Revered Hindustani singer Gangubai Hangal has died at a hospital in her home city of Hubli in Karnataka state (India). Hospitalized for a respiratory and cardiac condition on Monday, Ms. Hangal passed away on Tuesday, July 21st, according to doctors and family members. She was 96.
A state funeral was under way on Wednesday in Hubli where family members, political leaders and hundreds of admirers paid their respects to the flower-draped glass casket before the remains were cremated. The Karnataka state government declared that two days of mourning would be observed, where many schools would be closed as a sign of devotion to the departed singer.
Born into a low caste family on March 5, 1913 in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, Ms. Hangal defied convention by delving into music, a love passed onto her by her mother who was a musician. Trained by the musical guru Sawai Gandharva, Ms. Hangal became a legendary singer in the Khayal tradition, a northern Indian classical singing style. Described as possessing a deep, almost androgynous voice, Ms. Hangal was seen by many as good or better than many male Hindustani singers. Her musical career spanned some seven decades. Her music appeared in the West in a two CD compilation titled The Ultimate Classical Queens.
Winning awards and honors that include Padma Bhushan, Padma Vibushan, Padma Shri and the Tansen Award, Ms. Hangal went beyond the music realm to be a role model and proponent for gender equality, as well as a fierce critic of caste discrimination. Ms. Hangal was also known for her generosity in the battle against hunger and poverty.
Ms. Hangal is survived by two sons and an extended family. As a memorial, Ms. Hangal’s family and the government of Hubli has made plans to create the Gangubai hangal Gurukul Music Academy in the singer’s honor.