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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Voice of history

A rendition of raga Jogiya that the lady usually would vocalise for hours was abbreviated to a mere three minute track and the end of it a tender voice hastily announced 'My name is Gauhar Jaan'.

Written by Tanvi Salkar |
June 17, 2010 1:09:54 am

Vikram Sampath’s book narrates the unusual journey of a gifted artiste Gauhar Jaan and her rise and fall as a musician

A rendition of raga Jogiya that the lady usually would vocalise for hours was abbreviated to a mere three minute track and the end of it a tender voice hastily announced ‘My name is Gauhar Jaan’. The track goes back to the early twentieth century and that recording in Kolkata was sent to Germany for pressing,therefore the affirmation to retain the identity. That was the first Indian voice to be etched on a shellac disc-when one of the legends in Hindustani classical history,Gauhar Jaan agreed to Fred Gaisberg’s proposal to record on the gramophone.

However very little was known of the lady who from colossal wealth and extravagant lifestyle was reduced to a pauper in her last days in Mysore. Tracing her journey and the artiste that she was the book My Name is Gauhar Jaan–The life and times of a musician by Vikram Sampath concedes the life of courtesan born as Angelina Yeoward who later converted to Islam.

Sampath was in the city at Crossword at Senapati Bapat Road during the launch of the book along with Hindustani vocalist Ankalikar Tikekar and author Gouri Dange. The event also had some 25 rare recordings of Gauhar Jaan’s original 78 rpm’s which comes in a digitized form with the book being played for the audience. “It was while working on my first book that I came across the archives of Gauhar Jaan in Mysore Palace and was fixated to her after realising her despondent fall from grace. There was very little documented history,much of it largely anecdotal or verbal yet the most important documents proved to be the ones referring to a court case she was fighting to prove that she was her mother’s legal daughter,that traced her lineage along with a case filed for divorce. While a lot was unveiled through her mother’s poems,I was able to trace Gaisberg’s diary that had meticulous description of her and those days,” adds the author who had been working on the book for over three years.

Sampath pursued his BE in Electronics and a Masters in Mathematics from BITS-Pilani and then went on to obtain an MBA in Finance from S P Jain Institute of Management and Research,Mumbai. Training in classical music for over 25 years,writing has been his simultaneous passion. After his debut book- Splendours of Royal Mysore: the Untold Story of the Wodeyars,this is his second and revolves around the style of creative non-fiction as he explains,“It does not in any way divert from the facts yet makes the story more interesting instead of simple references. Collecting the data,researching and travelling to the streets and places in Azamgarh,Kolkata,Mumbai,Mysore and so on where Gauhar Jaan spent significant part her life I have beaded them together to make an appealing and descriptive read. We belonging to the land of story-tellers a lot of young authors/historians are taking to this way of writing which I believe will help unearth the fabulous yet lesser known personalities in our history.”

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