Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Wednesday, December 19, 2018 06:22:35 AM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

On the record: A book on the life and compelling music of Janki Bai Ilahabadi

Janki Bai was called Chhappan Chhuri - she of the 56 knife gashes

 Janki Bai was called Chhappan Chhuri - she of the 56 knife gashes
photo by

By
29th-Jun-2018       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Weekend Plus Desk :
Sayyiyan nikal gaye, main na ladi thi/ Na jaane kaunsi khidki khuli thi (My beloved left and I didn't put up a fight, I didn't know which window was open)
 This lament by Janki Bai Ilahabadi was penned by poet Kabir as a bhajan, which was a reference to death and one’s soul leaving the body. Janki Bai turned it into a thumri in the early 20th century and sang it in mehfils and soirees at the royal durbars that courted her and had those present throwing silver coins at her feet. Later, the piece found a place in popular consciousness. It was featured in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram, was sung often by thumri legend Shobha Gurtu and is still featured in concerts by Kaushiki Chakraborty, among others.
In this HMV recording, the recording company’s first one and now available on YouTube, Janki Bai sings the lyrics in her robust, slightly high-pitched voice, as if the words are a reference to her beloved, the one who left her at night and took away her soul with her. She also changes the word nikas into nikal, probably because the latter is easier to play around phonetically. A little less than three-minute-long, the piece reaches its sublime note and ends with the sentence: Mera naam Janki Bai Illahabad. “I took an instant liking to her,” says Neelum Saran Gour, a literature professor at University of Allahabad, who’s now written Requiem in Raga Janki (Penguin, Rs 599).
It was Gour’s visit to Kolkata’s ITC Sangeet Research Academy 30 years ago, which threw up the name Janki Bai Illahabadi. Gour didn’t know much of this Hindustani vocalist who lived a century ago in her city, and died in 1936.
The name came up again in 2008 while researching the heritage of Allahabad for a book. She came across a brief biography of Janki Bai and was struck by the person behind the icon. “I also wondered why not much had been written about her and why she wasn't well-known even in Allahabad,” says Gour, who then came across some of her records with passionate record collectors and realised that most of her music was lost. “She, in her time, was as big a star as Amitabh Bachchan from Allahabad,” says Gour, who isn’t trained in music but grew up listening to a lot of it from her musician father and has always written stories based in and on Allahabad. Her other books include Grey Pigeon and Other Stories, Sikandar Chowk Park, Song Without and Other Stories.
Born in Varanasi in 1880, Janki Bai and her mother, Manki, were abandoned by her father, Shivbalakram, a wrestler, after he took on a mistress. Manki and Janki came to Allahabad, where the two were sold to the owner of a kotha. Manki began to run the place after the owner died and decided to train her daughter in Hindustani classical music and got Hassu Khan of Lucknow to train her.
Janki grew up to be a popular courtesan and became close friends with Gauhar Jaan of Calcutta and the two sang together in 1911 at Attarsuiya thana, when King George V visited Allahabad. As the story goes, he was mesmerised with their performance and gave 100 guineas to the two. She recorded 22 shellac discs in her career. But the name didn't trickle down into popular consciousness.
A search for Janki Bai also led Gour to a crumbling monument in Kaladanda Kabristaan in Allahabad’s Adarsh Nagar that is called Chhappan Chhuri ki Mazaar. Janki Bai was called Chhappan Chhuri - she of the 56 knife gashes.
Janki Bai acquired the name when, according to the legend, she was attacked by Raghunandan, a police constable when he was denied sexual favours from a 12-year-old. He came one day and scarred her face with 56 gashes. The book takes us through the life and times of a woman who has been scarred and is rebuked by men, but has to turn to them later for patronage.
“There wasn’t a choice here but she also wanted to be loved,” says Gour.
Janki Bai would often sing from behind a curtain, revealing her face, only when her patron was in love with her voice.
“In her life, like that of other artistes, I found a permanent situation- life in real time, life in art; the troubled vexed life and that fabulous artistic life. Art stepped in where life failed her,” says Gour.
The stories are mostly from her own writings or passed down to music lovers from an older generation. To fill in the gaps, Gour has used fiction. Real stories are there but, more often than not, the fiction tends to exceed the reality in the stories.
Gour says, “You assume that there is an authentic narrative, which is reduced to suit the demands of fiction. I feel that one fictionalises when there are gaps in the historical narrative. That's where you intuit and infer. You don't lose but add to the known fact. You step into the areas of silence and doubts and write,” says Gour, who has used two storytellers describing the story, writing a lot of conversations in extremely flowery archaic English, which can sometimes seem jarring. But Gour feels “it was the only way to project the right combination of Urdu and Hindi.”
The book, which tells two simultaneous stories, one from an aging baiji and other the documented history of a colonial India, has significant blind spots. Gour does not delve into German recording technology that changed the face of Indian music industry or the times in which Janki Bai lived and how the concert culture was coming up and the baithak style and aristocracy were on a decline. “There are always dimensions that could have been. I am only accountable for what I have done. I was dealing with one character and her inward relation with her art,” says Gour. n

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Entertainment »

I always try to push negativity aside: Sunny Leone


Adult film star-turned-Bollywood actor Sunny Leone, who is often a target of sexist and disparaging remarks by people, says she is disturbed when "nonsense" gets highlighted."I always try to push negativity aside, but there are some things which I can't because I am also a human and I have feelings."I ...

Cricket »

Australia wins 2nd Test vs India by 146 runs, series 1-1


AP, Australia :Australia trounced India by 146 runs in the second Test to level the four-Test series 1-1 on the final day on Tuesday.Needing 287 runs to win, India resumed the day on 112-5 and was all out in a hurry for 140 in the second innings, and Australia was ...

Sports »

WTA changes rules affecting players returning from pregnancy


AP, St. Petersburg :The women's tennis tour approved rule changes Monday that are meant to ensure players are not penalized after they return from pregnancy or an injury that causes a long absence.The changes were prompted, in part, by the experiences of former No. 1 players Serena Williams and Victoria ...

Editorial »

The administration must prove its ability to hold free and fair polls


NEW United States ambassador in Dhaka Robert Earl Miller said that his country expected the upcoming December 30 elections in Bangladesh to be free, fair and credible as he paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The US Ambassador informed the PM that his country would send 32 ...

Business & Economy »

Parveen Haque Sikder, EC Chairperson of National Bank Limited, inaugurating its 201st branch at Hili Land Port on Tuesday. Ali Haider Mortuza, Vice-President, other officials of the Bank, local businessmen and elites were also present.


International »

Former FBI chief lashes out at Trump, Republicans for telling `lies`


CNN, Washington :Washington (CNN)Former FBI Director James Comey slammed Republicans on Monday for not speaking out against President Donald Trump's attacks on the FBI and strongly defended the agency's conduct, following his second round of questioning at a closed-door congressional interview."Somebody has to stand up and speak for the FBI," ...

Chittagong »

A discussion meeting was held at Chattogram University of Engineering and Technology (CUET) marking the Victory Day on Sunday. Prof Dr Md Rafiqual Alam, VC of the University was present as Chief Guest.


City »

Vice-Chancellor of Dhaka University Prof Dr Akhtaruzzaman poses for photo session with the recipients of Provost Awards of Bijoy Ekattor Hall of DU in its auditorium on Tuesday.


Entertainment »

Ankhi Alamgir enthrals Kolkata audience


Entertainment Report :   In the beginning of current year popular singer Ankhi Alamgir performed in Utsab at Jodhpur Park in Kolkata. In the meantime, she also went to Kolkata for several times. On December 14, she got the opportunity to perform as a leading singer of Bangladesh at outdoor pool ...

Business & Economy »

Choudhury Atiur Rasul, Chief Financial Officer of Agricultural Marketing Company Limited (AMCL), a sister concern of PRAN Group, receiving the 'ICMAB Best Corporate Award-2017' in the Miscellaneous Manufacturing Category from Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, at a programme held at a hotel in the city on Saturday. Dr. M Khairul Hossain, Chairman of Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission and Suvod Kumar Karn, President of South Asian Federation of Accountants were also present.


.

Cricket »

Shakib Al Hasan plays a shot during the first Twenty20 International match between Bangladesh and West Indies at Sylhet International Cricket Stadium on Monday. Shakib scored 61 runs.


Cricket »

Fizz moves to top five in ODI rankings


Mustafizur Rahman has made a big leap to enter into the top five ranks of ICC ODI bowling rankings. Other Bangladeshi players have also made progress in the rankings after the end of Bangladesh-Windies ODIs.The Fizz moved five places to no.5 in the rankings. He has career-best 695 points against ...

Editorial »

Dhaka must involve ASEAN nations for early Rohingya repatriation


MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday asked the ASEAN nations to take tough measures for creating pressure on Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims. More than 720,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August ...

International »

Indian troops enforce lockdown to foil Kashmir public march


AP, Srinagar :Soldiers and police fanned out across Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday to enforce a security lockdown for a second straight day to stop anti-India protests and foil a call by separatists for a march toward India's main military garrison in the disputed region.Government forces patrolled streets in the region's ...

Cricket »

Sri Lanka 275-9 at stumps on day 1, 1st Test vs New Zealand


AP, New Zealand :Tim Southee took 5-67 as New Zealand exploited an influential toss to contain Sri Lanka to 275-9 Saturday on the first day of the first cricket Test at the Basin Reserve.A late unbeaten half century by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella helped swing the day a little in Sri ...

 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news