Today's Google Doodle commemorates the 145th birth anniversary of the legendary musician and dancer Gauhar Jaan. She was the first Indian to record music on a 78 rpm record. Gauhar was one of the first performers to be signed by the famous Gramophone Company in India, giving her the name "the Gramophone Girl".
Born as Angelina Yeoward to an Armenian Christian father and an Indian Jewish mother on 26th June, 1873, she converted to Islam along with her mother in the 1880s and became Gauhar Jaan. Her mother, 'Badi' Malka Jaan, was a courtesan in Benaras and an accomplished Kathak dancer and singer.
The duo moved to Kolkata and established themselves in the courts of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. It is said that Gauhar could croon in as many as 20 languages,
She gave her maiden performance at the royal courts of Darbhanga Raj in 1887 and was appointed as a court musician after receiving extensive dance and music training from a professional dancer at Banaras.
From 1896 she began to perform in Kolkata. She used to sing and dance at the houses of rich jamindars and her remuneration was in thousands of rupees. She was in great demand and even ordinary citizens wanted to listen to her music. Frederick William Gaisberg, a recording engineer from the Gramophone Company, noticed this and made her music available to listeners through her gramophone records.
As per Suresh Chandvankar of Society Of Indian Record Collectors, on the day of the trial recording, she is believed to have said "My name is Gauhar Jaan." This went on to become the label of the first Indian album. After that, she would round off her performances by announcing "My name is Gauhar Jaan."
Through the wide circulation of her records, she became popular throughout India and received invitations in several prestigious music conferences. She used to travel all over India, as a guest of patrons in the various Princely states and give public performances.
Gauhar has over 200 records to her credit. In 1994, the Gramophone Company re-released 18 of her songs as a collection.
There is an interesting story about the cat that is featured along with Gauhar in today's Doodle. As per historian V, Muthiah, Gauhar once spent Rs. 20000 in the early 90s to throw threw a party when her cat delivered a litter of kittens.
Gauhar spent her last days as a court musician in the Mysore Maharaja's palace before she passed away on January 17, 1930.