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Pedagogy of Music

Urmila Bhirdikar

By Janaki Bakhle
Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 338, Rs. 695.00


In Two Men and Music: Nationalism in the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition, Janaki Bakhle explores a specific area in the history of music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century western India, situating at the centre of her book the works of Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, two stalwarts who are commonly credited with effectively changing the pedagogy of music. Bakhle traces the history of the ensuing transformations in music and its contribution to the strands in colonial modernity, beginning at the Baroda Princely court, with the discussion of the court musician and institutionizer Maula Baksh and carries it beyond the two men to the newly emerging sites of public performances of Abdul Karim Khan and Hirabai Badodekar in the Bombay presidency. Each is a separate story, placed by the author in the larger context of the educational reforms, newly emerging forms and spaces of publicity, rise of the commercial Marathi theatre and the Orientalist writing on Indian music, but essentially linked to the question of modernization of music through the new forms of pedagogy. Thus, while the canvas appears to be large, the author’s attention is focused on a specific issue in the history of music in this period.   The story of the two central men, Bhatkhande and Paluskar, has for Bakhle the additional similarity of envisioning the concept of nation while putting together new forms of the pedagogy of music. Juxtaposing them, Bakhle places a fragile ‘liberal secular’ vision of Bhatkhande against the blatant ‘religious conservative’ bhakti nationalism of Paluskar. In her analysis, it is the latter which emerged as more effective in the later day musical practice while Bhatkhande’s project achieved only “pyrrhic successes” (p135). The last two chapters analyze the effects in terms of the negotiations of the Muslim ustadi musicianship and incorporation of women at the center of the musical practice.   It is to Bakhle’s credit that she writes this book from the position of a historian, de linking it from classicist, Indologist, Musicologist and ethnomusicologist positions (p19). She discusses at length the problems of sources of writing this history: the adulatory biographies of musicians, the lack of critical historical writing, and the disorderly and unavailable or inaccessible archive. (P 16-17) Her reading of these, in juxtaposition to each other, has resulted in some remarkable documentation of the context, especially in the case of the administrative policies ...

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