Writers sometimes stumble upon material quite different from what they started with and spin off, as in this case, into unexpected areas.
Vikram Sampath, who moved from engineering to business management and software, set out to write the 600-year-old story of the erstwhile ruling family of Mysore. The rather gushy Splendours of Royal Mysore: The Untold Story of the Wodeyars was published in 2008. While researching it, he chanced upon a reference to Gauhar Jaan (1873-1930), who spent two years, from 1928, as palace musician in the Mysore durbar.
The author uncovers not only Gauhar Jaan’s illustrious career as a Hindustani vocalist of repute in the late 19th and early 20th century, but also her achievement of having recorded over 600 songs in 20 languages on the early shellac disc, as recording technology reached India.
Gauhar was born Eileen Angelina Yeoward, to an Anglo-Indian, Victoria Hemmings, and an Englishman of Armenian descent, Robert William Yeoward. Abandoned by her husband soon after she bore the...