It is the 145th birth anniversary of Angelina Yeoward or Gauhar Jaan, India’s “Gramophone girl”. A well trained Kathak dancer and singer, she was one of the first Indian artists to get signed by the reputed Gramophone Company and record on 78 rpm records.
Before she became a popular face for the Gramophone company, Gauhar Jan used to perform as a court singer at the courts of Darbhanga Raj, in modern-day Bihar. She developed a following as a court dancer and singer and went onto earn the title of India’s ‘first dancing girl’. Soon she started traveling across the country to perform and apart from her court performances, also became famous for her bhajans and kirtans. Additionally, she took to writing gazals by the pen-name ‘hamdam’.
Gauhar Jaan was born to a Christian father and Jewish mother. As her mother separated from her father, the mother-daughter duo went off to Kolkata and established themselves in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. It is there that they converted to Islam and changed their names.
Her mother became a court performer in the courts of Wajid Ali and later Gauhar followed into her footsteps and got trained as a singer and dancer.
She popularised Hindustani music among the people and also earned a status for herself as a performer at a time when women performing singing and dancing was looked down upon by the society. Bollywood film director Ashutosh Gowarikar has also announced to make a film on her life.
(Written by Shreya Bansal)