Begum Parveen Sultana

Category Vocal | Tags Khayal

Begum Parveen Sultana’s voice is renowned for its extraordinary range, clarity, and versatility. Spanning nearly four octaves, she can swoop from patient meditations to powerful evocations of the divine in an instant. Equally at home with tackling khayal, thumri, or bhajan, she is a modern Hindustani superstar.

Born into a musical family of Afghan heritage, she started developing her unique style from early childhood. Aged five, her mother noticed her talent for humming along to her father’s own practice while sitting on his lap, and soon after she commenced her formal training. She imbibed the sounds of Lata Mangeshkar along with classical greats, and made her public debut aged twelve.

Later she studied under renowned scholar-musician Pandit Chinmoy Lahiri, famous for bringing together the ideas of nine different gharanas. At Lahiri’s home one day she met Bengali vocalist Dilshad Khan. They would go on to study together, marry, and tour the world performing jugalbandi vocal duets, intertwining their own Patiala and Kirana gharanas with styles from across North India.

Sultana has always prioritised classical forms (“the sadhana of it, the pleasure of it, the godliness of it, it can’t be replaced by anything”), but is famous for non-classical excursions too. Khayyam, a veteran film composer, has high praise: “If it’s tough, she’s the one to ask - she’ll deliver it like it’s the easiest thing you’ve created.” At age 26 she became the youngest artist to receive the Padma Shri, and has since been recognised by institutions from the Sangeet Natak Academy to MTV, as well as being awarded the title ‘Cleopatra of Music’.

"Musicians should open their ears to many different ideas. The personal creative impulse is more important than trying to limit yourself to your own tradition."

—Read more | Begum Parveen Sultana interview: ‘Each raga is a mirror of all Hindustani music’ - discussing her unique religious heritage, the power of physical expression, and how to lose yourself in the divine. Part of Living Traditions: 21 articles for 21st-century Indian classical music.

• Darbar Player: If short clips aren't Parveen’s full-length version of Raag Puriya Dhanashree on the Darbar Player. We’re a small not-for-profit, and filming, editing, and hosting cost money - so subscribing costs $5/month, which we hope is an excellent price for such a wealth of unique music.

—Also see Living Traditions: 21 articles for 21st-century Indian classical music, our new series exploring how music with ancient roots continues to innovate in a fast-paced, interconnected modern world. Expand your appreciation!

Darbar Arts & Heritage believes in the power of Indian classical music to stir, thrill, and inspire. To find out more, get the Darbar newsletter, explore our YouTube channel, or sign up to the Darbar Player to watch extended festival performances in pristine HD quality.

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About Darbar:

Founded in 2006, Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust (Darbar) believes in the power of Indian classical arts to stir, thrill and inspire. Through digital connectivity, shared experiences and enrichment we ensure that one of the finest art forms reaches the widest possible audience.

Darbar delivers premium quality live events, music education, broadcasts and digital engagement through artistic innovation and creative technology. We are also committed to providing a platform for new talent from the UK and India.

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