A rare musical legacy
The writings of Mohan Nadkarni, hitherto preserved in dozens of scrapbooks at a university in Pune, India, are now progressively being made available online for all to read free of cost. Students, historians and connoisseurs alike have sought these writings for many years as they have been widely regarded as a record of developments in Hindustani classical music in the twentieth century.
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Mohan Nadkarni – A life in the service of music
Mohan Nadkarni, born in Karwar, Karnataka state on September 22, 1922, was one of India’s most well known musicologists and perhaps the most published author on the subject. He was the music critic of The Times of India for over 50 years, having reviewed thousands of concerts between 1948 and 2002.
He authored over 4000 articles mostly on Hindustani music, but also on Marathi and Sanskrit theatre, Indian classical dance, Hindi film music and ethnomusicology and cultural topics in leading publications all over India and internationally. He was himself a trained vocalist, who studied under the great Gangubai Hangal, though he never performed publicly.
He has had the rare privilege of reviewing the earliest concert performances of legendary musicians of the twentieth century, too numerous to mention here.
In those years, he also consulted with recording companies like His Master’s Voice helping produce the early LP records of many of these artistes in terms of repertoire selection and promotional notes that appear on the record covers.
In the process, he developed lifelong friendships with musical luminaries of three generations and has fond memories of his discussions, arguments and the rare camaraderie he shared with them at different times in their successful careers.
He touched upon many of those experiences in the eight major books that he authored, including the best selling biography of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, which has been translated into several Indian languages.
Mohan Nadkarni won several awards including the Karnataka State Government’s Kalashree award for lifetime’s contribution to music and the Shreshtha Sangeet Sadhak Award from the prestigious Bhatkhande Institute, again, for lifetime achievement. He was a permanent member of the Sangeet Research Academy, Calcutta, which continues to produce talented artistes.
He lectured and held workshops on Hindustani music in several cities in India as well as in Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom among other countries. He addressed the World Music Forum in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1995.
Due to a medical condition, Mohan Nadkarni was unable to write or type for the better part of his life. He dictated all his writings to his wife Suniti, who typed every piece and manuscript that he has written since the early 1960s till the very end of his writing career.
The couple moved to Auckland in 2007. Before migrating, Mohan Nadkarni donated his entire musical library comprising thousands of articles and rare photographs, rare LP and 78RPM records and thousands of cassettes to the music department of the SNDT University in Pune, where a musical library has been set up in his name. He passed away in Auckland at the age of 91 on July 22, 2014.
The Mohan Nadkarni Foundation has undertaken the task of digitising his entire musical wealth to make it available to all free of cost. His writings will be progressively available on www.mohannadkarni.org. The foundation also plans to preserve the musical assets at the University in Pune and provide listening and learning tools for students using digital technologies in coming years.