Sunday, 21 September 2008

The Hoax of the Century - IV

[Continued from Part III]

Q. “Gosh, is it really that bad?”

A. “Indeed, once you admit any art without meaning, you open the door to all kinds of aberrations. So you may have singers braying and bellowing, crooning and cackling, moaning and mumbling, shouting and threatening all because they had nothing to say.”

Q. “Now that you put it that way, the moaning of Gangubai Hangal becomes explicable. And she has won no less than 9 awards for her music!”

A. “That’s a matter for bemoaning our national brains. And I have not mentioned the gesticulations and the theatrics of singers such as Bhimsen Joshi or the grimaces of the tanbaji-wallahs. Have you noticed how these pseudo-Khyaliyas got worse and worse as they advanced in age? Faiyaz Khan and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan were shouting hoarse during their latter recitals and Omkarnath Thakur had just descended to bathos during his last years. If all these were to have audience before Muhammed Shah of yore, they would have been despatched immediately to the world to which their music belonged.

In contrast consider the two genuine representatives of their respective music – the late Siddheswari Devi in North India and M.S. Subbalaxmi from the south. Their music attained a mellowness with their age because they were each on the right track to begin from the start. Such musicians were must have been the rule in the last centuries rather than the exception they are now.

No music can devolve only on its technicalities for too long. You may find on a fair examination that the Dhrupad and the Khyal and the Tappa are already extinct modes of Hindustani music. Thumri survives rather precariously in some of the Kathak schools of dancing and with a fast diminishing number of singers. It is the Ghazal that is now in the forefront.And Indian cinema music ceased to be ‘Indian’ quite some decades ago. Even the notes they employ now are not to be found in our musical scale (saptak).”

Q. “Do you any chance for a revival of North Indian classical vocal music?”

A. “Yes, when our Industrial-Commercial economy turns back to a handicrafts economy and when music may once again be regarded as a legitimate are rather than a drawing-room luxury, inflating the egos of the musicians. The restoration of the meaning and purpose is the first step in the revival of any art or civilisation. The present climate of our national life does not auger well for any cultural values, hell bent as we are in ‘catching up’ with the mechanically advanced countries, our ‘Festivals of India’ notwithstanding.

In such a climate the representatives of genuine art are in a minority and at a discount. One cannot hope to find the required patronage or the audience for genuine classical music, though curiously, it makes far less demands on one’s patience or tolerance than the counterfeit varieties. It is amazing how audiences throng to attend the most atrocious buffoonery in classical Hindustani music lured merely by ‘famous names’. It is the fear of the beautiful and the fascination for the grotesque that brings all the rewards for the hoaxes. Nor does any one have the patience and perseverance to cultivate a music like the Khyal which needs at 20 years of training before taking to the public platform. What you will see more and more will be the much publicised experiments of musicologists to amalgamate the music of the North and the South and the West and East too, so that no recognisable Indian music will be left any longer.

Once upon a time you could have seen a singer facing the Lord in a temple pouring out his song in devotion. You can now see the back of an Indian conductor before a group of mannequins drooling out what is supposed to be Indian music, sung in different keys! And this is supposed to be progressive modern music for you, instead of the stereotyped linear melodic devotional music of yesterday. Be that as it may. We have come a long way from what was once gandharva music with the ragas as deities.”

Q. “I see it all now, rather a sad situation. And what would you take to listen to an hour of Kumar Gandharva?”

A. “Say around Rs. 2000/-. But to witness the scene of Balakrishna drinking in the music of the blind Surdas, I would give my very life!”



james said...

cynical and depressing assessment, but not without intelligence and truth. I have met a fair number of such cynics (and not only in ICM!), who seem to have an inherent dislike for the music (or life itself). There are many fertile subjects for debate in these articles. I will certainly add more comments when I get the time. James

Abhishek said...

He who searches for idols in a Mosque, will always return disappointed.

Suvir said...

Well said- a perfect dhimmi would never look for idols in mosques.

Abhishek said...

Suvir so what is the mosque, and who is looking for idols in it?
For now I will let the giants speak.
I quote, "All art is at once surface and symbol"..."The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless. "