How Mumbai made space for Hindustani classical music to flourish

  • Apoorva Dutt, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 12, 2015 22:52 IST

What was it about Mumbai that it became the centre of Hindustani classical music 100 years ago?

The answer lay in the city’s growing wealth, people that wealth attracted, and how their lifestyle shaped the city’s use of public spaces, an upcoming exhibition suggests.

Making Music/Making Space traces this transition through archival images, videos and recordings, exploring connections between Mumbai’s architecture and its association with Hindustani classical music. It opens at Studio X on Monday.

The exhibition traces how, for instance, a private concert held in a chawl became a de facto public event as people gathered in common verandahs or on streets to listen. And how, as more wealth was generated in Bombay from 1840s, the new merchant class began to patronise musicians and their art so that, by the 1940s, audiences here paid then-princely sums of up to Rs125 per performance — five times what the same artistes would get elsewhere.

“Famous artists and music lovers began flocking here as a result,” said Tejaswini Niranjana, the curator and cultural theorist behind the exhibition. Here, as you to saunter past photographs of the Blavatsky Lodge in Gamdevi, you can listen to a recording of a Jaipur gharana musician playing in a Mumbai chawl in the 1920s, and scroll through video and audio interviews amid 3D models and historic maps of Girgaum.

“Through the late-19th and early-20th centuries, Mumbai came up repeatedly in all the archives and records,” she said. In 2011, she connected with filmmaker Surabhi Sharma, who joined in her effort to explore why Mumbai had become so central to this music scene. He created two video installations for the exhibition.

Architects Kaiwan Mehta and Sonal Sunderarajan and artist Farzan Dalal also contributed to the research.

The exhibition has been facilitated by a grant from the Heritage Conservation Society of the MMRDA, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and the India Foundation for the Arts and will also feature concerts and listening sessions conducted by musicologists Deepak Raja, Amarendra Dhaneshwar and Lalit Rao.

WHAT: Making Music/Making Space, an exhibition exploring the connections between Mumbai’s architecture and its long history with Hindustani classical music

WHERE: Studio X, Kitab Mahal, 192, Dadabhai Naoroji Road, Fort

WHEN: June 15 to July 7, 11am to 6.30pm

URL: Making Music/Making Space


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