Women in Music- A salute to pioneers in Indian Music

s r g m p d n!

Did you know? The success story of Indian music and its industry would only be 3.5 musical notes without our Women Musicians!

3.5 musical notes?

Yes! You heard me right! Let me explain.

When the Gramaphone Co. came to India in 1902, the male musicians were reluctant to render voices on a record, just like they were reluctant to encourage women to sing/perform music beyond one’s household; but our women musicians? Oh! They were ready, ready to adapt, experiment and embrace the goods of technology, for they took the lead, breaking several social barriers. They looked at this technological advancement as a way to document the Indian Music, we all take so much pride in.

Gauhar Jaan of Calcutta was the first to render voice on the record and several others across the country followed- Malka Jaan of Agra, Godaveri of Salem, Janki Bai of Allahabad, Nagaratnamma of Bangalore, Zohra Bai Agrewali, Dhanakoti of Kanchipuram, Husna Jaan of Banaras, Coimbatore Thayi, Wazir Jaan of Banaras, Tiruchendur Shanmukhavadivu, Oomda Jaan of Hyderabad, Mehboob Jaan of Solapur, Mysore Adi Lakshmi, Mumtaz Jaan of Delhi, Binodini Dasi, Bedana Dasi, Manada Sundari Dasi of Calcutta, and many other Super-Stars who paved a path for the future women musicians of India; not just by rendering their voices on records, but by equally contributing to every aspect of Indian music.

Our Women became the pioneers of the celebrated Indian Music Industry. They were the TRENDSETTERS! And ever since, generations of our Women have only further progressed and etched their names on the pages of Indian musical and cultural history. For starters, M.S. Subbulakshmi, M.L.Vasanthakumari and D.K.Pattammal are considered the Female Trinity of Carnatic Music, Begum Akhtar is called the ‘Queen of Ghazals’ (Mallika-e-Ghazal) and many others have made and continue to make their mark in this field of divine music.

In today’s world, here are some our favourite musicians who have been trending, not just in India, but globally!

Aruna Sairam 

*Source: commons.wikimedia.org

From the most complex Carnatic Kritis to the blissful Marathi abhangs, Aruna Sairam’s music is full of bhakthi, bhava and classicism; her full-throated exotic and endearing voice captivates one’s mind beyond their age and expertise in music.

As known to all, Aruna began training in Carnatic music under her mother Rajalakshmi Sethuraman. She then went on to learn from T. Brinda, who is the granddaughter of the legendary Veenai Dhanammal. Aruna was also mentored by M. Balamuralikrishna, K.V. Narayanaswamy and S. Ramachandran.

While keeping the traditional form intact, Aruna’s music has evolved and adapted to current times; she makes an effort to reach out to people around the world with her music. Her rendition of Kalinga Narthana Thillana, Bhakthajana Vatsale, Maadu Meikum Kanna, Vishamakaara Kanna are most sought after by music lovers.

She was awarded the Padma Shri by Government of India, US Congress Proclamation of Excellance, 2008, the Kalaimamani Award by Tamil Nadu Government and several more accolades. She is currently the Vice-Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Academy, Delhi.

*Source: Various sources

Bombay Jayashri Ramnath

Bombay Jayashri
*Source: fwdlife.in

“Even if you are not a connoisseur of Carnatic music, Bombay Jayashri is a name that would not be completely unfamiliar.”- Deccan Chronicle. 

The statement couldn’t be more accurate, for there is no limit to Jayashri’s musical experiments- she is a global icon for Carnatic Music, she has rendered her husky, mellifluous voice not only in films but also jingles (yes! that’s right!), her “Kanne Kannmaniye”, the title song for “Life of Pi”, won her the Oscar nomination.

While she has been seeking out to innovative methods to propagate Carnatic music among young artists in India & abroad, Jayashri is also involved in various activities that aim at creating future connoisseurs of the music with a sense of history and tradition. Jayashri, in association with T.M.Krishna, a renowned Carnatic musician, has founded Matraka, an organization that aims at creating a new platform for Carnatic Music; they have also co-authored a book, ‘Voices Within’ which is a tribute to seven stalwarts who laid the foundation and chartered the course of Carnatic music. One of their noted initiatives that has made its mark even among our younger generation is ‘Svānubhava’, a festival focused on the youth of the country, engaging them in the arts and creating a learning atmosphere to help better understand the Indian culture and tradition.

Although Jayashri was introduced to Carnatic Music at a very young age and underwent rigorous training under Guru T.R.Balamani, it was not until her late 20s that she began her full-fledged career in Carnatic Music.

Now ladies, here’s something to note- It’s never too late! Keep practicing.

*Source: dhavaniohio 

Kaushiki Chakraborty



BEAUTIFUL! One word is all it takes to describe Kaushiki, her music and her soul; so polite yet, strong-willed, this combination is such a rare find these days. Needless to say, Kaushiki is one of the leading Hindustani Classical Vocalist of her generation, but did you know, she was also a topper in Philosophy, both during her Bachelor’s in Calcutta University and Master’s in Jadhavpur University!

As we know, Kaushiki is a child prodigy; at the age of 2 yrs she could replicate the musical patterns, at the age of 12 yrs she was a Scholar at ITC Sangeet Research Academy and at 15 she was on 50-concert tour in the US. But little did we know that she has had her share of battles too in this field, despite being the daughter of a Maestro, Pt. Ajay Chakraborty.

For starters, it was not until 5 years after her study at ITC that she got her first concert tour as a khayal singer, for she was always thought of as singer who could only perform thumris or light classical genres; her early days of success was always undermined by her father’s standing in the music field. But, for Kaushiki, no battle was big; she fought them all with grace, perseverance and determination. Today, she has successfully created an identity of her own in this field, despite being the daughter of a Maestro. She has also formed an exclusive first all-women’s classical band called “Sakhi” which is a forerunner in classical music to “celebrate womanhood”.

Did you know? Kaushiki had to face a lot of opposition in order to go to college because everyone felt there was no need for her to do so and that she’d rather spend the time for her riyaz! (Well, some of us here are fighting to run away from college! You see, there’s always a flip side to every story).

*Source: Tehelka Blog

We mustn’t forget, these women too have other roles to play- that of daughters, wives and mothers, they too have a household to manage, but that doesn’t deter them from achieving their Vision.

The success story of Indian music & its industry can have all the 7 musical notes, IF the contributions of all musicians, irrespective of their gender are considered! if not, the success remains incomplete, may be with just 3.5 musical notes!

We, at Twaang, salute every musician who has been and is a pioneer in Indian music.


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