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Born to a family of the Hindustani Kirana Gharana, Hirabai Barodekar was and will remain as one of the most famous names in the world of classical Hindustani music. Read on to know more about her.

Hirabai Barodekar

Born On: 1905
Born In: Bombay, India
Died On: November 20, 1989
Occupation: Hindustani classical Music Singer
Nationality: Indian

In a culturally rich country like India where music and dance are a part of many people's lives, there are scores who make a living out of music. But not everyone among them can win the hearts of the audience around them. Hirabai Barodekar, one of the most famous names in Indian Hindustani classical music, had won not only critical acclamation for her voice and renditions; but had also managed to win the hearts of the common man. Born in a family of musicians in a Kirana Gharana family in Baroda, music was always a part of her life ever since childhood, though Hirabai Barodekar never got to enjoy hearing her father singing to her much, as he lived away from her mother and the family. From a very tender age, Hirabai Barodekar practiced under the watchful eyes of her brother and uncle, who were her loyal tutors. She rendered several performances throughout her life and also won a number of awards from the Indian government.

Childhood Years
Hirabai Barodekar was named Champakali when she was born in the year 1905. She was a member of the Kirana Gharana family of Hindustani classical music in Bombay. Hirabai Barodekar had her roots in the princely state of Baroda, where classical music and dance forms were a part of every day life. Her parents, Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and Tarabai Mane, had fled from the city of Baroda to settle in Bombay after their affair was not accepted by the extended family. However, their fleeing away from their roots did not mean the end of the road to the music career that Hirabai Barodekar would eventually become a part of.

According to archives in history, Tarabai Mane was the daughter of Sardar Maruti Rao Mane, one of the brothers of the Rajmata of Baroda. During her childhood years in the early 19th century, Tarabai Mane used to learn music from Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, who was a mere court musician in Baroda. The two gradually fell in love, a feeling that was not supported by any of the family members precisely because of the gap between their status and ranks in the society. The couple had no other option but to flee Baroda to settle in Bombay city. Tarabai Mane and Abdul Karim Khan married in Bombay and gave birth to five children, two sons and three daughters. The third child was named Champakali, who was later renamed to Hirabai Barodekar in her adult years.

Champakali's parents, however, were not to stay together for very long. They separated when she was 17 years of age, and therefore Champakali received little of the music education from her father, which had earlier been given to her mother. To fill the gap, Hirabai Barodekar's eldest brother Sureshbabu Mane became her music teacher who groomed her into the technicalities of the Kirana Gharana. Post her initial training, Hirabai Barodekar came under the guidance of her uncle, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, who was the cousin brother of her father.

Career As A Vocalist
The training under her brother and uncle proved very beneficial to Hirabai Barodekar, who was soon able to perform for a larger audience. Her voice had always been praised and was a source of inspiration to many in her generation and subsequent generations to come. Hirabai Barodekar's first step into the world of classical Hindustani music was in the year 1920 when she started performing in public concerts. It was the early 20th century and though women had already stepped out of their homes by this time, the idea of an Indian woman performing on the world stage was still a less heard concept. Therefore, Hirabai Barodekar was not only a renowned classical singer, she was also a pioneer in the field of classical singing by women on a world stage. It was Hirabai Barodekar who was the first woman to stage a ticketed concert in India. Needless to say, this drive popularized Hindustani classical music not only among connoisseurs of music, but also the common man in search of new entertainment opportunities.

Till today, classical music experts refer to Hirabai Barodekar's voice as melodious and soulful. Her rendition of the 'Taar Sa' raga became the benchmark of her concerts, with Hirabai Barodekar asked to perform to the particular music in every concert appearance. The Kirana Gharana was already a very popular house of classical music during the 20th century and the success of Hirabai Barodekar only helped to make it more famous among the masses. She was an expert in the fields of khyal, thumri, bhajan and marathi natya sangeet. Hirabai Barodekar's career as a classical music singer did not remain enclosed within stage performances. It was only after a few years in stage singing that she started to work as a recording artist, largely responsible because of her growing popularity among the common man. After her phenomenal success as a recording artist, following her stint on the stage, Hirabai Barodekar came to be known as 'Gaanhira', a diamond in the world of singing.

Career As A Movie Artist & Music School
Hirabai Barodekar had been a part of several plays during her early school years. The stage too was not a new place for her. Therefore, Hirabai Barodekar progressed from being a classical music singer and recording artist to a film actress. Her career as a movie artist though was not as glorious as compared to the one in Hindustani classical music. Nevertheless her contribution to movies like 'Janabai', 'Municipality', 'Suvarna Mandir' and 'Pratibha' are still etched in history. Apart from a prosperous career in classical singing and a memorable one in movies, Hirabai Barodekar also set up a music school where young girls to learn Hindustani classical music. Her school Nutan Sangeet Vidyalaya, was successful in popularizing the concept of classical music through the plays that it staged.

Awards & Honor
Hirabai Barodekar became such a well known name in the field of classical Indian music that she was showered with a number of awards and prizes given to her by the government of India. The highest honor which came her way was probably the offer to sing the national song Vande Mataram in the programme held in Red Fort on the 15th of August 1947, the day that India got its independence from the British. Her voice won her the title of 'Gaansaraswati' bestowed upon her by Jagad guru Shankaracharya. She was referred to as 'Gaan Kokila' by the nightingale herself Sarojini Naidu. In the year 1953, Hirabai Barodekar was one of the prominent members of a delegation which was sent from India to China and several countries across East Africa. The delegation performed to a world audience to present the cultural heritage of India. Over subsequent years, Hirabai Barodekar became one of the most prominent classical singers that India had ever witnessed, with the government conferring the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award upon her in 1955 and one of the highest civilian awards Padma Bhushan in 1970.

Death & Legacy
Hirabai Barodekar was successful in grooming a set of students who continued to contribute to the field of Hindustani classical music after her death on November 20, 1989. Prabha Atre is one of the most prominent students that Hirabai Barodekar has left behind to carry on her legacy. Ever since 1992, the genius of Hirabai Barodekar has been celebrated through the Sureshbabu - Hirabai Smruti Sangeet Samaroh music festival held every year in Mumbai.

1905: Hirabai Barodekar was born as Champakali.
1920: Took up classical singing as profession.
1922: Her parents separate.
1947: Chosen to sing the national song as part of India's independence celebrations on August 15.
1953: Visited China and East Africa to perform as part of an Indian delegation.
1955: Received the Sangeet Natk Akademi Award.
1970: Awarded the Padma Bhushan.
1989: Died on November 20.
1992: A music festival is started by her student to honor her contributions to classical music.