It is hard to find a lull during the open hours at Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Mandi House in Delhi. The floor thuds with stomping feet, while strains of music float in the air. It is almost as if the institute mimics its director’s energy. Shobha Deepak Singh not only helms the activities of the cultural centre, but has also been self-driven to document its performances and productions since 1969. Over the last few years, the 72-year-old has sifted through over three lakh images, coming out with seminal coffee table books on dance, followed by theatre. Singh is back with the third in the series, a book comprising 250 images of musicians who have graced the stage in Delhi. Titled Musicscapes (Roli Books), the book is accompanied by an exhibition of 70 photographs at India Habitat Centre, Delhi.
Singh’s tribute comes close on the heels of her own training in music. “In childhood, we were sent to learn classical music from Ustad Aminuddin Dagar. As we sang the sargam, he told us to ‘sing’ from the gut. I commenced to learn dance, but music was an integral part of our being,” notes Singh. Her training has been diverse — learning from greats such as Biswajeet Roy Chowdhury, Ut Amjad Ali Khan and Mallikarjun Mansur.
Her photography, thus, draws from her love for music. Black and white images of musicians such as Pandit Jasraj, Girja Devi, Abdul Rashid Khan, Amjad Ali Khan, Anoushka Shankar, Bhimsen Joshi and Bismillah Khan, among others, feature in the book and exhibition.
While Dancescapes captured motion and Theatrescapes was all about emotions, Musicscapes, says Singh, is about “unsung” emotions.
“What classical music does best and continues to do is to show a transformation of moods, a very wide psychological voyage.I think that’s something that classical musicians have done in an exemplary way,” she says.