Dipali Nag (1922-2009) of the Agra Gharana set standards that most would find hard to match. She was an MA in English literature, studied Western music at Trinity College, and was trained from girlhood in Hindustani classical music by Tasaduq Hussain and Bashir Khan, the main teaching ustads of the Agra Gharana, with advanced training by Ustad Faiyaz Khan from 1938 till her marriage. She was a regular khayal performer at music conferences of yore all over India and on AIR. Her interviews of classical maestros on radio and later on television were trailblazers.
Dipali Nag was born on February 22, 1922 at Darjeeling. Her father, Jiban Chandra Talukdar, was a Professor of History in Agra. She took to Hindustani classical music at an early age. In those days when women singers from cultured homes were almost a rarity, Dipali Nag stood out as a source of inspiration, pioneering the spread of classical and semi-classical music among the ladies. She started broadcasting from All India Radio in 1939 and her recordings with HMV and other recording companies were also in the same year.
Dipali Nag – Raga Jaunpuri – Chhananana Bichchua Baje :
Dipali Nag was about twenty years old when she married Dr. B D Nag Chowdhury, an eminent scientist (of Nag missile fame) and scientific advisor to Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India. A versatile person, Dipali Nag later earned her PhD from Berkley, authored books and articles that earned her great renown, delivered lectures in different parts of the globe and participated in numerous concerts. She passed away on December 20, 2009 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat following a major cerebral attack.
India has a rich source of instrumental music with its innumerable kinds of musical instruments be it classical, traditional or folk. The mild and melodious tunes of bansuri or the healing sound of sitar, each one soothes the mind and soul. Instrumental music can be used as the best kind of meditation music. The beautiful sounds of instruments help the mind and soul to relax and concentrate on a single thought.
After the Great Uprising of 1857, the re-establishment and deeper penetration of the British colonial state in India resulted in the systematic collection of knowledge about things and people Indian. This period witnessed the planning and execution of several big surveys: the Archaeological Survey, the Geological Survey, and perhaps most ambitiously, a Linguistic Survey of the Indian Empire (LSI). In all 179 languages and 544 dialects in the Indian Empire, excluding some portions (Burma, Hyderabad and Mysore states and the Presidency of Madras) were described in the survey, published between 1903-1928. Here are a few songs recorded during the survey.
Song in Ahirwati by Husseina of Delhi (1920) :
Song in Brajbhasha by Bhudeva of Muttra (Mathura) (1920) :
Song in Bhojpuri by Balram Prasad Mishra Rais of Basti (1920) :
Song in Bundeli by Babu Raghunath Prasad of Jhansi (1920) :
All the above recordings were made in Allahabad in 1920. It appears that not all singers were professionally equipped for the task. Instead important people from various districts were called to Allahabad and asked to sing songs and poems, and also tell stories prevalent in their respective regions.
Zohra Bai (1868-1913) of the Agra Gharana, or Zohra Bai Agrewali as she came to be known as, was easily the best female singer at the turn of the 19th century. Along with Gauhar Jan, she marks the dying phase of the courtesan singing tradition in Indian classical music. She had her talim from Ustad Sher Khan, Ustad Kallan Khan and Mehboob Khan, the great composers of Khayals and Thumris.
Known equally for Khayal as well as lighter varieties of classical music, she learnt Thumri and Ghazals from Ahmad Khan of Dacca. Her many records going back to the first 15 years of the last century have not yet been dated, unlike records of some of her contemporaries. It is said that Faiyaz Khan, the greatest Ustad of the Agra Gharana, was influenced by Zohra Bai’s style of singing. The famed Bade Ghulam Ali Khan of the Patiala Kasur Gharana also held her in very high esteem.
Zohra Bai Agrewali – Basant – Tore Jele Jele Ede Ede :