Shanno Khurana

Shanno Khurana’s legendary voice continues to capture our hearts even today, 63 years after her first broadcast on Lahore radio in 1945. Born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, in 1927, she was trained from a young age to carry her voice with open abandon, zest and power, a far cry from the modern voices that are created for microphones. Shanno Khurana is one of the greatest living treasures of Hindustani music who has enthralled audiences from the United States to London, Vienna and Paris, through the Middle East, Southeast Asia to Tokyo in some of the most memorable concerts of our times.

Shanno Khurana excels in the entire gamut of Hindustani musical forms. Her Khayal recitals are marked by their deeply affecting plaintive vilambit compositions that are contrasted with vivid drut and taranas. She sings thumris and dadras with the typical lilt and poignant depth of the poorab-ang. And a Maand, Hori, Kajri or Chaiti can see her voice dance sentimentally. Musically, she has inherited a serious legacy: the tradition and rigour of the Rampur-Saheswan Gharana from Padmabhushan Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan and the intellectual vision of the eminent philosopher and musicologist Padmabhushan Thakur Jaideva Singh.

In a pioneering effort to bring classical and folk music to the public, she composed, directed and sang in five operas which were each based on over 70 classical ragas. These achieved unprecedented acclaim right from the first one in 1956 to the last one in 1980. Her organization Geetika (est. 1968) has brought our attention to some of the most serious issues affecting our music and musicians. To give women musicians (vocalists and instrumentalists, Hindustani and Carnatic) a viable and respectable profession she started a festival called Bhairav-Se-Sohni in 1983 which has now grown into a nation-wide movement. For the past ten years her prime concern has been to bring awareness to the many disappearing rare ragas that are hardly heard anymore.

She is also an eminent musicologist and has published over 40 papers on Indian classical and folk music, their history, Ragamalas and Indian aesthetics, music therapy in neuro-psychiatry, etc. Further, she has produced two substantial pieces of research: the first providing a stylistic analysis and history of the eight major Hindustani Gharanas, and the second, her doctorate, was an in depth musicological analysis of the folk music of Rajasthan. Both have been published.

Shanno Khurana was recorded by UNESCO in Paris as part of the Intangible Heritage of the World. She was given the honorific of “Oltin Bulbule”, the Golden Nightingale of the East, by UNESCO in a glittering ceremony in Samarkand. She has performed in every major festival in India and across Europe, Asia and the US. The country’s highest professional honour for the performing arts, the Ratna Sadasya or Fellowship of the Sangeet Natak Akademi was conferred on her in 2003. She has been awarded the Padmabhushan, Padmashri, Panjabi Akademi Award 2006 – 07 for lifetime contribution to music, Punjab Sangeet Natak Akademi Award and the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshani, the Baba Alauddin Khan Award, amongst many others.