Tag Archives: Mallika-e-Ghazal Begum Akhtar

Rediscovering Begum Akhtar


Tribute to the voice: Vice-President G.S. Pathak presenting the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Hindustani vocal music to Begum Akhtar
Tribute to the voice: Vice-President G.S. Pathak presenting the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Hindustani vocal music to Begum Akhtar

It’s been an annual ritual for over 25 years. The first and last week of October have always had legendary ghazal and thumri singer Begum Akhtar spinning on my system. The doyenne was born on October 7, 1914, in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh and passed away on October 30, 1974, in Ahmedabad. So a few days before the dates, I have this Begum Aapa trip.

If there’s a voice that defined pathos, dard, deepness, gehraai, technique, taiyyari, she was definitely somewhere on top, globally. Check out her rendition of Shakeel Badayuni’s ‘Mere Humnafas Mere Humnava’ and the picture is absolutely clear.

Begum Akhtar fans are totally devoted to her singing, and I am no exception. Strangely enough, I hated her the first time I heard her. She didn’t let me sleep in peace. This was back in Jaipur, where I was a young rookie journalist. I was more into rock bands like Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd and Moody Blues, but my senior colleague and room-mate Abhay Kant hated my taste and insisted on playing Begum Akhtar late at night. It was torture, initially. But in a few weeks, I just got hooked on to Mir Taqi Mir’s ‘Ulti Ho Gayi Sab Tadbeerein’ and Momin Khan Momin’s ‘Woh Jo Hum Mein Tum Mein Qaraar Tha’. Honestly, I discovered the names of these poets much later.

Equations changed. Tull and Floyd were put on hold and I would listen to Akhtar even after Kant slept. By the time he left the following year for another job, I think he was sick of my listening to her. Yet, he took all his cassettes with him, leaving me bereft. For the next five years, her songs would only appear as earworms in the recesses of my mind. One day, at Rhythm House, Mumbai, I picked up a double compilation. The surprise was that many compositions were credited to the great Khayyam.

Some old favourites like Badayuni’s ‘Ae Mohabbat Tere Anjaam Pe Rona Aaya’ and Mirza Ghalib’s ‘Dil Hi Toh Hai Na Sang-o-Khisht’. But the real discovery was her rendition of Sudarshan Faakir on ‘Kuch Toh Duniya Ki Inaayaat Ne Dil Tod Diya’, ‘Ishq Mein Ghairat-e-Jazbaat Ne Rone Na Diya’ and ‘Apunon Ke Sitam Hamse Bataaye Nahin Jaate’.

And there was Faiz Ahmed Faiz on ‘Aaye Kucch Abr Kuchh Sharaab Aaye’ and ‘Donon Jahaan Teri Mohabbat Mein Haarke’. Besides ghazals, there was light classical repertoire like ‘Deewana Banaana Hai Toh’ and ‘Hamari Atariya. What timbre, texture, throw, tonality, totality.

Akhtar has always been special. She physically left us 43 years ago, but her music still rings in our ears and resounds in our hearts. Interestingly, there is another musician I get back to this month. The great music director S.D. Burman was born on Oct 1, 1906, and passed away on October 31, 1975. Next week’s column is dedicated to him.

PS: Thank you Abhay Kant for the Begum Akhtar introduction. Sorry about blasting the rock music.

source:  http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Entertainment> Music / by Narendra Kusnur / October 25th, 2017

Meet the Indian girl who made Google doodle on Begum Akhtar



For connoisseurs of Indian music, Google’s October 7 doodle is special. Today, Google is celebrating the 103rd birth anniversary of Mallika-e-Ghazal Begum Akhtar with a commemorative doodle. Manuja Singh Waldia – a young Indian illustrator and graphic designer who studied in Delhi before she moved to the US – was commissioned to do the doodle art.

Google describes Begum Akhtar — born Aktharibai Faizabadi — as one of India’s most iconic singers. “In spite of early personal tragedies, Begum Akhtar’s mother recognized her daughter’s gift at a young age. With the help of family members, she sent her daughter for vocal training with some of the Ustads (masters) of the time. Though her soulful and melancholic voice was featured in many movies, Begum Akhtar ultimately returned to classical music, where she composed many of her own melodies and steeped herself in the rhythm of ghazals. After marrying, Begum Akhtar gave up singing. However in 1949, deteriorating health drew her back to her calling. Weeping tears of jubilation, she finally returned to a Lucknow studio to record and continued to share her gift with the world until her death in 1974. Her rich voice was comforting, particularly during the years India underwent upheaval caused by partition. With nearly 400 songs to her credit, Begum Akhtar’s legacy shines on in the musical traditions she loved over her lifetime,” Google’s description of the iconic singer states.

The doodle on Begum Akhtar is Waldia’s first for Google. When Penguin Classics decided to publish new editions of Shakespeare’s plays to enliven his work offstage, Waldia was commissioned to do the covers that would give the centuries old texts a contemporary update. “Erich Nagler, art director at Google, San Francisco, had commissioned me to work on it. He had traced contacted me through email,” said Waldia from Oregon. Nagler’s Twitter profile states that he is the art director for the Google doodles team in San Francisco. “The brief was to create on commemorating Begum on her birthday, and celebrate her status as one of the most popular ghazal singers, and one of the first female public ghazal performers,” she added.

The project was wrapped up a few weeks ago. For many in India, it was a pleasant surprise to find Google commemorating the birth anniversary of the legendary singer. “She deserves all the attention in the world. She is a pioneer and early feminist! She is pretty amazing. She overcame a lot of prejudice against female singers, survived sexual abuse as a young girl, escaped a bad marriage, was independent during times where women were either wives or mothers. It is so inspiring! I was reading articles on her today which mentioned her smoking habit, and insinuated that as a character flaw. That’s the kind of sexism that still exists today. So, she probably faced worse during her time,” the doodler said.

Having studied Communication Design at NIFT Delhi, Waldia also insists that she draws a lot of creative inspiration from Kolkata – a city where Begum Akhtar spent many years of her professional life. In 1934, the ‘Koyelia’ singer had the first stage performance in this city. It was here that she acted in films and theatres as well. Her first album – ‘Deewana Banana Hai Toh Deewana Bana De’ – was recorded here as well. She had sung for the megaphone company. The record was such a huge hit that the company had to make a special unit in Dumdum to meet buyers’ demand! “I’ve been to Kolkata thrice in my life, and had some of the happiest times there. The city’s creative energy had a major influence on me while growing up, and when I was contemplating if I should be an artist,” she said.

source: http://www.gadgetsnow.com / Gadgets Now / Home> News> Tech News / by Priyanka Dasgupta / TNN / October 07th, 2017