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My Name is Gauhar Jaan - The Life and Times of a Musician

Vikram Sampath

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Completed on 9 June 2022
ISBN : 9788129120588

The earliest recordings of Indian music are characterised by the high-pitched announcement, 'My name is Gauhar Jaan.' This declaration epitomised a milestone in the history of Indian classical music, one that would forever change its content, structure and style. The musical scene in India at the turn of the 20th century witnessed tumultuous changes. The traditional custodians of the art form, the devadasis in the south and the nautch girls in the north, who had nurtured the art for centuries, became victims of the morality laws of the British government and the prudery of an 'enlightened' Indian elitist class. Gauhar Jaan (1873-1930), however, an eminent Hindustani vocalist, symbolises the resurgence of women musicians of her era. Born Eileen Angelina Yeoward, an Armenian Christian who later converted to Islam, Gauhar Jaan was a naturally gifted musician with an outstanding repertoire. One of the earliest women artists to seize the opportunities that rose with the advent of recording technologies, hers was the first Indian voice to ever be recorded in 1902. She went on to cut close to 600 records, the most successful female musician of her time. This book traces her story, a story peppered with the stuff myth and legend, as well as the times during which she lived. It also describes the evolution of the Indian recording industry and its impact on the country's music, theatre and social life. 


Great book. The high-pitched greeting "My name is Gauhar Jaan" can be heard in the earliest records of Indian music. This remark symbolised a turning point in the development of Indian classical music, one that would forever alter its subject matter, form, and presentation. At the beginning of the 20th century, India's musical scene underwent a great deal of upheaval. The devadasis in the south and the nautch girls in the north, who had fostered the art form in tradition for ages, fell victim to British morality laws and the conservatism of a "enlightened" Indian aristocratic class. However, the prominent Hindustani vocalist Gauhar Jaan (1873–1930) represents the comeback of female musicians in her time.

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