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Updated: January 13, 2013 16:05 IST

In tune with infinity

Anjana Rajan
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Vocalist Gokulotsav Maharaj. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty
The Hindu Vocalist Gokulotsav Maharaj. Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

Kids should be introduced to music for both fun and healing, says noted vocalist Pandit Gokulotsav Maharaj.

Some people are naturally creative, even if they are not labelled artists in the normal sense — like small time shopkeepers who may be selling from a dusty roadside shack but who still decorate their tiny premises with tinsel and ribbon, or the hardworking cycle rickshaw driver who places a bunch of bougainvillea and a transistor playing cheerful songs in his handlebar basket as he pedals away.

To eminent Hindustani vocalist Pandit Gokulotsav Maharaj, these examples might just be proof that all the world is an example of the creativity of the Almighty. The wind in the caves, the breeze through hollow reeds, the breath in our bodies that signifies life — all of these, he points out, comprise the primeval rhythm and sound from which music is sourced. The Indore-based musician, an authority in Dhrupad, Khayal and the traditional Haveli Sangeet he has inherited as part of the Vallabhacharya tradition to which he belongs, was recently in the Capital to perform at the Swami Haridas-Tansen Sangeet Nritya Mahotsav presented by Bharatiya Sangeet Sadan over the weekend.

“Classical music is a great means to be healthy,” he remarks. “Because pranayama (breath control) is an intrinsic part of it.” He points to the navel, the throat and the top of the head, the route the breath traverses in the journey from the lower to the upper register. At the same time music provides recreation. “Children should be taught music,” he recommends. “See how quickly a hyperactive child learns to concentrate when introduced to music.”

School education takes a toll on children today. Panditji says even his little grandson lost his zest for school under pressure of the system, but once he took him in hand and started teaching him music, the child regained his enthusiasm as well as his ability to concentrate.

But in a competitive urban environment where ignorance can be easily misled through the medium of publicity, how does one find the appropriate teacher for a child? “A child first should be taught the basics of swara and tala. Then lakshan geet (simple songs whose lyrics recount the salient features of each raga), chhota khayal, bada khayal, tarana, etc.,” he explains. “One should train the voice with (techniques like) kharaj bharna, palte, and then taan singing, and some 15-20 ragas should be taught.” Putting to rest the anxiety many feel that they should put their toddlers under the tutelage of the most famous globetrotting names they can find, he states that only after this stage is achieved should a student search for a pandit or more knowledgeable guru to refine the art.

“Knowledge of bhava (emotions) and sahitya (literature) of music is important,” he points out. Therefore gurus need to be knowledgeable about the history, mythology and philosophy of their art.

Some gurus though, in their zeal to train the student into an impeccable product, kill the enthusiasm of the child with tutoring that becomes harsh in an effort to bring about precision. “The smart (chatur) guru,” says Panditji, “can mould the student without the strain that actually ruins the vocal cords. It is like if you have to go somewhere for some work, you start thinking about the strain of walking down the stairs, going that far, etc., but if you see the sights while you are going, you won’t feel the effort. If we do only riyaaz, in the old way, the shishya is likely to lose interest and damage the voice too.”

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