TWO DANCERS, PROBABLY FROM LUCKNOW
In the mid-nineteenth century, Lucknow, Patna and Banaras remained the centres of the lively Purab bᾱj style of sitᾱr music, while the slower and more elaborate Delhi or Masitkhani style retained prominence in the areas of Delhi and Jaipur. Calcutta would soon emerge as the melting pot of 19th century instrumental music. By the end of the century, the movement of musicians all over North India would bring both styles into the repertoire of all professional sitᾱr players. Compositions in both styles attributed to artists of the last half of the 19th century still make up much of the prized repertoire of traditional instrumentalists.
With the British takeover of Avadh (or Oudh), the departure of Wajid Ali Shah for Calcutta with a large number of musicians, and one year later the fighting and aftermath of the rebellion, Lucknow’s musical activities were more or less suspended. Karam Imam says that a musician who returned after the British takeover saw that “the connoisseurs of Lucknnow had ceased to hold musical concerts because of fear of the new regime” (Vidyarthi 1959:26. In popular history, little is heard of Luckknow in this period. Lucknow books on music such as the “Ghunchah-i rᾱg” (Khan, N.M.A. 1879) and the “Ma’dan al-mûsiqi” (Khan, M.K.I.).*
So, once again, we can see how the British occupiers of India tried to disrupt traditional culture and reduce the glorious arts of Lucknow to a shadow of itself. Also, the art of dance and poetry would also be affected by a curtailment of music. The fact that in the twenty-first century an exhibition of Lucknow art was held in Paris and Los Angeles, shows how truly great art cannot be destroyed.
*I am indebted to Allyn Miner’s Sitar and Sarod in the 18th and 19th Centuries for these concise and masterful comments which end with the asterisk.
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