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Updated: November 4, 2009 16:22 IST

Classical music instruments losing out

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Classical music instruments displayed at the Madras University. Photo: Avinash Chandrashekar
The Hindu
Classical music instruments displayed at the Madras University. Photo: Avinash Chandrashekar

Classical Indian instruments like the Sitar, Tanpura, Sarangi, or the Pahkhawaj seem to be losing popularity among the younger generation of musicians, who are now opting for electronic instruments, say experts.

The trend has been observed by several music establishments, like the ‘Lahore Music House’ in Daryaganj, Old Delhi. Owners of the store, established in 1947, claim that instruments which were mainstays even until recently are falling in demand. “Now the sale of Sitars and Tanpuras is just around 10 to 15 per cent. Harmoniums and Tablas are still popularly used in marriages, college or school functions and so their sales is still high,” says Ranbit Singh who has been working at the Lahore Music store for the last 40 years.

“Nowadays life is very fast and is technology driven. Who among the youth has time for music? Children now think of earning more money in less time. They would rather concentrate on fields like business management,” he says.

Pawan Bhargava, who owns a music instrument store, in the capital says “The youth rarely have any proclivity towards sitar now, unless it is compulsory in schools. They would mostly prefer guitar and drums. We have a mere 5 per cent of Indian customers asking for classical instruments and so the prices of these instruments have gone up by 50 per cent in the last five years.”

However, sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan thinks that every instrument comes with its own set of fans and the popularity of classical music and instruments cannot dip.

"People have varied choices and there are fans for every instrument. Indian classical music was never for the masses, it is for those who have respect and love for our culture and the traditional music. Our music is like elephant walk, full of dignity. We aren't looking for short cuts.

Classical music isn't ephemeral, we have a long journey to cover," says Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.

On the other hand, Pratyush, who is in charge of sales of another music store here thinks preferences change with time and not even a decade has passed since Indian classical instruments were in high demand but now the demand seems to fade.

"The 'now generation' doesn't think of Indian classical instruments as 'cool' anymore. Ironically the younger generation in America, Germany and some other parts of Europe are big fans of these instruments and think that these are 'in'," says Pratyush.

Considering classical instruments to be as cool now as ever, music composer Shekhar from the duo Vishal-Shekhar says, "We have the best music and the best musical instruments in the world. The classical instruments have energy and are edgy and cool. The only thing that has happened is that the usage of the harmonium and table is restricted to a few songs in Bollywood. Tabla is now used very intelligently."

As Ustad Amjad Ali Khan Saheb has rightly put it, the appeal for our classical music, Indian - Carnatic and Hindustani - is not ephemeral and the quantum of sale of instruments at a particular point of time is no determinant. In the South, at any rate, there is no dearth of the younger generation aspirants taking to vocals or instrumental.

from:  Mayuram G. Swaminathan
Posted on: Nov 5, 2009 at 11:17 IST
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