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Ragini TrivediRagini Trivedi has been teaching post-graduate classes in government colleges in Madhya Pradesh since 1987. An approved artiste of Akashvani, she has also given Sitar performances on stage at Bhopal, Indore, Varanansi, Mumbai, Mysore etc. during this period.
If Music be the Soul
by RAGINI TRIVEDI
CARNATIC MUSIC
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No civilised population on this earth exists that does not have a unique body of sounds to serve as its music. The presence of music and dance even in primitive societies such as the aborigine tribes discovered as recent as this century, displays that there is truth in the words of the Bard. The roots of Indian Classical music go deep but its recognition, as an art form is pretty recent. Though the practitioners of Indian music can rightly trace the form to Sama Veda itself, an attempt to annotate it started somewhat late in the eighteenth century, when the curious British mind started examining the form and history of this oriental art. With the occidental seeker pressing forth his inquiry about the Raga and its origin, the soul-centred musician, shaken out of his reverie, furnished replies, as best he could. He did not know about the contribution of past masters because no one had left any written tracts. The creed of the Indian artiste was to create music as a dedication to God without seeking honour for self. Yet, it was this grand gesture that contributed to the growth of misconceptions and fallacies that plague the art form to date.

Among the first books that attempt to trace the history and form of Indian Classical music is Captain Willard's Music of Hindostan, published in 1838. The author naturally expresses his comprehension of Indian music, based on the information he could collect from music-practitioners, connoisseurs and the like. With this, the Indian Classical music was baptised as an entity in the modern world.

By this time, the ancient reverent format of music had undergone a great change. In the past, where it had been looked upon as a medium to commune with God, with the various historical changes and the restrictive patronage of the Durbars, music was now considered to be a glorified form of decadence. The two great thinkers who managed to rescue the noble art form from the mire and reinstate it in its true glory, were Pandit Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar.

The two thinkers realised that seeds of dignity lie in independence. No longer could they allow current state of music to continue. With the merger of several princely states in British India, the musicians of the court had reverted to dance-halls to eke out a living. Whereas the shift in music from Bhakti to Shringar that occurred during the Mogul period had inculcated a mere indifference in the ordinary people, now it attracted outright derision and repugnance. Before the process of regaining the lost esteem could begin, this aversion for the art form had to be mitigated, first.

The learning of music was based on chance. A leading performing artiste would gather a few aspirants in his household and gradually, it was assumed, they would learn the intricacies of the art by being around and serving the master. This kind of inductive teaching would take anything between a dozen to twenty years and then too the real intricacies would be imparted only to the son of Guru or Ustaad. The justification was that it would preserve the sanctity of the gharana. While, on one hand this might be true to some degree, on the larger plane, this practice restricted the number of people conversant with music. With but a few performing artistes and no critics or teachers, the monopoly of gharendaars was secure to generations - with virtually, no competition or assessment. The various gharanas also maintained their particular styles of rendering, which besides adding glamour, also served to hide any slips and faults under the garb of their speciality.

The music of these gharanedaars, in the post-Akbar period, had taken a sharp turn toward love-poetry. The eloquent and graceful style of Dhruva-pad was replaced with frothy and light Khayal and Thumri. Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar reworded several of these compositions with religious poetry and annotated them, thus making the ragas acceptable to all tastes. Meanwhile, Pandit Bhatkhande had been collecting various compositions from contemporary maestros. He got Mohammed Ali Khan of Jaipur and his sons, Ashiq Ali and Ahmed Ali recorded for the gramophone. The thinkers realised full well that knowledge could prosper only when exchanges take place on the platform of liberty, mutual respect and a common goal. The information they had gathered would remain alive, only if it were put to use. The logical key to this problem was imparting the fundamentals of music scientifically, in an uninhibited atmosphere. Paluskar started Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, the premier institution of Indian Music, in Lahore on May 5th, 1901. A branch was opened in Bombay in 1908. On the other hand, Bhatkhande, after organising various music conferences in Baroda, Delhi, Varanasi etc. also decided to start a music school. Madhav Sangeet Vidyalaya was founded in 1918 in Gwalior. And thus the foundation of institutional teaching of Indian Classical music was laid.

 

With the formation of institutions, music found its place among the valid fields of learning. Gradually, with contributions of such stalwarts as Ustaad Allauddin Khan and Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, it regained a scientific stature. Music was introduced in school curriculum as a subject. Youngsters hailing from good families could now undertake the study of music without endangering their family name. Indoctrinated with basic principles of Indian music, these students hankered for greater knowledge. Thus was it, that universities started introducing courses in vocal and instrumental music. Musicology too was offered as a subject, thereby establishing music completely as a branch of learning. To enhance the practical abilities of the students, post-graduate courses in various branches of music and dance were offered. Banaras Hindu University was the first to confer a Doctoral degree based on practical performance and soon several universities in the country came up with such courses.

Close examination of the institutionalisation of music reveals that the stress here is not on turning out a breed of polished performers. The charge that the institutions are a failure because they do not produce artistes, is a belief fallacious and misdirected, levelled against institutional music by its critics. An institution, by allowing functional freedom, does help in transforming a talented person into a capable performer, but its true scope is far greater than this achievement. In an institution, one has a right to assess the real form of a particular Raga, style or school through the scientific process of objectivity. A student is groomed to understand the form as a whole; to examine the innovation in the light of tradition; to recognise art in relationship to life.

The growing complexities of contemporary life with fast-changing technologies, life-styles and the increasing power of media over the individual have created niches of specialisation in the field of music as well. No longer do we have a handful of connoisseurs and patrons of good music. Students from various institutions have acquainted the world with the elevatingpower of Indian music through performances, lecture-tours and writings. The writings vary from the critique in the Sunday newspaper's art column to biographies, critical annotations of ancient texts and well-researched anthologies. Professor Lalit Kishore Singh's book Sound and Music openly demonstrated to the world that the classical music of India is absolutely scientific. Such principles as Swayambhoo Gandhar, Nav-Trayodash Shruti Antaral and assonance are so mathematical that they may well be recognised as physical manifestation of complex mathematical formulae.

Professor Singh has elucidated how an exact science like mathematics yields to the philosophy of aesthetics in Indian music. Reference books like Dr. Lalmani Misra's Bhartiya Sangeet Vadya, Dr. Vinayaka Rao Patwardhan's Sangeet Vigyan, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur's Sangeetanjali explore the heritage of Indian music and bring forth the pearls that unveil but a promise of this glorious treasure. That institutions of music in India have performed their task adequately is undoubted, but to think that their job is over would be premature. The challenges abound.

In the past where music suffered from being cloistered in a few places, now it ails from too much of exposure. Societies like Spicmacay, a collaboration of students and teachers, and several others sponsored by industrial houses, private organisations are helping in propagation of Indian Classical music. Yet lacking an academic base, the activities tread an uncertain path, limiting seriously their potential for promoting classical music. The glamour for the star makes the media present the performing artistes as the spokesperson of the form and often, the charmed public is allowed an unhealthy, albeit tasty, diet of myths and fables, that bodes more evil than good. It is only the institutions, with their database of veritable records and authentic knowledge that are equipped to resist such irrational attacks attempting to becloud the pure and serene skies of aesthetic excellence.

The vistas of knowledge are now open through the web to every willing individual. With such a freedom the sombre academician, the dedicated amateur and the scholarly Rasika shall share their concern for preservation and enrichment of the Indian art forms. Such inputs shall serve both ways the stale and musty books of the scholars shall begin to add fresh chapters, while the libertine tendencies of the creative artiste shall be kept in check. However, it can not be disputed that citizens of India lack a dedicated programme for music-literacy. Unless the opportunity of learning music is offered to all children as their basic right, the growth of Indian Music shall depend more on chance than will. The sacred duty of artistes, educators and policy-makers is to strengthen the infrastructure of music teaching so that the Indian society, as well as the world at large, might continue to relish the rapture this grand Classical form offers.

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