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Raga CDs of the months (11/09): Women in Indian Classics (part 1) – 11/16/2009 (10:00 pm)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on November 9, 2009

The Indian Classical Music – epecially the North Indian Classics (Hindustani) – experienced a noticeable change. Before it had been a courtly art part of the activities of the courtesans (Tawaifs). Indian Classics developed in the 19th and 20th centuryto an appreciative art form, which is learned by young girls and women from respected families and practiced as occupation.

dates of broadcasting…
16th November 2009 – 10:00 p.m. (METZ)
broadcasting plan | streaming (Internet Radio & Mobile Radio) | podCast

The Hindustani music particularly stood in the early Indian Middle ages under Persian influence. A Patronage at the court of the Mughals in the 16th century promised the courtly arts and artists prosperity. Many young girls were trained in performing arts, the Kathak dance and Indian Classical Music, literature with poetry forms like the Ghazals and Thumris.

The Thumri form is a genre of the light classical music, frequently sung at the spring fest and to the colors of Hori celebration. Originally the Thumri-s were expressing emotional expressions by gestures and facial expressions (mimics), so called Abhinaya. In the further development this presentation form disappeared and remained for Indian dance. The singers switched over to purely vocal improvisation forms without lyrics, the so-called Bol Banav-Ki Thumris.

On 29 August 2009 the documentary film „Rasoolan Bai – The other song“ (Das andere Lied) had its show case in the Bangalore Internationally Centre (Bangalore). Rasoolan Bay (1902-1974) from Varanasi formed together with Badi Moti Bay of Benares, Siddheswari Devi (1907-1976) and Begum Akthar (1914-1974) the quartet of the singing queens.

The rebel Gangubai Hangal (Gaanewali) had broken the gender-specific barriers in North Indian Classics. Gangubai is called „the father of the Khayals “, the modern vocal style of Hindustani music. When the singer Gangubai Hangal died in July 2009 at the age of 97 years after long illness critical voices had been heard which manifested that the era of the woman power in Indian classical music came to its end.

Moti Bai
Hangal with young daughter Krishna in the 1930s

In our Western understanding in India exist a transfigured woman picture of the eternally female divine: Already in the epical times no religious rituals were hold without participation of the women. With the Ashtanayikas, the eight heroins appear a woman picture till today we find in India.

In the South Indian Classics (Carnatic) the practice of the art was particularly reserved to the members of the Brahmins, a kind of priesthood. Women had it very difficult to attend the stage and appear with music in the public. In the beginnings of the phono industry women hardly found male companions for disc recordings.

Under the influence of the Hindu myths one can meet in Indian the opinion that the trinity of the goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati revealed themselfs to the humans as avatars in form of the singing virtuosos DK Pattammal (1919-2009), MS Subbalakshmi (1916-2004) and ML Vasanthakumari (1928 – 1990).

Their arrival terminated male dominance in South Indian classics. It began an era of the divine, creativity and innovation within the borders of traditional values.

They were artists, who completely got carried away in music, not because of success, fame or the money. These women were masters of multitasking, fulfilled various tasks in most different roles, as mothers, wives, sisters, teachers or grandmothers.

D.K. Pattammal
M.S. Subbalakshmi
M.L. Vasanthakumari

While today many artists seem to live most different identities at the same time, Pattammal, Subbalakshmi and Vasanthakumari were led only by one identity.

Typical for Asia the presence and function of a selfless, divine love (Bhakti) was for these mistresses their driving power, in order to overcome steadily largest social discrimination up to their artistic acknowledgment.

One Response to “Raga CDs of the months (11/09): Women in Indian Classics (part 1) – 11/16/2009 (10:00 pm)”

  1. […] important female representatives of North and South India  in IMC OnAir’s radio show “Women in Indian Classics” (part […]


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