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Treasured Tunes

Ariyakkudi, maestro who woke up snoring crowds at concerts & made modern-day Carnatic music

Ariyakkudi Ramanuja put together styles of various musicians across centuries to create the ‘golden mean’ for Carnatic music.

Sundarabai, the versatile singer-actor who helped women musicians herself died unsung & poor

Sundarabai was witness to many changes in the world of music and entertainment, and helped several performers adapt to modern technology.

Coimbatore Thayi, the Carnatic singer who struck a chord in Paris but is unknown in India

Gramophone records were usually colour‐coded based on the artiste’s popularity. Thayi’s was coded violet, indicating she was among the most popular.

Janki Bai, singer disfigured by 56 stab wounds sold more records than her contemporaries

Janki Bai not only trained in music and dance, but also learnt English, Sanskrit and Persian, and wrote a collection of Urdu poetry.

Bangalore Nagarathnamma, the singer who took to Sanskrit and feminism in 19th Century India

European record companies participated with artists like Nagarathnamma, a devadasi, at a time Indian society hounded them in name of morality.

Hindustani vocalist Abdul Karim Khan’s music has special relevance in these communal times

Listening to Abdul Karim Khan at the age of 11, Bhimsen Joshi is said to have made up his mind that this was how real music ought to be.

Salem Godavari, Carnatic vocalist who fought superstitions to record erotic compositions

Salem Godavari is a forgotten footnote and sadly evokes no memory in Carnatic musicians or connoisseurs.

Gauhar Jaan, India’s first record artist, took Rs 3,000 a session & threw parties for her cat

Gramophone’s search for ‘native’ voices in 1900s brought it to India’s Gauhar Jaan, who would go on to have 600 records to her name.

On Camera

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