Akhtari: The Life and Music of Begum Akhtar – Edited by Yatindra Mishra


‘The art of ghazal-singing nurtured in the kothas might easily have turned into an embarrassing skeleton in our cultural closet had Begum Akhtar not claimed a space for it in the most esteemed music sammelans.’ – SALEEM KIDWAI

‘Wrenching the thumri from its moorings in the salons of the rasik rajas and talukdars of Upper India, she brought it to the public stage as a thing of tremulous beauty and throbbing pain. – RAKHSHANDA JALIL

‘The music she recorded throws open a virtual vault of knowledge of every student of music, including myself.’ – SHUBHA MUDGAL


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Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, or Begum Akhtar as she was better known, was a legend even during her own lifetime, and one of the last of the great singers from the tawaif community.

Akhtari documents her eventful life and her music through essays and reminiscences by some of her closest friends and associates, and by people who knew her work deeply — including the likes of Bismillah Khan, Lata Mangeshkar, Shubha Mudgal, among others.

The volume also includes a long conversation between Acharya Kailash Chandra Dev Brihaspati and Begum Akhtar, and interviews with her disciples Shanti Hiranand and Rita Ganguly.

A bestseller in the original Hindi — and now available in English for the first time — this is a book to treasure for all of Begum Akhtar’s fans and lovers of music.

About the Author

Yatindra Mishra is a poet, editor, and scholar of music and cinema. He has written Girija (2001), Devpriya (2007) and Sur Ki Baradari (2009) about the life and work of thumri singer Girija Devi, dancer Sonal Mansingh, and shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan respectively. He has also published an acclaimed book on playback singer Lata Mangeshkar, based on a series of interviews spanning a period of seven years, titled Lata: Sur-Gatha (2016) which won numerous awards including the National Film Award for Best Book on Cinema.
Maneesha Taneja teaches Spanish at University of Delhi and translates between Spanish, English and Hindi. Her noteworthy translations include Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Nadine Gordimer’s collection of short stories, and Pablo Neruda’s memoirs into Hindi. Her recent translation of Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island has received much critical acclaim.


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