Women in Indian Music

The rich history of Indian music is incomplete without the significant contributions of women. Whether it be the classical forms of Hindustani and Karnatik music or the popular genres of film and folk music, women have left an indelible mark with their exceptional talent and artistry. Despite facing societal barriers and prejudices, it is truly remarkable how women have persevered and succeeded in the field of music. Today, innumerable aspiring female musicians are carrying on this legacy and inspiring future generations. We present some awe-inspiring women who have overcome these barriers to reach the pinnacle of their musical careers.

AkkamahadeviIndian Music Experience Museum

Akkamahadevi Audio
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Akkamahadevi

Akkamahadevi, a 12th-century saint-poet from Karnataka, is known for her poetic Vachanas, expressing devotion to her lord, Chennamallikarjuna. She defied societal conventions and championed the ideals of equality and freedom to pursue spiritual unity with the Divine.

Gauhar JaanIndian Music Experience Museum

Gauhar Jaan Audio
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Gauhar Jaan

Gauhar Jaan, a Hindustani musician and courtesan, made history by becoming the first Indian woman to have her voice recorded on a gramophone disc.  Her proud declaration, "I am Gauhar Jaan," at the end of her performance served as a powerful assertion of her identity and legacy.

Bangalore NagarathnammaIndian Music Experience Museum

Bangalore Nagarathnamma Audio
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Bangalore Nagarathnamma

Nagarathnamma, a Karnatik singer and activist, constructed a temple to commemorate the composer Thyagaraja at his samadhi (tome) in Thiruvayyar.  She successfully advocated for the participation of female performers in the Thiruvayyar Annual Thyagaraja Aradhana music festival.

Mogubai KurdikarIndian Music Experience Museum

Mogubai Kurdikar Audio
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Mogubai Kurdikar

Mogubai Kurdikar, a Hindustani vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli Gharana, persevered and performed in an era when there was a widespread lack of regard for women musicians. She received numerous accolades and was known for her rich, soulful voice and mastery of complex ragas.

D K PattammalIndian Music Experience Museum

D K Pattammal Audio
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D K Pattammal

D K Pattammal, a Karnatik vocalist, fueled national pride by singing Subramanya Bharati's poems during the Quit India movement. She was the first Brahmin woman to perform public kutcheris and present the Ragam Tanam Pallavi, previously performed exclusively by male musicians.

Lata MangeshkarIndian Music Experience Museum

Lata Mangeshkar Audio
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Lata Mangeshkar

Lata Mangeshkar, an Indian playback singer, had an illustrious career spanning 8 decades. Being the sole bread-earner for her family at the age of 13, she paved her way in a male-dominated film industry, advocating for fair royalty payments and greater recognition for singers.

Usha UthupIndian Music Experience Museum

Usha Uthup Audio
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Usha Uthup

Usha Uthup, the pop icon with a sonorous voice, etched a niche in the Indian music industry with her traditional garb and unorthodox singing style. With no formal training, she has sung in 18 languages and varied genres, spreading her message of unity and oneness through music.

Teejan BaiIndian Music Experience Museum

Teejan Bai Audio
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Teejan Bai

Teejan Bai, an exponent of Pandavani, rose from ostracism and poverty  to become a renowned folk artist. Her devotion to this art form,  which narrates the tales of Mahabharata’s Pandavas through music and storytelling, won her the prestigious Padma Shri award and global acclaim.

NanjiyammaIndian Music Experience Museum

Nanjiyamma Audio
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Nanjiyamma

Nanjiyamma, an Irula tribal singer and cattle herder wrote and performed the award-winning song "Kalakhata" for the Malayalam film Ayyappanum Koshiyum. Her efforts to represent her community on national platforms have helped raise awareness and appreciation for her culture.

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Indian Music Experience Museum

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