Musical heritage of India-Encyclopaedia launched in Kolkata by Buddhadev Das Gupta

Jan 14 2011 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS): The word ‘encyclopaedia’ immediately conjures up in mind an authentic ready- reference tome for researchers and for those interested on the subject. In this context the just launched three volume The Oxford  Encyclopaedia of the Music of India is a truly well of knowledge on the great tradition of music in the country from the hoary past to the present day.

The volume was launched in Kolkata by renowned sarod player Buddhadev Das Gupta at the British Council premises in presence of connoisseurs, artistes and researchers.

[ReviewAZON asin=”B0002UXM6W” display=”inlinepost”]The volumes cover from the historical background of the Indian musical tradition going back to 2000 years and to the present with 5000 in-depth entries, contributed  by eminent  artistes , scholars and musicologists.

They embrace all areas of music- dance, raga, tala, technical terms and instruments – the whole gamut.

Folk music from different regions of India has not been neglected either. It is well-accepted that cultural interchange goes beyond  the geographical borders and the influences coalesce through centuries.

Thus India’s neighbouring countries- Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka share a commonality in the sub-continent. The musical traditions of these countries have been thoughtfully included in the  encyclopaedia.

The extensive research and meticulous data collection  have taken 12 years, revealed  Manzar Khan, managing director of Oxford University Press, the publisher. The project started at the initiative of Sangit Mahabharati, a Mumbai based music academy.

Das Gupta reminisced how the effort of an artiste from  the Barisal district of Bengal (now in Bangladesh), Pt. Nikhil Ghosh had started ‘Arun Sangitalaya’ as a small effort to attract music lovers and which later blossomed into the renowned  Sangit Mahabharati.

The launch was followed by a panel discussion on “The Popularity and Relevance of Music books in India” with authors and musicians like Amit Chaudhuri, Bickram Ghosh, Karabi Deka Hazarika of Dibrugarh University and  radio journalist  and curator of musical traditions in South Asia,  Rolf Killius taking part which was moderated by Anindya Banerjee, sarod and sursringar player.

Talking about the relevance of  ‘music books’ in India which has largely an oral tradition in the field,  percussionist Bickram Ghosh shared an interesting anecdote. When he did  a short stint of teaching at the Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata, to break the ice on the first day, he asked the students what they understood by ‘tala’.

He got the answer from many aspirants that ‘tala’  was what emanated from the forehead of Lord Shiva in his cosmic dance as a ‘Nataraja’. Apparently they gathered this information from somewhere. Hence authentic  books with the right information are necessary for both students and teachers, he said.

As a preamble to the launch, sarod player Pt. Somjit Dasgupta performed briefly. On display was a few items from his collection of rare string instruments.

By Ranjita Biswas

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