Shobha Gurtu has a voice that pleads, cajoles, entices, prays and finally drowns you in a sea of emotion. An individual of extraordinary versatility, this doyen of Thumri singing who belongs to an artistic family with a long history from Goa, is the undisputed queen of her genre today. She must have inherited some of her enviable talent including her expressiveness and histrionic capabilities from her mother, who , we are told was one of the most sought after dancers and singers of her time. Apparently Manekabai Shirodkar, the mother, taught her daughter every nuance of singing. The little girl, Shobha, was encouraged to sing at religious festivals and soon her talent came to be reckoned with by all.
She was born Bhanumati Shirodkar in Belgaum on February 8, 1925 and was initially trained by her mother, Menakabai Shirodkar, a noted dancer schooled in the Atrauli Jaipur `gayaki` of Ustad Alladiya Khan. She married Vishwanath Gurtu, and took the name Shobha Gurtu. Her father in law, ‘Pandit Narayan Nath Gurtu’, was a highly placed officer in Belgaum Police, scholar and a sitar player
Shobha continued her musical education with ustads of the eminence of Nathan Khan in classical singing and Ghamman Khan in light classical and popular music. She was particularly influenced by singer Begum Akhtar and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan.
The grand dame of Thumri was thoroughly steeped in pure Classical Music. But she was better known for her light Classical Music. Shobha Gurtu was considered to be in a class by herself not merely because of the unique qualities of her warm and sensuous voice that blended strength with suppleness and vigour with grace. It was equally much the unique combination of talent and soul that she brought to bear on her music. She rendered with equal ease, everything from thumri, dadra, hori, kajri and chaiti to ghazal, bhajan and Marathi Natya Sangeet, with all regional and stylistic variations blended subtly.
A popular broadcaster and television artiste, she regularly featured in major musical events held all over the country. She had also created the musical scores for several Marathi and Hindi movies and had also lent her voice to the silver screen.
In 1989 she received the Sangeet Natak Academy award. She also got the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar, Shahu Maharaj Puraskar and the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar. In 2002, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan.
After reigning over Hindustani classical music genre, for five decades, as the Queen of Thumri, Shobha Gurtu died on 27 September 2004, and was survived by her two sons.
In 1987, she received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, and later awarded the Lata Mangeshkar Puraskar, Shahu Maharaj Puraskar and the Maharashtra Gaurav Puraskar. In 2002, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan.
Another reason to be proud that we are from Belgaum.
Thanks Rajendra Pai.