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We like to remember the 12th anniversary of Hindustani vocalist Mogubai Kurdikar (07/15/1904 – 02/10/2001)

Posted by ElJay Arem (IMC OnAir) on February 10, 2013

Mogubai Kurdikar (Devanagari:मोगुबाई कुर्डीकर) (July 15, 1904 – February 10, 2001) was a renowned Hindustani classical music vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.

Mogubai Kurdikar

Mogubai Kurdikar

Mogu Kurdikar was born in a Gomantak Maratha Samaj community in the village of Kurdi in the then Portuguese Goa. When she was ten years old, her mother, Jayashreebāi, took her to the temple at Zambavli, and arranged for a wandering holyman to teach music to Mogu for a while. Later she took Mogu to a traveling theater company, the Chandreshwar Bhootnāth Sangeet Mandali, and the company took Mogu in as an actress.

While Mogu was with Chandreshwar Bhootnath Mandali, her mother died. A legend says that on her deathbed the mother told Mogu that her soul would not rest in peace until Mogu became a famous singer. The theater company soon went bankrupt, and the rival Sātārkar Stree Sangeet Mandali hired Mogu. She played commendably the parts such as of Kinkini in the play, Punyaprabhāv, and of the heroine Subhadrā in the play with the same name,Subhadrā. A conflict arose, however, between Mogu and one of the senior women in the theater company, who then expelled Mogu from the company. Mogu moved to Sāngli, and took some music lessons from Ināyat Khān of the Rāmpur-Sahaswan gharānā. For some reason, however, he too soon decided to terminate giving her further lessons.

Some rare  audio recordings (with credits to Rajan Parrikar Music Archive):

♫ Raga Savani Nat 

♫ Raga Sampoorna Malkauns 

♫ Raga Khambavati (Vande Mataram)

Alladiya Khan and the power struggle in Bombay

At this time, vocalist legend Gaansamrat Alladiya Khan Saheb was in Sangli for medical treatment, and on his way to and from his doctor’s, he walked by Mogu’s residence, where he would hear her practice what she had learnt from Inayat Khan. One day he stopped, introduced himself and offered to teach her. Young Mogu of course agreed, but despite Alladiya’s fame, she had not heard of him – it was not until some time later, when she observed dignitaries bow down to him, that she fully realised his standing.

After some eighteen months, Alladiya Khan moved to Bombay (now Mumbai), and Mogu followed. Thus begun a time of intrigue in Bombay’s high-society and classical music circles.

Mogubai with her daughter Kishori at the family temple in Goa (Photo credit: 'Winds of Fire' by Mário Cabral e Sá)

Mogubai with her daughter Kishori at the family temple in Goa (Photo credit: ‘Winds of Fire’ by Mário Cabral e Sá)

For Alladiya was supported in Bombay by wealthy patrons in exchange for music teaching, and they would not let him take other students. In desperation, Mogu turned to Bashir Khan of the Agra gharana, who agreed to teach her if she would perform the formal gandha-bandan (thread-tying) ceremony of guru-shishya discipleship with fellow Agra ustad Vilayat Hussein Khan. This came to happen, and Alladiya heard of it. He demanded that she stop the discipleship and instead go to his brother, Hyder Khan. But as the Agra ustads had a lot of clout, Mogu hesitated, and solicited a promise that Alladiya would teach her himself in the future if Hyder ever failed to do so. A deal was worked out, Hyder taught her for a while, but Alladiya’s rich and powerful students were putting a lot of pressure on him to put a stop to it, increasingly jealous of her progress. About 1930, Alladiya felt forced to persuade his brother to stop teaching and leave town, but came clean to the heartbroken Mogu about what had happened, essentially breaking his promise.

At this stage in her career, Mogu could likely have supported herself as a performer. But she chose not to. Not content with the prospect of being just another name on the scene, she wanted to become the best, the foremost representative of a tradition (as she has observed in Alladiya Khan). She gave birth to a daughter, Kishori, and kept practicing on her own, until one day Alladiya came back to her. They performed the gandha-bandan, and he now kept teaching her to the end of his life. She became one of the topmost singers in North India, even hailed as “the queen” by Alladiya in public. She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1968 and the Sangeet Research Academy Award in 1980, and was decorated with the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour for service to the nation, in 1974.


Mogubai trained students such as Kaushalya ManjeshwarPadma TalwalkarKamal TambeWamanrao DeshpandeSuhasini MulgaonkarBabanrao HaldankarArun Dravid, and her own daughter, Kishori Amonkar (in a rare instance both daughter and mother have been honored with the Padma Bhushan award for their musical contributions.) Some of Mogubai’s recordings have been reissued as a volume of RPG Music’s Vintage 78 RPM Recordings on CD series (CDNF150596).

(Source: 02/2013 –

Raga Jayjaywanti…



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