Before the days of public support, Hindustani music was patronised by the feudal aristocracy. But even before ticketed performances became the convention, it was the commercial and industrial elite in cities that engaged musicians to entertain select audiences.

Recreating the last days of feudal patronage and the brashness of the new urban elite, Satyajit Ray’s film Jalsaghar showcases beautiful concert sequences held in a Bengali zamindar’s palatial home. The music for this film was composed by sitar maestro Vilayat Khan, who had retained the character of the music that such performances would display.

Top-notch musicians performed on the soundtrack. Here’s a composition in raga Mian ki Malhar, sung by Salamat Ali Khan of the Sham Chaurasi gharana. Notice Salamat Ali Khan’s characteristic taans, fast improvised sequences of notes, towards the end of the piece.

You can watch the video here.

Lovers of Hindustani music would particularly look forward to the sequence that has Begum Akhtar appear on screen. She sings a dadra in raga Pilu.

You can watch the video here.

There’s a virtuoso Kathak recital by Roshan Kumari. She dances to a trivat, a composition that uses pakhawaj syllables in place of conventional song-text. Roshan Kumari highlights the salient features of a Kathak performance by incorporating amazing footwork, pirouettes, abhinaya or expression, rhythmic dexterity in the tabla compositions that she dances to, and the gat-bhaav that depicts Krishna’s playfulness.

Jalsaghar (1958).