Kishori Amonkar, Grand Old Lady of Hindustani Classical Music, Passes Away

She was one of the foremost singers in the Hindustani tradition and as an innovative exponent of the Jaipur gharana

Kishori Amonkar1932-2017 Credit: YouTube

Kishori Amonkar | 1932-2017
Credit: YouTube

Kishori Amonkar, the legendary Hindustani classical vocalist, passed away in Mumbai on Monday night after a brief illness. She was 84.

Born in Bombay on April 10, 1932, Amonkar was recognised as one of the foremost singers in the Hindustani tradition and as an innovative exponent of the Jaipur gharana.

Amonkar’s mother was the well-known vocalist Mogubai Kurdikar, who trained under Alladiya Khan, the doyen of the Jaipur gharana. Kurdikar died in 2004 at the ripe old age of 97. On her 80th birthday in 1984, Mohan Nadkarni wrote a tribute in the Illustrated Weekly of India referring to her as the grand old lady of Hindustani music. That title was rightly inherited by Kishori Amonkar – or perhaps shared with Prabha Atre of the Kirana gharana, younger to her by a few months, and Malini Rajurkar of the Gwalior gharana, who is now 76.

While learning the finer points and techniques of the Jaipur gharana from her mother, Amonkar also developed her own personal style, which reflects the influence of other gharanas and was generally regarded as an individual variant of the Jaipur tradition.

Amonkar cultivated a deep understanding of her art, largely through extensive study of the ancient texts on music, and her repertoire was grand in its sweep.

She was known primarily for her skillful singing of classical khayal songs set in the traditional ragas of Hindustani music, but also performed the lighter classical thumri repertoire, bhajan, devotional songs and film music.

Regardless of musical genre, her performances were marked by vitality and grace.

Throughout her career, however, Amonkar was both criticised and praised for her bending of the Jaipur tradition.

As she prioritised the expression of emotion in her music, she frequently departed from the gharana’s conventions of rhythm, ornamentation, and broader musical structure in order to intensify the impact of the music.

She aimed to infuse the emotional appeal of the more popular styles into the comparatively rigid classical tradition.

Besides being a renowned musician, Amonkar was a popular speaker and traveled throughout India giving lectures, most notably on the theory of rasa (feelings, emotions) in music.

In recognition of her contribution to the arts, she received many awards, including the Padma Bhushan (1987) and Padma Vibhushan (2002), two of India’s top civilian honours.