Zohrabai Agrewali (1868-1913) was one of the most noted and influential singers of Hindustani Classical Music from the early 1900s. Along with Gauhar Jan, she marks the dying phase of the courtesan singing tradition in Indian classical music. She is known for her macho style of singing.
Early life and background:
She belonged to the Agra gharana (lit. Agrewali = from Agra). She was trained by Ustad Sher Khan, Ustad Kallan Khan and the noted composer Mehboob Khan (Daras Piya).
She was known both for khayal as well as lighter varieties including Thumri and Ghazals which she learned from Ahmad Khan of Dhaka. Her singing influenced Ustad Faiyaz Khan, the greatest name in the Agra Gharana in modern times, and even Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan of the Patiala Gharana held her in high regard.
Only short pieces by her survive in a number of 78 rpm recordings, including the notable 1909 pieces matki more re goras in raga Jaunpuri or dekhen ko man lalchay (Sohini). The Gramophone Company signed an exclusive contract with her in 1908 with a payment of Rs 2,500 per year for 25 songs. She recorded over 60 songs during 1908-1911. In 1994, her 18 most famous songs were reissued on one audiotape followed by a compact disc in 2003.