27 October, 2020

Maihar's Fading Notes

India's only classical music orchestra languishes amidst declining patronage and little foresight

Maihar's Fading Notes

THERE'S an awful din of highway traffic outside, but this grotty old building in Maihar is resonating with the strains of Megh Malhar. For a raga evoking the majesty of gathering clouds, the Malhar served on a hot, sunny morning is possibly a deviant offering. But so is the 'band' playing it. Minutes before, a gaggle of sleepy unshaven musicians trooped into the building, took their dusty instruments, squatted on a frayed blue carpet spotted with bird droppings and began to play. It's been like this ever since they can remember: going through the rote of three-hour-long rehearsals, six days a week, year after year, waiting for the rare performance call. The sheen of Maihar Band, the only Indian classical music orchestra, is gone, but the ragged band plays on spiritedly. "We are different, but nobody really seems to care," says Sailendra Sharma, the 58-year-old orchestra leader.

The band's impeccable pedigree easily makes it different. Eighty years ago, sarod virtuoso and musical genius Baba Allaudin Khan organised the Maihar band...



To read this piece, and more such stories in India's most exciting and exacting magazine, plus get access to our 25-year archives goldmine, please subscribe.

More from Soutik Biswas

Latest Magazine

November 02, 2020

other articles from the issue

articles from the previous issue

Other magazine section