My Name is Gauhar Jaan! - the earliest recordings of Indian music are distinguished by this high – pitched and flirtatious announcement, made towards the end of the rendition. This declaration of the singer seemed to epitomize a milestone in the history of Indian classical music, one that would change forever its content, structure and style of presentation.
The musical scene in India at the turn of the 20th century witnessed tumultuous changes. The traditional custodians of the art form, the devadasis in the South and the nautch girls and tawaifs in the North, who had nurtured the art for centuries, became victims of the morality laws of the British government and the prudery of an ‘enlightened, and educated Indian elite. However, Gauhar Jaan (1873 – 1930), eminent Hindustani/North Indian classical vocalist, symbolizes the resurgent women musicians of the time.
Born as Eileen Angelina Yeoward, an Armenian Christian who later converted to Islam, Gauhar Jaan was a naturally gifted musician with a wide repertoire. One the earliest women artists who seized opportunity that came with the advent of recording technology, hers was the first Indian voice to be recorded in 1902. In her illustrious career she cut close to 600 records.
This book traces the story of her life with all its attendant myths, legends and folklore, some of which are recorded, some apocryphal; as well as the times during which she lived and made exquisite music. The socio – cultural context serves to put her contribution and the role of women like her to Hindustani music in perspective. Through her music, an attempt is made to analyse the different genres of Hindustani music that Gauhar and singers like her popularised, namely the Thumri, Dadra, and Ghazal. The book also describes briefly the evolution of the recording industry in India and its impact on Indian music, theatre and social life.
Vikram Sampath was born in Bangalore and did his early schooling there. He completed his engineering in Electronics and Masters in Mathematics from India’s prestigious institution for higher education, BITS – Pilani and subsequently did an M.B.A. in Finance from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Mumbai. He has worked in many leading multinational firms like GE Money and Citibank and currently works as a Project Manager in a leading software company in Bangalore.
His first book, Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of the Wodeyars has been widely acclaimed across India. The book traces the 600 year long history of Mysore, its royal family and culture. It has been termed as one of the most definitive accounts on the Mysore royal family in recent times. The book was also nominated for the Crossword – Vodafone book of the year 2008 award under the non – fiction category.
Vikram publishes regularly in leading Indian dailies and magazines like The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Bangalore Mirror and Jet Wings. In addition, he is also a serious student of Carnatic Classical Vocal music and has been training under various eminent practitioners of the art form. Subjects related to history, music, art and culture are close to his heart.
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