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Walter Kaufmann

  • The 12-year exile in Bombay shaped Walter Kaufmann’s life and work; his signature tune for All India Radio is played till today.
  • Walter
  • Kaufmann
  • 01-04-1907
  • Karlovy Vary (CZ)
  • 09-09-1984
  • Bloomington (US)
  • ComposerConductorMusicologistTeacher
  • The 12-year exile in Bombay shaped Walter Kaufmann’s life and work; his signature tune for All India Radio is played till today.

    Word Count: 23

  • Cover page of the author’s book The Music that Still Rings at Dawn, Every Dawn: Walter Kaufmann in India, 1934−1946, Goethe Institute Bombay, 2013 (Courtesy of Walter Kaufmann Archives, William & Gayle Cook Music Library, Indiana University, Bloomington).
  • Though Walter Kaufmann spent little more than a decade in Bombay, his engagement with Indian culture shaped his life and work even after he left the country in 1946. Kaufmann composed All India Radio’s signature tune, which is still played every morning to this day.
    In 1934, when he was only twenty-seven years old, Walter Kaufmann immigrated to India, where he worked for twelve years as a composer, conductor, organiser of musical events and also as a part-time teacher. Like many other Germans, the Jewish Kaufmann had to flee from the Nazi terror in Germany in the 1930s and 40s. He came directly to the city of Bombay, where he was welcomed, and the city gained immensely from this émigré. It was Walter Kaufmann who founded the Bombay Chamber Music Society along with others including Mehli Mehta, father of Zubin, the world-renowned conductor of Western and Eastern classical music. During his stay in Bombay, Kaufman performed numerous concerts at various venues, including the Willingdon Club, All India Radio (AIR) and Studio, among others. Kaufmann’s most enduring contribution to AIR was the composition of its signature tune, which has been heard by millions of Indians, every dawn, since it was first broadcast more than seventy-five years ago (Gangar 2013, 37).
    Working at AIR helped Kaufmann develop a vast network of professional acquaintances; he was thus able to use his contacts to help other emigrants, such as the author Willy Haas. Furthermore, Kaufmann had a chance to work with some of the most talented musicians, musicologists and other intellectuals of the time. This not only helped him create better programmes at AIR, but also helped with his research and other interests. As director of European music at Bombay’s AIR station, Kaufmann regularly corresponded with Lionel Fielden, the controller of broadcasting, and John Founds, director of European music, AIR, New Delhi. Both were appreciative of Kaufmann’s work at AIR.
    Kaufmann began his stint with the Indian film industry when most of its facilities were based in Dadar (central Bombay). Producer-director Mohan Dayaram Bhavnani, with whom Kaufmann worked, had also apprenticed at Ufa in 1924, where Kaufmann had composed film music in the 1920s. While in Bombay, Kaufmann also composed music for several documentary films and newsreels produced by the Information Films of India (IFI) set up by the British government in India. So in a sense, Kaufmann provided music for films beyond the mainstream.
    When Kaufmann arrived in India, he found that there was neither a theatre nor an opera house in the European sense of the terms. Bombay‘s Royal Opera House (inaugurated in 1912) had begun to show silent films by 1917. By the time Kaufmann arrived, Bombay’s talkie era had already begun in 1931, though silent films were being produced till 1934. Bhavnani’s film Mazdoor or The Mill, produced in 1934 and for which Walter Kaufmann had composed background music, faced censorship problems. In an advertisement, Kaufmann is credited for the film’s “orchestration” (Music was composed by B.S. Hoogan). Mazdoor was re-released in 1936 as Garib Parivar [Poor Family], but it was banned again.
    Walter Kaufmann left India in 1946 for England, where he joined the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a guest conductor in London and he also worked as assistant music director at J. Arthur Rank Films. From England, Kaufmann moved to Halifax, Canada, where he was head of the Piano Department at the Maritime Conservatory of Music. On 16 December 1948, Kaufmann conducted the opening concert for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, held at the Winnipeg Civic Auditorium. In Winnipeg, Walter Kaufmann married Freda Trepe in 1950, an accomplished pianist, who was to remain his concert and life companion for the rest of his life.
    In 1957, Kaufmann immigrated to the USA, and joined the faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington. There he taught musicology until his death on 9 September 1984 (Gangar 2013, 102−105).

    Word Count: 635

  • Rewa House, Off Warden Road (Bhulabhai Desai Road), Breach Candy, Mumbai (Opposite Cadbury House), where Walter Kaufmann lived in Bombay (Photo: Amrit Gangar, 2013).
    Charni Road East, Opera House, Girgaon, Mumbai (Photo: Amrit Gangar, 2013).
  • Gangar, Amrit. The Music that still Rings at Dawn, Every Dawn: Walter Kaufmann in India, 1934–1946. Goethe Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai, 2013.

    Word Count: 21

  • Walter Kaufmann Archives, William & Gayle Cook Music Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

    Word Count: 12

  • Amrit Gangar
  • Bombay, India (1934−1946); London, UK (1946−1947)

  • Rewa House, Off Warden Road, Breach Candy, Bombay (now Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy, Mumbai) (residence, 1934−1946); BBC, Broadcasting House, Peel Wing, Portland Pl, London W1A 1AA (workplace, 1946−1947).

  • Bombay
  • Amrit Gangar. "Walter Kaufmann." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 07-09-2021.
  • Willy Haas
    EditorScript WriterCultural Critic

    The former editor of Die Literarische Welt fled to Bombay in 1939. In India Haas worked as scriptwriter for Bhavnani Productions – and had further impact on modern Indian film.

    Word Count: 28

    Ernst N. Schaeffer
    JournalistPhotojournalistTour GuideEditorRadio ModeratorNewspaper Correspondent

    In exile Ernst Schaeffer diversified his journalistic practice and developed an understanding of Bombay through walking the city streets, taking on street-level-photography and photojournalism.

    Word Count: 24

    Lesser’s Boarding House
    HotelGerman Jewish boarding house

    During the 1940’s Max Lesser ran one of the very few German-Jewish boarding houses in Bombay – in the art deco “Soona Mahal” on Marine Drive.

    Word Count: 25