In our last column, we discussed the need for detailed music-mapping efforts to document the demographics of those involved in music, irrespective of the genres in which they specialise. In fact, this documentation should include not just performers, but also all other sections related to the performance, teaching and dissemination of music. This would need to incorporate details about organisations, institutions, individual patrons, instrument-makers, and many more stakeholders.
Efforts in this direction are being undertaken by some institutions, but it is heartening to note that a nationwide documentation of this nature has been envisaged by the National Mission on Cultural Mapping and Roadmap under the government of India’s Ministry of Culture.
In the mission statement, the ministry notes that there is an absence of comprehensive cultural mapping data and a systematic database of artists and that schemes drawn up by the ministry are not linked to a database. As a result, there is no rational approach to the sanction of grants. Therefore, government resources, already scarce, are not adequately utilised.
While the cultural mapping project envisaged is ambitious and may encounter problems that are often intrinsic to bureaucratic set-ups, it would be interesting to see the manner in which the programme evolves and the ways in which stakeholders are brought on board as domain experts, and to provide information and feedback.
But apart from demographics, it is important to also document and disseminate information about diverse musical forms and their cultural contexts. The music-mapping project initiated by the Rabindra Bharati University in Kolkata discussed briefly last week focuses on Hindustani music in that city and seeks to provide wide-ranging information related to this musical culture as has been experienced since the nineteenth century.
There is no music per se on the website, but I would urge readers to visit the site to learn about the world of Hindustani music in Kolkata. Archival newspaper clippings have been digitised and interviews with musicians, organisers, and listeners, have been made available on the website. Although interviews are conducted in Bengali, English transcripts for some have also been provided.
Anecdotes play an important role in oral history projects despite inaccuracies or exaggerated accounts that may creep in. But we will discuss this aspect in a separate installment.