Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prof. Kalyan Mukherjea – A maestro rediscovered

Introduction: Prof. Kalyan Mukherjea (1943-2010) was an outstanding sarod player, trained by two eminent Gurus of Bengal -- Radhika Mohan Maitra and Prof. DT Joshi. Prof. Mukherjea also happened to be an eminent Professor of mathematics. He allowed the musician in him to be rediscovered after a chance encounter with Lyle Wachovsky of India Archive Music, New York.

Mukherjea's took his basic degree in Mathematics at Cambridge in England, and a Ph.D. from Cornell (Ithaca, NY.USA). He served on the Mathematics Faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) for eight years. In his last years, he was associated with the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta.

In his e-mail to Deepak Raja (June 25,1999), Kalyan Mukherjea said: "I was a radio artist in India for six years; but I never had a musical career. I have played if and when asked to. Even in Bombay, I have performed only twice or thrice. I am not sure Bombay audiences should feel specially deprived, because in totality, between 1989 and 1995, I have done only two concerts. After my stroke in May, 1995, I am a hemiplegic, and now, only an ex-sarod player."

Prof. Kalyan Mukherjea writes about his evolution as a musician.

Bernard Shaw is reported to have remarked that his education had continued unabated throughout his life, except for a brief interruption when he was sent to school. I hope I do not give a similar impression in what follows, since I attach a considerable degree of significance to my development when I was not under the tutelage of a Guru.

I started learning the sarod at the age of twelve from the late Pandit Radhika Mohan Maitra. Besides being much admired as a musician with an impeccably pure and orthodox style, he was - already at the age of forty - a teacher of great repute. This reputation, of course, attained legendary proportions by the time of his untimely death in 1981.

As with all beginners amongst his students, he started me off with a year or so of rote learning. I would visit him once a week, and copy out the set pieces. The following week, I would play what I had taken down the previous week, and satisfy him that I had, indeed, mastered the material. These pieces, in twelve elementary ragas, had been written down in voluminous ledgers by one of his earlier students during the early stages of tutelage.

It was a somewhat tedious affair. Now I realise that what he was trying to achieve was not just getting our hands working properly. He was also inculcating in us good musical taste, correct grammar, and diction. His pupils can easily be recognised by the way they blend intricate right hand plucking (bols) with the melodic line and this, I feel, is a consequence of this early rote drill that we went through.

Once Radhika Mohan decided that the basic skills had been transferred, he proceeded to teach me to improvise. The first session, as with all students, was alap in Malkauns. He would sing and I would try to play the phrases back to him. The week following, I would have to improvise along the lines he had indicated the previous week and he would correct what he perceived to be errors and faults. After my skills on the instrument had outstripped his somewhat limited prowess as a vocalist, he started to play his sarod while teaching me, and I would follow him, repeating his phrases. This is how I received all my lessons after the third year on. I recall, I learnt only three ragas (Malkauns, Bageshri, and Poorvi) in the first two years of improvisation.

What might surprise some is that he never asked me to play a phrase for the reason that it would make my recitals attractive. If he commended a phrase, he would prefix it with some comment like "this is where the raga lives" or "without this, you cannot make the raga's character clear". His philosophy was that the student should improvise according to what seemed attractive to his own, rather than Radhika Mohan's, musical thinking. There was no point, according to him, in teaching a horde of people to play according to the taste of Radhika Mohan.

This has had the peculiar consequence that his better students play completely different styles, although they are instantly recognisable as Radhika Mohan's students. Moreover, they disagree quite openly about what constituted the essential ingrediants of Radhika Mohan's style and what is the musical legacy they ought to preserve for future generations.

During the years of 1960-61, there was a break of sorts in my tutelage under Radhika Mohan. At that time, his friend, Prof.DT Joshi, was spending some time in Calcutta. I had just finished my Intermediate Degree exam and found it easy to spend the whole morning and evening learning from Joshi. In the afternoons I would go to Radhu Babu. When college resumed for my final year of Degree studies, Radhu Babu stopped teaching me. Instead, he instructed me to devote my limited time to music studies with Prof.DT Joshi.

In fact, this did not matter very much; both Radhu Babu and Joshi-ji came around every evening to chat with my father, and after they had settled down with their refreshments, I would be summoned and would have to satisfy both the Gurus that I was not getting corrupted by the other one's tutelage. So, I ended up having more 'taleem' than ever before.

Those who are not aware of how jealously Hindustani musicians guard their pupils from being influenced by other musicians, will not realise what extraordinary breadth of mind and heart Radhika Mohan showed by this gesture. I cannot imagine any other guru showing this kind of generosity and such a confident ego.

Between 1962 and 1976 I lived largely outside India, first studying at Cambridge (England) and Cornell (Ithaca, NY) and finally teaching for eight years at UCLA. Although I would resume my lessons with Radhika Mohan whenever I was back home on vacation, my musical attitudes changed rather dramatically over these years abroad.

This was the first time I was being exposed to different traditions in music. I do not think that Western classical music and Jazz, the only two musics I learned to enjoy, had any direct effect on my music. However, this exposure broadened my musical horizons enormously.

For example, I became aware that the sarod was, relatively speaking, a rather undeveloped instrument. Nothing about the sarod is standard - not the wood it is made of, not the number of strings, not the fingering, not the material out of which the bridge is made. All these are variable and attributed to differences of opinion between exponents of different gharanas. When one compares this with the situation obtaining in the violin or the piano, one realises that what is involved is not merely a matter of different musical schools playing different styles using slightly different techniques. It could be that a single basic entity is still undergoing a process of evolution along different lines. Certainly I feel this is so, and hence have had no compunction whatever about experimenting with the technical aspects of sarod playing.

I have tried out different fingering techniques, different materials (such as Teflon and ebony) for the plectrum and even an abortive attempt at using Kevlar for covering the drum of the sarod !

Of other interesting and ultimately rewarding experiences, I ought to mention is my participating in the graduate seminars on Hindustani music conducted at UCLA by Prof. Nazirali Jairazbhoy. It is in these seminars that I first saw how an undogmatic and analytical approach to our music can help demystify and clarify a lot of do's and don'ts that pervade the teaching of every gharana.

When I returned to India in 1976, I resumed learning from Radhika Mohan. But, this was quite different from my earlier training. He had formally retired from playing in public and was, as a result, often not in the best of shape in terms of technical virtuosity. However, he was now more willing to talk about the esthetic aspects of presenting a piece of music to an audience. He was also more mellow in his approach to the raga. He even conceded that it might be permissible to violate the law as long as the spirit of the raga was enhanced by this license. I certainly found this new (really older!) Radhika Mohan an extraordinarily sensitive teacher, ideally suited for advanced students who had already developed a musical personality of their own.

Every musician learns from other musicians, especially those who are his friends. I have had many such friends to whom I owe a debt. In have particularly rewarding memories of the two summers I spent in Bombay, visiting the Mathematics Department of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. On those sojourns, I stayed with my friends, Parveen Sultana and Dilshad Khan. This was the only time I have actually lived with professional musicians and seen how they go about the business of keeping their musical skills in fine fettle. Dilshad would, in particular, goad me into practicing harder. This was a delightful experience and I am sure my music gained from it.

I must finally add that I find the process of teaching - even complete beginners - an interesting and rewarding experience. I have been fortunate in having had very interesting students, including those who wouldn't be welcomed by most sarod players. Trying to help a gentleman who is starting on the sarod at the age of sixty with the only ambition of playing ten, or fifteen minutes of alap in Malkauns, or trying to explain to a young American with very fast hands how to settle down and play a raga correctly and methodically, is certainly challenging. But, in doing so, the teacher ends up with a clearer conception of what is essential to the music he plays.

So, I find that my musical education has continued unabated throughout my life . . . .

© India Archive Music, Ltd. New York. Producers of the finest recordings of Kalyan Mukherjea. IndiaArcMu@aol.com

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Raga Basant Mukhari – A Carnatic raga seeking a Hindustani identity

This essay is now published in my fourth book:

Removing it from this blog was proper, though not contractually obligatory, in order to protect my publisher's investment in my book.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ustad Asad Ali Khan – “The university is no place for shaping performing careers”

The Rudra Veena maestro spoke to Deepak Raja on January 11, 2000.

I belong to the Jaipur Beenkar gharana, founded by the 18th century beenkar, Shahaji Saheb. Rajasthan has been our home for several centuries even before Shahaji Saheb; but my ancestors had a long sojourn in Golconda-Bijapur in South India, after which we returned to Rajasthan. My father, Sadiq Ali Khan, was a musician at the Alwar and Rampur courts. He had studied with my grandfather, Musharraf Khan, who was trained by my great-grandfather, the legendary Rajab Ali Khan.

At Alwar, my father’s colleagues were people like Allah Bande Khan (the grandfather of Nasir Aminuddin and Nasir Moinuddin Dagar), and Sageer Khan (the son of Wazir Khan of Rampur). After retirement from the service of the Court, my father settled down at Rampur, where I was born in 1934. In 1962, my father agreed to join the faculty of the Bhatkhande College of Music at Lucknow. He died there in 1964. Until my father’s end, I lived and studied with him, traveling whenever necessary for concerts.

A sense of futility
In 1965, after my father’s demise, I took up an assignment at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra in Delhi, whose founder, Sumitra Charat Ram, was keen on preserving the Been art. Despite her efforts and mine, we could find only two students for the Been – neither of them has pursued the art -- while the Sarod, Sitar and Khayal music got an encouraging response. I spent a futile three years there, and quit.

In 1971, the Delhi University invited me to join its music faculty with similar hopes, and similar results. I served there for 14 years, teaching music theory and the Been style of the sitar, which nobody plays any longer. But, I could not get a single student to learn the Been. By the early 1980’s I was traveling frequently for concerts, and unable to manage my teaching responsibilities. So, without waiting to reach the age of mandatory retirement, I quit in 1985 to devote myself to performing.

The futility of our efforts to enlarge the Been’s following, in the 1970’s does not surprise me. But, we had to try. The university classroom is, in any case, not the ideal place for shaping performing careers. Those who seek a degree in music, do so to qualify for jobs as music teachers or as producers with radio or TV. Many ladies study music at university while they wait for Mr. Right to turn up. The Dhrupad revival was, at that time, nowhere on the horizon; the international market for the Been was just about opening up. For propagating the Been art, that was not a promising context. Even if the limitations of the university framework did not exist, it would have been near impossible to find students who would submit themselves to the grooming of a beenkar, as my gharana views it.

The making of a beenkar
In our gharana, we take the students through a three-stage training. The Been is an instrument of the Dhrupad genre and the gayaki ang (the vocalized idiom). Therefore, a musician is first trained as a vocalist, starting with the science of breath control and intonation, going on to the knowledge of a sufficient number of ragas, and several Dhrupad compositions in each raga. At the second stage, he is trained to apply his knowledge of Dhrupad vocalism to the sitar, which is an easier instrument to handle than the Been. At this stage, he also acquires knowledge of the rhythmic intricacies and improvisatory movements of the Dhrupad genre.

Once he acquires sufficient command over the sitar, he is allowed to graduate to the Been. We make sure that by this time, the student can sit for hours in the posture of Vajrasana. He has to start with Vajrasana from the first day, long before he holds the sitar. The transition from the sitar to the Been is a major one, as the most important aspects of playing – the mizrab angle, the placement of strings -- are different. Gradually, the transition is achieved and the craft is transferred to the Been. Beyond this, the instrument teaches the musician its own art. An exceptionally talented and dedicated student can take upto ten years to go through these three stages of grooming. Most will take fifteen years to become respectable performers, if they have it in them.

The tenacity required to go through this process is rare in present times. The days of hereditary musicianship are over; so are the days of princely patronage, which supported it. Given the many options today, who would want to make a choice that may, or may not, pay off after ten or fifteen years? Music is no more a way of life. It is a profession. Musicians want recognition and money fast, and they will learn what gives them a quick take-off. Moreover, today people want to learn music – whether Been or something else – with different objectives. It may have nothing to do with wanting to perform.

Today, the Dhrupad revival is a reality. The Been has a good international audience. There exists sufficient motivation for promising talent. But, the journey is long and arduous. By the grace of God, I have five disciples today – four foreign, and one Indian. I would be very happy if even one of them emerges as a competent performer.

Performance format
In my gharana, we present the raga in complete Dhrupad format – alap, jod, jhala, Dhrupad, followed by tar-paran. Beenkars who perform a partial or abbreviated protocol betray their poor training – it doesn’t matter how they justify it. Our training has equipped us in all the departments of the art. We don’t compromise with this format for any audience, Indian or foreign. Also, we make very sparing use of the tihai, which has become so popular today. A tihai has to be a spontaneous and effortless improvisation. The pre-composed tihai belongs to the territory of dance and solo percussion. In our gharana, we consider the tihai a childish gimmick.

In the choice of Dhrupad compositions, we have been taught that the compositions with four stanzas are meant for vocal rendition, while the twin-stanza compositions are suitable for the Been. After rendering the two stanzas – the sthayi and the antara – we begin the tar-paran improvisations. The tar-paran belongs to the jod-ang (the jod facet) of the improvisations with percussion accompaniment. A competent Beenkar knows hundreds of parans composed for the Pakhawaj, while his percussionist knows hundreds of stroke-patterns on the Been. They anticipate each other’s improvisations, and co-operate to create the most effective rhythmic impact. And, the advanced stage of the tar-parans, played with chikari punctuation, is the jhala ang (jhala facet/ movement).

Almost 50% of the success of our concert depends on the quality of the Pakhawaj accompaniment. The required rapport with the Pakhawaj player is best achieved through a stable partnership with one percussionist. For years, I have played with Gopaldasji, who once also accompanied my father. He is getting on in years now. I am developing a younger Pakhawaj player from Mathura. There are many soloists in India, but very few good accompanists. An accompanist has to be virtually groomed for that role by senior vocalists or beenkars.

I have done what I could for the Been. Its future is in the hands of God and the future generations.

© Deepak S. Raja 2000
The finest Rudra Veena (Been) recordings have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Book Review: by Abhik Majumdar

The Book Review Monthly, New Delhi
Volume XXXI, Number 7, July 2007

Hindustani music: a tradition in transition
By: Deepak Raja
DK Printworld, Delhi, 2006. Pp.432 + xxii.
Rs. 490.00

Connoisseur activism?

Reviewing an interesting, somewhat idiosyncratic compilation of articles, poses a challenge, as it escapes the usual taxonomic classification for writings on a subject. It is clearly not a scholarly work in the formal sense. As is the case with most such compilations, the various topics it encompasses form too broad a spectrum and though some footnotes and other references have been provided, they are sparse and infrequent.

On the other hand, characterizing it as a compilation of journalistic essays will be inaccurate. It bears a depth of perception and analysis seldom found in such works, or indeed anywhere else. The book seems to have been compiled with a definite, clear-cut objective in mind.

Indeed, so intriguing is Raja’s perspective that it makes sense to focus on this. The author makes use of the rather provocative phrase “connoisseur activism” to describe his agenda, which is very apt. Another approach is to treat the book as a response, a quintessentially Indian response, to certain (shall I say, western-inspired?) scholarly practices.

The discipline of ethnomusicology is traditionally anchored to a “cultural outsider” approach. Its discourses begin with the assumption that the author has no specialist knowledge as such, and conducts his research using objectively verifiable methods and processes accessible to everyone.

Raja’s methods are also an inversion of this. In the introduction, he sets out his conceptions of the writer’s role. “A writer is, after all, nothing but a connoisseur who has decided to share his understanding with other connoisseurs. And, as such, he is a part of the watchdog mechanism, which keeps art faithful to its elevating (sic) ideals.

Thus, he locates the author firmly within the cultural tradition on which the book bases itself. He assumes both author and audience to be “insiders” to the tradition. Often, his pronouncements seem to be bare assertions unverified and unsubstantiated by external corroboration. Such an appraisal is misleading. His view are intended to make sense to only those who possess a familiarity with the subject-matter, and often it happens that this “making sense” constitutes substantiation enough for “insider” audiences, a fact that those unfamiliar with the milieu may fail to appreciate.

An example may bear this out. In the essay entitled “Archival music and the cultural process”, he discusses the impact of sound recording on our musical tradition. In course of this, he makes the startling pronouncement – “The Guru-Shishya Parampara was not very different from a reliance on pre-recorded music in its explicit intent”. He goes on to point out that this pedagogical tradition invested considerable time and effort to ensure that the disciple emerged as a faithful clone of the mentor.

Fortunately, three human failings prevented this from being successful – imperfect perception, imperfect retention, and imperfect reproduction. As a result of these three, gaps in the disciple’s learning emerged over time ... gaps which he was obliged to fill by interpolating his own ideas within the framework of the mentor’s tutelage. And, in this manner, a modicum of originality was infused into the tradition. As Raja himself puts it, “Because of these imperfections, the traditional system became an effective instrument of continuity within change”.

I cannot imagine how such an insight can be empirically verified. Indeed, seeking to objectively substantiate it approximates and exercise in futility. And, yet, the history of our music is filled with instances of talented musicians being denied recognition as artists of the first rank, simply because they sounded too close to a Gharana forbear. Hence, to those familiar with his background, Raja’s assertions make perfect sense.

The book is divided into five parts: viz: Culture, Technology and Economics; Form, Idiom and Format; The World of Ragas; The Major Genres; and the Major Instruments. While all the parts conform to a uniformly high standard of exposition, to me the first chapter is of special value. Here, the author deals with how our music relates to various social, economic and technological developments. In the chapter entitled “If peanuts is what you pay…”, he even uses his background in finance to analyze how market forces have actually promoted a deterioration in music quality.

The sums add up because of the role of the two dominant intermediaries in the music market: the recording companies, and concert sponsors. They are both playing a progressively larger financial role in the music market – without having either the need or the desire to promote quality music.

The third part is also very interesting. Here, Raja examines certain aspects of the concept of the Raga. In “Raga Chemistry and Beyond”, he draws parallels between ragas and concepts of chemistry. Surely, an original approach, though how far the parallels are borne out is a pertinent question. On the other hand “Kedara at sunrise”, where he debunks many commonly held myths about the time theory of ragas, is unquestionably a piece of analysis of the highest order.

The last two parts are keyed to more functional objectives. The inside flap describes them as respectively, presenting comprehensive backgrounders on the four major genres of vocal music, and featuring detailed fact-sheets on eight major melodic instruments of the Hindustani tradition.

Here, more than his analytical insights, it is his familiarity with the nuances of the subject-matter that is manifest. In the chapter on the Rudra Veena, for example, he touches upon an astonishing range of topics, including mythical lore; historical antecedents; organology; instrument design; ergonomics; acoustics; and recent performers. These chapters constitute valuable resource material, notwithstanding the paucity of external references.

Another thing that stands out is his integrity. For example, he himself belongs to the school of Vilayat Khan, the Sitar maestro. However, when discussing the origins of the Surbahar, whose creation is variously ascribed to Sahebdad Khan (the maestro’s great grand-father), and Ghulam Muhammad of Lucknow, he freely admits – “The latest research favors the latter attribution”.

All in all, it cannot be denied that the book marks an exciting new approach to writing on Hindustani music. To be honest, it is not without its drawbacks. At certain times, the forcefulness and candor of Raja’s expression might give the impression of being opinionated. But, when one attempts such a strongly individualistic work, I suppose this is only inevitable. In any case, it does not mar the overall excellence of the book.

However, I feel compelled to end with a caveat. A significant part of the book, especially the earlier chapters, presumes a prior familiarity with the subject matter on the part of the audience. For this reason, despite the author’s easy writing style, some parts of the work may not be accessible to lay persons.

The book can be ordered online from the publisher's website, or by email.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sugata Marjit -- “I don't want to know how many greats were born before me”

Introduction : Sugata Marjit [born: 1959] is an unusual musician. He is an eminent economist, and Director of a research institute in Calcutta. He combines academic activities with a growing presence on the music circuit. His Khayals are a lot like the films of Goddard -- they have a beginning, a middle, and an end; but not in that order. His brand of music qualifies him as the messiah of postmodernism in Hindustani music. Sugata also composes music for the theatre and television. In 1995, his work in the theatre earned him the West Bengal State Academy Award for the best musical score.

In 2003, Sugata Marjit wrote to Deepak Raja about economics and music

Within economics, I specialise in international economics, development, and economics of corruption and governance. I am writing a book on trade, labour, and inequality – whether globalisation leads to increasing inequality etc. I think I am a soft-hearted human being, who feels for the poor, in spite of being an ardent supporter of market-based incentives. I am not a Marxist; I believe in God; I have taken my Deeksha [initiation] at the Ramakrishna Mission. The emotional part of me gets reflected in economics as well as music. My research is to make my points through simple, but elegant, mathematical models. I am a theorist. I believe in simplicity, and the simple is beautiful. This is the approach I take in my research and in my music.

My father had a good voice and was my inspiration. He was a Judge. We lived in several towns in West Bengal, before we finally moved to Calcutta in 1973. He used to find trainers for me [wherever we lived]. He died in 1994. I miss him a lot. He told me that anyone can be a good student academically; but to be a good vocalist is something else, and that one day, I would realise that it is a blessing to be able to sing. My uncle learnt the sitar with Balram Pathak and Imrat Khan. He was a good sitar player, but gave it up, and now runs a vocal music college in a town in West Bengal. A great talent, and inspiration for me.

I learnt with many Gurus, for a few months here and there, until I came to Calcutta. They were people who had been trained by noted Bengali musicians. One of them had, however, been trained by Vinayakrao Patwardhan [Gwalior gharana]. They had taught me basic Riyaz [Self-improvement exercises] to train my voice, and good compositions. The major taleem [training] I had was with Krishnachandra Bannerjee, for 17 years, starting from 1973. With him, I learnt singing in its totality, the intricacies of Ragadari [treatment of ragas], and the finer techniques of vocal music.

Bannerjee was a disciple of Bhishmadev Chatterjee, a household name in Bengal, who had studied with Badal Khan. That is my Rangeela gharana lineage. He [Krishnachandra Bannerjee] did not have a good voice; but he was a great trainer. I could go to him every day. He had heard top vocalists all over India, and could give me the traits of many gharanas – Kirana, Gwalior etc. Bannerjee died in 1990. I performed his funeral rites. Then, I went to TD Janorikar of the Bhendi Bazar gharana, learnt with him for a few years until he left Calcutta for Nagpur.

I am an off-beat person. I like to create all the time. I don’t want to know how many greats were born before me and, frankly speaking, be it economics or music, I get tired of knowing what has been done already, and repenting and repeating it because I am not as talented as others. I listen and try to pick up whatever sounds interesting and has the potential for my voice. I love Bhimsen Ji [Joshi] and Ameer Khan. I like possibly each and every vocalist to the extent that I can draw from them and make people dance with layakari, bol-tans, and little pieces of vistaar. I am a restless kind of guy; and so is my music, and I don’t regret it, because that’s me. I don’t like too much of structure. I like to think more about my music than physically practice it.

I like popular Bengali songs of the 1970s, and Baul [a regional folk genre of Bengal]. I often use nuances of these in my music. Often, I also use phrases of a particular raga picked up from advertising music, radio jingles etc., so long as they fit in properly. ]. I am a performer. My lectures are much better than my writing. My music is much better than my knowledge of it.

I hear all kinds of music, but don’t often get much time. Hindi music, the “old gold” type – I like a lot. Beside Ameer Khan and Bhimsen, I listen to Kishori, Paluskar, Omkarnath, Kesarbai, Kumar Gandharva [I love him!], and Rashid Khan. In instrumental music, Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar, Nikhil Bannerjee, Bismillah Khan, and Hariprasad Chaurasia are my favourites. Unfortunately, over the last few years, I have got so busy, that listening time is too short. I have to get back to it.

If I don’t do music with a bang now, I will fall behind in my Riyaz, my commitment. I had never guessed that I would be so successful in academics that it will tend to take away all my time. I have earned a bit, and can retire now if I wish. But, what militates against my taking up music as a profession is [the community of] musicians. There is too much of networking, hitting below the belt, and an un-intellectual ambience. I cannot accept this. I cannot go down on my knees to get a good concert. I can’t lead a musician’s life. That’s the problem. Intellectually, I am happier now. But, I am sure there is a golden mean, and I have to find it.

I have to be more consistent in my Riyaz, and start my training again, learn more and practice more. I can maintain my job in economics by doing a bit of research; but [from now on] that should be all. I have also to be in India. I have travelled far too much, and now is the time [to stay at home].

(c) India Archive Music Ltd., New York. 2003
Read a detailed profile of the artist in: "Khayal Vocalism: Continuity within Change"
The finest recordings of Sugata Marjit have been produced by India Archive Music. IndiaArcMu@aol.com.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The evolution of Khayal vocalism

March 30, 2010

KHAYAL VOCALISM - Continuity Within Change:
Deepak Raja
DK Printworld (P) Ltd.,F-52 Bali Nagar, New Delhi-110015. Rs. 460.

It is invaluable as a written document and as a book of reference and study for students and others interested in khayal

One does not often come across a book on Hindustani music that treats the art with the precision of a science. But then, this study by Deepak Raja of the evolution of Khayal vocalism through the system of gharanas would probably not have stood scrutiny had he not adopted such an approach. One reason is that music, like all art, is as technical as it is subjective. Therefore, it becomes necessary to establish thebasis on which the techniques of various artistes can be evaluated. The other reason relates to the nature of music as an aural art, and the difficulties of discussing it in writing. Such writing necessarily bristles with technical terms.

As the author describes, compares and contrasts thedifferent styles and draws a technical-historical sketch of thegenre over the past century, bringing the discussion into thepresent day, there are portions that probably only a practising musician would understand. It makes one wish thebook had an aural complement.

Yet the work is invaluable as a written document and as a book of reference and study for students and others interested in Khayal. In contemporary times, when students are given to asking questions instead of learning by rote, it could well form the basis of combined study and discussion between gurus and their disciples.

For his analysis, Deepak Raja divides gharanas into theAgra, Gwalior-Agra, Jaipur-Atrauli, Kairana, and Patiala legacies. Before taking them up for discussion, he provides a detailed introduction.

Taking an analogy from the plastic arts, he differentiates thethree major genres of Hindustani vocal music — Dhrupad, Khayal, and Thumri — by their relative stress on architecture, sculpture, and ornamentation and these in turn, he explains, signify respectively the structure, the contours and the way music seeks to please.

In a rather painstaking effort, Raja spells out his methodology — the number of recordings he listened to, their contents, and the factors that weighed against drawing definitive conclusions about, say, the individual's style or theinfluences that contributed to the music. These ‘x' factors, if one may so term them, are so many — it could be non-availability or poor quality of recordings, lack of information on deceased artistes, or the sheer unpredictability of human nature — that at times one is tempted to ask why was it necessary to put a subjective art through such a precision-controlled apparatus. However, to quote from Pandit Ulhas Kashalkar's foreword, “…we should value literature which helps musicians understand their struggles, makes audiences sensitive to the struggles of musicians, and holds both parties responsible for preserving and strengthening thetradition.”

The foreword provides an overview beyond the technical. Kashalkar speaks of the importance of “understanding the personality of the raga, and the range of emotional statements it can make.” He goes on to point out the important role the gharanas of Khayal played “in evolving different approaches to communicating the raga experience.” He describes a gharana as “the accumulation of musical wisdom, rather than a xeroxing machine.”

This book is also valuable for non-technical readers. Besidesthe annexure, “An introduction to Khayal,” and the glossary,the short biographies of artistes and the interviews of current performers are sure to invite their interest.

© Copyright 2000 - 2009 The Hindu

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Kshem Kalyan (Khem): The "precious" Kalyan

When I first heard Kshem Kalyan, I was totally charmed. I looked for authoritative documentation; but I found none. I acquired the few available recordings of the raga from the market and from collectors for a clearer view of its melodic personality. This, too, was not satisfying. I consulted Purnima Sen, the only living vocalist, whose recording I had. Then, I worked on the raga with my Sitar for a whole week. At the end of this effort, I could not manage more than 5 minutes of alap without repetition. I figured then that this was no ordinary raga. It was not even just another rare raga. It was a special raga, perhaps beyond reach without a Guru. But, I can share with you what I discovered.

Kshem Kalyan (or Khem Kalyan, or simply, Khem) is a post-sunset raga of undocumented history and grammar, whose commercial recordings are also hard to find. Having to retain a distinctive identity within the overcrowded Kalyan family also makes it a raga of limited improvisational potential. This challenge is probably sufficient to explain its rarity. The raga remains in circulation – even if only barely – because some musicians and some audiences value the distinctive musical statement it makes.

Kshem Kalyan is, in my view, Yaman Kalyan with a vivacious twist. Admittedly, there are other Kalyan family ragas, which would also answer to this description. Kshem Kalyan is, then, Yaman Kalyan with a distinctive vivacious twist. A majority of gharanas might dismiss such ragas as “thumree material”, worthy only of 15-minute rendition. But, vocalists in some gharanas treat the raga with a lot of respect, and present them, with aplomb, in Khayal style, over a full 45-minute duration.

For instance, Purnima Sen, the senior Agra gharana vocalist, told me that Kshem Kalyan was one of the favourite ragas of her principal Guru, Ata Hussain Khan (Agra-Atrauli gharana), from whom she learnt it. He used to sing this raga for over an hour without any repetition. Ata Hussain also described Kshem Kalyan as a “precious” raga – akin to an heirloom piece of jewelry, and advised her to perform it selectively, only for knowledgeable audiences.

There is no mention, in the authoritative texts I consulted, of either Kshem Kalyan or even of raga Kshem, thus also ruling out the possibility of Kshem Kalyan being a compound raga. The raga, therefore appears to be an independent melodic entity, conceived probably as a variant of Yaman Kalyan. To the best of my knowledge, the raga has been performed primarily by vocalists of the Agra-Atrauli gharana. To a lesser extent, it gained currency in the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana. In recent years, it has been performed very competently by Ashwini Bhide-Deshpande, a mature vocalist of the Kishori Amonkar lineage. The raga is virtually unknown in instrumental music.

I could access only three recordings of this raga – an unpublished concert recording by Sharafat Hussain Khan, a recent recording by Purnima Sen -- both of the Agra-Atrauli tradition -- and a published recording by Nissar Hussain Khan (EMI/ HMV:STC-04B:7407) of the Rampur-Sahaswan gharana. On his concert recording, Sharafat Hussain can be heard challenging the audience to identify the raga. The Nissar Hussain recording, interestingly, does not identify the raga at all, but calls it “Kalyan Ka Prakar” (A Kalyan variant). The rarity of the raga can also be judged from the fact that the three available recordings feature the same vilambit and drut Khayal bandish-es in the raga. Interestingly, the vilambit and drut bandish-es also have identical melodic contours, differing from each other only in lyrics and the tempo of rendition. This suggests that the raga is acknowledged to be of limited melodic potential.

Melodic personality
Predictably for a rare raga, available recordings vary in their treatment of it, without necessarily differing substantially on the identifying features of the raga. With the help of available, recordings, I have attempted to codify its melodic distinctiveness.

Available recordings suggest the following salient features in its melodic personality. The raga has the highest risk of confusion with Yaman Kalyan, because it uses the same tone-material (S-R-G-M-M^-P-D-N). This risk is highest in the madhyanga (mid-octave region) of the middle octave, where Yaman Kalyan exhibits its distinctive personality with the unique pattern of twin-Ma usage. Secondly, Kshem Kalyan is virtually identified by its melodic action in the uttaranga (upper tetrachord) of the lower octave. In the descending motion, if ineptly handled, the melody risks confusion with raga Maluha Kalyan and Hansadhwani. In the ascending motion, it risks confusion with Hansadhwani again, and Hem Kalyan. The raga is therefore codified in a manner that avoids these risks, along with the risks it accepts in the process of so doing.

The raga has a quadratonic ascent of stark tonal geometry (S G P N ), with each swara having equal weightage. The descent is hyper-heptatonic, (S’ N D P M^ M G R), with (tivra/ sharp) Ma^ being deployed subliminally as in raga Shuddha Kalyan, and (shuddha/ natural) Dh deployed subliminally as in raga Bihag. The zigzag phrasing of the raga is so essential to differentiating it from Yaman Kalyan, that it seems unreasonable to classify the raga as either araoha-pradhan (ascent dominant) or avaroha-pradhan (descent dominant). The raga is almost totally resident in the lower half of the melodic canvas, and hence classified as purvanga-pradhan. The raga appears to revolve largely around the middle-octave Re, suggesting it as the vadi swara (Primary dominant). This vadi is also sound as a means of distinguishing the raga from Yaman Kalyan with its vadi at Ga. The signatory phrases of the raga suggest Pa in the lower octave as the probable samvadi (Secondary dominant) of the raga. This would distinguish the raga from Maluha Kalyan with its strong Dh in the lower octave.

(Swaras in parenthesis indicate subliminal usage)

S R S P. / P. N. R S/ N. S G M R G R or N. S G R/ S G P / P S’ S’ or P N S’ or P N (D) N S’/ N S’ G’ M’ R’ S/ R’ N (D) P/ N (D) N (D)P / P (M^) G/ M G R G R or P (M^) R/ N. R S P./ N. S

The pakad (catch phrases) of the raga: S N. R S P/ N S G R

The phraseology outlined above is, admittedly, an inference of the composer’s intent from available recordings, and therefore, a theoretical construct. Even within the small sample of recordings available, there exist deviations which either interpret the zigzag phraseology of the raga liberally, or allow the raga to drift closer to Yaman Kalyan. Both these are “predictable” tendencies in this raga because, as conceived, the raga is a melodic entity of limited improvisational potential, and a tilt towards Yaman Kalyan, its probable inspiration, would be the most “logical” and defensible. An alternative phraseology, incorporating these tendencies, and accepting a less distinctive raga-ness, may be documented thus:

S R S P. or R N. P or R N. D. P / P. N. R S or D. N. R S / N. S G M R G R or N. S G R or D. N. R G R / S G P / P S’ S’ or P N S’ or P N (D) N S’/ N S’ G’ M’ R’ S or D N R’ G’ R’ N R’ S/ R’ N (D) P/ N (D) N (D)P / P (M^) G/ M G R G R or P (M^) R or M^ G M G R/ G ( R ) S / N. R S P./ N. S

Purnima Sen provided her own documentation of the chalan of the raga as it was taught to her by Ata Hussain Khan.

S G M G R/ G S R N. P./ N. S./ S G P M^ G M G R/ G S/ R N. S/ S G P/ (N) DD P D N D P/ M^ G M G R/ S N. R N. P./ N. S/ S G G P/ N D P M^ G M G R/ S G P M^ R S/ P N (D) N S’ or P N S’/ N R’ G’ R’ S’ N D P/ S GG P P (N) DD P D N D P/ M^ G M G R S N/ S G R G S R N. S

Her notes also provided additional insights into the intonation rules. Tivra (sharp) Ma is used subliminally most of the time; but it has a longer duration when the phrase M^-R-S is sung. Likewise, Dh is subliminally deployed most of the time; but is more pronounced in the phrases P (N) DD/PDNDP.

Even a mature musician cannot acquire a good grip on this raga from this documentation, and the study of a the few available recordings. Kshem Kalyan needs to be learnt from a Guru qualified to teach it.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shahana: the popular Kanada

I first heard Shahana from Ustad Vilayat Khan. Must have been in the early 1970s. He drifted into it without announcing the raga. As the raga unfolded, I said to myself -- "How clever! He is playing Darbari with a twist -- replacing the Komal Dh of Darbari with a Shuddha Dh, and delivering an entirely different musical experience!".

In those days,Kausi Kanada was the most commonly heard Kanada variant. Shahana was a relatively unknown raga. Over the last quarter of the 20th century, however, Shahana (also known as Sahana or Shahana Kanada) grew considerably in popularity. As a result, today, you are likely to hear it as frequently as Darbari -- the primary Kanada. Shahana is classified as a member of the Kanada group because it shares with Darbari Kanada its descending melodic line (n-P/g-M-R-S).

The raga finds occasional mention in mediaeval texts, but was probably documented only in the 19th century. The name “Shahana” is of Persian origin, with mediaeval texts referring to it as being allied to a Persian melody called Firodast. This Persian melody is unknown in India now, but may have once been in circulation. Another perspective interprets Shahana as a blend of Darbari Kanada, Adana, and Malhar. Considering the seamless character of the raga, this theory could be more analytical than historical. The Carnatic (South Indian) tradition has an immensely popular raga of the same name, which bears no resemblance to Shahana in the Hindustani system.

Between the three major authorities, who have documented the raga, we have four variants of its melodic personality. The Subbarao version deploys only komal (flat) Ni, while the Bhatkhande version deploys both shuddha (natural) and komal (flat) Ni in the ascent, and only komal (flat) Ni in the descent. The Tagore version, cited by Bhatkhande, matches the Subbarao version in swara material, but varies in phraseology. The Patwardhan version legitimises a Bhimpalas suggestion in the uttaranga, a Megh Malhar suggestion in the madhyanga (mid-octave region), and the Adana suggestion in the uttaranga. However, Patwardhan suggests that this raga originates as a blend of Darbari and Malhar, but also sees shades of Bahar in it.

Considering that poetry composed in the raga has a decent presence of imagery related to spring and the rainy season – both suggesting a relief from extreme conditions – a degree of euphoria is, indeed, integral to the psycho-acoustics of the raga within the culture-specific context.

Subbarao B. Raga Nidhi. Vol. IV, 4th Impression, 1996, Music Academy, Madras.
Ascent: n S g M P n P/ D M P S’: Descent: S’ n D n P/ D M P g/ M R S

Bhatkhande Sangeet Shastra Vol. IV, 2nd Edition, 1970. Sangeet Karyalaya, Hathras. Ascent: n S g M P n P N S’ Descent: S’ n D n P M P g M R S

The Tagore version cited by Bhatkhande:
Ascent: n S R g/ M n P/ M P n S’: Descent: S’ n D n P/ g M R S

Patwardhan, Vinayakrao. Raga Vigyan Vol. V.5th Edition, Sangeet Gaurav Granthamala.
Ascent: Rn S Mg M P/ n D n P/ M P n P S’: Descent: S’ n D n P M P Mg M R S

Subbarao and Patwardhan consider Pa-Sa as the primary and secondary dominants of the raga. Both Subbarao and Bhatkhande consider the raga to be anchored in the upper half of the melodic canvas. Contemporary practice appears to reflect all the tendencies documented by authorities, along with a sharper differentiation of Shahana from other members of the Kanada group, now consisting of over 30 melodic entities.

Contemporary practice
Contemporary interpretations of Shahana appear to conform to three broad patterns.

Ustad Vilayat Khan rendered Shahana on the heels of Bageshri (December 1973, unpublished). The melodic identity of the raga revolves around Dh in the uttaranga (upper tetrachord) of the middle octave, suggesting a Bageshri bias (g-M-D/ D-n-P). In the poorvanga (lower tetrachord), his interpretation of the raga has a touch of Bhimpalas (R n-S-M/ g-M-P/ S-g-M-P-g-M-R-S). This Shahana variant recurs on his son, Shujaat Khan’s commercial recording. The Bageshri-biased pattern is also evident in Ustad Ameer Khan’s rendition of the bandish “Sundar angana baithi”(EMI/HMV: STC:850351).

The second pattern conforms to the Bhatkhande documentation incorporating the twin-Ni usage. This can be heard in the Dhamar composition “Kunjan udat gulal” performed in the Darbhanga (Vidur Malik) gharana of Dhrupad. This feature may suggest the Bahar / Malhar facet of the raga.

The third pattern is the one performed by Jaipur-Atrauli vocalists, and heard on a recording by Dhondutai Kulkarni. This interpretation of the raga has shades of Darbari Kanada, Adana, and Bhimpalas, while retaining its distinctive deployment of shuddha Dh (g-M-D-n-P). In the poorvanga, it follows the Darbari phrasing (n-S-R-g-M-R-S) along with Bhimpalas (R-n-S-M). In the uttaranga, it uses the Adana ascent (M-P-S’), as well as Bhimpalas (M-P-n-S). In the descent, Adana phrasing (P-n-P) features alternately with the distinctive Shahana phrasing (D-n-P).

The skeletal phraseology of Shahana is drawn using the following recordings as reference. Ustad Vilayat Khan (December 1973, unpublished), Ustad Ameer Khan (EMI/HMV: STC:850351), and Pandit Jasraj (EMI/HMV: STCS: 851013). It also incorporates the twin-Ni option exercised by Darbhanga gharana Dhrupad vocalists.

Chalan: P.n. P. N. S or n S n R S/ n S R g M R S/ R n S M/ S M M P or S R g M P/ g M D n P or g M n P / M P S’ D n P/ M P S’ or M P n S or M P N S’ N S’/ R’ S’ D n P/ n M P g/ M R S

Though different musicians and gharanas emphasise different facets of Shahana, the raga has stabilised with the use of a single Ni (komal), and come to be identified by a few catch-phrases in the uttaranga (g-M-D/D-n-P/ M-P-S’/ D-n-P) along with the generic Kanada descent (n-P-g-M-R-S). Another significant tendency evident in the raga is the omission of the explicit Malhar suggestion (S-n-D-n-P), documented by significant authorities of the 19th and early 20th century. Such tendencies towards the standardisation of the melodic personality normally accompany a raga’s growing popularity in response, perhaps, to the need for its categorical differentiation from allied ragas.

(c) India Archive Music Ltd. New York

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Shahid Parvez – “Duets satisfy audience appetite for novelty. Most partnerships don’t work”

Shahid spoke to Deepak Raja on January 8, 2004

Upto the age of 15, I was trained on the sitar by my father, Aziz Khansaheb. My uncle, Hafiz Khan, better known as Khan Mastana, trained me on the sitar as well as the surbahar upto the age of 12. Based on that training, I have evolved my music. Though I do play the surbahar for personal pleasure, I perform only on the sitar. My music is, without doubt, the music of the Etawah gharana because that is my training.

It is not surprising that the music of this gharana is spreading faster than rival styles. The main reason is the scientific technique. This has to do with the posture, setting of the hands, and the handling of the acoustic and harmonic ambience of the melody. The realization has now dawned that this is the best way to handle the sitar. The content of the music can vary a bit. But, once a certain technique is accepted, the content tends to follow from it. The second reason is the richness of our gharana’s idiom. Our legacy has evolved over several generations, with a number of very competent performers contributing to its enrichment. Some worked on the right hand, while others developed the craft of the left hand. Some developed the Jod or taan-s, while others worked on the Jhala. This accumulated legacy gives every sitarist a huge fund of musical ideas to draw upon and develop according to his own temperament.

This is why, I think, our style is acquiring a following even amongst sitarists not trained by the gharana stalwarts. It is important that the technique be understood properly, and sitarists be taught to convert this technique into the content of music. Until recently, this gharana has not devoted sufficient energy to teaching. The first person to take this up seriously was Shri Arvind Parikh (the seniormost disciple of Ustad Vilayat Khan). Following his example, I have started training promising youngsters. Our efforts will result in an orderly transmission of the gharana’s music.

Engineering the instrument
Over the years, I have shaped the acoustic features of my instrument, and my technique to deliver the quality of music I play. I have been using an ebony Jawari bridge since I got this instrument made about ten years ago. In earlier years, when I was working with my grandfather, Waheed Khansaheb’s sitar, I used the ivory bridge, and later, a deer-horn bridge once ivory was banned. Under the impact of my strokes, deer-horn, the ivory substitute, became unstable in five or six days of playing. I experimented briefly with the polymer material that some sitarists have tried. The sound of this material was a trifle metallic for my liking. I have also tested the ultra-light hard wood from Japan that caught sitarists’ fancy for a while. That material withstood my strokes pretty well, but produced a very shallow sound. After experimenting with these materials, I have settled down to an ebony bridge, which gives me the best results with the sophisticated microphones we have today. I have to rework the Jawari every ten days or so. This is fine since I have learnt to fashion it myself. There are no longer any great craftsmen left on whom we may depend for periodic restoration. Nobody taught me this craft. I studied the way Bishandas ji (Bishan Das Sharma of Rikhi Ram, instrument makers of Delhi) and Hiren Babu (Hiren Roy, instrument maker of Calcutta) fashioned the Jawari bridge to suit my acoustic preferences, and figured it out. I am learning all the time.

When I wanted a new sitar, I started with the obvious solution in those times – Hiren Roy – but finally decided to design my own instrument. Hiren Roy’s reputation as a sitar-maker is well deserved. His workmanship was outstanding. The timbre of his instruments is mellow. But, no matter how you fashion the Jawari bridge on his instruments, the volume output of the main melodic string is subdued compared to the other strings. I have noticed this in all his instruments. Have you noticed that, no contemporary sitarist plays a Hiren Roy sitar any longer? I asked Hiren Roy if he would make an instrument to my specifications. He said my specifications were impractical. On the other hand, he would also not guarantee that an instrument made to his specifications would satisfy my acoustic requirements. So, I gave my specifications to a sitar-maker in Miraj (a small town in Western India, also a major center of instrument making), and got the instrument made. I then took it to Rikhi Ram in Delhi, got the joints reinforced, and the frets reset. The tumba of my instrument is smaller than a standard sitar. The natural pitch of the instrument is, therefore, higher than the normal. I am now happy with the instrument, and it responds perfectly to my ideas.

My pitch is half-way between the standard C# in our gharana and D. An intermediate pitch is appropriate because of the smaller tumba (chamber resonator) and the thicker tabli (the cover of the resonator), my instrument sounds dull at C#, and too stiff to play at D. A higher pitch does tend to reduce the acoustic sustain of the instrument. To compensate for this possibility, I fashion the Jawari (the timbre control bridge) in such a way that stroke power is not dissipated in volume, but gets converted into additional sustain.

The music
It is true that I work more extensively with rhythm than anyone in our gharana has so far done. In addition to Roopak and Jhaptala, which are now very popular, I have played in tala-s of eleven, thirteen, fifteen and eighteen beats. I have performed bandish-es in cycles with fractional beats such as 5 ½ , 7 ½ etc. Such cycles are improvised, and do not have the status of tala-s in the Hindustani tradition. I have performed duets with vocal music in ultra-slow Ektala and Jhoomra. If we say that our gharana specializes in the “Gayaki anga” (vocalized idiom), we must look beyond the traditional Teentala for our repertoire. Also, I believe that it is not what we do that matters as much as how we do it. As long as we make judicious use of novelties, continue to treat the raga with respect, and keep the music organized, these deviations add to the richness of our music.

There is a mistaken notion that I play almost entirely with one Tabla accompanist, Vijay Ghate, or that he is my first preference. We have practiced a lot together, and have a great understanding. Driven largely by convenience, we have also performed a lot together. In reality, however, I have performed with every Tabla maestro of our times, other than Ustad Allarakha. In 1976, when I was just 18, I have played with Karamatullah Khansaheb. In 1977, I have played with Dawood Khansaheb. In later years, I have performed several times with Afaque Hussain Khan, Shanta Prasadji, and Kishan Maharaj too. In the generation after these giants, I have played with almost every significant Tabla exponent. On my recent tour of the US, I played 27 concerts with young Akram Khan.

A musician may get along better with some percussionists than others. But, it is impractical for him to restrict his exposure to one or even a handful of Tabla accompanists. It would also be suicidal. Every percussionist stimulates you to thinking differently about the relationship between melody and rhythm. A musician who denies himself this advantage will stagnate.

Duets, on the other hand, are an entirely different matter. Like all other musicians of my generation, I have had my share of duets – with other instrumentalists as well as vocalists. They seem to satisfy the appetite of audiences for novelty. History tells us that truly great duet partnerships are rare. We will never again hear anything comparable to the Ravi Shankar-Ali Akbar Khan and the Vilayat Khan-Bismillah Khan partnerships. Some partnerships work. Most don’t. For duets to work, the musicians need to be of comparable caliber, and relate to each other with respect and affection. Without these ingredients, duets can easily degenerate into a mindless competition for applause. This is what happens in a majority of cases. In some unfortunate situations, they can even create unpleasantness between musicians. Though I am happy to work on promising duet ideas, my personal preference remains for the solo, where I can present my music in and orderly fashion.

©Deepak S. Raja 2004.
The finest recordings of Shahid Parvez have been produced by India Archive Music Ltd. New York.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book Review: by Neeru Dhall

Indian Horizons
The Journal of The Indian Council for
Cultural Relations, New Delhi
Vol. 51, Autumn issue

Hindustani Music – A tradition in Transition
Author: Deepak Raja
Publisher: DK Printworld Pvt. Ltd.
pp. 432. Rs. 490, US$ 24.95

Peter Drucker surely did not hint at Hindustani music when he said: “If peanuts is what you pay, monkeys is what you get”; but the fact is that the scales of economy have influenced Hindustani music over a period of time and as a result, Indian Classical Music that had its strong moorings in traditions, is in transition today.

Hindustani music has always been passed over to generations in its traditional Guru-Shishya Parampara (Teacher-disciple Tradition) in which a teacher gives his knowledge with full sincerity to his disciple. A disciple, in turn, is expected not only to master the knowledge but also to pass it on to another deserving candidate of the next generation. But no musician can be an identical Xerox copy of his teacher. Even the music of the same gharana (family) changes from generation to generation. Change is the permanent reality of this universe, and music is no different.

Various socio-economic and cultural changes have been changing the music over the centuries. Although some lament this, it is no surprise that today the great gharanas have merged into “cocktail gharanas” and we see the emergence of the Rotterdam gharana, the San Rafael-Seniya gharana. Their commitment to excellence may boost Hindustani music; but it may also result in globalization, and perhaps “de-culturation” of Hindustani music.

What should be done under such circumstances? Should not the efforts be made by cultivated listeners of Hindustani music – the connoisseurs or Rasikas -- to perhaps demand higher standards of music, act as watchdogs and help in retaining the inherent traditional values of Hindustani music? This is what Deepak Raja talks about in his book, “Hindustani Music – A tradition in Transition” by giving a very rational, logical, and analytical overview of Hindustani Music in the post-independence era. His description of this change has, both, depth and a matter-of-fact approach.

Hindustani music is an expression of India’s pluralistic, dynamic, multi-racial, multi-lingual vibrant society. The unity within diversity and continuity within changes, are two of its basic phenomena. While talking about various ragas, genres, lineages, musicians, and Hindustani music, Raja very beautifully describes as to where Hindustani music is heading.

Until the 20th century, Hindustani music was chamber music hosted by aristocracy. The classical music was performed in Jumme Ka Takiya (Friday evening gatherings) or on special occasions. Audiences were small, but very knowledgable. Those were cognoscenti who maintained a tough yardstick to maintain the music standards. The “innocenti” soon outnumbered these cognoscenti in the post-independence era, as that was the time of great upheaval in political, social, economic, and technical situations. Suddenly, the music was out of private chambers and was being dished out to the masses that were made of innocenti and did not understand it much.

Music became a commodity. It became price-sensitive and market-oriented. The yardstick of music changed. The large number of innocenti preferred popular music and classical music took a back seat, leaving the Rasikas in a minority. This was mainly due to the explosive growth of the electronic media. On the price index, the cost of music is becoming cheaper as a result and market continues to explode. Today’s market consists of 80% innocenti and 20% cognoscenti. Hindustani music is set on a path of irreversible globalization.

Raja explains this trend in Hindustani Music through six parts of his book:

Part I starts with social, cultural, economic and technological changes in Hindustani music by taking the reader through a journey of music starting from traditions to contemporary changes in gharana models. Part II deals with musical forms and structures.

Part III and IV can be defined as the heart of the book, in which Raja talks about the melodic framework on which Indian music is based. He starts with Ragas (melodic structure) interwoven with Rasas (emotional states), the significance of timings of each raga, the rights and wrongs in it and thus describes the complete flavour of Indian music. He explains the four major genres of Hindustani vocal music – Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri and Tappa in their historical, aesthetic, and melodic forms.

Part V deals with the background and expressions unique to each of the major solo melodic instruments of Hindustani music, such as, Rudra Veena, Sitar, Shehnai, Sarod etc. and the entry of Slide Guitar of Hawaii into Indian music, soon after World War II. The book finishes with the list of glossary.

Only Raja, a musician, and MBA, a media person, and a writer, himself a multi-faceted person, could give such a multi-dimensional treatment to music in the most logical form. The quantitative leap of music is the need of the time; but it does not mean that we must not produce connoisseur quality music.

The old model of music that survived under royal patronage is extinct today. Keeping in mind the latest trends, Raja suggests a new model of music based on price and value, which allows a collective of musicians, rather than audiences to validate a musician’s status. He advocates the formation of a musicians’ guild to grade the music and musicians. His idea is to revitalize the connoisseurs of a bygone era, bring them to the forefront as music watchdogs, enhance their insights into the inner workings of modern and contemporary music by explaining them the alternative benchmarks and changing yardsticks.

Deepak Raja thus strives for higher standards of Hindustani music by advocating a balanced approach. Consumerism and commoditization of music can pose a threat to its quality; but as they say, “the grammar of today’s music is based on yesterday’s literature”. One only hopes that this beautiful piece of literature will help maintain tomorrow’s grammar on music with high standards, even in the changing scenario of market needs.

The book can be ordered online on the publisher's website, or by email.