Some of the closest friends of singing great Begum Akhtar, including the likes of Bismillah Khan, Lata Mangeshkar and Shubha Mudgal, recalls her eventful life and her music through essays in a new book. Akhtari: The Life and Music of Begum Akhtar, originally written in Hindi, is now available in English, edited by Yatindra Mishra and published by HarperCollins India. The book will be released on April 30.
Akhtaribai Faizabadi, or Begum Akhtar as she was better known, was a legend even during her own lifetime, and one of the last of the great singers from the tawaif community. Akhtari also includes a long conversation between Acharya Kailash Chandra Dev Brihaspati and Begum Akhtar, and interviews with her disciples Shanti Hiranand and Rita Ganguly.
“The making of Akhtari was a very special journey because it hit home. A doyen of ghazal from my city Faizabad, Begum Akhtar was an artist and a revolutionary lady. Capturing the essence of her story seemed of paramount importance not only because she occupies such an elevated position in the history of Indian music but also because she was a part of my family history,” says Mishra.
“From 1937-1945, she visited the Royal Court of Ayodhya as an esteemed singer. I think it is imperative that we should know about her and preserve her story for the upcoming generations. Embarking on this journey with wonderful people was an enriching experience and the process itself was the greatest reward,” he adds.
Udayan Mitra, publisher (literary) at HarperCollins India, says “Akhtari” is the ultimate tribute to Begum Akhtar, featuring essays on her life and music, remembrances by those who knew her well, and interviews with the legend herself. “In association with Vani Prakashan, we at HarperCollins India are delighted to be able to bring this exceptional book to readers in English,” he says.
Arun Maheshwari, chairman of Vani Prakashan Group, says “Akhtari” is the group’s “landmark publication in Hindi as it brought stalwarts from the world of the Indian classical music in Hindi, Urdu, English and Hindustani together”. “The art of translation has played a very important role in this exchange. The translators Shuchita Mital, Madhu B Joshi, Shubhangi Mishra and Maneesha Taneja have played a commendable role in turning this book into a treasure for generations that will read it in Hindi and English respectively,” Maheshwari adds.