Prahlad Gaikwad, a sugarcane farmer from Wathar village, in Maharashtra’s Satara district, woke up excited on the morning of 19 October 2019. He drove for about two hours to the village of Aundh, reaching just in time for the first recital of its annual festival of Hindustani classical music.
Now in his eighties, Gaikwad has attended the Aundh Sangeet Mahotsav for the past 15 years, ever since he moved back to his native village from Mumbai, where he had worked in a cotton mill for several decades. Every year, he has sat through the entire 24-hour festival, which begins in the morning a week before Diwali and ends at dawn the following day. “I want to take in all the musical fragrances, particularly the tabla solo,” he told me.
An established feature of the festival—which will hold its eightieth edition this year—the tabla solo is an especially arcane sub-genre of Hindustani music. One needs to have learnt to play for at least a few years to appreciate it. Gaikwad learnt the tabla in Mumbai, where he also regularly attended concerts, including one by Gajanan Anant Joshi—popularly known as Gajananbuwa—a singer and self-taught violinist who played a key role in establishing the festival’s reputation.