Contemplation at crossroads


The seminar on Enhancing Career Opportunities organized by ITC and Indian Musicological Society at NCPA, Mumbai raised some serious questions. Is music was all about performance and career or was it about rigour? In this world of abundant opportunities how do we preserve its sanctity?

“It is meaningless to deliberate on the utility of art and the purpose of life if life and art are viewed as separate entities,” said Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, president of ICCR, in his opening remarks at the recent seminar on Enhancing Career Opportunities for Musicians, organized by ITC-SRA and Indian Musicological Society in collaboration with Sangeet Natak Academy, Music Forum and NCPA. He was ruminating on the debates that Marathi critics like Naasi Phadke and V.S. Khandekar had on the meaning of art, and dismissed arguments such as Art for the sake of Arts, and Art for Livelihood as futile. “Whatever is the need of art is the need of life. Today, there are opportunities galore for a musician but we must ensure that young talents are cultivated without compromising on sadhana. We need to de-glamourise the world of fine arts; glamour should never supersede sadhana,” he observed.

In an address that was thought provoking, Sahasrabuddhe rightly tilted the balance towards the essence and philosophy of fine arts. It could have -- going by the title of the seminar -- veered towards market, economy, and tools available for the present day musician, but Sahasrabuddhe emphatically maintained that crass commercialization and unscrupulousness was detrimental to art and the artiste. Taking it forward in a similar tenor, chairperson of Sangeet Natak Academy, Shekhar Sen said that temples in the past, were centres of culture and not consolidation camps of religion and ritual, like they are today. Do we need music to live? “Not really. But if you remove culture from life, people will have shorter lifespans. It is the responsibility of the society to support and nurture an artiste, for, they are representatives of culture,” he argued.

Speaking at the session on Journey of Maestros, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, recounted his life, its difficulties, how he could not afford to learn from a guru, lived in a temple and had prasad for food, gave up his AIR job, and other jobs, “because, I am still searching for a career. My parents and gurus felt AIR would give me my career, but it never gave me satisfaction musically. Today, I live with my students in a gurukul and we share music, and food. We are still searching for music,” he said, exposing the glaring contradictions of a successful ‘career’ and a fulfilling musical life. Life was not a bed of roses for Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty, his parents were weavers and music came to him in various genres and sporadically, till he finally found a guru and focus. He gave up his bank job and dedicated his time to music. Thanks to the grace of the guru, it opened up a new world for him. “Today, guru’s lack the depth too. They are not critical, on the contrary they have become superficial and thin intellectually because they are scared of losing disciples. I think the key to being a good musician is constant self-respect, self-analysis, and self-criticism.” Nothing but music interested Aruna Sairam, Carnatic vocalist, who said fame came to her only after being pushed away for years. “A musician has to deal with this world and beyond.” It is therefore important that he is looked after; he has to be paid adequately for his work. “The medium of our work is music,” she reiterated.

In the session on “Lack of Opportunities”, the young musicians painted a different picture. While both Smit Tewari and Yashwanth Vaishnav came from unconventional backgrounds and have put up with enormous difficulty, they both felt that there are enough number of opportunities. Social media and Youtube they agreed, gave them considerable exposure, and has increased career opportunities. Both these young musicians felt that teaching was a source of steady income, however, they wondered “if everyone can become a teacher?” Adding nuance to the whole argument, vocalist Sanjeev Chimmalagi felt that while youtube has rendered the world a stage, it had to be used judiciously. It is a learning tool, but there’s too much of it. “Struggle is a constant to every creative artiste’s life. Today the struggle is of too much too soon. For instance, Colours TV asked me to send my students for a show. Now should I send them or not? Is it an opportunity or a diversion? These are the dangers about which one should constantly be aware,” he explained. “What is an artiste’s life without struggle? His art matures only when in struggle,” added Smit.

“Even when I was told that there is no future for Dhrupad, I had decided whether there was food or no food, I would pursue this art form,” said the renowned Dhrupad exponent, Uday Bhawalkar in the session, “Journey Thus Far”. Remembering her guru, the legendary Girija Devi, Sunanda Sharma said: “‘Just because you can do a whole lot of things, don’t do it’, my guru used to say. She would say that you must be so one with your art that struggle becomes pleasure. “Bhakti and Gyan must be two constants in your musical journey, Vidya, Paisa and Prasiddi – they have to come slowly,” added Uday Bhawalkar. It is important to create a mind of your own, and an inner strength. However, liasoning makes a large part of one’s musical journey today, which can prove dangerous.

Dr. Mandavi Singh, Vice Chancellor of the Indira Sangeet Vishvavidyalay, Khairagarh University, took the audience on a journey through the programmes of the university, set up in 1956 for Performing Arts. A kathak dancer herself, she projected the earnest efforts of the university in motivating students with creative abilities.

Moderating the session on Teaching and Promotion of Indian Music, Pt. Vidhyadhar Vyas said that it is imperative to understand and adapt to the cultural changes of the music world. But is that really possible in the present, asked Pt. Ritwik Sanyal? “We are at cross roads and have plenty of stumbling blocks. As a community, we have to think seriously about the decisions we make.” Agreeing with the seriousness of the situation, B.B. Chatterjee of ITC, Kolkata, felt that since the associations with Indian Classical Music are spiritual, a career in music has to be seen both at the levels of Sadhana and Performance. “We also have to make a choice between constructive criticism and destructive appreciation,” he emphasized. Pt. Nayan Ghosh spoke at length about the journey of Sangeeth Mahabharathi, established by Pt. Nikhil Ghosh. “In the last 62 years, we boast off an unbroken chain of teaching, festivals, lecdems, workshops and more. We promoted meaningful music, and we have created teachers, research assistants, music journalists and event managers. We have also created musicians capable of heading archives and digitization studios. In all, we are a centre for excellence in performing arts,” he explained.

(The second day of deliberations which discussed the scope of CSR, Event organisers, and Media, will be reported in this column next Friday.)

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 11:50:59 AM |

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