Curtains fall on a grand concert

Gangubai with daughter Krishna.The urge to join her daughter took birth in Gangajji about six years ago.

Gangajji, though old and infirm, 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. A black and white photograph of smiling Gangajji welcomes the visitor to the museum which showcases her glorious achievements.

Fondly called ‘Akkavru,’ Gangubai used to reply that she was well whenever asked about her health. She was always enthusiastic while talking to someone, albeit, with tears evident whenever she remembered her daughter.

Even though her health was fragile, people wanted her blessings and used to urge her grandson to bring her for inaugurating a music programme.

Wherever she went, Gangubai asked people to promote music. “My mother Ambabai was a Carnatic vocalist, but she stopped singing after recognising my interest in Hindustani music. The cradle of music will never become orphaned. Now, my granddaughter Madhavi sings well.  Music is never poor,” she used to say emotionally.

Gangubai Hangal was born at Shukravarapet in Dharwad on March 5, 1913. Her mother Ambabai was her first Guru.

She practised music under the tutelage of Pandit Sawai Gandharva. ‘Ganda Bhandan’ ceremony was held at Kundagol in 1932 and Gangubai presented Rs 1,000 as ‘Gurudakshina’ to her Guru, in addition to the monthly fee of Rs 40. Bhimsen Joshi and Firoz Dastur, younger to Gangubai, are also the disciples of Pandit Gandharva.
Gangubai was taught Meend, Gamak, Khatka, Murki, Boltan, by Pandit Gandharva. With her command over Yaman, Bhairavi, Puriya Dhanshree, Miya Malhar, Todi, Multani, Darabari Kanada, and Adhana Raagas, she drew attention of music aficionados. Her cousin Sheshgiri Hangal always used to accompany her on tabla. The representatives of HMV Gramophone Company had come to Hubli to enter into an agreement with Gangubai.

Gangubai, though, shocked with the death of her mother in 1932,  demise of Pandit Sawai Gandharva in 1952 and her husband Gururao Kaulagi in 1966, continued the tradition of Kirana Gharana, unhindered.

The voice of Gangubai was soft and melodious earlier. It became muscular after she underwent an operation to remove a tumour in her throat. Once in Delhi, daughter of a host switched off the radio when the song of Gangubai was being broadcast, thinking that a man was singing. Later, Gangajji reportedly said “I am that man”. Da Ra Bendre also used to tease by saying that a cursed angel was sitting in her throat. It was he who called her as ‘Gayana Ganga’.

Gangubai was always eager to perform at the annual music festival at Kundgol. She was very happy when Bhimsen Joshi's concert was scheduled there, but Pandit Joshi could not attend the programme as he was not well.

In her biography, Gangubai said, “My life itself is like Jogiya, Todi, and Basanthbahar Raagas. I experience the feeling of that Raaga, while singing. Pain in my heart was in my rendition also and it used to bring pleasure for both myself and the audience”. Gangajji gave her last public performance at Thane in Maharashtra in 2002.  An incident in 2005 hurt her, and residents of the entire Hubli City were angry then. A felicitation to Gangubai by the then chief minister N Dharam Singh, on behalf of citizens, was organised at Sawai Gandharva Hall. But, Singh was in a hurry to leave for Bangalore and he did not even sit, and left the venue after speaking for a couple of minutes. It was an insult for Gangajji, recipient of reputed awards including Padmabhushan and Padmavibhushana. Though  Singh gave some clarification the next day, the mistake was evident.

S M Krishna, as Maharashtra Governor, felicitated Gangubai in Mumbai. Cine actor Nana Patekar came to Hubli to meet his 'Aayi'. Gangajji, who was suffering from cancer, took a rebirth. The most meaningful tribute we pay to her is to promote music, as she wished.

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