The port city of ours has been a destination for artistes since the 19th century, informs Dr Tejaswini Niranjana, a distinguished scholar and visiting faculty at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Today, she will unravel, share and narrate the many histories embedded in Girgaum as far as Hindustani music goes. Complementing her in thought will be filmmaker Surabhi Sharma who has featured music in her films such as Bidesia in Bambai, and architect Kaiwan Mehta, managing editor of Domus India.

Sites, sights and ornaments from the Bhuleshwar, Kalbadevi Road and Girgaum area — some of the localities crucial to the Mumbai-Music project. pic courtesy/Kaiwan Mehta’s Alice in Bhuleshwar archive
Sites, sights and ornaments from the Bhuleshwar, Kalbadevi Road and Girgaum area — some of the localities crucial to the Mumbai-Music project. pic courtesy/Kaiwan Mehta’s Alice in Bhuleshwar archive

Dr Niranjana shares about the idea’s origins, “Surabhi and I are long-time collaborators and have worked together on another music project before this (see her film Jahaji Music: India in the Caribbean; and my book Mobilising India: Women, Migration and Music between India and Trinidad).



e have been working on the history of Hindustani music in Mumbai for two years, and aim to publish research papers and produce a film on the topic. Kaiwan Mehta has been involved in our discussions for a while…We recently participated in a conference in Berlin on Music and the Public Sphere, where we presented our collaborative work, and decided it was high time we presented it to a Mumbai audience, which we know will be critical and discerning.”

An old tabla maker in the Girgaum area
An old tabla maker in the Girgaum area

The session will cover areas of Girgaum including “Laxmi Baug and Trinity Club where Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Sawai Gandharva and Kesarbai Kerkar sang, Abdul Karim Khan’s Saraswathi Sangeet Vidyalay on Lamington Road, Deodhar School of Indian Music at French Bridge where Kumar Gandharva studied, and Bhangwadi and the Pila House theatres where Marathi and Gujarati plays flourished” announces the poster. The focus will be to reinvigorate interest in spaces that form an integral part of Mumbai’s heritage.

Dr Tejaswini Niranjana Scholar
Dr Tejaswini Niranjana Scholar

Charting the period from 1860 to the present day, Dr Niranjana says, “Many factors fed into Hindustani music’s (HM) migration into Mumbai. The decline of Mughal courts, which had nurtured HM, led to the dispersal of the musicians and tawaifs (courtesans) who started migrating to the princely states in western and southern India in search of new patrons.” She recalls how new technologies like the gramophone and the railways were crucial to the spread of HM. Mumbai emerged as a major hub for recording (radio and gramophone) and thus, attracted many musicians to the city.

Kaiwan Mehta Architect
Kaiwan Mehta Architect

“From the 1890s, a large number of music schools were opened. As far back as 1870, journalist, social reformer, playwright and municipal councillor Kaikhushro Kabraji started the Gayan Uttejak Mandali, which offered formal training in HM,” she shares, stressing that such developments deemed Mumbai as a major centre for music.

Surabhi Sharma Filmmaker
Surabhi Sharma Filmmaker

This led to the existence of varied kinds of spaces, namely, the musical theatre, the baithak (private gathering in a wealthy patron’s home), the concert hall, the Ganesh Utsav platform, the radio, and the municipal gardens (Rani Baug and Malabar Hill), which Dr Niranjana will further discuss during her talk.