Begum Akhtar Google doodle is celebrating the 103rd birth anniversary of one of world’s finest singer of ghazal. Nonehteless her dexterity for exceeded merely ghazal and she extremely exceptional in Dadra, and Thumri genres of Hindustani classical music.
There is no denying that we must be thankful to Google for awakening us to the importance of the personalities who contributed immensely in science, art and culture. Due to Google doodle we tend to remember those personalities who have left us, some recently and some decades ago.
To be true, many among the young generation don’t seem to even know many great personalities who contributed exceptionally in different fields. Nonetheless Google doodle not just educates them about those personalities, but many a time forces them to research on them further and fall in love with those exceptional talents that are not longer in our midst.
Begum Akhtar, whose full name was Akhtari Bai Faizabadi was born on 7 October 1914 in Bharatkund, Faizabad District, in United Provice (modern day UP). It is said that her father, Asghar Hussain, who was a renowned lawyer practicing in a court fell in love with her mother Mushtari and married her despite having another wife already. Nonetheless, he later left her without any support along with the two daughters that were born with her.
She fell in love with music at an age when many girls are infatuated by their dolls. Chandra Bai’s music attracted her towards it. She was dispatched to train under Ustad Imdad Khan, the great sarangi exponent from Patna, and later under Ata Mohammed Khan of Patiala. Later, she travelled to Calcutta with her mother and learnt music from classical stalwarts like Mohammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Khan of Lahore, and finally she became the disciple of Ustad Jhande Khan.
There is no denying that she got the patronage of so big names. Nonetheless, it was her sheer dexterity and originality that motivated such legendary musicians to make her all the more better. In her early days the best compliment on her way came from nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu who appreciated her singing during a concert which was organised in the aid of victims of the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake.
Narendra Kusnur, while writing about Begum Akhtar says, “Despite her following among the older generation, Begum Akhtar’s music has only a limited exposure among youngsters, and many haven’t even heard of her. The audience for ghazals, a craze in the 1980s, has shrunk. A few singers continue to sing Begum Akhtar’s famous songs, especially ghazals such as “Aye mohabbat tere anjaam pe rona aaya”, “Mere humnafas mere humnawa”, “Woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha” and “Kuchh toh duniya ki inaayaat ne dil tod diya”, and dadras such as “Hamri atariya” and “Koyaliya mat kar pukaar”.”
Narendra Kusnur further says, “Urdu forms like ghazals and nazms are dependent on the quality of the poetry. And for her part, Begum Akhtar chose some of the greatest writers of the region, whether they were from the older classical generation or the modern era of the 20th century, including 19th century Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib, extensively—her repertoire included gems like “Dil hi to hai na sang-o-khisht”, “Aah ko chahiye ek umr asar hone tak”, “Yeh na thi hamari kismat”, “Ibn-e-mariyam hua kare koi”, “Koi umeed bar nahin aati” and “Daayam pada hua”.”
There is no denying that Begum Akhtar possessed great looks and sensitive voice and both of these made her an ideal candidate for a film career in her early years. When she heard great musicians like Gauhar Jaan and Malak Jan, however, she decided to forsake the glamour of the film world for a career in Indian classical music. Her supreme artistry in light classical music had its moorings in the tradition of pure classicism. She chose her repertoire in primarily classical modes: a variety of raags, ranging from simple to complex. After the advent of talkie era in India, Beghum Akhtar acted in a few Hindi movies in the 1930s. East India Film Company of Calcutta approached her to act in “King for a Day” (alias Ek Din Ka Badshah) and Nal Damayanti in 1933.