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A 2-Day Workshop on
Hindustani Music and Partition
Supported by the Asian Scholarship Foundation, Bangkok, Thailand, in collaboration
with the Academy of Third World Studies Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Venue: Edward Said Hall, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Date: August 22-23, 2008

Schedule of the Workshop

While much of the literature on the Partition of India provides disturbing accounts of separation and violence, very little study has been made on its impact on the material culture of South Asia, especially the arts, music and other traditional forms. Since the apparent justification for the Partition, the ‘two-nation theory’, recognized Hindus and Muslims as two dissimilar communities unlikely to coexist, it was popularly assumed that the Indian Muslims migrating to Pakistan took with them whatever “belonged” to them, leaving behind the “purer” culture of the Hindus in India. As it seemed like the closing of a chapter on cultural co-existence, new chapters had to be written on both sides of the border to sort out what belonged to whom. South Asia’s art music (also known as Hindustani classical music), along with other traditional cultural forms, had to bear the brunt of this tug of war, since it represented one of the most vigorous examples of cultural plurality, besides being practiced abundantly in the regions affected by the Partition. Initially, art music may have been subjected to some “re-definition” to fit the Islamic identity of Pakistan, but much of the plurality inherent in the Khayal singing tradition seems to have survived in Pakistan even after six decades. But what has been its impact on the situation of music on the Indian side is yet to be explored.

In 2005, the Asian Scholarship Foundation (Bangkok, Thailand) supported an Indian researcher and filmmaker, Yousuf Saeed, to visit Pakistan and explore the impact of partition on music traditions, especially related to the Sufi poet Amir Khusrau. This was a rare opportunity for an Indian scholar to spend about 6 months in Pakistan. Traveling in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad - interviewing musicians and scholars, attending music concerts, and observing the teaching of music in various institutions, Yousuf not only documented some of the surviving practitioners and patrons of art music, but also raised many vital questions, about cultural identity, nationalism, legitimacy of music in Islam, Pakistan's popular culture and its affairs with India, and the survival of art music itself in South Asia. This quest has resulted in a documentary film, Khayal Darpan, featuring some well-known as well as many lesser known but talented musicians of Pakistan.

While Khayal Darpan may not have been the most exhaustive or comprehensive document exploring this issue, its screenings worldwide certainly initiated several dialogues about concerns such as the survival of art music and national identity in South Asia. This proposed workshop is part of a series of such dialogues which need to be carried out in different parts of South Asia. We hope to bring together scholars, musicians, historians, and students of music and cultural studies in an informal setting to reflect upon the various issues in the study of music emerging in the context of modernity. For this workshop we have invited a few scholars and musicians from Pakistan and Bangladesh. We would also hold a similar workshop in Lahore, Pakistan, this year, to explore people’s experiences there.

Themes/Panels for the workshop
The two day workshop at Jamia will consist of 4 panels of readings, besides short sessions of music making and film screenings.

Panel 1:
Cultural identity and the making of nations:

Although the evolution of South Asian art music was a pluralistic process incorporating diverse cultural forms, the 1947 partition emerged as a sudden halt, or even reversal, in this syncretic process. The newly emerging India and Pakistan had to decide what cultural forms to include or exclude to fit into their respective national identities. Some among the polity even redefined or altered the music nomenclature based on religious identity. Moreover, the official institutions, meant to augment music and arts, too played a role in the progress as well as deterioration of the pluralism in music learning and performance. How have the musicians and ustads been used in the creation of national pride on both sides of the border.
The panelists are: Lakshmi Subramaniam (JMI, New Delhi), Gregory Booth (Univ. of Auckland, New Zealand), Vibodh Parthasarthi (CCMG, JMI, New Delhi), and Partha Dutta (Z.H.College, Delhi).

Panel 2:
Partition and the gharana narratives:

Family members from almost all north Indian music gharanas migrated to Pakistan, whereas some remained in India. At a personal level, the migration may have affected the livelihood of these families in the same way as it did to the rest the Muslims (in north India as well as the muhajirs in Pakistan). But at a professional level, the transmission of music knowledge itself was affected due to the changing patronage and audience. There are also recurring issues about the “authentic” family lineages – many individuals across the border making claims about “originally belonging” to a certain gharana, and so on. How do these “proud” gharana narratives fit in the contemporary music learning? While some teachers and practitioners depend heavily on the oral history transmitted through generations in their families, many others like to have a stronger faith in the “shastras” or documented texts. How can one write a history of art music by a careful sifting through the oral and textual sources?
The panelists are: Naseeruddin Saami (Vocalist, Karachi, Pakistan), Vidya Rao (Vocalist, Delhi), Asit Kumar Dey (Vocalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Panel 3:
Knowledge transmission affected by the border:

A strong tradition of linkages and dialogues prevailed between musicians, patrons and gharanas spread over different geographical regions of India. Performance styles or techniques associated with a particular town influenced the musicians of another far away town through continued migration. Even the making of a musical instrument for instance, involved bringing of materials from different places, and so on. But the partition adversely affected this geographical transmission, at least between west Punjab and the rest of north India, and to some extent, Bengal. How have the musicians (and instrument makers) coped up with the absence of certain kind of knowledge or materials after the creation of the border? What alternative/local materials or techniques are used now? Also, did the 1947 migration of musicians into Pakistan carry any special style or technique hitherto unknown in that region? How has the absence of a particular source of inspiration (cultural/linguistic) affected the discourse of music on either side of the border?
The Panelists are: Yousuf Saeed (Independent filmmaker, New Delhi), Subhendu Ghosh (Vocalist, New Delhi), Amlan Dasgupta (Researcher, Archivist, Kolkata), Atmaram B. (Independent researcher, Chandigarh)

Panel 4:
Between popular and elite: Music adapting to the changing audience:

While music patronage in the pre-1947 India was limited largely to the aristocracy, modern times seek new patrons of art who may not necessarily be as rich and generous with their money and time as the erstwhile nawabs. How can today’s “public” be attracted towards art music? Should one dilute and “lighten” art music in order to popularize it for a wider audience? Or it is important to keep the sanctity of “pure” sounds even if it means a limited (but discerning) audience? These questions are of paramount importance today. Some experiments of popularization of art music in Pakistan (such as the use of classical styles and techniques in ghazal, qawwali, and popular music) did make an impact, and helped in keeping art music alive for many decades. But, is art music capable of surviving without the patronage of the elite and the official institutions.
The panelists are: Aslam Khan (Vocalist, Mumbai), Jon Barlow (Musician, Instrument maker, Mumbai), Raza Kazim (Researcher, Archivist, Lahore, Pakistan), S. Kalidas (Researcher, Delhi).

Download the schedule of the 2-day Workshop

On the evening of both days, we are planning to have music sessions by the artists from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In fact, we are also trying to organize more music concerts in Delhi or elsewhere while the Pakistani/Bangladeshi musicians are here. If you wish to host such a music concert, we would be glad to coordinate. Ask us for the details about which musicians are likely to participate. Musicians performing in the evening programmes

Coordinated by Yousuf Saeed and Lakshmi Subramaniam

contact us at:
saeed.yousuf at gmail com