Watching an young Rashid Khan perform in a concert, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi once remarked, “There is now atleast one person in sight who is an assurance for the future of Hindustani classical vocal music“. This was in fact, until a few years ago, the main concern of most connoisseurs of Hindustani vocal music, about whether its tradition of excellence would continue. Fortunately, young singers of today have lived up to the expectations of Indian classical music lovers. Presented here, are four very young women classical singers, who I believe are very talented and immensely gifted artists.
Brinda Roy Choudhuri – Hanuman Vandana : (Download)
Dhanashree Pandit Rai – Hamari Atariya Pe : (Download)
Prachi Dublay – Kaise Kate Din Ratiyan : (Download)
For hundreds of years, classical music in India appeared to have been a male dominated profession. In historical literature in which music is discussed, men have been identified as the great masters of music, men’s names dominated all the lists of performers recorded during the period from 12th to 19th century.
Women’s role in classical music throughout history, appears to have been subordinate. Women musicians seldom received the individual recognition that men did. Women have been referred to strictly as the ones whose primary artistic contribution was in dance. In North India the system of hereditary musicians excluded women by not allowing them to be either Ustads or Pandits (teachers). Women in some musician communities were used primarily to maintain a strict lineage in the family.
Veena Sahasrabuddhe – Kabir (Ramaiya Ki Dulhan) : (Download)
Fortunately, much of that has changed dramatically during the last few decades. Women classical artists of today are not only doing fabulously well in their artistic field, but many of them have proved their mettle in other areas as well. Women musicians of the modern era are thorough professionals, and a few of them are pursuing successful careers, in as diverse a field as, for example, a software consultant. Music remains their first passion, of course.
With the passing away of Siddheshwari Devi in 1977, the last of the four great divas of the last century was gone. First went Begum Akhtar in 1974, and then her older contemporaries, Rasoolan Bai and Badi Moti Bai. All four of them were inheritors of great traditions of music from a glorious era of the past when music dominated the lives of musicians from childhood to death. They were musical ‘stars’ who shone brilliantly in the courtly era, but when the ‘darbari‘ era ended they did not hesitate to step out into the glare of public acclaim.
Rasoolan Bai – Ja Main Tose Nahin Bolun : (Download)
Thumris were once sung with abhinaya. When classical purists began to frown down upon this type of music, all the four singers took to the Bol-Banav-Ki Thumri in which the emotional contents of songs are effectively brought out through vocal expression only, through the beauty of notes, voice modulations and swara combinations, resulting in an emotion-charged style of singing.
QUIZ : To add more spice and fun to this blog, I am going to put a QUIZ song in any one post every month. You just have to answer two questions about the song in your comments. The names of the male and female singers and the name of the album (or the name of the film). The song could be a classical one, or from films of the black and white era. The person who gives the first correct answer will get the song by email. If this blog gets the right answer too soon, you may always try your luck on my other blog : indianraga.blogspot.com
Last century saw a distinct shift for women singers of hindustani classical music. From being the preserve of the bais and courtesans in the past, it gradually grew into an honorable profession to the young girls and women of respectable families. Women singers of today are not only admired, but seen with awe, and rightly so. Women classical singers in fact, never had it so good.
With this post I begin a new mini series of songs by some of our great women singers, each one a Diva in her own right.