Voices from the Inner Courtyard: The Music of Rajasthan & the Life of Leela Somani

This is the story of the life and work of Leela Somani (born June 1934), a doyenne of Rajasthani folk music. She has worked tirelessly to preserve and promote the folk music of Rajasthan.

Hailing from the well-known Kabra family of Jodhpur, Leela had an unusual childhood, for a girl child from a Marwari family. Since her father held high administrative positions in the then State of Jodhpur, she was educated in an English-medium Convent school and was exposed to all the fine arts and liberal philosophy of the times. She got married when she was just 14 years of age to VO Somani, a scion of an industrialist's family. Unlike many Marwari business families of those times, the Somani family encouraged her to complete her school education and also to pursue her interests in music and literary activities.

The biography recounts the life and work of Leela Somani in the context of the social and cultural life of Marwari business families. Her contribution to folk music is placed against the perspective of the social issues, especially gender issues, reflected in the folk music of Rajasthan. It also delineates her efforts at contemporising folk music to cater to current tastes and requirements. Her own compositions have bridged the gap between the literate and the oral tradition and brought a literary quality to Rajasthani folk songs. The narration draws heavily from the personal diaries and letters of Leela Somani as evidence, to explain the development of her literary philosophy.

A CD containing a selection from Leela Somani’s published music is enclosed with the book. It also has a sprinkling of her poems, hitherto unpublished, lovingly translated into English by her daughter Nandini Patodia.

Designed imaginatively by Rachita Dalal, the seven chapters of the book are treated as the saptak of the swaras in Indian music.

Publisher: Shri Venkateshwar Somani Charitable Trust; Mumbai, 2012, hardbound, 200 pages with CD Rom.
ISBN: 978-81-923493-0-5.

Marwari Community: A Perspective 01
Daughters of Marwar 17
Music of Rajasthan 33
The Music & Poetry of Leela Somani 65
Life & Times of Leela Somani 81
Passing on the Baton 133
Carrying on the Legacy 141

Appendix 1 Songs of Leela Somani 147
Appendix 2 Index of Leela Somani’s CDs 187
Family Tree 194

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