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Biography

  • Born

    5 August 1929

  • Died

    24 October 2017 (aged 88)

Girija Devi (8 May 1929 – 24 October 2017) was an Indian, Hindustani classical music singer, of the Seniya and Banaras gharanas (northern Indian style). She performed classical and light classical music and helped elevate the profile of thumri (semi-classical Indian music) .

Devi was born in Varanasi, on 8 May 1929, to Ramdeo Rai, a zamindar (landowner). Her father played the harmonium and taught music, and had Devi take lessons in singing khyal and tappa from vocalist and sarangi player Sarju Prasad Misra starting at the age of five. She starred in the movie Yaad rahe aged nine and continued her studies under Sri Chand Misra in a variety of styles.

Devi made her public debut in 1949 on All India Radio Allahabad, after getting married to a businessman circa 1946, but faced opposition from her mother and grandmother, because it was traditionally believed that no upper class woman should perform publicly. Devi agreed to not perform privately for others, but gave her first public concert in Bihar in 1951. She studied with Sri Chand Misra until he died in the early 1960s, worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s, and taught several students to preserve her musical heritage. Devi often toured and continued to perform in 2009.

Devi sang in the Banaras gharana and performed the purabi ang thumri style typical of the tradition, whose status she helped elevate. Her repertoire included the semi-classical genres kajri, chaiti, and holi and she sang khyal, Indian folk music, and tappa. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians once stated that her semi-classical singing combined her classical training with the regional characteristics of the songs of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Devi is considered as Queen of Thumri. She was known to have been the teacher of the founder of The Alankar School of Music, Mrs. Mamta Bhargava, whose Indian classical music school has attracted students from hundreds of miles away.
She passed away on 24 October 2017.

Awards

Padma Shri (1972)
Padma Bhushan (1989)
Padma Vibhushan (2016)
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1977)
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (2010)
Maha Sangeet Samman Award (2012)
Sangeet Samman Award ( Dover Lane Music Conference)
GiMA Awards 2012 (Lifetime Achievement)
TanaRiri Puraskar

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