Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, also known as Begum Akhtar was a well known Indian singer of Ghazal, Dadra, and Thumri genres of Hindustani classical music.
She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for vocal music, and was awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan (posthumously) by Govt. of India.
She was given the title of Mallika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazals).
Google Celebrate Begum Akhtar’s 103rd birthday with doodle on 7th October 2017.
Begum Akhtar was born in Bada Darwaza, Town Bhadarsa, Bharatkund, Faizabad District, Uttar Pradesh. Her father, Asghar Hussain, a young lawyer who fell in love with her mother Mushtari and made her his second wife, subsequently disowned her and his twin daughters Zohra and Bibbi (Akhtar)
Akhtar was barely seven when she was captivated by the music of Chandra Bai, an artist attached to a touring theatre group. However at her uncle’s insistence she was sent to train under Ustad Imdad Khan, the great sarangi exponent from Patna, and later under Ata Mohammed Khan of Patiala. Later, she travelled to Calcutta with her mother and learnt music from classical stalwarts like Mohammad Khan, Abdul Waheed Khan of Lahore, and finally she became the disciple of Ustad Jhande Khan.
In 1945, Akhtaribai married a Lucknow-based barrister, Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, and became known as Begum Akhtar.
Her voice matured with time, adding richness and depth. She sang ghazals and other light classical pieces, singing them in her inimitable style. She has nearly four hundred songs to her credit. She was a regular performer on All India Radio. She usually composed her own ghazals and most of her compositions were raag based. She sang the timeless Bengali classical song “Jochona Koreche Aari”
In spite of early personal tragedies, Begum Akhtar’s mother recognized her daughter’s gift at a young age. With the help of family members, she sent her daughter for vocal training with some of the Ustads (masters) of the time. Though her soulful and melancholic voice was featured in many movies, Begum Akhtar ultimately returned to classical music, where she composed many of her own melodies and steeped herself in the rhythm of ghazals.
After marrying, Begum Akhtar gave up singing. However in 1949, deteriorating health drew her back to her calling. Weeping tears of jubilation, she finally returned to a Lucknow studio to record and continued to share her gift with the world until her death in 1974. Her rich voice was comforting, particularly during the years India underwent upheaval caused by partition.
With nearly 400 songs to her credit, Begum Akhtar’s legacy shines on in the musical traditions she loved over her lifetime.
She died on 30 October 1974 in the arms of Nilam Gamadia, her friend, who invited her to Ahmedabad, which has become her final performance.