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'On stage Gurtu was always Radha'

September 27, 2004 17:31 IST

Shobha Gurtu, the 'Thumri Queen' known for her rich earthy voice, died at her residence in Mumbai on Monday following a cardiac arrest, family sources said.

Born in 1925 in Belgaum, Shobha began her training under her mother Menekabai Shirodkar, a professional dancer and a student of Atrauli Jaipur Gayaki of Ustad Alladiya Khan.

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Impressed by Shobha's strong will to learn, Ustad Ghamman Khan took her under his wings and guided her in light classical music. She also learnt classical music from Ustad Nathan Khan.

Though trained in classical khayal, she was interested in light classical music forms like thumri and dadra.

Influenced by singer Begum Akhtar and Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Shobha carved a niche for herself in the world of thumri, her rich earthy voice lending itself beautifully to the form of light classical music.

"Shobha preferred Lord Krishna Shingara and Kabir's philosophical rendering. On any stage she was always Radha. Along with Pandit Birju Maharaj, their interpretation of the mood was unique," her son Narendra said.

Her rending of Kabir's daughter Kamali's composition took music lovers a few centuries back in the company of Sufi saints, he added.

The numerous accolades showered upon her include the recent Padma Bhushan, the Sangeet Natak Academy award in 1989, Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar, Shahu Maharaj Puraskar and the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar.

She also lent her voice to several Hindi films including Phagun, Pakeezah, Mai Tulsi Teri Aagan Ki, Prahar and Marathi films like Saamna and Lal Mati.

She is survived by two sons, Narendra, and percussionist Trilik Gurtu. Her mortal remains were cremated in central Mumbai.

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