Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I had been to a Classical Music concert by Shubha Mudgal once with Mom and was absolutely enthralled in it when I had anticipated a good 2-3 hours of pure boredom! The fact that Music transcends language and all other barriers is so true. Even though I had no knowledge of what the lady was singing, it was divinely captivating. There was much I needed guidance on, the talas, the ragas, surs et al. Consciously singing absolutely in control to match all those permutations and combinations to the exact beat of the tabla and the chords of the tamboora and keys of the harmonium is indeed an art. I wonder if our future generations will have in them to go through the rigors of training to produce music that is fulfilling and lasting. In this age of clamor, the best we get are songs which are all absolutely forgettable. Good songs take you on a high and they keep you floating for a while ruminating over the lyrics and the music and make you forget the worries of the world and linger in your mind. Sometimes irritating jarring songs stick around too and it is particularly difficult to get a hated song out of ones head unless replaced by a better one! But I digress from what I’m saying.

I am no expert on music and I hate to go down in the past again, but seriously the half baked half English half Hindi Bollywood songs liberally sprinkled with Punjabi with nonsensical lyrics and several booms and bangs called beats, and ‘sung’ tunelessly are getting worse! Perhaps there are good singers, and perhaps there are great composers out there, but these are the songs we appreciate now. It’s only the songs that sound and look like they will be runaway hits are broadcast. Why, the song is least important, put a sizzling Bipasha Basu in it, and it could have everyone hooked!

The music shows and the talent hunt shows have indeed brought about a revival of the classical music scene and there is much encouragement towards the arts such as singing and dancing. Organizations such as SPICMACAY are doing their bit too, but honestly I don’t think it’s enough..why, I have no clue about who the upcoming singers are on the classical scene and I am sure there are more who are totally oblivious or disinterested or who find it uncool to listen to Indian music but appreciate ‘Jazz’. This is certainly not to disparage those who find the western forms of music alluring, but to bring to the point, that our Indian youth in its rapid westernization is rapidly moving away from its own cultural roots and mostly takes no interest whatsoever in what is indeed an age old civilization. I should certainly wish there were more music schools and more dance schools to propagate this art.

Though I would heartily like to dwell on the facets of Indian Classical music, I discover, there is just too much to be said. For the uninitiated, I shall try to fit a bit in one paragraph. Our Indian classical music emanates from the Vedas which are in the form of a song and hence, divine in itself. The tradition of Indian classical music is an oral one. The music tradition has been handed down over 2000 years to the pupil and there still live the ‘gharanas’ that have descended from eons back. Unlike Western music, the sounds cannot be captured on any manuscript. There are two forms of the music, Hindustani from Northern India and Carnatic from Southern India. The soul of the classical music is based on ragas which is a combination of several notes (sa re ga ma..), sung in a particular sequence, pitch, speed etc where as tala is the pulse of the music that captures the rhythm of the music . Where the musical instruments are concerned, there is a long list, some of the popular ones’ being Sitar, Sarod, Santoor, Veena, Sarangi, Harmonium, Shehnai, Flute, Tabla, Mridangam.

Due to the diversity of the culture we have, there are numerous popular folk music forms which differ from region to region. Folk music instruments also differ from those of classical music and may be less refined and are usually fabricated from commonly found materials such as bamboo, coconut shells, conches etc. For example in the rich culture of Rajasthan there are folklores, tales of heroism of the Rajput kings and queens, the praise of Gods etc. In most cultures the songs have been handed down through generations to mark the beginning and end of seasons, of phases in life, festivals etc.

The Indian culture has such divine forms of Art in it. I sincerely hope that I am mistaken, and even in this impatient fast moving world, certain beautiful things will never diminish.


  1. Hey Richa, that was a great post. I have always believed that our youth knocks things without giving it a try. But when you persist bombarding them with the stuff, they let it grow on them. It is ironical that when someone likes their own culture, they are considered to be kind of reverse snobs!

  2. @Zephyr: Thanks for your comment. I agree with the bombarding bit..but many a time peer pressure, and the fact that the youth of today want to do just the exact opposite of what the elders try to imbibe might play a role in this alienation from our own culture. Maybe, the young Indians just need to have that spark and take a moment to realise, what amazing things our cultures and traditions have to offer.

  3. I agree with you that these new talent hunt shows are good platforms for aspiring singers and dancers. Some of them have made it big through these talent hunt shows.

    When sa re ga ma, a music reality show was launched for the first time on zee channel with Sonu Nigam as anchor it was very promising and had the whole country hooked to it. But unfortunately they could not maintain the same quality. Now, there is more commerce to it than art. They want them to rock rather than sing. It's no wonder that the quality is deteriorating with so many music shows coming on different channels albeit with different formats. They are no longer watched with the same enthusiasm and interest as the earlier shows.

    It is heartening to know that youngsters like you would want to keep our age old traditions of music and dance alive. I think if we are not well versed in these arts the least we can do is to give them patronage by attending their concerts on classical music. It is shocking that some maestros are languishing in poverty and their melodies are forgotten in the din of popular Bollywood music. I just wanted to mention that old Bollywood songs based on ragasand were extremely melodious especially sung by the greats like Lata Asha, Kishor Kumar and Rafi to name a few. And it is to their credit that in these so called music shows the same melodies are tried by almost all singers. Unfortunately none of them can sing at the same high pitch as our maestros did. And when they do try to sing high notes, their voices crack. They hold back and can’t sing full-throatedly as Lata and her contemporaries did. This is not to disparage the new singers as some of them are indeed good, but I'm only sorry that these quality singers are fast diminishing.

    On the whole your blog is very well written and worth reading. Continue writing.

  4. 'Shravanam', listening is the first step of devotion. If you can start getting divine feeling at this stage it means you are on the 'right path'. The second step in devotion is 'Kirtanam' that is, singing. As you have rightly mentioned, Music transcents the barriers of place, time and laungage. However, only the song sung with full devotion and ' bhava' of complete surrender at the lotus feet of the Lord can invoke the divine feeling in the mind of singer and the listeners. There are many many ' experts' who can sing well but do not invoke the feeling of divinity in the listeners. Gita says " out of thousand and thousands of men hardly one knows the truth and such a person is very very rare". Thats is the reason why the devotional songs written by various saints are so popular and frest even after centuries.

    Anyway, the blog is really very good (as usual) and we look forward to the next one with interest. All the Best.


  5. According to Indian culture,Music is a way to connect to god.
    but indian music is not everybody's cup of tea.
    it needs a great learning to understand a simple alaap or taal.
    my uncle and grandfather do have understanding of music and refer themselves as kaansen's(good music listeners) rather tansen.
    Although nowadays bollywood music has given a variety of music to ears from sufi songs to english mix songs.

    Also reality shows have given exposure to music to the gen next

    a delight to read ur blog
    keep writing

  6. @Amruta: Thanks for your comment as usual! I did like your part about the 'kaansen' :)..Its so true that not while everyone might be gifted with this talent, the least we can do is appreciate the ones who do. However while it might be true that not everyone understands a simple alaap or taal, I think its a matter of education, and simple encouragement from parents to their kids about knowing the basics atleast early-on and then leaving it at the proclivities developed later.