The voices of two grand old women fell silent last year. With the passing of D.K. Pattammal and Gangubai Hangal in 2009, we lost two of our most important performers, one from each of the two streams of classical Indian music. They had quite a bit in common, these extraordinary women. Both were lauded as brilliant performers. But more important, they were hailed as musicians who engaged deeply with the technical nuances as well as the spirit of classical music.
Both said they listened to different types of music. But they were committed women. Their commitment anchored them firmly in their respective streams, with a steadfast loyalty to their schools of music and to their gurus.
Neither woman was viewed as particularly feminine, either in terms of appearance or voice. Both had unusually strong and deep voices, with Gangubai’s voice often being described as masculine. (Typically, this did not bother Gangubai — it did not “hurt” her, she said, because “as long as sur and bhaav are right, nothing else matters”.) The integrity the two radiated — the refusal to compromise with principle — was as powerful as their voices.
Take a look!