Malika-e-Ghazal (Queen of Ghazal)
The Late Mushtari Begum

Mushtari Begum (25 Dec.1934 – 14 Mar. 2004) was the first Indian Ghazal exponent whose father hailed from Lucknow, India and was born in the Islands of Fiji. She was key in bringing the art of classical Ghazal to Vancouver’s communities.

In her young age, she was first a disciple of her father, the late Ustad Amjad Ali, a Thumri exponent. In her later life, she travelled to India and learned from legends such as the late Ustad Faiyaz Khan of the Sahaswan Gharana of vocal singing, and Shrimati Shyamala Bhave of Bangalore, India. Her extraordinary vocal capabilities ranged close to four octaves and, in her prime musical form, she quickly ruled the charts of Fiji’s musical industry.

She won 36 trophies and numerous recognitions and wards between 1947 and 1973. Her crowning moment was when she was awarded the title Malika-e-Ghazal or “Queen of Ghazal” in 1973, by the Indian High Consulate in the Island of Fiji. She settled in Vancouver, BC in 1973 with her husband Sheikh Mohyudean, and continued to pursue her passion as an Indian classical vocalist byway of South-Asian and Indo-Fijian community programs. She became the vocal teacher and guru of Cassius Khan in 1990, after seeing his dedication to learning the artform of vocal and tabla.

Mushtari Begum died suddenly from a massive heart attack in her home on the evening of March 14th 2004. Cassius Khan initiated this festival in her memory as a tribute to her contributions in classical Ghazal in Vancouver, and for honouring her as his guru.

The young Mushtari Begum accompanied by Umar Ali on Harmonium and Nageshwar Phuppa on Tabla, 1952.

The Concept

As the sun drapes a cloth bejeweled with stars onto the skies, music and movements will begin to surface. Only the indiscriminate language of rhythm and movement will be spoken, resonating with hearts and souls. Viewers of all ages and backgrounds are invited to join Cassius Khan and featured artists as the venue transforms into an ethereal courtyard.

Sound plays a major role in transcending you to a different World – a World of symphony and dance. Whether it is the Tabla, Sitar, Veena, Voice or even the dancing sound of the Ghunghroo, all reflect a harmony of varied sounds which first your ears hear and then your eyes and body get engulfed into each other. The journey thus takes off from the sound you hear… When your ears begin to see…. the eyes listen

The Inspiration

Founded by New Westminsters own internationally recognized Cassius Khan, the first ever Mushtari Begum Festival is not only a tribute to his guru, the late Ghazal Queen Mushtari Begum, but it is a platform for professional practitioners of Indian Classical Music and Dance to showcase their rare talents to the Canadian audience.

In this day and age, traditional styles of singing such as Ghazal, Khayal and Thumri are becoming increasingly rare. Similarly, it is unusual to see different forms of Indian Classical Dance with live musical accompaniment. Cassius Khan was concerned about the survival of Indian Classical Music and Dance in Canada as there are not many platforms for them to flourish. He felt a personal responsibility to ensure the survival of the various art forms, especially in Canada.

Accordingly, he invited some of the finest Indian and Canadian artists to join him on stage to present a rare treat, and ensure that these arts and artists are showcased. The Massey Theatre, understanding the importance of this cause, generously provided their venue as the Festival site in 2012, and continues to do so every year in September.