Anybody who comes in contact with Indian Classical musicians and/or moves around for quite some time in the ‘music circle’ will hear a lot of stories and anecdotes, not just about the current crop of musicians, but also about past practitioners. Many of these usually cannot be verified but do serve as the primary source of insights into the life and times of the masters, especially due to the dearth of written material on Indian Classical Music in general and on such topics in particular.
There have been attempts in the written form in the recent past at tracing the evolution of Hindustani Music and its Gharanas, at trying to make Hindustani Music easier to understand to the lay reader/listener and at chronicling the life of the great masters. If there is one book that tries to do all of this together, it is Kumar Prasad Mukherji’s “The Lost World of Hindustani Music” (Penguin Books, 2006). The following are some reasons that, in my opinion, combine to make this one of the most interesting reads on Hindustani music:
- Kumar da, the author, was an accomplished musician himself, apart from being a rasika, a music critic and an organizer of music festivals
- He did a lot of (formal) research into the music of the masters of different gharanas. This adds richness and a certain authenticity to the observations he makes vis-a-vis those made by other writers who, though endowed with good language skills, may not have been musically that adept
- He had many opportunities to interact/move around with other musicians from which he managed to collect a lot of stories/anecdotes
- He seems to have read a lot of other books on the subject and has drawn references from them extensively
- He wrote this book towards the very fag end of his life which enabled him to pen down most of his musical experiences with a maturity that usually only comes with many quality years of serious/passionate pursuit of music