Rasoolan Bai (1902 – 15 December 1974) was a leading Indian Hindustani classical music vocal musician. Belonging to the Benaras gharana, she specialized in the romantic Purab Ang of the Thumri musical genre. Rasoolan Bai was born in 1902 at Kachhwa Baazar, Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, in a poor family, though she inherited the musical legacy of her mother Adalat, and displayed her grasp over classical Ragas as an early age. Recognising this at the age of five, she was sent to learn music from Ustad Shambhy Khan, Ashia Kahn and Ustad Maju Khan.
Rasoolanbai became an expert in Tappa singing as well as Purab Ang, Thumri. Her first performance was held in Dhananjaygarh court, after its success she started getting invitations from local Rajas of the time, thus she went on to dominated the Hindustani classical music genre for next five decades, based in Varanasi and became the doyenne of Benaras gharana. She used to sing on All India Radio and Doordarshan till 1972, and her last public singing was held in Kashmir. She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Hindustani music Vocal in 1957 by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Acedmy of Music, Dance and Theatre. Despite an illustrious musical career, she died in penury, running a small tea shop next to the radio station where she had often broadcasted from.Rasoolan Bai and the tawaif or courtesan tradition of women musicians was featured in the film The Other Song by Saba Dewan, also featuring her more famous song, “Lagat karejwa ma chot, phool gendwa na maar”, a 1935 Gramophone recording.
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