Renowned Indian singer Kishori Amonkar has died at the age of 86. Amonkar, who enthralled audiences with her soulful singing for decades, died on Monday, April 4th at her house in Mumbai. The singer followed the classical Hindustani school of singing, but was known for creating her own distinctive style.
Many, including legendary Bollywood singer Lata Mangeshkar, have paid tributes to Amonkar, and acknowledged her “great contribution” to music. As news of her death broke, many people took to social media to pay tribute. The hashtag #kishoriamonkar has begun trending on Twitter India.
Medicine’s loss was music’s gain. She had planned to cure ailments of the body, but fate planned her to instead to minister to the soul through her incomparable voice — and innovations. Schooled directly and indirectly by stellar proponents of her Jaipur gharana, Kishori Amonkar never remained bound by its style only to emerge as one of the foremost exponents of Indian classical music.
Always eclectic in outlook with her naturally sweet voice, and talent augmented by a capacity to assimilate, she was well versed in nuances of Western classical music (she thought Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was something akin to the Indian tradition), appreciated light classical music — with her favourites including Noor Jehan, Begum Akhtar and especially Jagjit Singh, whom she admitted to liking watching on TV.
She had been convinced to do the title song for V. Shantaram’s “Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne” (1964) but this had angered her mother, who had taught her Indian classical music was sacred. According to T.J.S. George’s biography of M.S. Subbalakhmi, Amonkar recalled her mother telling her that if she wanted to enter the film industry, the purpose of her teaching would not be served and that she “might gain money and fame but lose much more”.
Amonkar was the leading singer of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana. Born in Mumbai on April 10, 1932, she trained under Anjanibai Malpekar of the Bhendi Bazar Gharana and her mother Mogubai Kurdikar, who herself was trained by Alladiya Khan Saheb, a leading exponent of the Jaipur Gharana.
Amonkar was known, and sometime criticized, for breaking out of the rigid classicism of the Jaipur Gharana and tempering it with influences from other schools of Indian music. Her repertoire was diverse. She could deliver thumris, bhajans and even Hindi film music with the same skill as the more raag-based khayal songs.
She received a plethora of awards, including the Padma Bhushan in 1987 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2002. She was also honoured with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for 1985 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for 2009.
Tributes and condolence messages poured in from musicians and politicians alike after Amonkar’s death was announced. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi described her passing as an “irreparable loss” to Indian classical music, and Lata Mangeshkar tweeted that she was saddened by the demise of an “extraordina