The range of books on music reviewed brings into question the category of music itself, for it is difficult to define music in singular ways. Grappling the plurality of music has generated a range of approaches. The hermetic field of musicology has had to shed its exclusivity. Gone are the days when it was thought that the proper study of music and music criticism should address classical music only.


Apart from the vocation of (formal and informal) teaching to which she remained devoted her entire life, Sadhana Bhattacharyya cultivated, not always without the usual familial and related difficulties though, her keen interest in art and culture, literature and most importantly, music. In this, she had her husband’s support who was equally invested in reading, writing, calligraphy, painting, sculpture and music. Music, in particular, meant the world to both. While she was not trained formally in it, her husband was (in Indian classical music).

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By Meenakshi Prasad. With a Foreword by Late Pandit Birju Maharaj

The author has explored the relationship between psychology, aesthetics and pedagogy throughout the book. The relationship between the self and aesthetics according to her is a condition of stability and conformity where values of family and context are important. Humility plays a big role here. Her teacher Savita Devi told her that ‘the original tune and lyrics of a composition exist unaffected by time and space’.

Reviewed by: Partho Datta
By Satyasheel Deshpande

Is Deshpande’s musical thought antithetical to the above? Like Tembe, Deshpande too is critical of the scientific method of classifying and categorizing musical knowledge. For example, the mathematical discussions on the microtones (shruti) in music. But, unlike Tembe, Deshpande celebrates the analytical attitude of Maharashtrian musicians. He interprets the last segment of the Punjabi proverb as a belittling of the analytical efforts of the musicians in Maharashtra. In a nutshell, his musical thought may be summarized as the celebration of individuality-identity framed by and simultaneously made possible by the musical form and its elements.

Reviewed by: Urmila Bhirdikar
By Vipul Rikhi

However, the last few decades have witnessed an unprecedented interest in the words and philosophy of these medieval poets. Today, multiple Kabir yatras are held throughout the country, flocked mostly by an English-speaking urban crowd. They gather to listen to the folk voices singing Kabir. More importantly

Reviewed by: Dipanjali Deka
Edited by Ashok Vajpeyi and Piyush Daiya

This is significant for it gives us access to different vantage points for looking at the musician. For instance, many articles argue that his practice marks a radical departure from existing musicianship and a pathway towards something new. Ashok Vajpeyi calls this a reinvention () of tradition, while articles of Pandharinath Kolhapure, Shriram Sangoram and Chaitanya Kunte try to defend his experiments as interrogations within tradition.

Reviewed by: Anubhuti Sharma
By Terada Yoshitaka

Most rasikas of South Indian Classical music do not often grow up understanding the finer points of the relationship between Carnatic music and the various traditions it is born from or relates to. In this book the author takes us on a journey from an appreciation of the complexities of its tradition. The Nagaswaram has played an important part of all rituals, but Nagaswaram players were lower in the caste hierarchy and subject to all the taboos

Reviewed by: Aruna Roy
Translated from the original Bengali by Indrani Haldar

Tagore had considered his song-lyrics his best creative offering because in them he expressed himself spontaneously and unabashedly, freeing himself from the conscious process of literary crafting that marked most of his fictional writing which was subjected to stiff literary criticism. Written in chalit bhasha or conversational Bengali, he did not have to adhere to any expected literary standard. He could be inspired by classical musical tradition for instance, and yet defy its prescription for the individual ragas;

Reviewed by: Reba Som
By Rajiv Vijayakar

What do I mean by this? There are examples galore throughout the book; here are some: Laxmikant Kudalkar, the son of a mill worker and Pyarelal Sharma, the son of a renowned musician Pandit Ramprasad Sharma, were an unlikely pair. Laxmikant’s father sensed his son’s love for singing and entertainment and started classical music lessons for him. Pyarelal’s father was a Hindustani classical musician but wanted everyone,

Reviewed by: Ashwini Deshpande
By Soubhik Chakraborty and Ranjan Sengupta (with co-authors: Anirban Patranabis, Vidhi Salla, Apoorva Chakraborty, Pranjala Shukla, Lopamudra Dutta, Sudakshina Bhattacharjee, Moupali Mitra and Sulochana Lamichaney)

Returning to the book. It is divided into two parts, the first part is a biographical study, which consists of three essays, one each by three of the co-authors. These three essays could easily have been one. The essays repeat very well-known basic biographical facts, including her date of birth that is mentioned several times in each essay, including multiple times on the same page. The replication is not confined to specific facts.

Reviewed by: Ashwini Deshpande
By Richard David Williams

Williams puts together a picture of a man of complex and varied tastes: an innovator rather than a curator of past practice. The textual evidence is formidable. The collections of song-texts that Williams examines show the Nawab’s close collaboration with his senior Begum, Khas Mahal, and include dhrupad, hori, sadra, khayal and tarana

Reviewed by: Amlan Dasgupta
By Radha Kapuria

Ethnographical studies in the region remain an inescapable methodology due to the subcontinent’s knowledge systems embedded in oral traditions. There is also an institutional lack of a proper archival system. For most scholars in the past, ethnography had led them to innovative revelations, unlike the archives which have revealed partial information with politics of power inclined towards the educated elites of the society.

Reviewed by: Pushpita Mitra
By Abir Bazaz

To the perceptive reader, Nund Rishi: Poetry and Politics in Medieval Kashmir is a sombre book. This impression starts to build right from the rather symbolic jacket, which bears a photograph of a gloomy Charar-e Sharif mausoleum on an overcast winter day. This monument, belonging to that solitary strand of Kashmiri Sufism which once drew…

Reviewed by: Shonaleeka Kaul
By Lakshmi Subramanian

Mohandas Gandhi was no musician. Subramanian herself acknowledges (p. 188) he was ‘neither a patron nor a connoisseur of music’, and that he was attracted to it solely for its ‘power as a medium of affect’. His engagement with music was correspondingly restricted to employing its powers of affect for his larger political and social…

Reviewed by: Abhik Majumdar
Edited by Tejaswini Niranjana

These essays serve an important purpose in setting the stage for the next section, ‘New Musical Publics and the Formation of Taste’ which deals with the unfolding of the complex question of aesthetic pleasure and the creation of different public spheres around the problem of taste. Although the players and the narratives within which they operate are different, these two essays offer a key turning point in the book where we encounter the ‘surpluses’ of publicness in all its complexity.

Reviewed by: Vibhuti Sharma
By Kuldeep Kumar

Kumar’s commentary on Pandit Kumar Gandharva is particularly noteworthy. He observes that while reinventing Kabir, Kumarji was simultaneously reinventing himself, envisioning an artist, a thinker, and a rebel within. Kuldeep Kumar highlights Kumarji’s departure from blind adherence to gharanas, quoting Pandit BR Deodhar, Kumarji’s guru

Reviewed by: Naresh Kumar
By Anindya Bandopadhyay

In the first phase, the author foregrounds the role of two books: Sangita Taranga (1818) by Radhamohan Sen Das and Sangita Rasamadhuri (1844) by Jagannath Prasad Basu Mallik that had set the course of musical scholarship in Bengal for the future authors and scholars. The author shows that while Sangita Taranga was mainly influenced by Indo-Persian musicological texts like Tohfat-ul-Hind (1675), Sangita Rasamadhuri attempted to establish Hindustani musicology preferably in Hindu terms.

Reviewed by: Anirban Bhattacharyya
By Scott Timberg

Timberg experienced such instability and its impact on creative jobs first hand. Laid off by the Los Angeles Times just before his fortieth birthday, he endured the disintegration of a stable middle-class life, ultimately losing his home and being forced to leave Los Angeles. Scott Timberg died by suicide in 2019 at age fifty.

Reviewed by: Ayesha Anna Ninan
By Kunal Purohit

The term ‘H-Pop’, conceptualized by Purohit, provides a potent analytic that connects ‘local’, ‘small’ phenomena with mainstream, national discourse. A direct reference to the South Korean popular musical form K-Pop, Hindutva Pop is less a hybrid genre and more a theoretical framework to navigate the currents of a communalized public, from the ground up. The work gains from this critical framing, allowing the metanarrative of toxic, high-volume, public emotions, and communal violence, to become the backdrop and trope.

Reviewed by: Aranya
By V.R. Devika

Devika has, with great ingenuity, titled the chapters to coincide with the Margam, or a graded Bharatanatyam performance, starting from Mallari and ending with Thillana and Mangalam. In a way, you journey through Rukmini Devi Arundale’s life in the same pace and rhythm that you would progress through the performance of a dance form that became her life’s work.

Reviewed by: Avantika Bhuyan
By Dr. Sonal Mansingh

From the expansiveness of collective consciousness to the privacy of life’s travails is not an easy transition, yet Sonal Mansingh in the chapter called ‘Dwijaa’ (twice born) bravely describes her period of critical illness in Germany and Canada. A highway accident left her nearly paralysed, so much so that she was given a choice between a surgery where the outcome was unknown and a bed-based recovery where too the outcome was unknown. She instinctively chose the latter, and with the help of a medical team in Montreal,

Reviewed by: Malashri Lal
By Shalini R. Ayyagari

his book conceptualizes the musicians’ attempted negotiation and intermingling of the two value systems, feudal and neoliberal—the former requiring them to be subdued and localized and the latter competitive and entrepreneurial—as resilience, a concept theoretically established in several disciplines including ethnomusicology, but one Ayyagari also aptly translates from the indigenous term ‘lachila’.

Reviewed by: Spandita Das
By Tarun Tahiliani

It is exciting that these days, exhibitions of India in the West are not just of objects from our museums but of contemporary Indian design, be it the one on the ‘Offbeat Sari’ in London recently, or the ‘Fabric of India’ a few years earlier. Dastkar was fortunate to develop products for the ‘Handmade in India’ exhibition hosted by the Crafts Council of UK.

Reviewed by: Laila Tyabji
Compiled and edited by Lakshmi Swaminathan. Foreword by Satish Kumar

Traditional wisdom had to observe what was at hand and to learn what did or did not harm…there are no universal rules…in all ancient traditions, they honour the elements…water is Apanswarupa. She sustains all being…Water is a divine gift.

Reviewed by: Rafiq Kidwai
By Anita Bharat Shah

It is always fascinating to read about the meaning underlying the imagery in Nathdwara paintings. For instance, the different aspects of shringara are related to the season and time of the day, and the rasa that they choose to evoke, leading to ultimate ananda in devotees. Shringara of Shrinathji features an essay by Amit Ambalal, which gives a comprehensive view of the symbolism in the painting related to the Pushtimarg tradition.

Reviewed by: Avantika Bhuyan
By Reema Desai Gehi. Foreword by Krishen Khanna

A new biography by journalist Reema Desai Gehi provides a long overdue examination of the cultural arbiter. Gehi conducted extensive research, delving into archival material, interviewing people who knew Rudy, visiting his friends and family in Europe, to piece together a portrait of the man who did so much to support the artists who forged a new visual arts language in the early 20th century.

Reviewed by: Gayatri Rangachari Shah
By Janeita Singh

While I continued to interact personally with SH Raza, MF Husain, and KH Ara of the Progressive Artists Group, Souza remained an elusive personality—though I gravitated towards all his distinct canvasses and drawings at every exhibition or collection.

Reviewed by: Dolly Thakore
Translated from the original Hindi by Richard J. Cohen. With Essays by Naman P. Ahuja, Vivek Gupta & Qamar Adamjee

When his daughter Chanda is born to Rao Mahar Sahadev, her beauty is extolled far and wide and at the age of four she is betrothed by her father to another chieftain’s son named Bavan. When she arrives at her husband’s home at the age of 12, she finds Bavan to be one-eyed and impotent. Her virtue thus intact, she returns to her father’s home where she whiles away her time sighing from balconies, where she is thus espied by a passing bard who now sings passionately of her beauty, his stirring verses reaching the ears of Rao Rupchand in Rajpur.

Reviewed by: Kishore Singh
By Sanjoy Patnaik

On the face of it, this absence of reference material hinders any serious study of cinema in Odisha. However, the ‘black hole’ in Odia cinema’s history throws up uncanny silver threads. Patnaik turns to personal memories of men and women who literally embodied Odia cinema from its halcyon days in the 1960s and ‘70s to its present.

Reviewed by: Bijay K Danta
By Smita Banerjee

A long introduction sets out the contour of the work in which the ‘endeavour is to map the varied formations of the modern that the Suchitra-Uttam films articulated and to trace these responses to these formations in the reception circuits and journalistic discourses’.

Reviewed by: Amitabha Bhattacharya
By Ashis Ghatak

The Musical Maverick: An Authorized Biography of Shankar Mahadevan by Ashis Ghatak chronicles the life of the versatile music director, singer, and performer who has played a critical role in scaling up the soundtracks of not just Bollywood films but also genres like fusion jazz, Indipop, and a modern, refurbished aural universe of devotional music.

Reviewed by: Shikha Jhingan
Edited by Laura Brueck, Jacob Smith and Neil Verma

The third section of essays is ‘Post-cinematic Flows’. The title of this section hints at the changing nature of the cinematic medium and its viewing whether in public, semi-public or entirely private settings and transformations in its circulation and consumption. Madhuja Mukherjee’s essay on balances at play in video making in the Manbhum region of Bengal

Reviewed by: Shubhra Ray
By Isabel Huacuja Alonso

The politics of listening and sounding extends from Pavitra Sundar’s work to Rangan et al’s discussion on accent—common to both is the figure of the xenophone. The interdisciplinary volume on accent draws upon contributions ranging from literature and linguistics to anthropology and media studies—opens up the accent as an unstable element, one that ‘raises questions about power, hierarchy and difference’ (p. 3). Accent, for the volume’s authors and editors

Reviewed by: Vebhuti Duggal
Edited by Rahaab Allana

Prashant Panjiar started as a photojournalist in a newspaper and went ahead to do photo assignments for two of India’s prominent newsmagazines when print was the primary medium. He has spoken about his engagement with the changing socio-economic landscape of the Indian subcontinent that he experienced working in print.
Sunil Gupta’s work transcends borders as he brings his diasporic lens to look at issues of gender, sexuality, racial discrimination across continents in India

Reviewed by: Sohail Akbar
Edited by Rashmi Devi Sawhney

The third section of essays is ‘Post-cinematic Flows’. The title of this section hints at the changing nature of the cinematic medium and its viewing whether in public, semi-public or entirely private settings and transformations in its circulation and consumption. Madhuja Mukherjee’s essay on balances at play in video making in the Manbhum region of Bengal

Reviewed by: Prateek Raja
By Romulus Whitaker with Janaki Lenin

After a long ship and plane ride to the other end of the world, Breezy with his sisters, mother and Rama, now his stepfather, arrives in new Bombay that is developing new professions and industries much like the film industry. Rama steps up a motion picture colour processing lab for what was already emerging as the primary form of entertainment, the cinema.

Reviewed by: Rupleena Bose