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Girija Devi is one of India's greatest vocalists. One of the last masters of the Purab ang gayaki tradition of the Banares Gharana, Devi has been equally effective singing in the traditional 18th century classical style of khyal as well as semi-classical styles such as thumri, tappa, kajri, dadra, and chaiti. The recipient of the prestigious Padmashree Award from the president of India in 1972 and the Padma Bhushan in 1989, she has received the Sangeet Natak Academy Awards of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Born in Varanasi (formerly Benares), an ancient cultural/religious center located on the left bank of the Ganges River, Devi has been singing much of her life. Studying with influential vocalist and sarangi player Pandit Sarju Prasad from the age of five, she later continued her studies with Pandit Chandra Misra. Making her debut appearance in 1949 during a recital that was broadcast by the All India radio station in Allahabad, Devi performed her first concert a year later. Teaching at the ITC Sangeet Research Academy from its inception in the early '90s, Devi served as guru for many students, including Dalia Rahut, Jayita Pandey, and Satyanarayan Misra, the son of her own guru, Pandit Sarju Prasad. Leaving the school after 12 years, she returned to Varanasi, where she became a visiting professor at Banaras Hindu University. ~ Craig Harris