Saturday, 18 February 2017

Hindustani Popular Vocalists (2)

Begum Akhtar (1914 -74) also known as Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, was a well-known Indian singer of Hindustani classical music, most famous for her renditions of the Ghazal, Dadra, and Thumri genres. Honored with the title of Mallika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazals), she was one of the best known Indian singers of her era, known for her soulful, poignant, and melancholy melodies. A highly successful professional artiste, her personal life was a very tragic one. She was exposed to life’s difficulties at a young age after her father abandoned the family leaving her mother alone to fend for the children. Another tragedy followed soon after when she lost her beloved sister to poisoning. Miseries followed her throughout her early years, and singing offered her solace from life’s injustices and tragedies. Naturally inclined towards music, she started receiving singing lessons as a little girl and gave her first public performance at the age of 15. She received encouragement from the famous poet Sarojini Naidu which motivated the teenager to make a career in music. Good looking and talented, she ventured into films as an actress and also sang her songs herself in all her films. With her rich and soulful voice she carved a niche for herself, and received several honors and awards for her contribution to classical music.

Siddheswari Devi (1907–1976) was a Hindustani singer from Varanasi, India, known as Maa (mother). Born in 1907, she lost her parents early and was brought up by her aunt, the noted singer Rajeshwari Devi. She had arranged musical training for her own daughter, Kamleshwari, while Siddheswari would do small chores around the house. Once, while the noted sarangi player Siyaji Mishra was teaching Kamleshwari. Subsequently she also trained under Rajab Ali Khan of Dewas and Inayat Khan of Lahore, but considered her guru mainly Bade Ramdas. She sang khyal, thumri (her forte) and short classical forms as dadra, chaiti, kajri etc. On several occasions she would sing perform through the night, for example on the overnight boating expeditions of Maharaja of Darbhanga. In 1989, noted director Mani Kaul has made an award winning documentary, Siddheshwari, on her life. She won many accolades during her career, including: Padma Shri by the Government of India (1966) ,Honorary D.Lit. degree by the Ravindra Bharati Vishwavidyalaya in Kolkata (1973) Deshikottam degree by the Vishwa Bharati Vishwavidyalaya.

Kesarbai Kerkar (1892–1977) was an Indian classical vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. A protege of Ustad Alladiya Khan (1855–1946), the founder of the gharana, from age sixteen, she went on to become one of the most noted khayal singers of the second half of the 20th century. She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1953, followed by Padma Bhushan is the third highest civilian award in India, in 1969. She was very particular about the representation of her work and consequently made only a few 78 rpm recordings, for the HMV and Broadcast labels. In time, Kerkar became an accomplished Khayal singer of her generation, and seldom sang light classical music, often associated with female vocalists. Her success as a public singer, along with that of Mogubai Kurdikar (mother of Kishori Amonkar), Hirabai Barodekar and Gangubai Hangal paved way for next generation of female vocalists, away from singing mehfils or private gathering that women of previous generation had to settle for. A music festival called the Surashree Kesarbai Kerkar Smriti Sangeet Samaroha is held in Goa each November, by Kala Academy, Goa. and a music scholarship in her name is awarded annually to a University of Mumbai student by National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) via Kesarbai Kerkar Scholarship Fund. Kerkar has the further distinction of having one of her recordings, "Jaat Kahan Ho", duration 3:30 (an interpretation of raga Bhairavi) included on the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated copper disc containing music selections from around the world, which was sent into space aboard the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft in 1977. The recording was recommended for inclusion on the Voyager disc by the ethnomusicologist Robert E. Brown, who believed it to be the finest recorded example of Indian classical music.

Saraswati Abdul Rane(1913- 2006) was the daughter of Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, the founder of the Kirana Gharana of Hindustani classical music. As part of a family that was so well known in the music circles of India, Saraswati Abdul Rane very obviously took up music as her profession. Her elder siblings Sureshbabu Mane and Hirabai Barodekar, doyens of classical music in India, were her chief trainers and also inspiration. Saraswati Abdul Rane performed alone as well as in 'jugalbandi' with her sister Hirabai Barodekar. Saraswati Abdul Rane was one of the first ladies from the field of Hindustani classical music who ventured into the commercial world of music, singing for films. Saraswati Rane's voice soon became a hit with Marathi and Hindi film audiences. Her Marathi film debut as singer was with 'Payach Dasi'. After the release of her song from her first Hindi feature film 'Ramrajya', which earned Saraswati Abdul Rane an HMV award for the highest sales of gramophone records, several directors and composers from the Hindi film industry wanted to rope in Saraswati Abdul Rane for their films. She, subsequently, had the honor to work with notable filmmakers like Shyam Benegal in his 1977 release 'Bhumika' and popular music directors like Shankarrao Vyas, Sudhir Phadke, C Ramachandra and K C Day. Saraswati Abdul Rane soon became a popular face at the annual Sawai Gandharva Music Festival organized in Pune. In the year 1965 Saraswati Abdul Rane created history when she and her elder sister Hirabai Barodekar appeared on the stage for a jugalbandi vocal recital. They were the first ladies in the history of Indian classical music to participate in a jugalbandi performance. Their performance was much appreciated and Saraswati Abdul Rane and Hirabai Barodekar continued their music performances together till the year 1980

Gangubhai Hangal (1913-2009), Indian vocalist in the Hindustani classical Kirana gharana. She was especially admired for her performances of songs of the khayal genere, career spanned nearly seven decades. Hangal was born into a musical family. Both her mother and her grandmother were established musicians in the Karnatak tradition, although her mother also maintained a strong interest in Hindustani music. When she was 13, Hangal began to train in the Hindustani tradition at a music academy in the city of Hubli (now Hubli-Dharwad), near her family’s home in Dharwad. At age 15 she became a disciple of the virtuosic Hindustani vocalist Sawai Gandharva, who was an exponent of the Kirana gharana. For her contribution to Indian classical music, Hangal received several honours. In 1973 she received the Sangeet Natak Akademi (India’s national academy of music, dance, and drama) award. Hangal was also awarded the Padma Bhushan (1971) and the Padma Vibhushan (2002), two of India’s highest civilian honours.

Malabika Kanan (1930 - 2009) musical rendering of khyals was exceptional among the singers of that genre and her exposition of Bairagi and Desh in a rich voice was of special tonal quality. Kanan was born in Lucknow on 27 December 1930[. Her father was a disciple of Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande. In her early years she trained in musical genre of dhrupad, dhamar and khayal for a number of years under her father. She also got training in Rabindrasangeet; Santidev Ghosh and Suchitra Mitra were her teachers. Her first music rendering was in raga Ramkali on the All India Radio when she was 15 years old. Her first performance on stage followed in the next year at the Tansen Sangeet Samaroh. Malabika married A. Kanan, a new style of singing adopting his Kirana style. She was also trained by him in thumri. She was very proficient in singing bhajans. She was a fan of music artist D. V. Paluskar. She actively performed at several concerts at the national level and in many Radio Sangeet Sammelans. At the ITC Academy, where her husband was a guru, she also became a teacher or guru in July 1979, and was a Member of the Expert Committee of the academy. Kanan received the ITC Sangeet Research Academy Award in 1995 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1999-2000.

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