Music and memories at Begum Akhtar's birth centenary
To celebrate the birth centenary of Begum Akhtar, NCPA is presenting a day-long programme curated by Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan. It includes panel discussions with Akhtar’s disciples, close associates and experts
Most Ghazal lovers revere the gorgeous voice and inimitable style of Akhtaribai Faizabadi, popularly known, as Begum Akhtar. Born in 1914, the legend passed away in 1974, leaving behind music that had a tremendous impact on the performance practice of Ghazal and allied forms of Thumri and Dadra, even today.
The tribute that will be paid to her this time at the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) will however be different. Musicians Shubha Mudgal and Aneesh Pradhan have curated a day-long centenary celebration. It includes panel discussions with Akhtar’s disciples, close associates and experts, concluding with screening of three short films and archival footage on Begum Akhtar.
“Begum Akhtar is an enormous subject in herself. We realised that it takes more than one brain to curate information about her and hence decided to bring together a panel of people, who have known her, researched about her music and her work. Initially, we did contemplate requesting someone to sing Begum Akhtar’s songs but soon realised that there was no one who could do justice to her style,” says Dr Survanalata Rao, head — programming (Indian Music) at NCPA, who
conceptualised the event.
“Many in today’s times have never seen her perform or heard her sing. It is important to understand a person to understand their music. Shri Arvind Parikh knew her closely, and will be able to offer an insight to the kind of person she was. Many people who learn Ghazals today are also not exposed to her style of Ghazals. Her enunciations were crystal clear, the instrumentation was minimalist and she performed with maximum strength of voice,” she explains.
The programme will begin with a background paper being read by Shubha Mudgal. An eminent panel will also analyse the Ghazal gayaki and style of Begum. Yatindra Mishra will recreate an era by highlighting the time Akhtar spent in the Ayodhya Darbar.
Dr Madhu Trivedi will talk about a lesser-known aspect of Begum’s life, which was her singing of Sozkhwani, music that is performed at funerals. This will include recordings of Begum Akhtar singing Soz, Marsiya and Naat, which are different forms of music sung during the mourning period. Writer and lyricist Javed Akhtar will talk about the poetry in Begum’s Ghazals There will also be a discussion on writing and musical rendering of ghazal in the past and present.
The sessions will conclude with the screening of three short films on Begum Akhtar, including Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar, as well as archival footage from the Doordarshan archives. As a takeaway participants will get to download old songs sung by Begum Akhtar, which were recorded by the an aristocratic family when she performed at their ancestral home, years ago.
On: April 18, 10.30 am to 5.30 pm
At: Experimental Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
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