A village swims all the time over music, The Music Village of Bengal

Posted by Kaahon Desk On March 17, 2019

Dadpur village in Dhulasimla Uluberia, has become a counterintuitive dreamland for the masters of Indian classical music. Not far from the crowd of Kolkata, this remote village is famous for its home-grown industry of Indian musical instruments. Majority of the population in here derive their livelihood from crafting different musical instruments, and in turn they have become the primary import unit for some major instrument companies. Whether its’s exporting the parts or even the whole instrument; Dadpur village has been making strides in instrument business in the last few decades.

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Tarapada Halder, the founding father of this unique home-grown industry was a native of this village who left for Kolkata, and later spent a considerable time in Lucknow learning his trade. The music industry was going through a major change in mid 20th century, India. Very few musical shops existed, and almost none of them had a manufacturing unit of their own. Their business consisted of buying and selling as per the market demand. Tarapada Halder understood the pulse of the business very well. Upon returning from Lucknow he started manufacturing instruments himself, recruiting the younglings of his native village as his helper, exporting their instruments to the markets of Banaras and Lucknow. Some of his disciples later became famous craftsmen themselves and took advantage of the lucrative market that was on offer, and gradually Dadpur village came to be the musicians’ wet dream that it is today. Now there are more than ten factories and a large platoon of trained craftsmen, who have become a rarity of late in other parts of our country. Now Dadpur exports to all the major markets in India, and their international exports have experienced a sudden boom in the last few decades.

Kaahon team decided to visit this musical pilgrimage, compelled by the urge to explore and document instrument making. Dadpur village is currently the biggest exporter of string instruments. Although the craftsmanship started with more conventional classical instruments, it has now gained a varied catalogue of instruments that are currently made here. All the craftsmen of this village are either direct pupil of Tarapada Halder, or derive their knowledge from his teachings. Needless to say he is held in high regards among the villagers. We reached his son through telephone to gain some first-hand insight of the life of the great instrument maker himself. We came to know about the life and hardships of the fabled founding father, and his entourage to transform his remote village into something extraordinary. We interviewed a number of his pupils who are now established instrument makers themselves. Although the master craftsmen are well off with the living they make, they rarely get credit for their work once it has been sold to major instrument companies. Unlike most trades instrument making is unrewarding in the primary years, craftsmen start getting paid after they have devoted a few years in learning a certain task. Emergence of factories and other opportunities where people can start getting paid from the beginning have seen the inlet of young craftsmen starkly waning. Less people are interested to enter the trade now, and it puts the practice in danger of if not extinction then certainly of severe limitation. Tarapada Halder’s pupils are the last to hold the frontier, and they are still dominating the classical instrument market.

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