| 18 May 2024
Kaladharmi BAAG organises 'Jamal-e-Begum Akhtar' to celebrate birth anniversary of Begum Akhtar

MUMBAI: To celebrate the birth anniversary of Queen of Ghazal, Begum Akhtar, the Kaladharmi BAAG (Begum Akhtar Academy of Ghazal) will hold a two-day event called ‘Jamal-e-Begum Akhtar’ on 6 and 7 October. The event, which will take place at IIC Multipurpose Hall, New Delhi, will honour musical stalwarts in the country, and will be organised by the academy, founded by Rita Ganguly, a direct disciple of Begum Akhtar.

“I always wanted to organise a grand event for my guru, but I did not get the support from the previous government. Whenever I approached them, I would have to run about without any help for setting up the event. Fortunately, the current government has helped a lot with organising the two-day event,” said Ganguly. The event will witness various classical music performances from Anup Jalota, Saurabh Salunke, Waseem Barelvi, Madan Pal and Rageshri Das, who will pay homage to Begum Akhtar. A lifetime Achievement award will also be presented by Padmashree Janab Anup Jalota to a musician who has contributed to the field of ghazals.

Ganguly who was trained under Akhtar for nine years, founded the academy in 1994 in memory of her teacher. “The only way to keep her legacy alive was by setting up an academy which would not only train students, but also recognise and appreciate those who are doing work to keep the genre alive. In the past, we have honoured many musicians like Naushad, Sultan Khan, Hariharan and Abida Parveen and Pankaj Udhas for their contributions,” added Ganguly. It was Akhtar who launched Ganguly as a professional singer, often accompanying her for live performances and singing background vocals with her.

One of her best memories with the ghazal legend was when she organised a special program for Ganguly. Once, while accompanying her guru to stage performances, audience members were making special requests, writing the names of songs they wanted on paper. It was Ganguly’s job to forward the requests to Akhtar. “Whenever my name came up, I would not let Begumsahiba know. One fine day I got caught doing that, and the audience demanded a song from me. I was hesitant so she told them not to force me into singing because it was a Begum Akhtar night. And then she said she was organising a special program for me the next day where I would sing my heart out. I was stunned,” Ganguly reminisced. The following day witnessed a jam packed auditorium, where Ganguly performed live for the first time.

According to Ganguly, Akhtar never wanted her disciples to sound like her; in fact, she wanted them to find their own voices. After becoming a professional singer, Ganguly was not allowed to accompany teacher to performances to avoid her being termed as a ‘Replica of Akhtar’. That, she says, is the best decision Akhtar made.

Speaking fondly of her guru, Ganguly said Akhtar is an inspiration to a lot of women, who belonged to middle class families and were yearning to create their own identity. She is also certain that Akhtar’s blessings are with her, especially when it comes to the work she is doing to spread the ghazal genre.