Sawai Gandharva in Pune! Or, …

A musical antidote to regional chauvinism:

It was around 1930. In Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra, a play was being performed. An actor came on stage and began to sing in a unique voice. There was a commotion amongst the spectators, and someone called out: “Kaanadi appa” (a derogatory term used for Kannadigas in Maharashtra). Others picked up the cry. The accompanying instruments stopped playing. The actor came to the front of the stage, and said: “You are showing this intolerance because I am from the Kannada desh. Show me someone amongst you who can sing as well as I do, and I will engage him in a contest.” Having said this, he sat down for a baithak. He sang for a good three to four hours. The spectators fell silent. As the man finished singing, garland after garland was heaped around his neck. Everyone began to praise his display of erudition. The actor who conquered Marathi intolerance with the light of his knowledge was Sawai Gandharva.

From Tejaswini Niranjana’s Music in the balance: Language, modernity and Hindustani sangeet in Dharwad at EPW.  A must-read!

There are more interesting stories too — like the one about Pt. Mallikarjun Mansur and Ustad. Bade Gulam Ali Khan (which also involves Ustad Alladiya Khan) and the role of chillies in promoting Hindustani music in Dharwad. Have fun!

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