Indian Classical Music and the Gramophone, 1900–1930  book cover
1st Edition

Indian Classical Music and the Gramophone, 1900–1930

ISBN 9780367421328
Published July 20, 2022 by Routledge
262 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

In 1902 The Gramophone Company in London sent out recording experts on "expeditions" across the world to record voices from different cultures and backgrounds. All over India, it was women who embraced the challenge of overcoming numerous social taboos and aesthetic handicaps that came along with this nascent technology. Women who took the plunge and recorded largely belonged to the courtesan community, called tawaifs and devadasis, in North and South India, respectively. Recording brought with it great fame, brand recognition, freedom from exploitative patrons, and monetary benefits to the women singers. They were to become pioneers of the music industry in the Indian sub-continent. However, despite the pioneering role played by these women, their stories have largely been forgotten. Contemporaneous with the courtesan women adapting to recording technology was the anti-nautch campaign that sought to abolish these women from the performing space and brand them as common prostitutes. A vigorous renaissance and arts revival movement followed, leading to the creation of a new classical paradigm in both North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic) classical music. This resulted in the standardization, universalization, and institutionalization of Indian classical music. This newly created classical paradigm impacted future recordings of The Gramophone Company in terms of a shift in genres and styles. Vikram Sampath sheds light on the role and impact of The Gramophone Company’s early recording expeditions on Indian classical music by examining the phenomenon through a sociocultural, historical and musical lens. The book features the indefatigable stories of the women and their experiences in adapting to recording technology. The artists from across India featured are: Gauhar Jaan of Calcutta, Janki Bai of Allahabad, Zohra Bai of Agra, Malka Jaan of Agra, Salem Godavari, Bangalore Nagarathnamma, Coimbatore Thayi, Dhanakoti of Kanchipuram, Bai Sundarabai of Pune, and Husna Jaan of Banaras.

Table of Contents

1 The Exotic East

2 The Mechanised West

3 When the Twain Meet

4 The Protagonists

5 The Abolition and Thereafter

6 Analysing the Recordings

7 Conclusion

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Vikram Sampath is a Bangalore-based historian who has authored six acclaimed books on Indian history and classical music. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK), recipient of several awards such as the Sahitya Akademi’s Yuva Puraskar for English literature and the ARSC Award for Excellence in Historical Research in Music. He has founded India’s first online digital sound archive for vintage gramophone recordings called Archive of Indian Music.