S.Rajam’s (Music Appreciation notes)

Monday, 5 March 2018

Gangubai Hangal

Birthdays & Anniversaries
5.3.1913 - 21.7.2009

Gangubai was born on 5 March 1913 into a musical family of Dharwad. Her parents were Chikkurao Nadgir and Ambabai. At birth the child was named Gandhari but years later her name was changed to Gangubai by a recording company, and it came to stay. Hangal is the name of her native place, a small town in Hubli. Her mother and grandmother were established practitioners of Carnatic music.

Gangubai had initial training in Carnatic music from her mother, a musician of extraordinary abilities. She was known to be adept at notating songs and well versed in Sanskrit as well. It is said that her private concerts were attended by stalwarts like Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, the founder of the Kirana gharana, Hirabai Barodekar, Sunderbai and Sawai Gandharva.

Gangubai was, however, interested in Hindustani music. The family therefore shifted to Hubli in 1928 to fulfil her wish. Thirteen when she learnt her first lessons from a certain Krishna Acharya, she continued her tutelage with Dattopant Desai. From these two teachers, she mastered about sixty compositions before becoming a disciple of the Hindustani vocal virtuoso, Sawai Gandharva. As he was on tour most of the time, Gangubai’s training was sporadic in the beginning. Only after a few years, when Sawai Gandharva settled down in Hubli, did her classes become regular. The training was rigorous, intense and thorough. He was a taskmaster and the training generally stretched to ten hours a day. (Her guru-bandhus were Bhimsen Joshi and Firoz Dastur.) The training lasted only three or four years as Sawai Gandharva passed away in 1942. However, by that time, Gangubai had assimilated the best of the Kirana style.

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