The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

Music Room is the story of Namita and her teacher; of the charismatic Alladiya Khan; and of the foul-mouthed and bewitching Kesarbai. At its heart is Dhondutai, shy, diffident yet full of determination… Namita Devidayal is a journalist with The Times of India. She lives in Mumbai. This is her first book.

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13 thoughts on “The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

  1. if any one has some recording of kesarbai share it on this site b/c to appriciate her one must listen to her first.I have listened to her.

  2. if any one has some recording of kesarbai share it on this site b/c to appriciate her one must listen to her first.I have listened to her.

  3. Hi all,
    Just finished reading the book. I think it is actually a change to see a book on Hindustani Music getting space in the popular media. Usually such books sink without a trace in a sea of apathy and lack of promotion.

    We never really tried to document the lives of our great musicians and this book definitely fills a gap there. And for me Atrauli Jaipur Gharana is the staple of my daily music binge. And all i had ever heard were random anecdotes about the giants of this gharana from the past. Now I can feel their flesh and bone, so to say, instead of groping in the air.

    And if you are under Kesar Bai’s magic then this is definitely the book to read. Not a lot about Bade Khan Sahib although. I have never even heard his voice, but what a genius to have given birth to such ineffable style.

    There is one thing which troubled me a lot. It is Kesarbai’s marked reluctance to get her music recorded and her paranoia about her music being stolen. Does creativity come with such a possessiveness always? Is there something pathologically destructive in the creative act, something that seeks to consume that which it produces? It is as if she wants history to mourn her, to remember and feel cheated out of a treat it can only imagine.

    Sometimes I feel as if all of classical music thrives on this looking back in loss and frustration. One always feels “Kahan gaye woh Log?”. Is it really so? Have we always thus declined? Lost our knowledge and skill always, till all is lost?

    Sorry for ranting on, but do read the book.


    1. Very interesting question you raise, Arijit, about artists’ possessiveness about their work. For dancers, I can say with some certainty, their wanting people to flock to their LIVE shows makes them stop themselves from being video-taped. If not, why would they not create tapes; not while dancing in front of an audience, but away from it, in a studio set up? They want to be appreciated live, unlike movie stars.

  4. its not that paranoia infact if she did thought so it does not happens many people sing khayals sung by her but they cant imitate her even.its a pity if she felt like that.well alot has been saved from the treasure.ALLAH DIYA KHAN SAHIB never recorded any thing commercially thats why u have not heard him.dont know if someone has a private mehfil recording.

  5. this book is a wonderful read! i recommend it highly. just dont listen to the dhondutai kulkarni cd after, you will be rather disappointed. i wonder if there any recordings of her in her youth; the book speaks about her accompanying kesarbai in a calcutta ( santiniketan?) recording..

  6. As a student of vocal indian classical music myself, this book was an inspiring, educational and wonderful insight into the indian classical music world.
    I’ve never read anything like it and quotes from it continue to inspire me to practice and carry on delving deeper into the rich history and traditions 🙂

    The story Namita narrates I can very much relate to; being unsure about the place of indian music in her life, love for her guru and wanting to continue learning but having to go to university etc.

    I really loved it, it opens up a world in an understandable, interesting and beautiful way 😀 I hope she writes more!


  7. though i am not vocalist nor i know basic of classical hindustani music, but this vocal stanza repeat, so melodiouse. it take to transidential. mesmerized me.

  8. in fact , one of the greats of jaipur atrauli is mallikarjun mansoor, whose recordings are available in plenty. people who have listened to him personally are also available. the style of kishori too belongs to the same gharana. there are many young people who are now practicing in the gharana. i have recently heard one mr. shiragaonkar from america at kolhapur when he was on visit. wonderful. this gharana style is distinct and different from others. even then the publicity or public awareness of this gharana is less compared to other gharanas. the book is excellent in that it gives the cravings and hard work by dhondutai and namita too.

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