LACMA: Lucknow through the lens of tabla with Swapan Chaudhuri

Los Angeles County Museum of Art — LACMA’s epic exhibition India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow (December 12, 2010 – February 27, 2011) culminated in a special interactive tabla performance featuring tabla Master Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri of the Lucknow Gharana. Held on February 24, 2011 this multimedia/instructional performance examined, through live tabla performance and through projected images and research, how Lucknow’s culture converged the best living musicians, poets and arts patrons of the day to evolve the tradition of tabla, an extraordinary percussive instrument of the north Indian classical music tradition. I facilitated a dialogue with Swapanji accompanied by projected slides giving further historical and geographical context to the musical performance and its connection to the city of Lucknow.


Special focus was given to Swapanji’s own tabla lineage which is traced to the courts of Lucknow rulers, where tabla synthesized a wide range of other drumming traditions to become what it is today. Swapanji recited and performed a wide range of compositions which parallel the dance traditions that evolved in Lucknow. He also discussed the role of British colonialism towards the destruction of Lucknow, and its consequential impact on the spread of tabla and classical Indian music beyond Lucknow’s borders into north India and the world. Guest performances by Rina Mehta (kathak), Debashish Chaudhuri (tabla), Antara Bhardwaj (vocal), Javad Butah (tabla) & Ben Kunin (sarode) provided further insight into how tabla supported the development of a wide range of artforms in Lucknow.

Here in this highlights reel, Swapanji shares compositions of the Lucknow Gharana with accompanying explanations of how tabla evolved in Lucknow, his Guru Acharya Santosh Krishna Biswas, his Dada Guru Hirubabu (Hirendra Kumar) Ganguly, and compositions from Lucknow Khalifa Ustad Abid Hussain Khan. The finale to the concert featured a tabla duet by Swapanji and his nephew, Debashish Chaudhuri. Javad Butah accompanies on harmonium.

Special Thanks to Tushara Bindu Gude, Claire Kim, Julie Romain, Mitch Glickman, Randy Gloss, Liza Matluck, Tim Witter, Bill Witter, Daniel Karp, Jim Santi Owen, Amit Kumar Das, Jaeger Smith and Danny Kim

Video Shot and Edited by Jaeger Smith

More information on the artists available at: