While listening to the songs of Allah jilai bai(Allah zillai Bai) I felt as if I traveled a long journey. A very immense and thought-full journey. this journey tells how the life is or what is a life??. Listening the Maand of smt Allah jilai bai the Kesariya Baalam Padharo Mhare Desh, we get to imagine the tough life with great valour of Rajputana, the Mewar, the Chittorgarh, the jaipur and its relation with the Mughal empire, Dhola Maru Ratan etc. But for me she and her life was more important. How a girl, lived a hard life in those days. When girls were exploited the most. Moreover since they belonged to the community meant for singing. But I feel proud that it is due them only that India is boasting of great cultural heritage all over the world. But time has not changed much. Look at our backyard, in post Independence India how we treat those who belonged to this community!!. In those days girls were prohibited to be seen by anyone other than their patrons. When I say girls, it means those belonging to the singing community. Shri Muzaffar Ali has correctly made a film touching these topics. People kidnapped the girls and sold them. That time the community get few Umrao Jaan and other girl becomes the Begum of the kingdom and not leaving behind the Husaini Bua ji, who must have been also a stolen girl??? who knows?
Then another gem is Asgari Bai of Tikamgarh. She was also a rare gem of India. Once I watched her on TV. In that she came out as a frank and courageous but courteous lady. She was telling one incident about singing in front of deity in a temple. she sat just next to the door so that she should not face the deity of temple. To that she frankly said how can i face the god,the presiding deity and adding to it she said “nobody in this world is so capable of facing the lord?? !!! Very true indeed. But the hurt and pain which she might have felt at that moment… so enormous. Since she was from that community thus she herself was not confident to sit facing the deity in temple???. But what she said about that incidence means they were most intelligent also. Due to situations they became victim. She also once commented on the rendition of Dagar Bandhu that “I didn’t find the tum num na na or re re da neem etc good, what Dagar people sing” It is not dhrupad”. it is actually for riyaz purpose. It meant for practice at home not for concert singing. I am unable to understand all this. If people want to sing the Dhrupad they should sing in the correct way.
In those days singers used to learn many things including the dhrupad. Since they have to sing everything as per the wish of audience and patrons. One famous example is Begum Akhtar. She made the gazal singing famous. That does not mean she did not know singing other styles. She knew many styles, Thumri or dadra etc. She sang Gazal decorated with “Raag”. In those times being a singer was tough in comparison to modern times. we have various forms, easily available in various media. Dhamar was sung by a particular community on Holi.
I heard Rasoolan Bai, Sidheswari Devi, Gauhar Jaan, Hira Devi Mishra, mohamad bandi, Jaddan Bai, Malka Pukhraj, Reshma, and many more. I also read about the Malka Jaan, Moti Bai (Choti and badi) Janaki bai of Allahabad, All and each tell a story of our bygone era.
There is very good work on Begum Akhtar written by Smt Padma Sachdev or Shivani ji named as Koyaliya mat kar pukar. In the end the writer wrote that on listening the story the Begum Akhtar commented “nobody else has written on her like this ever before”. Begum Akhtar sang Koyalia mat kar pukar, lagat karejawa pe chot. The same song Begum Akhtar sang in Bengali, Koyalia Gaan thama ei-bar.
I have heard that Malka Pukhraj of Jammu became famous in Delhi at the age of 12 or 14. Later she was appointed in the court of Maharaja Harisingh ji. She has brought out her memories in the book “Song Sung True”.
The Hindustani Music was prevalent from Jammu Kashmir to the Madurai. Once i read that M S (Subhbulakshmi, the Bharat Ratna) used to hear songs in neighbour’s radio. She heard many Hindustani songs. Down south in Dharwad, Smt Gangu Bai Hangal was also impressed by Hindustani Music after listening LP records of Gauhar Jaan etc. She at age of 12 was learning music by making journey to her guru. Everybody used to laugh at her. All these tender aged girls singing reminds the little singing birds. Thus it is a song of birds.