As discussed in the previous part of this series, Hindustani musicians performed on various occasions to lend support to the movement for Indian independence. But there were times when some musicians also performed for British dignitaries and for occasions that may not have been in consonance with the nationalist cause.

Some of these concerts took place when these musicians were engaged by princely courts or by Indian commercial and industrial elite to entertain British dignitaries.

But there were at least two occasions when the proceeds of concerts by Hindustani musicians went towards the Bombay Presidency Branch of the Imperial Indian Relief Fund during World War I. The first one mentioned in The Bombay Chronicle dated September 16,1914, featured Putlibai and Saraswatibai Welinker, Shantabai Manjrekar, Tarabai Shirodkar, Bablibai Malpekar and Balabai Barodekar.

While there is no information about the concert repertoire that they selected, it may be safe to presume that at least one of them, namely, Tarabai Shirodkar (1889-1949) would have sung khayal, as she was a disciple of promiment vocalists and gurus Ramkrishnabuwa Vaze, Bhaskarbuwa Bakhale and Muhammad Khan.

Here is a 78 rpm recording of Tarabai Shirodkar singing a composition set to the 12-matra Ektaal in Mia ki Malhar, a raag prescribed for the monsoon.


The next track also features Tarabai Shirodkar. She sings a composition set to the seven-matra Rupak taal in the raag Sindhura.


I am not aware of the political stance of these vocalists with regard to the war or in relation to the Indian independence movement. It is quite possible that they decided to perform on this occasion at the invitation of patrons who regularly hosted their concerts, and they may have, therefore, treated this as just another concert opportunity.

It is also not clear whether they performed gratis on this occasion. But it is important to note that the proceeds from this concert amounted to Rs 1,812, a large sum at the time.

Despite vocalist and music educationist Vishnu Digambar Paluskar’s alignment with the nationalist cause, even proceeds of a concert presented by the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, his music school in Bombay, went towards the Imperial Relief Fund. (It isn’t immediately clear when exactly this concert was held.) This, perhaps, reflected the mixed Indian response to the war. The proceeds from this concert amounted to Rs 450.

One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.