The Art of Listening 2

In the blog post on the Deodhar School of Indian Music, we had mentioned the ‘suit-boot gawai’, B.R.Deodhar, and his attempts to make Hindustani music accessible to members of the public. Starting off with holding classes inside Rammohun Roy English School, an arrangement made possible with the help of officials of the Prarthana Samaj, Deodhar was finally able to set up his School of Indian Music (supposedly named that by Sarojini Naidu) in 1925 at French Bridge. His grand-daughter Sangeeta Gogate is Principal of the school. She was interviewed by us for the Making Music-Making Space project.

“Actually Bade Ghulam Ali Khansaab, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar, all renowned people, they have performed here. And sarod and sitar ka jugalbandi they used to do na, Ali Akbar and Pandit Ravi Shankar, woh first time yahaan pe perform kiya tha. And Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was in love with my Dadaji, always used to come to him, they used to have those sangeetik charchas joh hum log bolte hain, they always used to have that. Dadaji kuch bandishe unse seekthe thae, woh Dadaji se kuch seekthe thae. Toh is prakar, yahin pe hota tha. And we used to have private concert kind of thing, many people used to come here, and they used to perform.”

Kumar Gandharva was one of the most famous alumni of the Deodhar School, having spent his formative years as a singer there.

Although Deodhar was a student of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar of the Maharashtrian strand of the Gwalior gharana, he was open to all kinds of music and tried to bring the exponents of all the gayakis to his school.

“I remember Prabha Atre, she had come here and performed here, with her famous Kalavati and Maru Bihag. We had told her to perform, and it was lovely. Really lovely to listen to. She is performing there and we are sitting here. There are so many I can tell you.. like Prabha Atre, then Vasundhara Komkali-ji, Kumar-ji, Ashwini Bhide, Aarti Ankalikar, then Pandit Jitendra Abhishekhi, so many people have performed here, Devaki Pandit in the young generation, Devaki Pandit, then Shahid Parvez, Pandit D.K.Datar, then Pandit Jog, whoever has learnt here also have performed here, and many big artistes also have.”

The full interview can be viewed at

School of Indian Music

School of Indian Music

Photo: Tejaswini Niranjana

The Art of Listening 1

In the post on Trinity Club (The Spaces of Music 6), I had talked about the importance of the venue in the musical precinct of Girgaum. Here I want to introduce the project’s Research Interviews, hosted on https:/ under Mumbai Music. One of our interviews was with Balasaheb Tikekar, President of the committee running Trinity Club. Describing how it all began under the patronage of pre-eminent singer Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle, Balasaheb said:

Tar koni tari peti aanli, tabla aanla, aani tya jaage madhaye gaana gana suruvat jhali, gappa marne aata. (So someone brought the harmonium, the tabla and they started singing in that space and people would come and chat.)

Aata Trinity Club cha udesha kai hota hi jaga sthapana maage Bhaskarbuancha? Ki je bahergaon je kalakar yetat gaanare mhana, vaajavnare mhana tya lokana jaaga rahala ashi navti kutech (What was Bhaskarbua’s aim in establsihing in Trinity Club? Bhaskarbua’s aim in establishing the Trinity club was to provide a space for musicians who would travel and did not have a space to stay) Te ek karyakramapurti ka hoi na te aapla jaaget ithe yaayche aani rahaiche tithe aapla vyaysay pan karaiche sangeetacha aani jaiche parat. (Even if it was just for their programmes they would come and stay here for their business and leave.) Ase moth mothe kalakar jithe yet asat rahat asat. (A lot of famous artists would come and stay here.)

Balasaheb’s association with the Club began in 1955-56, nearly fifty years after it was established. Speaking of those days he said: Pan kahi divasani kahi lokani tharavla ki aapan apla weekly basat jauya gaayala Shanivar kinva Ravivar asa kahi tari tharavuya. Tya pramane Ravivar tharla asa sakali 10 vajta gayala basaicha (After a few days some people decided we should have weekly music sessions on the weekends and they decided to have it on Sunday mornings at 10.) Aani peti tabla koni tari bhetaiche arre majhi peti aahe, majha tabla aahe. Mahjya kade tanpura aahe mag tanpure jamuya aapan tanpure aanaiche (and we would find someone who had instruments – someone would offer their harmonium, some other would bring the tabla. Somebody would say “I have a tanpura.” We would go and bring them). Asa karun aamche karkyakram suru karaiche kon gaayla mhanaiche. “Ha tumhi tabla vajavta ka? thoda basa tabla vajva koni peti aahe ka peti wala? ki chala ya.Tumhi gaata ka chala basa madhye basa bajula tabla aani peti aahe.” (This is how the programmes started. Someone used to sing and we would ask, “Can you play the tabla? Come play for sometime and then is there anyone who can play the harmonium? Do you sing? Come and sit here in the centre, the harmonium and tabla will be right next to you.”)

Asa karun gayala suruvat jhali te majha aiklyanantar aankhi lok aale te mhanale ki chala bara ithe aaplyala jaga aahe ganya saathi and sagle loka aahet aani sagli instruments vagare aahet mhanun ase lok jamaila laagli (This is how the music sessions started and soon the word spread and more people came. They said this was good, there was a space to sing and there were instruments, and people started attending.)

Koni tari lead ghyaycha ki chala me baba yeto aaj chaha mhajya kadun tumhala saglyana chaha. Sgalyana chaha dyaycha… konala paan aani. Paan khayche tyavelela tambaku paan, supari vagere paancha tabak asayche. Lok pan bin khayche aani konacha vaadh divas asel kahi asel tar kai pedehe, khaana peena (Someone would take the lead and sponsor tea for everyone, or paan. People would eat paan in those days  – betelnut with tobacao, areca nut etc. There would be a plate full of paan. People ate paan, if it was someone’s birthday or something they offered sweets, food and drinks.)

Aata tumhi prashna vicharaal hya jaagecha bhada bida kon det hota? Pan ashech kone tari denekare ganyache shaukin mandali aani te je mukhya te he hote te baghatach hote tyancha laksha hota aani tyanchi parvangi ghetleli ki amhi Trinity Club hya jaage saathi aamhi hi jaga deleli aahe, tyamule paise denya ghenacha. Bara ticket lavnacha asa kai prashnach navta. Tyamule kon hi yaava kon hi gaava. (Now you may ask me who was paying the rent for this place. But there were many generous music lovers and we had the permission of the owner of the space to run the Trinity Club in that space. So there was no question about the giving and taking of money or charging people for tickets. It was open to all to come, and all to sing.)

The board on the door of Trinity Club says – for members only. When asked how one became a member, Balasaheb explained: Aani ulat Trinity Club chalvaicha mag tyala he kai pravesh fee kai? Tar amhi tharavla ki pravesh fee kahi nahi jo regular yeil toh member. Jo regular tithe yeil aapla tabla vajan kareil, aapla gayan kareil, peti vajan kareil, chaar lokan madhey mix hoel, raheel vaigere. hyacha karta membership nahi. Hi membership aahe. Tar ashya tarini te chalu jhala aani mag lokancha madhye naav hoila lagli ithe jaaga ashi aahe Girgaon madhaye hi ashi jaaga aahe tenva aapan tithe gayala basuya (If we had to run Trinity Club what would be the entry fee? We decided that anyone who is regular is a member. The ones who come regularly and play the tabla, sings or plays the harmonium, mingles with the people. Therefore, there was no membership fee. Regular attendance was the membership. This is how it started and soon it became popular among people that there there’s a place like this in Girgaon and we should go there and sing.)

Balasaheb’s wife Sumathi Tikekar added: Ani Club ha commercial navta tyamule kai ((The club was not commercial so…)

Paisha bicha prashna nahi. (so there was no question of money), continued Balasaheb.

Concluded Sumathi Tikekar, Ganya cha fakta pahije. (We wanted only music).

Translation: Trupti Kanade

The full interview can be viewed at

Although the image below doesn’t show any women, we were told that they used to attend the performances regularly.

Inside Trinity Club

Inside Trinity Club

Photo: Hemangi Kadu

Making Music Making Space featured in The Times Of India

“There’s hardly anyone here now. See how silent it is,” he says, waving a hand at the chawl opposite. Beyond it, looms a high-rise. “No singing, no music.” The septuagenarian remembers a time when the chawl’s corridors would be lined with people, listening to riyaaz sessions at Trinity Club, a pokey room at the far end where musicians lived and practised. Hindustani classical concerts at the nearby Laxmi Baug and Brahman Sabha ran to packed houses, with audiences rushing back and forth between venues to catch their favourite performances. And maestros often dropped in at shops selling musical instruments, launching into impromptu performances that lasted for hours.

“I some- times snuck into Trinity Club with my tabla and start playing,” recalls Hiralal, laughing. Today, on Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle Path in Thakurdwar, his shop is one of the last two standing. “Aata sagali majaa geli (it’s not fun anymore),” he sighs. “If only you had been able to see Girgaum as it used to be.” That’s precisely the goal that’s kept cultural theorist Tejaswini Niranjana, filmmaker Surabhi Sharma, and architect Kaiwan Mehta, trawling the city for the past three years. Their ‘Making Music Making Space’ project has pieced together almost a century of Mumbai’s Hindustani classical music heritage, using interviews, archival material and biographies. The trove will be opened to the public at Studio X, starting June 15, through rare photographs, live recordings, and audio and video installations. It focuses on Girgaum — the heart of the Hindustani heritage— and the surrounding areas, which the neighbourhood nurtured in turn.

This is excerpted from Trinity Club to Laxmi Baug, Girgaum’s heart beat for Hindustani, published in The Times Of India (Mumbai edition) on May 31, 2015

The Spaces of Music 10

In Girgaum we still find some small artisanal shops, such as those of the tabla makers in Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle Path, where the worker-proprietor and his family live, work, cook and eat in the same tiny space.

The Hindustani music audience was largely drawn from the middle and lower middle classes, with the occasional appearances of wealthy merchants and in later years even film stars. The first three categories lived in Girgaum itself, in chawls, apartments, or independent houses depending on the social stratum of the resident. While Girgaum was largely populated at its core by Marathi and Gujarati-speaking Hindus, there were also specific areas where Parsis lived (Firoz Dastur, disciple of Sawai Gandharva, lived on Grant Road), and Goan or north Karnataka kalavant families in Thakurdwar, as well as courtesans or tawaifs of different religious backgrounds on Grant Road and Kalbadevi Road. The diversity of the Girgaum population is to some extent reflected in the architectural styles and ornamental details where colonial architectural repertoires met motifs and spatial arrangements drawn from communities migrating into the city.

Today’s blog post features Azad Avanadh Vadyalay, the musical instrument-making shop of Chandrakant Ramjibhai Mewada, whose name evokes yet another community that made its way to Girgaum. The shop was established just before Independence by his nationalist father (hence the name Azad). This tiny space has seen baithak performances by a number of Hindustani musicians, and the tabla-maker’s family was closely associated with many of them, including Alla Rakha, Ravi Shankar’s accompanist. Chandubhai passed away late in 2014. The shop is now closed, since his children have moved on to other professions.

Azad Avanadh Vadyalay 2015

Azad Avanadh Vadyalay 2015

Chandubhai's shop

Chandubhai’s shop

Photos: Tejaswini Niranjana

The Spaces of Music 9

A key performance space in Girgaum by the 1920s was Laxmi Baug, off Lamington Road on Avantikabai Gokhale Road. And, equally important was the Ganesh Utsav of Lamington Road at Chunam Lane, where the Lamington cha Raja presided, and where all the major musicians performed during the festival every year.

All these performance spaces can be seen as part of a musical precinct, where the wider neighbourhood becomes unified through the audiences who go from one performance to the next, especially during the Ganesh Utsav. This to-and-fro movement of audiences is an interesting way by which we can trace the circumference of the musical neighbourhood: there are stories of how runners were employed to go between Laxmi Baug and Brahman Sabha (another venue near Prarthana Samaj), for example, carrying the information of which singer was still tuning his tanpuras, which one had already started his or her alaap, and so on. This allowed the audiences to rush en masse from one venue to the other as the performances progressed. This lovely story was told by Kirana maestro Firoz Dastur to his student Nitin Shirodkar, who passed it on to us.

Laxmi Baug also functioned as a popular wedding hall, and continues to do so till this day, although concerts stopped taking place after the 1980s. With the support of Satchit Dabholkar, the owner of Laxmi Baug, our project will host 3 concerts by young singers of the Jaipur, Gwalior and Agra gharanas in this hall on June 20, June 27 and July 4, 2015. We hope this will mark the revival of Laxmi Baug as a heritage venue for Hindustani music in Mumbai, and introduce new audiences to Girgaum’s musical precinct.

Laxmi Baug, Avantikabai Gokhale Road

Laxmi Baug, Avantikabai Gokhale Road

Photo: Hemangi Kadu

The Spaces of Music 8

Pila House area: This term, a corruption of the word ‘playhouse’, is used to refer to the Foras Road (RS Nimkar Marg today)-Falkland Road-Grant Road area where there were several theatres from the 1850s, one of the oldest being the Grant Road Theatre, built in 1846 with the support of Jagannath Shankarsheth and Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy. The neo-classical Edward Theatre, built in the 1880s, is still running, now as a film theatre.

Newspaper advertisements from the 1880s indicate that apart from staging plays, these theatres were also used for variety entertainments and magic shows. Grant Road was at the heart of the mid- to late 19th century entertainment industry, showcasing the Parsi theatre (initially in Gujarati and then in Urdu/Hindustani) and the sangeet natak (in Marathi), both of which drew on the melodic structure of Hindustani ragas for their musical scores. Major plays often had up to 70 songs each.

In 2014, our project presented work-in-progress talks at Studio X, DN Road. The newspaper article linked below

Edward Theatre, Mumbai

Edward Theatre, Mumbai – Photo: Hemangi Kadu

is based on our research inputs:

The Spaces of Music 7

The picture below is of the entrance of a ‘compound’ which was a kotha where women entertainers used to perform, and was one of the places where musicians who came to Mumbai stayed. Today it is a mujra hall.

Music critic Batuk Diwanji in his book (in Gujarati),Sangeetkaro ane Sangeetagyo, had this to say:

“Gangabai lived at Kennedy Bridge, which was also called Pavanpul. She was known to be the ‘Chaudharani’ of all the women singers in the area because if any new singer from out of town came to live there, they would first have to offer her a present (called Nazar). She would also resolve disputes among the singers. Her second daughter was a very good dancer. Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Ustad Ahmadjaan Thirakva, in the early days, would stay at Gangabai’s place whenever they visited Mumbai. The women singers of Pavanpul would start singing at around 8 in the evening and go on till late in the night. The word ‘Tem’ (mispronunciation of the English word ‘time’) was used for these mehfils.” [Translation: Sohnee Harshey]

Opposite the kotha is the Congress Restaurant, its name alluding to the next-door building, Congress House, which was the office of the Indian National Congress from 1925 and throughout the freedom struggle. In 1930, salt pans were put up on the terrace at the time of the Dandi March, to break the colonial salt monopoly.

Mumbai Sangeet Kalakar - the kothaOpposite the Kennedy Bridge kotha

Photos: Hemangi Kadu

The Spaces of Music 6

The chawl structure in Mumbai is simultaneously both a building and a neighbourhood. This idea, put forward by architecture theorist Kaiwan Mehta, is helpful in understanding the historical space of musical performance in the Girgaum area.

For example, if we look at the Trinity Club on Pandit Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle Path (off Mughbat Lane), it is on the upper floor of a chawl. A kholi or room was dedicated for the use of musicians by one Bodas, who worked for the Shaw Wallace Company and was a fan of Hindustani music, and had requested the pre-eminent singer Bhaskarbuwa Bakhle in 1907 to initiate musical activities in the chawl. So we can infer that the building, which still exists, is at least over a hundred years old. When musicians used to perform in the Club, which is housed in a room approximately 25 ft by 18 ft, the audience used to spill over into the chawl corridor outside, and people lined the staircase as well as the street outside listening for hours on end. Thus the performance space is not limited just to the one room, but expands to include the neighbourhood itself. This chawl is expected to be redeveloped any day now.

Trinity Club in its heyday hosted performances by all the foremost musicians of our long twentieth century. You can see some of their pictures put up inside the Club, below.Trinity Club door 1Trinity Club 2

Photos: Hemangi Kadu

The Spaces of Music 5

Across from the Deodhar School can be glimpsed the iconic edifice of the Royal Opera House on Charni Road, the construction of which was completed in 1912, in a blend of European and Indian architectural styles. The Opera House can be said to mark the boundary of the native town with the Fort area, and true to its liminal status it hosted performances of Western plays and variety entertainment as well as Bal Gandharva’s Marathi sangeet natak and Prithviraj Kapoor’s plays.

A 1927 advertisement announces a Hindustani music concert by Hirabai Barodekar [daughter of the Kirana gharana founder Abdul Karim Khan] on Wednesday, April 17, at 9.30 pm. Through this decade and the next, such concerts were regularly held at the Opera House, which also started screening films in 1935.

Opera House

Photo: Hemangi Kadu

The Spaces of Music 4

Across the road from Blavatsky Lodge, a few steps down from the main road next to French Bridge, on the eastern side of the railway line, is the School of Indian Music established by B.R.Deodhar (1901-1990) in 1925. Known as the ‘suit-boot gavai’ because of his appearance, he was a student of Vishnu Digambar Paluskar (1892-1931), who set up the famous Gandharva Mahavidyalay in different cities including Mumbai – initially at Sandhurst Road in Girgaum. For many decades Deodhar held a concert at the School for the death anniversary or barsi of his teacher. The most renowned musicians of India sang at these concerts to large audiences. The School is still running, with Deodhar’s grand-daughter as Principal.Deodhar’s book Thor Sangeetkar in Marathi profiles leading musicians of his day, with insights based on his personal relationships with them.

Deodhar's School of Indian Music

Deodhar’s School of Indian Music: Photo – Hemangi Kadu