Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition

By Janaki Bakhle | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

India was colonized by the British for close to two hundred years. Virtually no aspect of Indian society remained untouched through the course of that long occupation, which began in the middle of the eighteenth and ended in the middle of the twentieth century. Modern Indian law, education, medicine, literature, and art all bear in varying shades of intensity the touch (or stigma) of colonial influence. The one (and perhaps only) art form said to have successfully resisted colonial influence during the nineteenth century was Indian classical music, both North Indian (Hindustani) and South Indian (Carnatic).

In nineteenth-century British colonial India, music was performed mainly in courts of princely states as tappa, thumri, hori, dhrupad, dhamar, and khayal, to name just a few performative/poetic compositional forms. A century later, the same music was still performed, but with a major difference. It was now seen as simultaneously classical and national. This trajectory calls forth no surprise, since it is by now a truism to assert that classicism invariably accompanies the processes of modernity and nationalism. But there is something both noteworthy and surprising about music that plays a critical role in the development of Indian cultural nationalism. Music’s practitioners

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