Revolutions Per Minute: Early Hindustani Music Recordings By Goan Musicians

Until the mid-nineteenth century royal courts in India were the main source of patronage to Hindustani music, but after 1858, the establishment of the British Crown as the paramount power in India crippled Indian princely power. This seems to have led to a sharp decline in royal patronage to Hindustani music, the art or classical music tradition of North India, but for a few last vestiges. In the absence of sustained support from royal patrons and the colonial government, musicians identified the Indian commercial, industrial and intellectual elite present in colonial cities as prospective patrons. Gradually, hereditary musicians and courtesans from Northern and Central India migrated to Bombay (now officially called Mumbai), one of the most important colonial cities in India. Musicians migrating to Bombay included women of the devadasi community from Goa and neighbouring areas, who were engaged in service to temples. Their migration to Bombay gave them an opportunity to enrich themselves musically by training under maestros representing well-known lineages and styles of vocal and instrumental music. Over time, many of the women and men from these Goan families became celebrated musicians inspiring successive generations. Their music recorded in the first half of the twentieth century on 78 rpm gramophone discs, represents a legacy that continues to be a rich resource for musicians, scholars, students, and listeners. This exhibition showcases the journey of these musicians, particularly their career as performers for the gramophone industry.