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Roshan Ara Begum
Birth name Roshan Ara Begum
Born 1917
Origin Calcutta, India
Died December 6, 1982
Genres Khayal, Qawwali, Thumri.
Occupations Hindustani Classical Music
Instruments Vocal
Years active 1938 - 1982
Labels HMV

Roshan Ara Begum (1917 - 1982) became one of the most important woman in the history of Hindustani classical music. Pakistanis revere her as Mallika-e-Mauseeqi or Queen of Music. As the daughter of Ustad Abdul Haqq Khan, Roshan Ara linked through her cousin Ustad Abdul Karim Khan to Kirana Gharana, a famous musical tradition, of whom she was the most outstanding disciple [1]



Early life and training

Born in Calcutta in or around 1917, Roshan Ara Begum visited Lahore during her teens to participate in musical soirées held at the residences of affluent citizens of Chun Peer in Mohalla Peer Gillaanian at Mochi Gate.

During her occasional visits to the city she also broadcast songs from the then All India Radio station, and her name was announced as Bombaywali Roshan Ara Begum. She had acquired this popular nomenclature because she shifted to Bombay in the late 1930s to live near Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, from whom she took lessons in Hindustani classical music for fifteen years.

Her performance in Chun Peer's abode in early 1941 pleasantly surprised local heavyweights and connoisseurs with her expertise in rendering classical compositions. In Bombay, she lived in a sprawling bungalow with her husband Chaudhry Mohammed Hussain, a police officer.


Possessing a rich, mature and mellifluous voice that could easily lend itself to a wide range of intricate classical music pieces, Roshan Ara employed her natural talent in the promotion of the art, which requires a high degree of cultivation and training. Her singing features a full-throated voice, short and delicate passages of sur, lyricism, romantic appeal and swift taans. All these flourishes were combined in her unique style that reached its peak from 1945 to 1982. Her vigorous style of singing which was interspersed with bold strokes and perfect layakari, left no doubt that she was the greatest exponent of the Kirana Gharana style of khayal singing after the demise of both her mentor Ustad Abdul Karim Khan and his equally talented cousin Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan.


Before her migration to Pakistan, Roshan Ara had already become acclaimed as the greatest exponent of Kirana Gharana style of khayal singing in undivided India. She embodied in her art all the exquisite tonal qualities and attributes of her mentor's delicate style of classical vocalization. She proved equally good at alap while delineating raags and also in taking breezy taans in the strand of her Ustad. She was very conscious of her dignity and status and never allowed herself to be emotionally swayed. But when the recording of her Ustad's music was played, her eyes filled with tears.

Move to Pakistan

Migrating to Pakistan in 1948, Roshan Ara Begum settled in Lalamusa, a small town from which her husband hailed. Although far away from Lahore, the cultural centre of Pakistan, she would travel back and forth to participate in music and radio programmes. Visual and audio recording-devices have preserved the richness of Roshan Ara's music — which often overflowed with tonal modulations — its sweetness and delicacy of gamaks and her slow progression of raags. Roshan Ara Begum also sang some film songs, mostly under music composers like Anil Biswas, Feroze Nizami and Tassaduq Hussain. She sang for well-known films such as Pahali Nazar (1945), (Jugnu (1947), Qismat (1956), Roopmati Baazbahadur (1960) and Neela Parbat (1969).

She died in Pakistan in 1982 at the approximate age of sixty-five.


  • Kirana, by Roshan Ara Begum. Published by Gramophone Co. of India, 1994.


  1. ^ Roshan Ara Begum

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