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70th Anniversary of partition and the unifying call of music

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Blog on Prom 55

THE CAST FROM PROM 55

Marking the 70th anniversary of partition and independence on the Indian subcontinent by celebrating three contrasting traditions: Hindustani music of North India, South India’s melody-driven Carnatic music and the mesmeric Sufi music of Pakistan.

 
I have been saddened, as I have been reading and watching programmes about Indian Independence, by the realisation of how little I have been aware of the devastating effects of partition on that country.

As a clarinettist, I have been involved in performances with North Indian Musicians and enjoyed the company of musicians, dancers and narrators both through playing music with them and enjoying their hospitality. Anyone involved with Indian musicians will appreciate their generosity of spirit. Sharing chai, food and music, often in that order, is an integral part of creating music together.

At no time during these gatherings have we ever spoken about Partition and the terrible effect that it had on their families and communities. Possibly, as with many survivors of wars, it is considered best to hide it away.

It has therefore been enlightening to see so many programmes on partition and good to see the power of music in diversity, as shown in Prom 55 which marked the 70th anniversary of independence from British rule and the Partition of India from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

While Muslims were fleeing to Pakistan their Hindu and Sikh counterparts were finding refuge in India. Both nations looked for musical identity and whilst Delhi promoted the rhythmically charged, sitar and table dominated Hindustani Music of North India the Pakistani government turned to the poetic song forms of ghazal and qawwali.

The Prom brought the subcontinent’s rich classical music together in a celebration of their diversity and it is reported that this late night Prom which went into the early hours of the morning was impressively full with its audience drawn equally from Europe and the South Asian sub-continent.

Geraldine Allen

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