27 September 2017

Curated by Shubha Mudgal, Artists Anuradha Kuber, Purbayan Chatterjee, Murad Ali (sarangi), Accompanying artists Saumitra Kshirsagar (Harmonium), Swapnil Bhise (Tabla), Satyajeet Talwalkar (Tabla), Akram Khan (Tabla), Costumes by Rohit Bal, Sets by Sumant Jayakrishnan (Scenografia Sumant), Audio Engineer Nitin Joshi, 78 RPM recordings provided by Dr. Suresh Chandvankar, Society of Indian Record Collectors, Master of Ceremony Richa Anirudh, Jewellery Courtesy Amrapali Jewels.

Royal Opera House, Mumbai


A classical music performance that is quite unique as it reinterprets archival information both in terms of its musical format as well as its visual presentation. The music renditions pay tribute to the manner in which artistes adapted their presentations for emerging formats like recording technology.

The performers’ costumes, designed by Rohit Bal, are reminiscent of the styles worn by yesteryear musicians and truly reconstruct the essence of the past tradition of musical performance. This collaboration also takes a relook at reviving old textile techniques.

 Living Traditions presents three accomplished exponents of Hindustani music—vocalist Anuradha Kuber, sitar player Purbayan Chatterjee and sarangi nawaz Murad Ali—with their respective accompanying musicians. The artistes each re-interpret compositions that were recorded by master musicians in the early 20th century on 78 RPM format. The artistes perform in costumes re-created specially for the project by designer Rohit Bal, from archival photographs of Hindustani musicians in performance from the early part  of the 20th century.

In keeping with its title, the project studies and showcases  living traditions that are constantly adapting and dynamic. Archival images of musicians from the early 20th century suggest that exponents of Hindustani classical music dressed in several styles and textiles that are different from the preferred apparel of musicians today. And yet, some styles from the past remain in vogue even today. With Rohit Bal bringing his unique understanding of textiles, fashion and design into this project, audiences for the Living Traditions project will witness a reconstruction and reinterpretation of the concert apparel of musicians from the past.

The repertoire that the artistes present is from the 78 RPM era when recording technology came to India. The earliest gramophone recordings of music were made in approximately 1902, following which scores of musicians and artistes recorded their music on 78 RPM format. These recordings provide invaluable reference material for students today, and we have requested the featured artistes to interpret selected repertoire from 78 RPM recordings for this evening’s presentation.

For example, Murad Ali will present a track recorded by the legendary Bundu Khan saheb (1880 to 1955), while Anuradha Kuber will interpret a composition in Raag  Shyam Kalyan recorded by Azam Bai or Azambai Pisal of Kolhapur (1906–1986). In doing so, the project hopes to create a beautiful montage of the past and present, highlighting the continuum that binds tradition with modernity. 

Images from the launch event and performance of Living Traditions