Kesarbai Kerkar

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Kesarbai Kerkar

Born: 13 July 1892

Died: 16 September 1977

  • She was an Indian classical vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.
  • A protege of Ustad Alladiya Khan (1855–1946), the founder of the gharana, from age sixteen, she went on to become one of the most noted khayal singers of the second half of the 20th century.
  • She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1953, followed by Padma Bhushan is the third highest civilian award in India, in 1969.
  • She eventually achieved wide renown, performing regularly for aristocratic audiences.
  • She was very particular about the representation of her work and consequently made only a few 78 rpm recordings, for the HMV and Broadcast labels.
  • In time, she became an accomplished Khayal singer of her generation, and seldom sang light classical music, often associated with female vocalists.
  • Her success as a public singer, along with that of Mogubai Kurdikar (mother of Kishori Amonkar), Hirabai Barodekar and Gangubai Hangal paved way for next generation of female vocalists, away from singing mehfils or private gathering that women of the previous generation had to settle for.
  • She was awarded the 1953 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, given by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama, as the highest Indian recognition given to practicing artists.
  • This was followed by the decoration of Padma Bhushan by the government of India in 1969, and in the same year the government of the Indian state of Maharashtra conferred upon her the title of “Rajya Gayika.”
  • Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) is said to have been very fond of Kerkar’s singing.
  • Her honorific title “Surashri” (or “Surshri”) literally means “excellent voice” (sur meaning “voice” and shri meaning “excellent), and was bestowed on her in 1948 by the Sangeet Pravin Sangitanuragi Sajjan Saman Samiti of Calcutta. She retired from public singing in 1963-64.

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