Varanasi has for long been a pioneering home to a variety of India’s philosophical and cultural traditions. Great exponents of Music, Dance & Art have lived and died on the banks of the Ganga, all but a handful of them obscure to present-day Indians.
Today, the keeper of Varanasi’s musical flame is the Kashi Sangeet Samaj (Banaras Music Society), located in the Chowkhamba area of the old city. This organisation completed 100 years in 2006. In its possession is a singular collection of rare recordings, remarkable photographs of past musicians not found anywhere else, antique instruments, and books & manuscripts now out of print. Digital archival of this material has been initiated but the going is slow, hobbled by a shoestring budget, bare physical facilities, crippling power cuts, and the general inefficiency coded into the Indian DNA.
I dropped by the Kashi Sangeet Samaj in the first week of April 2007, and was warmly received by its custodian, Shri Krishna Kumar Rastogi. This montage provides a fleeting glimpse of the character of the material sitting in the society’s vaults. The black and white photographs in this gallery are photographs of photographs. All the images were shot in sub-optimal lighting conditions.