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The Power of Voice: Women Shaping the Hindustani Vocal Music Tradition

The Remarkable Women Who Shaped Hindustani Vocal Music.


Hindustani vocal music is a treasure trove of rich melodies, intricate rhythms, and soul-stirring compositions. But did you know that women have always played a vital role in this tradition, both as performers and composers? In this blog, we will explore the incredible journey of women in Hindustani vocal music, from the early days when they were confined to their homes to the modern era where they continue to shine as leading voices.

Early Pioneers

In the early days of Hindustani vocal music, women were often restricted to performing within the privacy of their own homes or at private gatherings. Despite these limitations, a few remarkable women emerged as notable vocalists. One such pioneer was Baiji Kesarbai Kerkar, who made waves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Known for her powerful voice and mastery of the Jaipur Atrauli Gharana style, Kerkar paved the way for future generations of female artists.

Another luminary of her time was Girija Devi. Her expressive singing and extensive repertoire of songs captivated audiences. What's more, Girija Devi was not only a gifted vocalist but also a prolific composer. Her compositions still resonate with Hindustani vocalists today, showcasing her enduring influence on the tradition.

The 20th Century: A Golden Era

The 20th century witnessed a surge in female vocalists who played a pivotal role in shaping Hindustani vocal music. Parveen Sultana, Kishori Amonkar, and Begum Parveen Sultana were among the most prominent figures of this period. Their distinctive styles and innovations left an indelible mark on the tradition.

Parveen Sultana's soulful renditions and melodious voice captured the hearts of music enthusiasts. Kishori Amonkar, known for her experimental approach, pushed the boundaries of traditional Hindustani music. Begum Parveen Sultana's mastery of intricate raagas and her dynamic performances set a new standard for female vocalists.

The Contemporary Stars

Today, women continue to be the torchbearers of the Hindustani vocal music tradition. Their contributions are invaluable in preserving and evolving this art form. Contemporary artists like Rashid Khan, Kaushiki Chakrabarty, and Parveen Sultana continue to dazzle audiences with their extraordinary talent and dedication.

Beyond Performance: Women as Composers

Women have not only excelled as performers but have also made significant contributions as composers. Girija Devi, Kishori Amonkar, and Begum Parveen Sultana stand out as some of the most influential female composers in the history of Hindustani vocal music. Their compositions, filled with intricate melodies and poetic lyrics, continue to be cherished and performed by vocalists today.


The role of women in Hindustani vocal music is nothing short of essential. Their indomitable spirit, passion, and artistry have shaped the tradition's past, present, and future. From the early pioneers who defied societal constraints to the contemporary stars who continue to shine brightly, women have left an indelible mark on Hindustani vocal music. As we celebrate their contributions, let us remember that the journey of these remarkable women is a testament to the enduring power of music and the human spirit.

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