Khanum Jan was a celebrity courtesan in the cantonment of Kanpur and the court of Asafuddaula of Lucknow in 1780s North India. Famed then for her virtuosic singing, dancing, and speaking eyes, Khanum became famous again in the twentieth century because of her close musical interactions with a remarkable Englishwoman, Sophia Plowden. Through Plowden’s papers and extraordinary collection of Khanum’s repertoire, it is possible to reconstruct songs from the Lucknow court as they may have been performed 200 years ago, in both Indian and European versions. In this podcast, Katherine Butler Schofield tells the story of these two women, and harpsichordist Jane Chapman joins her to perform some of Khanum’s “Hindustani Airs”. The intertwined stories of Khanum and Sophia show that using Indian sources of the time to read between the lines of European papers and collections gives us a much richer view of this sadly short-lived moment of intercultural accord in late Mughal India.
This podcast is part of the project Histories of the Ephemeral: Writing on Music in Late Mughal India, sponsored by the British Academy in association with the British Library; for more episodes and information email email@example.com.
The images that accompany this podcast may be found here: http://blogs.bl.uk/asian-and-african/2018/06/sophia-plowden-khanum-jan-and-hindustani-airs.html
The Courtesan and the Memsahib was written and performed by Katherine Butler Schofield based on her original research, with harpsichordist Jane Chapman http://www.janechapman.com and produced by Chris Elcombe https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-elcombe-523a60116/ . Additional voices were Georgie Pope, Kanav Gupta, Priyanka Basu, and Michael Bywater. It is published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC–BY-NC–ND) license.
Recordings of vocalists Kesarbai Kerkar and Gangubai Hangal, and sarangi player Hamid Hussain, are courtesy of the Archive of Indian Music and Vikram Sampath: http://archiveofindianmusic.org/artists/bai-kesarbai-kerkar/ ; http://archiveofindianmusic.org/artists/bai-gangubai-hangal/ ; http://archiveofindianmusic.org/artists/hamid-hussain-a-i-r/ .
Selections from Jane Chapman’s studio recording "The Oriental Miscellany: Airs of Hindustan—William Bird" are found on Signum Classics: I. Ghat; II. Rekhtah: Sakia! Fusul beharust; III. Tuppah: Kia kam keea dil ne?
Image of Khanum Jan illustrating the podcast: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Colonel_Antoine-Louis_Henri_Polier_watching_a_nautch_at_Faizabad.jpg
Santoor and Tabla at Assi Ghat, Varanasi by Samuel Corwin. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence CC BY 4.0
Track 1 by Deep Singh and Ikhlaq Hussain Khan. Originally broadcast live on Rob Weisberg's show, Transpacific Sound Paradise on WFMU. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share-alike 3.0 Licence
With thanks to: the British Academy, the British Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, the European Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust, Edinburgh University Library, the Norfolk Records Office, Yousuf Mahmoud, James Kippen, Margaret Walker, Allyn Miner, Richard David Williams, David Lunn, Ursula Sims-Williams, Nick Cook, and Katie de La Matter.