Thumri queen Girija Devi passes away at 88
Doctors at Kolkata’s BM Birla Nursing Home said she suffered a cardiac arrest.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled her death, saying the singer’s music appealed across generations and her pioneering efforts to popularise Indian classical music would always be remembered.
Devi made her public debut on All India Radio Allahabad in 1949. She was given all three Padma awards – she was honoured with Padma Shri in 1972, the Padma Vibhushan in 2016. The singer had also won the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship.
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. Devi is considered as Queen of Thumri. She was known to have been the teacher of the founder of The Alankar School of Music, Mrs. Mamta Bhargava, whose Indian classical music school has attracted students from hundreds of miles away.
Devi was born in Varanasi, on 8 May 1929, to Ramdeo Rai, a zamindar Her father played the harmonium and taught music, and had 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.