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Pranav Rang (2000)

Omkarnath Thakur

About this album

Pandit Omkarnath Thakur is a towering figure in modern Hindustani music. In an era endowed with formidable vocalists in every significant gharana, Pandit Omkarnath carved out an enviable place for himself. His magnetic personality, theatrical demeanor, and intellectual sophistication enhanced the impact of his mesmerizing music, and made him, arguably, the most popular vocalist of his generation.

Omkarnath spent his childhood in economic distress, and was forced to sing for his supper. When he was thirteen, a music lover and aristocrat, Seth Shapurji Doongaji, recognized his talent, and arranged for his training. Young Omkarnath was placed under the tutelage of the great scholar-musician of the Gwalior gharana, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya at Bombay. The rest is history.

At the age of twenty (1916), Omkarnath went to Lahore (now in Pakistan) to set up a Gandharva Mahavidyalaya branch there. He returned from the mission in 1920 to set up the Gandharva Niketan, his own music school, in his native Bharuch (Gujarat), and to launch a spectacular career as a performer and teacher. The institution traveled with him, in later years, to Bombay and Surat, until Benares beckoned.

In 1933, he became the first significant Indian musician to undertake a concert tour of Europe, and laid the foundations of a serious international market for Hindustani music.

In 1950, he founded the Sangeet Kala Bharati at the Benares Hindu University, and headed the institution until retirement in 1957. He authored Sangitanjali, an exceptional six-volume guide to music performance, and Panava Bharati, a respected work on the theory of Indian music.

Pandit Omkarnath's career was rich in its haul of awards and recognition. Cultural organizations vied with each other to bestow honors upon him. Several universities decorated him with honorary Doctorates. On the midnight of August 14/15, 1947, it was his voice, broadcast nationally from the Parliament House in Delhi, which greeted an independent India with the overwhelming strains of Vande Mataram. In 1954, the first year of State Awards, he was adorned with the Padma Shree by the President of India. In 1963, the National performing Arts Academy conferred a fellowship on him.

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