Indian courtesans and the baiji tradition

One of India’s most famous courtesans, Gauhar Jaan, who produced the first recording of song by a tawaif (© Wikipedia)

From the 16th century onwards, the guardians of the great vocal music of northern India were the “courtesans”, the tawaif baiji, high-class women schooled in dancing, song and poetry who performed in the lavish homes of their patrons. When the British came to India, Victorian prudery wiped out the baiji tradition, but the music lives on.

Producer: Dheera Sujan

February 13, 2006