An interstellar Raga From India 

12 billion miles away from Earth, Kesarbai Kerkar's song Jaat Kahan Ho echoes on a golden record. 38 years of space travel and 12 billion celestial miles later, the haunting raga bhairavi, Hindustani classical rendition ‘Jaat Kahan Ho’ has been immortalised alongside the greatness of Chuck Berry, Mozart and Bach on the fateful Golden record. It is the only song from India that made it on the record and is now wandering through unexplored terrains of outer space till perhaps, the end of time.

Kesarbai Kerkar might as well be singing the final piece of ‘bandish’ or composition of her own existence. ‘Jaat Kahan Ho akeli gori’ or ‘Where are you going all alone, fair maiden?’ launched into outer space in the very year of her demise.

Upon chasing the fabled spirit of Kesarbai Kekar for almost a month, we at Untold finally arrived at her shadow under the blazing summer sun of Goa’s tropical plantations.Among the pictures you see is Shalaka Kerkar in her great grand aunt’s house. Shalaka, who might as well be an Interstellar metamorphosis of Kesarbai Kerkar.

Born in a remote hilly village in the heart of Goa, she broke out of the devdasi tradition in early 1900s and emerged as the most celebrated artist of her time

Commemorated by Rabindranath Tagore, Kings of Jaipur and Kashmir and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in her time, today her existence is largely elusive and forgotten.

The remains of her legacy – her instruments from the Portuguese Goan era, her signature accessories and traditional wear, her rigorously trained sur and taal (tone and rhythm) are hard to find today

“Mai – you are not making music records. Your music will be lost.”
“Whoever wants to listen to my music should join the mehfil instead.”
— Ila Chury - grandaughter of Keserbai Kerkar

As the legend goes, in her 18-hour daily riyaaz ritual, her haunting voice drew the attention of passersby from the street. 

Those were the ‘men’s days but she fought to break through the barriers and rose to become an authority of her own accord. - Ila Chury