Hindustani Light Classical singer Rekha Surya trained under Begum Akhtar and Girija Devi. She is from Lucknow and now lives in New Delhi.
She recorded for the Archives of Sangeet Natak Akademi in 1994. She is a recipient of Karamvir Puraskar 2012 for singing Sufi poetry in Thumri-Dadra style and keeping alive traditional Ghazal-Gayaki. Her booklet “Sung In A Certain Style” is published by both Sangeet Research Academy for their in-house use and commercially by Niyogi Books. In the Established Artist empanelment-category with ICCR, she is an A Grade Artist from All India Radio.
She has been invited to sing by the Smithsonian Institution Washington DC, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, Cornell University, MIT with International Hindi Association Boston, Columbia University, Yale University, World Music Institute, Harvard University, University of Toronto, Nehru Centre London, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan London, Bharat Bhavan Bhopal, National Centre for Performing Arts Mumbai, Ram Vilas Palace Baroda, Roosevelt House New Delhi, French Ambassador’s residence New Delhi, Canadian High Commissioner’s residence New Delhi, Sahitya Kala Parishad, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy, Jammu University, University of Hyderabad, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Indian Council for Cultural Relations and fund-raising concerts. She represented India at the Asian Music Festival Sri Lanka in 1999 and at the International Falak Festival Tajikistan in 2006. She has been featured twice by BBC London. She also performs in Pakistan.
In India, she has performed in Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Allahabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Gwalior, Indore, Dewas, Ujjain, Ratlam, Vadodara, Lucknow, Kanpur, Nagpur, Srinagar, Chandigargh, Bhuj, Gandhidham, Burhanpur, Ludhiana, Faizabad, Ambala, Dehra Dun, Mussoorie, Bhubaneswar, Varanasi, Agra, Cochin, Trivandrum & Calicut.
Outside India, she has performed in Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Madison, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, New Foundland, Oslo, U.K., Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Singapore.
“Rekha Surya sang to a packed hall. Rekha belongs to the Begum Akhtar tradition, having studied under the Begum and followed that hypnotic inheritance with great gift. Her voice is deep and resonant and her pronunciation has the same savour as the Begum’s – a sense of hopelessness and despair.”
-The Indian Express
“Begum Akhtar left the stamp of her genius on Rekha Surya.”
- Khushwant Singh
(Singer and her Song – The Tribune)
“Rekha Surya enthralled. Her audience was spellbound by her Hori, Kajri, Jhoola and Dadra, interspersed with Ghazal. She was sometimes sprightly, sometimes melancholy, always poignant.”
- The Bombay Times
“In today’s world of mediocre and diluted ghazal-singing, what a pleasure it was to hear Begum Akhtar’s youngest student Rekha Surya sing Ghazal in its authentic form.”
- Deccan Chronicle
“Rekha Surya’s rich voice and passionate music evokes an exotic image of a bygone era.”
- The Statesman
“Rekha Surya’s special mark is that she treats Ghazal as an allied form of Thumri and presents it alongside Thumri and Dadra, keeping Begum Akhtar’s legacy alive.”
- The Hindustan Times
“Rekha Surya is a talent to behold. Rarely does one find such confluence of restraint and abandon, discipline and playfulness, nerve-tingling sensuality and a near-sacred dedication to the Indian art of vocal exposition. Her voice has presence. Raw and earthy, it announces itself. Her handling of rhythm is superb.”
- Baltimore Sun
“The sensuous and the sublime become one when Rekha Surya sings Sufi poetry. Her enunciation of lyrics has astonishing clarity.”
- The Asian Age
“Rekha Surya sings Ghazal in the traditional style of Lucknow Gharana. She resembles her guru Begum Akhtar yet is unique.”
- The Hindu
"Rekha Surya briefly explains the content of each poem before embarking on its musical journey. She presents Sufi poetry in the Thumri-Dadra style of Lucknow Gharana. Each textual phrase is treated with abandon yet restraint, interweaving different melodies into the main composition.
She began with an ancient dadra having a dual motif--overtly romantic with spiritual undercurrents. Her next song was also thematically romantic and mystical, written by the 13th century Sufi poet Amir Khusro. Then she sang a contemporary poet's ghazal, which she had composed in Raga Puriya-Dhanashri. Thereafter she sang a dadra popularized by her guru Begum Akhtar. She gave it a mystical slant by adding some Sufi verses to the main text, which could be interchangeably interpreted as romantic or spiritual. She ended with a jhoola in Raga Pilu--her musical phrases often conveyed the swinging movement of a swing, a requisite factor in this monsoon-related allied form of Thumri.
Both her voice and style have raw passion—neither is pretty and sweet."
“Her silky voice reminded of the queen of ghazals, Begum Akhtar and her melancholy ghazals stirred the soul of the listeners. Singer Rekha Surya’s semi-classical Hindustani rendition amid the flower gardens at Indira Gandhi Park in the city on Monday evening was a heavenly experience for connoisseurs of light classical music... Rekha, the youngest disciple of the legendary Begum Akhtar, left her audience spellbound with an astounding repertoire of thumris and its allied forms... Rekha rendered a series of poems in her emphatic voice. From elements of Qawali to passionate spiritualism and even romantic mischief, the singer reflected various styles in her rendition. It was her last song Humri atariya pe aavo sanwariya, sung in traditional Banarasi style, that left the listeners drenched in romantic imageries.
“Her voice resonated like the sound from musical instruments,” said a member of the audience...”
- The Telegraph, Calcutta
“Rekha Surya sang some lesser known poetry steeped in spiritual and mystic richness in a romantic vein.
Her powerful full-throated voice has a strong husky alto and the enunciation of lyrics has a remarkable clarity, which makes the appreciation of the poetry easier.
...she recited few lines of the poetry before her fine singing of Mosey bol na bol, meri suun ya na suun. Her fluidity was glorious in the joyful and romantic Kahun kaise sakhi mohey preet lagi and Koyel boley baar baar ---- with a delicate jerk in ab piya ghar aye, a plain straight form from the soil, with the colour of a benarasi Kajri.
Again saj-ban lun piya ghar jawan ko expressed he intensity of emotion, warmth and affection with poetic poignancy. The subtleties and the magical strength of Khushro’s compositions cannot be described verbally but the quality of singing with such fine melodic figures with certain graces playing around the emphasized notes, by a vocalist like Rekha Surya express a major part of it.
The popular Dadra, Saiya gaye pardes, kaise katey mori suni sejariya and the very lovely romantic Chaap tilak sab chhini re, with what more than lali mere lal ki trailing with it was the best presentation of the evening.
Her selection of songs was commendable.
Khusro’s ban key panchhi bhaye bawarey combined with a symphony of colours in Mirabai’s shyam piya mori raang de chunariya, sung delicately at times like a bol-banao thumri, was poetic justice and a fine conclusion.”
-The Statesman, Kolkata