KARNATAKA

‘She was an embodiment of human values’

Childlike: A file photo of Gangubai Hangal sharing a light moment with her granddaughter at a programme in Bangalore. —

Childlike: A file photo of Gangubai Hangal sharing a light moment with her granddaughter at a programme in Bangalore. —   | Photo Credit: Photo: K. Bhagya Prakash

Muralidhara Khajane



She strived hard to get women their rightful space in the world of music



MYSORE: “She was a remarkably attractive personality and an embodiment of human values. She never performed to please connoisseurs of music; her mission was to do justice to ragas. She was instinctively generous and at the same time frank to the core” — This was how noted Sarod maestro Rajiv Taranath portrayed the doyenne of Hindustani music, Gangubai Hangal, who died on Tuesday morning.

Speaking to The Hindu, Taranath said that “Akka (that’s how Gangubai was called) learnt music at a time when the art was taboo for them. She strived hard and faced several hurdles to get women their rightful space in the world of music. Through her efforts, the doors of the musical world were opened to several other talented women.

While it was natural for disciples of one guru to formulate their own style after being exposed to various influences, Gangubai stuck to the style of her guru, Sawai Gandharva, of the Kirana Gharana.

Recalling how stalwarts such as Bhimsen Joshi revered Gangubai, Taranath said, “When I was young, Joshi came to our house in Bangalore along with Rotti Seenappa and asked me to switch on the radio, as there was a programme by Gangubai on air that day. He relished the music for nearly an hour. That was the closeness between artistes in those days. Will those days come back again?” he asked with moist eyes.

“Gangubai was both a loving sister as well as a caring mother to me. I cannot forget the love and affection showed by her when I was teaching English at Karnatak University, Dharwad. Once, she asked me to extend Sarod support to Ustad Ahmad Khan Thirakwa’s tabla programme in Hubli, although I was a novice then. Despite me being hesitant to do so, I did not have the courage to disobey her order,” he said.

‘Open to music lovers’

“Gangubai’s house was open to all music lovers. She used to usher everyone in with a smile and ask them to sit down. She had no hangover of being a great musician and used to show the same love and affection to everyone who visited her. She was a living legend and left a tradition behind her. Although she was fragile physically, she had enormous inner strength. It is difficult to find persons like Akka,” he said.

Describing Gangubai as the true representative of the Kirana Gharana style of Sawai Gandharva, novelist S.L. Bhyrappa, who has good knowledge of Hindustani classical music, said that a throat operation conducted on Gangubai turned out to be a great blessing for her. Her masculine and deeply resonant voice, as a result, combined with grace, was something unique and appealed to all.

“I edited a commemorative volume for the Hubli Academy of Performing Arts, on Gangubai, when she completed her 75th year and interviewed her for nine hours. She answered every question with patience, jogging her memory time and again,” he recalled. Gangubai was a staunch upholder of the Kirana Gharana and did not compromise with its purity throughout her life, Dr. Bhyrappa added.

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