Saturday, April 17, 2010

The romance of Gauhar Jaan

In December of 1911, at the famous Delhi Durbar, Emperor George V was crowned the paramount power of British India in the presence of Indian princes and aristocrats. While the announcement by the emperor that the capital of his Indian territories would be shifted to Delhi from Calcutta might have cast a pall of gloom in “the second city of the empire”, the durbar itself brought unprecedented glory to one Calcuttan—the legendary Hindustani vocalist Miss Gauhar Jaan.

At that glittering ceremony, in the presence of the emperor and his queen and all of India’s royalty, Gauhar Jaan, along with her contemporary Janki Bai, were bestowed the rare privilege of presenting a song specially composed for the occasion Yeh jalsa taajposhi ka mubarak ho mubarak ho! They were escorted to the emperor after the concert and he praised them profusely for their talent and presented them with a hundred guineas as a token of his appreciation.

Such was the fame of the first Indian and woman to record on the gramophone, Gauhar Jaan. Born Eileen Angelina Yeoward in Azamgarh, in what was then the United Provinces, in 1873, Gauhar was a woman of exceptional beauty, talent and grace. She seemed to symbolize the secular ethos that Indian classical music is known for—her grandmother was Hindu, grandfather British and father Armenian Christian. Gauhar embraced Islam and remained a devout Muslim all her life, though most of her compositions are replete with Krishna bhakti.

Full report here Mint

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