Mogubai Kurdikar

15 Jul 1904
10 Feb 2001
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Mogubai Kurdikar (Devanagari: मोगुबाई कुर्डीकर) (July 15, 1904 – February 10, 2001) was a renowned Hindustani classical music vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.

Mogu Kurdikar was born in a Gomantak Maratha Samaj community in the village of Kurdi in the then Portuguese Goa. When she was ten years old, her mother, Jayashreebāi, took her to the temple at Zambavli, and arranged for a wandering holyman to teach music to Mogu for a while. Later she took Mogu to a traveling theater company, the Chandreshwar Bhootnāth Sangeet Mandali, and the company took Mogu in as an actress.

While Mogu was with Chandreshwar Bhootnath Mandali, her mother died. A legend says that on her deathbed the mother told Mogu that her soul would not rest in peace until Mogu became a famous singer. The theater company soon went bankrupt, and the rival Sātārkar Stree Sangeet Mandali hired Mogu. She played commendably the parts such as of Kinkini in the play, Punyaprabhāv, and of the heroine Subhadrā in the play with the same name, Subhadrā. A conflict arose, however, between Mogu and one of the senior women in the theater company, who then expelled Mogu from the company. Mogu moved to Sāngli, and took some music lessons from Ināyat Khān of the Rāmpur-Sahaswan gharānā. For some reason, however, he too soon decided to terminate giving her further lessons.

At this time, vocalist legend Gaansamrat Alladiya Khan Saheb was in Sangli for medical treatment, and on his way to and from his doctor’s, he walked by Mogu’s residence, where he would hear her practice what she had learnt from Inayat Khan. One day he stopped, introduced himself and offered to teach her. Young Mogu of course agreed, but despite Alladiya’s fame, she had not heard of him – it was not until some time later, when she observed dignitaries bow down to him, that she fully realised his standing.

After some eighteen months, Alladiya Khan moved to Bombay in English (in Marathi it was always Mumbai), and Mogu followed. Thus begun a time of intrigue in Bombay’s high-society and classical music circles.

For Alladiya was supported in Bombay by wealthy patrons in exchange for music teaching, and they would not let him take other students.In desperation, Mogu turned to Bashir Khan of the Agra gharana, who agreed to teach her if she would perform the formal gandha-bandan (thread-tying) ceremony of guru-shishya discipleship with fellow Agra ustad Vilayat Hussein Khan. This came to happen, and Alladiya heard of it. He demanded that she stop the discipleship and instead go to his brother, Hyder Khan. But as the Agra ustads had a lot of clout, Mogu hesitated, and solicited a promise that Alladiya would teach her himself in the future if Hyder ever failed to do so. A deal was worked out, Hyder taught her for a while, but Alladiya’s rich and powerful students were putting a lot of pressure on him to put a stop to it, increasingly jealous of her progress. About 1930, Alladiya felt forced to persuade his brother to stop teaching and leave town, but came clean to the heartbroken Mogu about what had happened, essentially breaking his promise.

At this stage in her career, Mogu could likely have supported herself as a performer. But she chose not to. Not content with the prospect of being just another name on the scene, she wanted to become the best, the foremost representative of a tradition (as she has observed in Alladiya Khan). She gave birth to a daughter, Kishori, and kept practicing on her own, until one day Alladiya came back to her. he now kept teaching her for a couple of years. She became one of the topmost singers in North India, even hailed as “the queen of Taal” by Alladiya in public. She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1968 and the Sangeet Research Academy Award in 1980, and was decorated with the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour for service to the nation, in 1974

Mogubai trained students such as Kaushalya Manjeshwar, Padma Talwalkar, Kamal Tambe, Wamanrao Deshpande, Suhasini Mulgaonkar, Babanrao Haldankar, Arun Dravid, and her own daughter, Kishori Amonkar (in a rare instance both daughter and mother have been honored with the Padma Bhushan award for their musical contributions.) Some of Mogubai’s recordings have been reissued as a volume of RPG Music’s Vintage 78 RPM Recordings on CD series (CDNF150596).

^ Gopalkrishna Bhobe: Kalaatm Gomantak (“Talented Goa”)

^ This was at a time when it was difficult for classical musicians, in however high esteem, to support themselves. The subcontinent’s many royal courts had supported the music for centuries, but there was no large middle class and no widespread public appreciation; now the courts were on the remove, and the budding recording industry did not have anything like today’s large commercial base.

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