ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Making of Gangubai Hangal

A Life in Three Octaves: The Musical Journey of Gangubai Hangal by Deepa Ganesh (Gurgaon: Three Essays Collective), 2014; pp 214 plus index, Rs 600.

How does one begin to describe the spread of the sky, the vastness of the earth, or the depth of the ocean? Gangubai Hangal (1913-2009), the grand old diva of the Kirana gharana, is a subject of such scale. Her life and music are inseparable and woven into a continuum that transcends time. Deepa Ganesh has accepted the daunting challenge of presenting a portrait of her life.

Born in the early 20th century, Gangubai’s generation was witness to the drastic political, cultural, and social changes that swept the world in the aftermath of the first world war. This life sketch is appropriately ensconced in the immediate milieu that shaped Gangubai’s musical persona. It is to the credit of the biographer that she has not only laid bare before readers the multiple layers of Gangubai’s personal and professional life as a female vocalist, but also painstakingly investigated the context in which her life and music occurred. Some of the social factors explored include the changing profile of art patronage, the arrival of recording technology and the radio broadcast, India’s freedom struggle, and the decline of the courtesan culture.

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