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Pt Omkarnath Thakur

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  • Years Active: 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

With the death of Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, on December 29, 1967, India lost one of its most influential musicians. Gifted with a voice that inspired Mahatma Gandhi to claim that "he can achieve through a single song of his, what I cannot achieve through several speeches," Thakur was equally inspiring as a music educator. He assumed control of Guru Shishya's music institute in Lahore, the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, while still in his twenties, and was later appointed the first dean of the music faculty at Banaras Hindu University. His disciples included vocalist Pt. Balavatrai Bhatt and violinist Dr. N. Rajam. According to www.sonarupa.co.uk, Thakur's "magnetic personality, theatrical demeanor, and intellectual sophistication enhanced the impact of his mesmerizing music and made him, arguably, the most popular vocalist of his generation." Born in the small village of Gujarat, in the Bhadaran District (now Cambay), Thakur displayed musical talent from an early age. At six, his singing captured the attention of a wealthy philanthropist, Seth Shahpur-ji Mancherji Dungaji. Taking Thakur under his wing, Dungaji arranged for the youngster to attend Pt. Vishnu Digambar's prestigious Paluskar School of Music in Bombay. Although he made his concert debut in 1918, Thakur continued to study at the school until Digamba's death in 1931. Beginning with a trip to Italy in 1933, where he reportedly cured Mussolini's insomnia with his singing, Thakur increasingly reached out to audiences around the globe, touring Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, England, Wales, and Switzerland. En route to Russia, he received word of his wife's death and returned to India, settling in Bombay and starting a music school, Sangeet Niketan. He received a Central Sangeet Natak award in 1963. Thakur's later years were marked by poor health. Although he recovered from a heart attack in 1954, a stroke in July 1965 left him partially paralyzed and he died two years later.