Art

What cultures music?

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The Indiranagar Sangeet Sabha’s annual festival had concerts and discussions around learning classical music

Spatio-temporal changes have influenced classical dance and music in India throughout history. Today, globalisation, digital technology and the internet are casting their influence on the classical arts. These are drastically transforming the way these arts are being taught, performed and practised. In this context, are technology and corporate culture aiding or harming music? What kind of approach should a student of music have towards the arts and the guru? These questions were deliberated by musicians, dancers and scholars at the Fifth International Conference on Music and Dance (ICMD) 2020, organised by Indiranagar Sangeeta Sabha in Bengaluru.

On the first day of the conference, R.N.S. Saileswari, Assistant Professor, Sri Padmavati Mahila Visvavidyalayam, Tirupati explained the various institutions of music and their respective advantages and disadvantages. “If gurukula system of learning provided 24/7 access to the guru and also inculcated guru’s habits and disciple in the student, home tuitions restricted student’s learning to only music. Whereas the present-day web learning is crisper. But at the same time, we should not ignore the opportunities internet has provided for students to learn music from anywhere in the world,” observed Saileswari.

Chairing the session, veteran mridangist Trichy Sankaran remarked: “University as an institution of music has also played its role. Development of musical notations, comparative and systematic studies of music wouldn’t have been possible without it.” He further suggested that there should be distinguished teachers and regular training at the university. “Private tuitions could also be carried out simultaneously for a deeper understanding of music,” he added.

Speaking about the need of creating internship opportunities for students in music colleges, Anuradha Suresh, Founder, Shruti Swara Laya, a music school in Fremont, observed: “Music students find it hard to begin their profession after their degrees because music is seldom seen as a career. Therefore, if colleges tie up with major sabhas of the city and send their students for internships, it would place them in a better position in the cultural field.” She felt these institutional mechanisms would help students from the lower socio-economic groups and suggested that a separate position should be created for this purpose in the music departments.

What cultures music?

If Anuradha felt the need to catch up with other disciplines in the modern scenario, vocalist Subhalakshmi Krishnamoorthy stressed on the applications of technology in the music and dance world. Languages of both these presentations focused on the importance of ‘networking and technology’ for a splendid performance or career, and did not reflect on its far reaching effects on music.

Responding to Anuradha’s presentation, Trichy Sankaran said: “I never learnt music for the purpose of performing. First of all, music is not just another subject. Don’t you think these moves would commodify the art more? And what about quality?”

“Focus has to be on music during the learning stage. All other skills are secondary. If the focus itself is interfered with, you lose the whole game.” responded Hindustani vocalist, Nagaraj Rao Havaldar who was among the audience. “Teaching music on the web would be fine if the student is already initiated into music,” felt another connoisseur in the audience.

Sankaran, Havaldar and sitarist, Indrani Chakravarti discussed these matters at length in a panel discussion on ‘achieving cultural exchanges through music and dance across the globe’. Emphasising on openness towards other cultures of music, Sankaran said: “Coming from a Carnatic tradition, I was looking for the ‘sum’ the first time I listened to African music. After a while, I told myself, ‘forget the sum, just go with the flow’. Such cultural biases might creep in while receiving music from other traditions, but respect and understanding save us from chauvinistic tendencies.”

Respect diversity Nagaraj Rao Havaldar, Anuradha Suresh and Trichy Sankaran

Respect diversity Nagaraj Rao Havaldar, Anuradha Suresh and Trichy Sankaran  

If Sankaran stressed on respecting diversity of music, Indrani spoke about respecting and getting adapted to guru’s tradition and students’ requirements. “As my guru followed Tansen’s tradition, he played on a 17-fret sitar and taught me the same. But as most of my students learn and perform on a 19-fret sitar, I teach them on that instrument. These adjustments have to be made by a teacher in the present scenario,” felt Indrani.

She also spoke on the oral tradition of Indian classical arts and emphasised on its continuation. Remembering his first guru, Panchakshari Swamy Mattigatti who suffered from dementia in his later years, Nagaraj Rao Havaldar recalled: “Although he suffered from memory loss, he would sing any malhar bandish without any difficulty! That was the power of his training.”

Oral tradition thrived in the gurukula system. “My another guru Madhav Gudi who had just slept after learning a Darbari from his guru Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, was woken up Raga Todi lessons around 2 a.m. Although the system comes with immense hardships, the student would reap the benefits later in life. Madhav Gudi had once told me that he felt so grateful to the Pandit for what he taught him on that particular night,” narrated Havaldar.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:13:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/what-cultures-music/article30523151.ece

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