Deepa Ganesh, Senior Assistant Editor of The Hindu-Bengaluru, spoke about her experiences with Gangubai Hanagal, while writing her biography, A Life in Three Octaves. She mentioned several hardships Hanagal had had to face during her upbringing and subsequent training in Hindustani classical music. She said that, during her six year tenure as Hanagal’s biographer, she had to unlearn the 21st century knowledge of being a ‘modern woman’ and all the baggage that comes with it in order to understand Gangubai Hanagal’s life, and who she was as a person. Like her predecessors, whom Hanagal referred to Ambabai and Savaigandharva, Hanagal could have easily fallen into an obscure musical career of moderate success. Deepa Ganesh claims that it was Hanagal’s circle of male friends who supported her during times of crisis, and propelled her to be become one of the leading Kirana Gharana musicians. Deepa Ganesh also added that though losing their voice is often a death blow for vocalists’ careers, Hanagal fought against the odds after her tonsils were removed in a botched operation, and eked herself a unique place in the classical music genre. She captured AIR listeners’ attention with her deep, strong voice. Ganesh went onto say that Hanagal’s operation was, in retrospect, like a blessing in disguise for her.
Report by: Venugopal Kolli
Photography by: Sissi Hamann