The noted Ghazal singer, Begum Akhtar born on 7th October 1914 in Faizabad town of Uttar Pradesh. Born as Akhtari Bai Faizabadi, she was a well-known singer of Ghazal, Dadra, and Thumri genres of Hindustani classical music.
Akhtar began training under sarangi exponent Ustad Imdad Khan when she was a child. She first performed publicly at the age of 15. She received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for vocal music and was awarded Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan (posthumously) by the government of India. She was given the title of Mallika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazals).
Begum Akhtar also acted in a few Hindi films which include Ameena (1934), Mumtaz Begum (1934), Jawaani Ka Nasha (1935), Naseeb Ka Chakkar (1935). In all these films, she sang all her songs herself. Acclaimed director Mehboob Khan gave her the first break in the Hindi film music industry in the year 1942 in the movie titled Roti. Music director Madan Mohan persuaded her to sing in movies like Daana Paani and Ehsaan. Her last film was that of a classical singer in the Satyajit Ray film Jalsa Ghar.
The Ghazal maestro married a barrister from Lucknow, Ishtiaq Ahmed Abbasi, and started to be known as Begum Akhtar. She performed in All India Radio regularly and is also known for her timeless Bengali classic “Jochona Koreche Aari”.
Begum Akhtar passed away in Ahmedabad on 30 October 1974. She was in the city for a concert and fell ill while staging a performance.
On the occasion of her birth anniversary, here are Begum Akhtar’s most popular ghazals:
Hamri Atariya Pe Aao
This ghazal was written by Mustafa Zaman Abbasi. One of the famous ghazals of Begum Akhtar, this track narrates a story of a lover who asks her beloved to visit her dwelling so that they can see each other.
Ae Mohabbat Tere Anjaam Pe Rona Aya
Sung by the Ghazal maestro herself, this track was written by Shakeel Badayuni. This ghazal depicts the tale of a heartbroken who criticises the feeling called ‘love’.
Wo Jo Humme Tumme Qarar Tha
Penned by Momin Khan Momin, this ghazal takes one back to their own time. The pain that Begum Akhtar has evoked with her voice is simply matchless.
Kuchh To Duniya Ki Inayaat Ne Dil Tod Diya
Considered to be a gift of Lucknow to Hindustani music, Begum Akhtar’s soulful voice adds the warmth to this track. The lyrics and voice are interwoven in such a way the ghazal will lose its touch if one is taken out.