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Thursday, June 8, 2023

Walter Kaufmann: The Refugee behind All India Radio’s Signature Music

The AIR opening music, also known as its Signature Tune, is a distinctive melody

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Aditya Saikrishna
Aditya Saikrishna
I am 21 years old and an avid Motorsports enthusiast.

INDIA: Walter Kaufmann, a refugee from Nazi Germany, found a safe haven in India, and his contributions to the music world in the country cannot be underestimated.

Kaufmann’s journey, which began with his escape from Germany, took him to different parts of the world, but in India, he found a home and a place to express his musical talent.

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Kaufmann, born on July 6, 1912, in Frankfurt, Germany, was a pianist, composer, and conductor. 

He studied music in Frankfurt, Munich, and Berlin and had a promising career ahead of him in Germany, where he performed as a pianist and conductor. 

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However, the rise of the Nazi regime and the government’s anti-Semitic policies forced him to flee his homeland in 1933.

After leaving Germany, he initially settled in Paris, where he continued to perform and teach music. However, with the occupation of France by the Germans in 1940, he had to flee again. 

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He managed to escape to Spain and then to Portugal, where he could secure a visa to enter India.

In 1934, Walter Kaufmann arrived in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, and established himself as a pianist and conductor. 

He was soon appointed as the music director of All India Radio, and it was during his time there that he made his most significant contributions to Indian music.

Kaufmann introduced Western classical music to Indian listeners and gave a platform to Indian classical musicians. 

He organised concerts and recitals that brought Indian and Western classical music together. 

He also composed music for the radio and collaborated with Indian musicians, including Ravi Shankar, to create a unique blend of Indian and Western music.

One of Kaufmann’s most significant contributions to Indian music was his role in the opening music of All India Radio. 

In 1936, Walter Kaufmann composed the signature tune of All India Radio, which is still used today. 

The tune is a blend of Indian and Western music, with the use of a sitar and a violin, and is a perfect representation of the harmonious combination of Indian and Western cultures.

Walter Kaufmann’s contributions to Indian music were not limited to the radio. He also conducted orchestras and performed as a pianist. 

He was a well-respected musician in India, and audiences across the country appreciated his music.

Walter Kaufmann lived in India for almost 25 years and became a naturalised Indian citizen in 1955. He continued to contribute to the music world in India until he died in 1984. 

His legacy lives on in the music of India, where he is remembered as a pioneer who brought Western classical music to Indian audiences and helped to create a unique blend of Indian and Western music.

Walter Kaufmann’s life and work are a testament to the power of music to transcend borders and unite people from different cultures. 

His contributions to the music world in India remind refugees of the positive impact they can have when they are given a chance to contribute to their new homes. 

His legacy will continue to inspire generations of musicians and music lovers in India and beyond.

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