Kishori Amonkar, who represented the last of a generation of Hindustani classical vocalists in the country, passed away in her sleep on Monday night at her Prabhadevi apartment in Mumbai. She was 84. “She had dinner at around 9 pm and went to sleep. Ten minutes later, her hand seemed cold, which is when we called a doctor,” said Gandhar Bedekar, son of Nandini Bedekar, Amonkar’s most senior disciple.
Amonkar’s death has come as a shock to music lovers as she was performing until last week.
“I have to feel fine healthwise and at peace to perform. Otherwise, I don’t,” Amonkar had said in a recent interview to The Indian Express.
Amonkar’s was the finale performance at Delhi’s Kamani Auditorium, where she enthralled the gathering with raga Puriya Dhanashree and Kausi Kanhara, after which she bowed down and requested the audience to invite her again. Amonkar was a reminder of the gold standard of musical performance, attained through years of rigorous riyaz. She learnt music from her mother, the legendary vocalist, Mogubai Kurdikar of Ustad Alladiya Khan’s Jaipur Atrauli gharana.
Her musical training included honing a voice that travelled three octaves with much flourish, as well as the capability to discover and deliver micro-notes (shrutis) in the tradition of the gharana. Known to be temperamental — her anger during concerts is synonymous with her music — an era has ended with Amonkar’s death.
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When the history of Hindustani classical music is written, Amonkar’s name will not just be remembered but also revered for what she gave to this world. Her legacy is being carried forward by her student Bedekar and her granddaughter Tejashree Amonkar.