Utsavam - Music from India
 Exhibition at the Horniman Museum, Forest Hill, London
 Saturday 9th February - Sunday 2nd November 2008


Recently Rolf Killius worked as a consultant and co-curator for the Utsavam - Music from India, a major Indian musical instruments exhibition at the Horniman Museum . For this exhibition Rolf researched, collected and documented instruments and other objects, organised a community forum as an advisory panel and produced  more than 40 short films and audio tracks. The exhibition was free and was open for the duration of 2008.

Utsavam – Music from India displayed over 300 instruments and many filmed musical performances of the village-dwelling majority of India’s population, including the Adivasi (indigenous) groups whose music remains relatively unknown.

Represented were the performance arts of the temple musicians and priests of rural Kerala, singer-storytellers in the state of Punjab, musician-farmers of the villages of the Sora groups (who are among the Adivasi of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh), members of fishing and farming communities on the river island of Majuli in Assam, and communities in the mountains of Arunachal Pradesh on the border with China.

Each section of the exhibition conveyed information about the geographical, social and cultural environment in which the musicians from the different areas of India work. Section themes included, for example, ‘The Hills and Forests’ and ‘The Coastal Plain’. These exhibition themes reflected the contrasting terrains that are sources for the raw materials for instruments.

London-based communities of Indian heritage provided a further dimension to Utsavam - Music from India, with a dedicated community space in the exhibition, plus workshops and performances throughout 2008.

Background to the Exhibition

The year 2000 was the official birth of Traditional Music in India (TMI), when Janet Topp Fargion, the curator of the World and Traditional Music Section within the British Library Sound Archive, and Rolf Killius, set up a research project “to record, document and research folk, devotional and ritual musics of India” (project concept 2000).

Part of the project became the collection and documentation of more than 100 musical instruments for the Horniman Museum in London. The Horniman Museum and Rolf Killius developed the idea to commission musical instruments to be made in the areas, where music and dance were recorded.

In November 2002 Rolf Killius and his research assistant/camera-woman Jutta Winkler started on the first 17 months tour to selected rural and mostly remote areas in India. Up until February 2007 five more tours followed comprising a total research time of 3 ½ years. During the project it became apparent that the shear wealth of musical styles and musicians in India, sometimes hardly known outside their villages, made it very difficult to do a comprehensive project.

Very few areas in India, such as parts of the Western states of Punjab, Rajasthan, and Karnataka, are well-documented and researched. Little work has been done on the remote rural areas or the habitats of the Adivasi (original inhabitants of India), the latter comprising around 7 % of the total population. In many areas music and dance cultures could be regarded as ‘endangered’. The main reasons for this being the extremely fast changing socio-cultural structure and the traditionally high stratification in Indian society. Therefore the TMI project has been concentrating on the oral culture of distinct communities living in some of the more remote rural areas, where music and dance still play an important part in everyday life and the Horniman Museum’s exhibition, Utsavam – Music from India has been a first major step to make the collected musical instruments and some of the sound and film material available to the public. 


Videos of the Background to the Exhibition at the Horniman Museum -  Utsavam  Music from India

Background Films from the Utsavam Music from India Can be Seen in the Video Player below:
Click on the Small Disk Picture at the Bottom Left to Display the List of Videos
Move Your Cursor Over the Thumbnail Pictures to See the Video Titles


 Exhibition Links

  BBC Radio 4 Program - 'Excess Baggage' Interview with Rolf 
  Sunday Times Culture Section - Utsavam at the Horniman Hits the Right Notes     
  BBC Radio 3 Program 'Music Matters' visits Utsavam - Music From India at Horniman Museum 

  Guardian article on Indian Folk Music & Utsavam - Music from India Exhibition at Horniman Museum

  The Hindu - Utsavam: Music from India   

  24 Hour Museum Website : Review of Utsavam - Music From India Exhibition at Horniman Museum 

  Ukmalayalee Website : Review of Utsavam - Music from India Exhibition at Horniman Museum  

  Travel Article In The Independent. Travel in the Punjab and Music.

  The Telegraph, Calcutta - Article on Utsavam - Music from India at Horniman Museum

  Video of Utsavam - Music from India Exhibition at Horniman Museum

  The Times of India: Article on Utsavam - Music from India Exhibition at Horniman Museum

  Time Out London, Review of Utsavam - Music from India Exhibition at Horniman Museum

  Museums Journal: Article on Utsavam Exhibition at the Horniman Museum (Page 1) 

  Museums Journal: Article on Utsavam Exhibition at the Horniman Museum (Page 2)

music instrument makers in Assam Suura Koma players in Sora 
Music instrument makers in Assam                                                         Suura Koma horn players of the Sora community

Contact Rolf:    rolfkillius 'at' yahoo.com