Lets think talk about music and interesting topics...

Friday, October 19, 2018

Music – spiritual and commercial dimensions

Music – spiritual and commercial dimensions 

“Music alone can take to the heights and Music is the highest art and,
to those who understand is the highest worship” Swami Vivekananda

I was reading few articles about Maa Annapurnaji (recently she passed away) and started thinking about the purpose of music. It differs from artiste to artiste. Becoming musician and practitioner of music takes lot of time and dedication. After so much of effort, dedication and good guidance from guru you emerge as musician. When we observe present music arena, we find so many varieties of artiste with different mind-set and approach. When I met famous musicologist and sitar artiste Sri Deepak Raja, he told about one artiste in Vrindavan, who only sings in Krishna temple and she never sings in public. I am wondering, though music is a performing art, is it only for public presentation. We have to learn to respect others decision about the public presentation. Maa Annapurnaji hardly performed in public but she was an extraordinary Guru. When disciples reached highest level in music we can presume the greatness of Guru. She remained as guru and spiritual practitioner throughout her life.
Is music presentation in public necessary, is it the only purpose of learning music. These questions are capturing my mind. Performance is artiste’s choice. I heard guruji saying ‘olden day’s artiste use to practice irrespective of concerts opportunity and practice was their inevitable part of life.’ so they use to think, sing and practice more than they sang on stage. Even today I came across many artistes like this. Practice is primary and performance is secondary and by product of practice.
 Swami Vivekananda’s message about music is only relevant to spiritual seekers? Or even we as music professionals imbibe his idea about music. We have to classify usage of music in spiritual, commercial and as a bread earning tool. It is necessary to earn money to sustain. Every musician can’t afford Merced Benz but definitely he can earn and survive with decent basic needs through music. Once our basic need is fulfilled can we treat music in different manner, but it is very difficult to decide what and how much is basic needs. There are few artistes who dedicated their life to music and they never bothered about money, award or performing opportunity. They did music as ‘Sadhana’ and spiritual practice. It is possible to pursue music only as a tool to achieve commercial achievements also. No thoughts about spirituality or music sanctity. I feel it is personal and intentional decision to follow music in their life. Music has the power to provide you what you ask for; if you need only commercial entity you can get it. It is possible to achieve both commercial and spiritual objectives or If you feel to practice music as only spiritual path to achieve higher goals that also possible through music.             

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Music and Technology

Today I would like to talk about music and technology. I know this topic is like demonetization now. Everybody talks about it. I would like to give the musicians a teacher’s perspective on the subject. World has changed drastically after globalisation and new technology has come to the light. Earlier we used to hear from our forefathers about how they walked from one place to another. How time has changed and we adapted many modes of transportation. If Shankaracharya or Jesus Christ was preaching in different places today, they would have flown in Air India or Jet Airways. We have to change. If I say, I will also walk 20-30 miles because my grandfather used to walk, people may think I am mad. We have to use new technology. Nothing wrong in embracing change it when requires. How much to use and where to use is another topic.

I would like to classify technology into 4 parts.
1. Electronic instruments
2. Recording facility 
3. Microphones
4. New teaching/learning tools

1. Electronic instruments: My guruji or grand guruji used to practise with live
tanpura and once in a while with live tabla accompaniment. While
teaching many teachers used to play tabla for the benefit of students.
They used to learn simple tabla thekas for playing in class. Slowly a few
companies started to experiment with electronic tanpura and tabla. In
1979 Bangalore based Radel started to manufacture electronic
instruments for the first time. In the recent years many brands became available to us. Slowly Gurus and students started using it and now it has become an integral part of teaching music. Many people think it has replaced real tanpura, which I don’t agree fully because even today we use real tanpura for our performances. There is no
doubt that it helped in music practice and teaching.

2. Recording facility: Recording started with stone plates, later rpm discs,
cassettes, compact discs and now we have reached up to live streaming. The journey
from stone to streaming took many years but it is because of the new technology
that we are getting newer medium to record, preserve and spread music. Now we can launch a new album with two artistes. One sitting in India and another sitting in California. Time has changed now. Artistes also have adapted to newer technology. We have to. People having knowledge about the upcoming technology who also have musical knowledge will excel, musicians having technical background can reach more people. Musicians and people are bridged by technology.

3. Microphones: Invention of microphones changed the musical dynamics drastically. I can say that this invention took music to the next level. Concert dynamics changed. Earlier 150-200 people was considered a  big crowd for classical music. Now a days we witness thousands of people attending musical concerts. I am not talking about quality of music or the mastery of the musician here; That is altogether a different matter. In simple words, through microphone, our music can be audible for more people. How to use a mic; which company is better for vocal; are minute adaptation we have to adjust to. Singer should learn these things along with music. I saw one signboard saying
‘we teach mic techniques’. Wah! I personally feel after few years’ basic talim and practise students must give some attention to these matters also.

4. New teaching/learning tools: Finally an important segment. With technology we are moving towards drastic change in guru shishya parampara. I am not saying that one to
one rigorous training will change into skype or video conferencing. But slowly we are adding that method to spread our student base as well as making it possible for more people to learn music. We are in a material mechanical mode of life. I am not discussing it is good or bad, but our life style has  changed.  We have to accept and move on. In spite of less available free time people want to learn music; enjoy music. Urban life is hectic. Kids are more stressed today than when we compare to our childhood. I meet very few people who say I have time. Teachers are moving towards class through Skype. Every technology has advantage and disadvantage. But I am a very optimistic person. We can handle those disadvantages and we can travel towards reaching our goal; that is teaching music nicely and effectively.
We have to learn how to reach our younger students.  Artistes express, ‘oh nowadays, less people attend concert’. If we introspect we may get the answer that we are not creating audience. We try creating artiste. That also is our illusion. Artistes are born as an artiste. You can’t create them. You can motivate, you can mould them to be artistes. Skype is very easy and handy tool for distance learners. I take classes for a student who stay in Boston or California. Through this my music is spreading and I can take my guruji s music beyond boundaries.
In summary, we can’t reject role of technology in music. How much to use is in the musicians head and heart. I am not saying we have to become technology geeks leaving music behind. By embracing  technology in our music, we can be more reachable. If we decide we won’t use technology, it is our personal lose. Music field is unaffected with this kind of rigidness.
In my case, if I use technology in my music, my guruji s music will reach to more people. It is not like I am serving the music field in a big way. Music should grow with teaching more people and at least we can create a community with guruji’s music. We will make use of more innovations and new ideas. Let us make our Indian classical music more reachable by adding more technology.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Guruji - Miya malhar and Chayanat

'Gharana' is the main piller in Hindustani Classical Music. Over a period, many gharanas have grown and evolved. Basically, gharana originated from a place where a particular style started emerging and set a trend in classical music. Each gharana has a unique style of rendition. Every gharana mastered one or more aspects of presentation and developed further. Some examples of the specialties of gharanas are Kirana gharana's aalap, Agra gharana's nom tom aalap, Gwalior gharana's laykari, Jaipur gharana's rare raga presentation.
Music is going through a lot of changes in the modern times. Changes are inevitable in society. There have been many discussions about whether or not Gharanas are relevant today. How many artists can actually claim that they sing purely in a certain Gharana? Experiments are natural for human beings and especially artists like to explore new ideas and bring that into their experience. Experiments lead to new styles in renditions. This gives ‘singing’ a new identity which we might refer to as Gharana in the present day. The new style/identity grows, develops and becomes popular through an artiste teaching many students and hence propagating that style. It surely will not happen in a short amount of time. It may take 3-4 decades or 1-2 generations. If the style has substantial potential then it will register as a Gharana in the music arena.
My Guruji Pt. Vinayak Torvi had rigorous training under Gayanacharya Gururao Deshpande, who is a doyen of Gwalior gharana and had the influence of Agra and Jaipur gharanas as well. Training under such a Guru, who not only has a strong base in one gharana, but also has an idea and influence of few other gharanas, the disciple gets a clear picture of what a gharana is. Although back in those days, the discussions or question and answer sessions were unimaginable. Guruji grasped the essence of Gwalior gayaki which is known as "Ashtapailu" (8 dimension presentation) and Agra-Jaipur flavor as a bonus from Gururao. He understood, contemplated and practiced using his own capacity without any specific directions from anyone. After 1983, Guruji started taking lessons from the legendary singer in the Kirana Gharana, Bharataratna Pt. Bhimsen Joshi. Mixing different Gharana's music without proper knowledge may lead to confusion both for the artiste and the audience. When trained properly by gunijan, the beautiful blend becomes evident. For example, one can observe neat, proportionate mixture of gharanas in Guruji Pt. Kashalkar-ji's singing. After a few years of contemplation in this regard, a new style emerges. In a few decades it might become a new gharana in itself.
Guruji portrays every raaga with a particular gharana as the backdrop and adds treatment of other gharanas. For example, while singing Miya Malhar, Todi, Puriya, Kirana Gharana's share will be more. That is not to say that we cannot see the influence of other gharanas. While singing Chayanat or Jaijaivanti his approach is different. Some artistes present all the raagas according to their style. Irrespective of the raagas, their design will not change. But every raaga will have its special and unique features. My Guruji says "Every raaga has its own picture, size and nature. You can’t sing all the raagas for one hour or fit all the raagas in 10-15 mins duration. Few of the raagas blossom slowly but its impact remains for a very long time." There are occasions where we have heard people exclaim "Oh that day (maybe 10-20 years ago) Bua (singer) sang superb Marwa, it still rings in my ears!”. Every singer sings the same notes or same scale for a particular raaga, but what is it that makes some renditions remain etched in the listener's memory for a very long time?! We do not have a scientific theory or proven formula to predict a certain result. But when we study the lives of legendary singers and their way of thinking, we can uncover many aspects. Among them Gharana or style is one of the prominent ones. Kumar-ji's music is extraordinary and experts opine that it was beyond the Gharana boundary. That extra ordinary view beyond the Gharana or within the Gharana is what I am trying to explore with this small write-up. We can refer to it as 'style'. Say, Kumar-ji's style or Bhimsen-ji's style or Jasraj-ji's style. When you study these styles you might observe that it may not belong to one particular gharana. We, as music students study, observe and preserve these styles. Not by merely copying but by imbibing the style with an open mind and giving it a personal touch.
Guruji is very clear in this matter. He observed the raaga's nature and thought thoroughly to give his own shade to it. His Miya Malhar is different from Shankara in terms of style with which they are sung. He gives the following example to get his point across: "You cannot play 20-20 cricket like test match or vice versa". His blend of Kirana inputs with Gwalior Agra Jaipur is superb and it does not feel like a forcible inclusion.
Natural stillness of Kirana, naughty restless of Gwalior. Soothing aalap of Kirana, mesmerizing laykari taan patterns of Gwalior. All of these sound simple but they have evolved through this long musical journey. We should consider ourselves lucky that we are getting this as one pack. It is ready to present as a model. Paying close attention to the changing approach during practice is crucial. It requires a lot of sadhana and chintan.

Let us walk towards that. The journey is long and hard but it is fun.......

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jod raga.

Jod raga

Jod raga is a beautiful concept in Indian classical music. Singing Jod raga is always a challenge and needs a certain temperament. Jod raga may not be sung elaborately unlike other ragas, such as, Yaman, Todi and Bhimpalas. But Jod raga has been extensively explored by music stalwarts. Jod raga means singing a blend of two ragas, with a single identity. Bhairav-Bahar, Hindol-Bahar, Lalit-Bhatiyar, and many such combinations are popular these days. Singing Jod Raga does not mean that you sing each raga 50-50 or a few phrases in one raga and a few in another. It should sound like you are rendering a single raga. When great singers present Jod raga, they will balance both the ragas so well that you can see only one picture. Transition from one to another is crucial in such a presentation. It requires identification of a few track changing spots and making the shift from one to the other without glitch or doubt.

LearnQuest Academy of Music, a well know music organization in USA organized its 10th Annual Music Conference from 3rd to 5th April in Boston. Academy always showcases both genres of Indian classical music, Carnatic and Hindustani. Conference not only organizes concerts but also provides an opportunity for listeners and music lovers to attend Lecture Demonstrations as well and interact with world class musicians. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to perform in that extraordinary music conference. In a span of 10 days, I attended about 25 events including concerts, lec-dem, cross culture fusion events, homage to artiste (A/V presentation). Great musicians of both styles participated in this festival of Indian classical music

I observed that performances of very famous Dhrupad duo Gundecha brothers, Carnatic singers duo Malladi brothers, were like Jod raga! You can see two scales and one raga, two brothers and one voice. Their coordination, appreciation for each other and balance in the presentation were all extraordinary. Carnatic and Hindustani styles of presentation is like Jod raga, throughout conference we observed the beautiful balance, each performance better than other and the entire conference felt like it was in Jod raga. During the trip to America and Sweden this time, there were instances were I could apply this Jod Raga analogy. LearnQuest Music Conference. (Carnatic and Hindustani style) Performances by brothers together. (Gundechaji Brothers and Malladi Brothers) My students who performed (Sohini-Poorvi Torvi sisters and Medha-Sadhika Hiremath sisters) I presented Jod raga in one of my concerts (Hindol-Bahar) I visited a place where two seas meet (in the photo you can see the two different entities merging as one. The difference in colour is noticeable)

Prakriti and Purush are the two elements of entire world. We can say, Jod raga embodies prakriti and purush and its balance is key. When blend is suitable and appropriate then the effect of Jod raga is beautiful. It is not the precise measure that matters, say, one unit of oxygen and two units of hydrogen makes water. We cannot infer that a certain units units of Hindol and a certain units of bahar makes super blend. The quality of the presentation depends on how the singer balances both the ragas and presents it as one. Our senior artistes composed very high quality compositions in Jod ragas. A single composition which depicts both the ragas and does justice in giving a good idea of both the ragas.

Balance is essential in life. It may be work and family or music and work etc. The outcome depends on how you can balance and are able to give time to each. I saw few students balancing study and music so well. They never complain that studies comes in the way for music practice. I saw how my Guruji used to practice for hours at length when he was also working in bank. You can see many similarities in music and daily life. This concept of managing multiple things with the right balance applies in music also. Jod Raga requires a bit more of that balance.

Lets learn how to balance in life with the help of music……….

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Music – artiste- audience- enjoyment

Stalwarts say, ‘music is universal language’, ‘language of angels’ etc. they explained music in my dimensions. When an artiste performs, there is an unexplained conversation, this conversation connects people but one can’t explain or tell what it that. Music is surrounded by artiste, listener and enjoyment. Artiste and audience both enjoy music though their level of enjoyment is different and indeed main objective of music is enjoyment (Ananda).The word ‘enjoyment’ has different connotations, it differs from person to person. Some people enjoy watching cricket, some watching movie or eating ice cream. Here I am talking about the next level of enjoyment where you concentrate and involve for a long time. After some time you start feeling very nice, getting soothed by listening the performer’s raga renditions. To enjoy classical music it is mandatory to have some background knowledge to understand what‘s going on the stage.

Music is structured abstract, i.e. There is a boundary for us (set of of rules) but within that we can work according to our level of imagination, experience and training. One can’t predict that a concert that is yet to happen will be excellent. In a performance sometimes you can sense that the artiste is in a good mood and is singing well. Contrary to this he can perform average and an artiste can never guarantee a performance. Thus the benchmark of a great artiste is that he consistently delivers high quality performances, their percentage of average performances will be very low.

Enjoyment, a central point is the basic requirement in music. Music and enjoyment go hand in hand. We have heard incidences of amazing musical effects like starting Rain, Anandashru (tears of joy), when swami vivekanandji use to sing Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was attaining bhava Samadhi.

The audience can’t enjoy music unless and until the performer himself enjoys it. As a very famous drama artiste Master Hiranaih once told, ‘if you have lot of sweets, you can feed others’. A musician enjoys every aalap, every note, every piece of tabla bols he sings and plays. I used to sit with guruji for his concerts, I used to wonder at times see guruji saying ‘wah’ and ‘kya bath hai’ for tabla bol or a good harmonium support. Later I realized that it comes naturally from the bliss of sheer enjoyment. A listener enjoys an artistes work by experiencing “his work under progression”. A work is going on in ane raga and you enjoy that. For example, Leh-Laddhak is very beautiful place in India. We can see pictures or video of that place or narration of that place by friend and we can enjoy. You personally go there and experience the beauty of nature it is completely different. This is how an artiste and a listener enjoy music. Artiste visits that place and enjoy and listener enjoy in a different realm.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Music Organisation

Music festival – raising an organisation

I have been associated with Gururao Deshpande Sangeet Sabha since 1993, learnt many things, worked to my capacity. I have been seeing music organizations while performing or visiting with Guruji. ‘Passion’ about music is gravity of any music establishments. In Gururao Deshpande Sangeet Sabha, guruji and his guru bhakti is a motivation for us and center point in sabha. Everything connects to that. Many great artistes performed on this platform. Watching them on the stage and behind the stage is good opportunity to learn many things which can’t be taught, it is learnt from experience whether it is good or bad, you grab the best things out of it. I observed things like - Planning, conversations, interaction with different people and performing on the stage.

LearnQuest Academy of Music, Boston and its founder Sri Pradip Shuklaji, invited guruji for USA concert tour in 1999. He is math professor in Suffolk University, singer and teaching classical music at academy. He has great passion towards Hindustani classical music and Academy started organizing annual music conference in the month of April since 7 years. That has a great success story. This music meet transformed Boston area into Indian music hub in USA. Pradipji has a dream of spreading classical music in many parts of world with the motto,’ connecting people through music’.

On Jan 11th 2013, LearnQuest academy of music inaugurated its INDIA chapter at India habitat centre New delhi, Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishraji and Pt Pravin Godkhindi performed .Pt Ashis Sengupta and few likeminded people from different parts of India (Delhi,Pune, Bangalore,Varanasi,Kolkota and Chennai) came together and started this venture. I have been closely associated with LearnQuest from many years. It’s a kind gesture of Pradipji and Ashisji to include me as part of this good beginning. Sri Pravin Godkhindi played ‘Yaman’ and Hamsadhwani. He is very good artiste and has god gift in him. (God exists in his name) He can play both gayaki ang and tatrakari, which is a rare combination. Padmabhushana Pt Rajan-Sajan Mishraji sang Bageshri ang Chandrakouns, this brother duo is an extraordinary one. Two bodies but one musical soul.

Very nice beginning to Learnquest academy in India, Many more concerts to come….

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lecture on Bhatkhandeji

Yesterday, 30th dec 2012,Sri Ramesh Gangolli, a mathematician, musician and musicologist gave a lecture on ‘Pt Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande’ at vidhushi Aditi Kaikiniji’s residence Bangalore. Everywhere New year mood was there, mixed memories of 2012 and anxiety about 2013. Sri Gangolliji is very good friend of my guruji. First I met him when guruji took me to USA in 1999. Guruji sang at seattle and we went to gangolliji s house, a nice person, gentle and very learned human being. He sang few times at guruji s residence and taught us few bandishes. The Lecture was very nice, few months back for my M Music , I studied Bhatkhandeji little bit. When he was talking about bhatkhande‘s life history, somewhere my mind was telling, hey I know this, oh I studied this. But later when he explained how bhatkhandeji‘s musical journey, it was interesting and informative. He was an institution, he was pioneer of modern Hindustani classical music. two great musicians Paluskar and Bhatkhande started swaralipi and revised few like ‘That’ system and Rag Jati system. The in depth knowledge and experience of this professor made us wiser with great theoretical aspects of classical music. He spoke for more than two hours, educating us about Bhatkhandeji s work. ‘Great mind think alike’, old proverb but proven again and again in different situations for different people. I am writing a essay on ‘the role of sath-sangat (accompaniment) in Hindustani classical music’ for my M Music. I have meet many musicians like Guruji, Nirodyji, Lalit raoji, Yavagalji, Venkatesh Kumarji. I could gather a whole lot of information on saath sangat . Basically every great musician’s views on music is same, may be their language and expression are different. Music is great; every musician’s main motto on the stage is same, delivering good music,. There is nothing like main artiste and side artiste or accompanist. Everybody is equal but as a lead performer on stage the singer holds them all to deliver a well co-ordinated recitals. They shared their experiences, their journey with sathidars. Sath-Sangat is very important subject in classical music. Not only in classical but in every genre of music which use accompaniment. Without that we can’t think of a performance. Talking to the senior musicians is always a pleasure and for sure they are always a guru and guide . Wishing one and all A Happy new year……