Believed by many as the finest female vocalist of her generation, Kishori Amonkar has been blessed with a naturally melodious voice. The distinguishing feature of her performance is the effortlessness with which she presents the ragas. Her renderings keep intact the tradition of the Jaipur gharana without being tradition bound, thus winning the acclaim of purists as well as laymen. Kishori Amonkar’s mother, the illustrious Mogubai Kurdekar, told her once: “Sing for the nature and everything will respond to you.” How true were those words. Birds, animals, trees, the grass and even the sun seem to reciprocate when Kishori Amonkar sings.
Kishori Amonkar – Deskar – Hun To Tore Karan Jaagi :
Shanti Hiranand was born in a business family in Lucknow. Her love for music goes back to her childhood. Soon it became an all consuming passion for her. Starting her early training at the Music College in Lucknow, she had to shift to Lahore in the early 1940s because of her father’s business interests. Her first performance was on Radio Lahore in 1947. After the partition her family shifted back to Lucknow and she started training under Ustad Aijaz Hussain Khan of Rampur. Alongside she continued performing on AIR. She met her guru, guide and mentor in Begum Akhtar in 1957. Begum Akhtar already had two excellent ganda-bandh (officially accepted and initiated) shagirds, or pupils, Rita Ganguly and Anjali Banerjee. From reading Shanti Hiranand’s biography of her guru, ‘Begum Akhtar: The Story of My Ammi’, one gets the impression that she was the only student who mattered. Begum Akhtar trained her in the traditional forms of thumri, dadra and ghazal singing.
Begum Akhtar’s passing away in 1974 drove her to dedicate her entire efforts to excel in the art given to her by her guru. It is interesting how these two women from seemingly diverse backgrounds could come to such an exalted level of understanding between themselves, in times that were not very conducive to such social interactions. Shanti Hiranand belonged to an upper middle-class business family. She had a liberal education and was used to a certain space and freedom to pursue her own passions, while Begum Akhtar lived within the cloistered environs of a typical feudal home in those days. While Shanti Hiranand was an austere Gandhian, Begum Akhtar was a person of deep indulgences. It is amazing that even Shanti’s parents never stood in her way, they never stopped her from being with her Ammi. On the contrary on occasions it was Shanti’s mother who encouraged her to follow her guru right until the end.
Shanti Hiranand – Pilu – More Piya Base Kaun Des :
Shanti Hiranand – Khamaj – Tanik Tohe Balma Jane Nahi :
King Nanyadeva of Mithila (1097-1147) wrote that the variety of Ragas is infnite, and their individual features are hard to put into words. He wrote : “Just as the sweetness of sugar, treacle and candy cannot be separately described, but must be experienced for oneself.”
Moujuddin Khan (1875-1926), known as the ’emperor’ of thumri and dadra, was born at Nalagarh in Punjab, and died in Benares. It is said of Moujuddin Khan that India has not produced another thumri singer like him. Nobody knew his gharana, people used to whisper he had no training, but when he would start a thumri, his superb rendering would sway the entire audience through his singing of a single line. He learnt music initially from his father Ghulam Hussain Khan, then from Bade Dunni Khan, Rahimat Khan and Bhaiya Ganpat Rao. He did not like school and spent more time over music. In 1901 the family settled in Benares, where his father was given a position in the Durbar.
Moujuddin Khan was proficient in pure and light classical music and began to sing in concerts from the age of 15. At a very young age he became addicted to wine and women, and he was also fond of expensive clothes and perfumes. Once Bhaiya Ganpat Rao attended his concert and liked his singing. He persuaded and helped him to settle in Calcutta. Moujuddin Khan was then 25 years old. Calcutta, at that time, was famous for great singers like Gauhar Jan, Malka Jan, Badi Moti Bai and many others. Soon he joined this group and began to teach them thumri, dadra, hori, kajri, bhajan etc. He was involved in a one-sided and unsuccessful affair with Malka Jan, who in turn was in love with the master of the Agra gharana, Ustad Faiyaz Khan.
It is believed that around 1907, Gauhar Jan brought him to the studios of the Gramophone Company for cutting records. This was to help him out financially. He cut nine records for the Company and a couple of records for the Nicole Record Company. At the end of some songs, listeners from the studio audience can be heard shouting ‘Wah Wah Moujuddin, Wah!‘ His powerful fast taans and delicate thumris made him famous in the music circles. His voice was on the high-pitched side and some found it fairly feminine in timbre.
Moujuddin Khan – Pani Bhareli Kaun Albele Kinare (1908) :
Moujuddin Khan – Piya Pardes Mora Man Hara (1908) :
Moujuddin Khan – Phulava Ginat Dar Dar (1908) :
Moujuddin Khan – Langar Kakariya Jin Maro (1908) :
Around 1920, his father and Bhaiya Ganpat Rao passed away. There was no family life to occupy him, and as a result he became more and more addicted to alcohol and ultimately died in 1926. What is left today is the music preserved in over 10 gramophone records and a lone photograph that shows him wearing a fur cap. Though little is known about Moujuddin’s family, it is a well-known fact that Jaddan Bai of Allahabad and Badi Moti Bai of Benares were his prominent disciples.