Omkarnath Thakur (1897–1967) was an Indian educator, musicologist, and Hindustani classical singer. Thakur was born 1897 in a village in the Princely State of Baroda into a poor military family. The family moved to Bharuch in 1900 and in circa 1909 Thakur and his younger brother began to train in Hindustani classical music in the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, a music school, under classical singer Vishnu Digambar Paluskar. Thakur and his brother were sponsored by a wealthy Parsi and Thakur became an accomplished singer in the style of the Gwalior gharana.
Thakur was made the principal of a Lahore music school of Paluskar’s Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in 1916, became acquainted with the Patiala gharana, and started his own music school in 1919. During the 1920s Thakur worked for the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi on a local level and in the 1933 became one of the first Indian musicians to perform in Europe, which included a private concert for Benito Mussolini. Thakur’s wife Indira Devi died the same year and he began to concentrate exclusively on music. Thakur’s work as a performer and musicologist led to the creation of a music college at Banaras Hindu University that emphasized both and he wrote books on Indian classical music and its history. Thakur’s work is criticized in contemporary music literature as ignorant of the contribution of Muslim musicians, which he blamed for deteriorating classical music. Thakur performed in Europe until 1954 and received the Padma Shri in 1955 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1963. He retired in 1963 and was awarded honorary doctorates from Banaras Hindu University in 1963 and Rabindra Bharati University in 1964.
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