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8 May 1929|
Varanasi, Banaras State, British Raj
24 October 2017 (aged 88)|
Kolkata, Western Bengal, Republic of India
|Genres||Hindustani classical music|
Girija Devi (8 May 1929 – 24 October 2017) was an Indian classical singer of the Seniya and Banaras gharanas. She performed classical and light classical music and helped elevate the profile of thumri. She died on 24 October 2017.
Girija Devi was born in Varanasi, on 8 May 1929, to Ramdeo Rai, a zamindar. Her father played the harmonium and taught music, and had Girija Devi take lessons in singing khyal and tappa from vocalist and sarangi player Sarju Prasad Misra starting at the age of five. She starred in the movie Yaad rahe aged nine and continued her studies under Sri Chand Misra in a variety of styles.
Girija Devi made her public debut in 1949 on All India Radio Allahabad, after getting married to a businessman circa 1946, but faced opposition from her mother and grandmother, because it was traditionally believed that no upper class woman should perform publicly. Girija Devi agreed to not perform privately for others, but gave her first public concert in Bihar in 1951. She studied with Sri Chand Misra until he died in the early 1960s, worked as a faculty member of the ITC Sangeet Research Academy in Kolkata in the 1980s and of the Banaras Hindu University during the early 1990s, and taught several students to preserve her musical heritage. Girija Devi often toured and continued to perform in 2009.
Girija Devi sang in the Banaras gharana and performed the purabi ang thumri style typical of the tradition, whose status she helped elevate. Her repertoire included the semi-classical genres kajri, chaiti, and holi and she sang khyal, Indian folk music, and tappa. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians once stated that her semi-classical singing combined her classical training with the regional characteristics of the songs of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Girija Devi is considered as Queen of Thumri.
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