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

By Janaki Bakhle | Go to book overview

THREE
THE CONTRADICTIONS
OF MUSIC’S MODERNITY

Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande

The year was 1922. Music had been in the public eye for close to two decades. Princely states were still providing the major source of both employment and economic stability for musicians, but independent schools for teaching music had been founded in cities in all three presidencies. In Bombay Presidency, music appreciation societies in Pune, Bombay, Satara, Sangli, and elsewhere had begun conducting classes for select groups of young men and, occasionally, women, and the process by which musical education for a middleclass public would become systematic seemed under way. It was a time that an interested contemporaneous observer might have described as one of progress. And yet, no less a figure than Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, a renowned musicologist and scholar, wrote in a letter to a friend that he felt as if he were witnessing the impending demise of music.

The recipient of Bhatkhande’s letter in 1922 was his close friend and colleague Rai Umanath Bali, a taluqdar from Daryabad, close to Lucknow. Rai Umanath would have read this lament: “Poor music. I really do not know what sins music has commit[t]ed. No protector comes forward to champion its cause. Nobody appreciates its great utility. People will certainly have to repent one day. The next decade will kill most of the leading artists and scholars

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