The lost world of Gauhar Jan, Janki Bai, Zohra Bai & Begum Akhtar
By Chandra Chakraborty
Accompanied by Farooq Lateef Khan (sarangi), Sudhanshu Gharpure (harmonium), Tejas Burse (tabla)
Narrators: Dr. Giorgia Caspani & Dr. Sid Kargupta
An NCPA Presentation
The contribution made to Indian music by talented women of the courtesan community is indeed laudable. Although society at large preferred to ignore their contribution and even sought to abolish them from the performing space, research points to the ways in which these songstresses overcame social taboos and logistical challenges of recording and contributed immensely to the documentation and propagation of traditional classical and semi-classical repertoire.
Naturally endowed with tuneful and delicate voices, coupled with systematic training and arduous practice, they became custodians of an unusually large repertoire ranging from khayal, thumri, dadra, tappa and hori to ghazal. With a unique combination of beauty, brains and musical talent, they ruled the world of classical and semi-classical Indian music in the early 20th century.
Chandra Chakraborty has trained at the prestigious ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Kolkata, with stalwarts like A. Kanan, Malabika Kanan and Girija Devi. She is an AIR gold medalist and a National Scholar in Music. Besides performing at many prestigious venues across the world and producing cross-cultural events, she has been closely associated with several organisations promoting Indian music in the U.K.
This presentation seeks to revisit the mystery and magic of the untold, unheard stories of some of the evergreen melody queens of Indian music. Researched, scripted, directed and performed by Chakraborty, the production portrays the tales of four songstresses in particular: Gauhar Jan (1873-1930) of Kolkata, Janki Bai (1880-1934) of Allahabad, Zohra Bai (1868-1930) of Agra and Begum Akhtar (1914-1974) of Lucknow.
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