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India Unplugged

This photography exhibition showcases traditional music making in Punjab, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Odisha and Kerala.

The featured musicians were photographed during a project to document disappearing music and instruments in India, at a time of rapid change, between 2000 and 2007. The ‘Traditional Music in India’ project was run by the British Library Sound Archive and the Horniman. It aimed to reflect aspects of the cultural and musical diversity of India.

Photographer Biographies

Jasmail Singh

Jasmail Singh was born in the village of Bajaj in Punjab’s Kapurthala district. In 1968 he relocated to the capital, Chandigarh, seeking job opportunities, which he quickly found in government employment. 

Photography began as a hobby for Jasmail, and it became his profession in 1982, when he was appointed as an official photographer for Punjab Tourism, remaining in post for 25 years. Promoting the culture of Punjab has always been his passion. In 1999, he was deputed to cover the month-long celebrations for the tricentenary of the foundation of the Khalsa, as the Government of Punjab’s official photographer. His photographs have been published regularly in the promotional literature of that organization.  A large selection was shown at the World Travel Mart Exhibition, held in London in December, 2006 and in Berlin in March 2007.     

Jasmail is currently associated with the Virasat-e-Khalsa, the Khalsa Heritage Museum in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab. This museum is dedicated to the history of Sikhism. It holds over 1200 of Jasmail’s photographs, depicting elements of the rich heritage of Punjab, including the Sikh religious gurus, freedom fighters, cultural artifacts and architecture. He is now undertaking a project exploring the cultural ornaments of North India.

Rolf Killius 

Rolf co-curated the exhibitions Utsavam – Music from India at the Horniman Museum, London (February - November 2008), Indian Strings and Dances at the Museum of Croydon (April – August 2009), and provided text and music for the online sound project of the British Library Sound Archive, Music from India (from April 2009).

You can find out more about Rolf on his website, his YouTube channel and the Qatar Digital Library.

Theodora Volokhova

Theodora Volokhova was born in St Petersburg, Russia. Photography was her love from her teenage years, when she was given an old camera by her grandfather. She graduated from St Petersburg State University of Technology and Design as a fashion designer in 1979.

It was as a student that Theodora became interested in history, traditional culture and music. From 1976 to 1984 she travelled extensively throughout the regions of the former USSR with the expeditions to collect examples of folk music, musical instruments, literature and traditions on behalf of a number of academic institutions in St Petersburg, including the Russian Institute for the History of Arts. Some of the photographs taken during her travels are part of a collection at the Russian Museum of Ethnography. She now combines photography with painting landscapes, portraits and abstracts.

Theodora Volokhova was the photographer for the research and collecting work undertaken for the Horniman’s Musical Instrument department in Belarus and Russia in 1994, and in India (Punjab and Assam) in 2006.