‘The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India' provides a wealth of information to connoisseurs

This Margazhi season, the Oxford University Press has something special to offer connoisseurs of music in the city — a massive three-volume encyclopaedia on 2,000 years of music in the Indian sub-continent.

The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India, a remarkably comprehensive work covering classical, folk, film and other genres of music from across India and its neighbouring countries, was launched in the city recently by renowned Carnatic exponent M. Balamuralikrishna and noted playwright and actor Girish Karnad.

“This is a wonderful work. There are books on some Indian musical traditions, but nothing like this has been done before,” said Balamuralikrishna, at the launch event at ‘Town Hall' in The Residency Towers. “It's very important for the present and future generations, and to artistes such as myself, who will live on forever thanks to books like this.”

A massive project

Manzar Khan, managing director, Oxford University Press, noted that this project, with its 5,000 entries and 200 rare photographs, had been in the works for over a decade. “This is the result of a successful collaboration between Sangit Mahabharati, Mumbai, and us over a period of 12 years,” he said. “It's one of the biggest projects the Oxford University Press has ever published.”

The putting together of this book showed just how much the Indian branch of the Press had grown over the last few decades, said Karnad, who worked for OUP (right here in Chennai, as a matter of fact) back in the 1960s. “When I was there, we produced books such as ‘Treasure Island Simplified' and ‘Robinson Crusoe Abridged',” he joked. “I'm struck dumb by the sheer size of this work — not just physically, but by the remarkable range of its entries.”

In a lively speech, he discussed just how integral music was to the Indian way of life, and how it remained a living force in spite of its ancient roots. “The ability of Indian music to imbibe different influences and continue to grow and flourish is its strength and glory,” he said. “Today, Indian music is, I believe, better than ever, with barriers of caste, religion, and patronage collapsing. It's great to be here to celebrate that moment.”

The encyclopaedia is now available in major bookstores and is priced at Rs. 10,000. It will soon be available to users across the world online through Oxford University Press, U.S.A. “We've already signed an agreement with them,” said Khan. “India is a growing economic power and there's an increased interest in its art and culture worldwide today. This work has come at the right time.”