Remembering Begum Akhtar, the ‘Mallika-e-Ghazal’

Today marks the 107th birth anniversary of Begum Akhtar, the woman who ruled many hearts with her voice and delicacy.

Begum Akhtar was born in 1914 in Faizabad which then came under the United Provinces of British India. Since childhood, Begum Akhtar or Akhtari Bai Faizabadi was inclined towards music, and so her classical music training began very early under the guidance of her mother, Mushtarbai.

Since the very beginning, Begum Akhtar was interested in Hindustani classical music, and later on she excelled in ghazal, dadra, and thumri styles of music. People say that even as a child, Begum Akhtar had that “x-factor”.

After her mother, Abdul Wahid Khan of Kirana Gharana, Ramzan Khan of Lucknow, and Barkhat Ali of Patiala imparted musical guidance to Begum Akhtar in her early years. And, later on, Sarangi Nawaz Imdad Khan, Ghulam Mohammad Khan of Gaya, and Ata Mohammad of Patiala guided Begum Akhtar in her musical journey.

Interestingly, Begum Akhtar was just fifteen years old when she first performed publicly that, too, in front of freedom fighter Sarojini Naidu. Who knew that in no time, Begum Akhtar’s good looks and sensitive voice would take her to newer heights.

Because of being extremely marvellous in her style, Begum Akhtar was awarded with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for vocal music, and was also awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India. In fact, she not known as Begum Akhtar anymore, but as Mallika-e-Ghazal, the title which was given to her because her firm grip on ghazals.

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