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A tribute to Kirana Gharana legend Gangubai Hangal

By: By: Shekhar H Hooli
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Gangubai Hangal was born to Chikkurao, an agriculturist, and Ambabai on March 5, 1913, at Hangal in Haveri. Her mother and grandmother Kamalabai were Carnatic musicians. He mother was her first music teacher.

The melody queen studied Hindustani classical music under Sawai Gandharva. She learned Meend, Gamak, Khatka, Murki, Boltan from Pandit Gandharva. She was also influenced by Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, who later taught her Kirana Gharana and made her the forerunner of it.

She got command over Yaman, Bhairavi, Puriya Dhanshree, Miya Malhar, Todi, Multani, Darabari Kanada, and Adhana Raagas and drew the attention of music aficionados. She was one of the quartets of great Hindustani classical music exponents, the other three being Bhimsen Joshi, Mallikarjun Mansur and Kumar Gandharva from Karnataka.

The Hindustani classical vocalist started her music career from her childhood days. She used to perform at local function and Ganesh Utsavas. When she was a schoolgirl, she sang the welcome song at the Congress session, which was presided over by Mahatma Gandhi in Belgaum. In 1936, she sang on All India Radio for the first time as a stand-in for Hirabai Barodekar. Thus began Gangubai Hangal"s journey on the road to musical greatness.

Her real name was Gandhari Hangal, but a recording company rechristened her as Gangubai Hublikar. Later, another company bosses changed her name again and her name was printed on some of the records as Gangubai Hangal. Her first music was recorded by HMV.

When she was 16 years old, she was married to Gururao Kaulagi, a lawyer, but was not practicing. His business ventures flopped, which lead the family to hardship. She couldn't bear his unhappiness, which reflected on her music. As she made her name, many record companies came forward to lend her a helping hand.

Although Gangubai was shocked with the death of her mother in 1932, demise of Pandit Sawai Gandharva in 1952 and her husband Gururao Kaulagi in 1966, she continued the tradition of Kirana Gharana unhindered. Her voice was very soft and melodious earlier, but it became muscular after she underwent a surgery to remove a tumour in her throat.

In 2002, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. A year later, she was also diagnosed with lymphoma, a kind of blood cancer. Despite suffering from cancer, she did not feel disheartened and she continued her music journey. She wanted to write a book on cancer to encourage people as not be scared by the decease, says her grandson. She died at 7.10 on July 21 2009.

Although Gangubai was old and infirm, she was a source of inspiration to everyone and now Gangubai Hangal Music Museum and Gangubai Hangal Sangeetha Vidyalaya will keep her alive in people's minds. The chief minister of Karnataka has promised to build a music school in her name and install her statue in Hubli as well as Bangalore. The most meaningful tribute we pay to her is to promote music, as she wished.

We at Oneindia.in pay tribute to Hindustani classical music exponent and Kirana Gharana vocalist Gangubai Hangal. May her soul rest in peace.

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