gems.

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Aaliya Sheikh

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