art music

It’s the time Indian Classical Musicians stop underestimating their own art form!

What’s art?

Is it an activity that we do repetitively to entertain ourselves and others?

Is it a vocation? Where we sing or dance or play with a few stretched strings to make a living out of it?

Or is it a ladder to climb up the ever increasing heights of our own ego?

More importantly, can art be same for each artist? And is it necessary that it serves the same role in lives of the audience that it does in the lives of the presenters of the art?

When one looks at any art and especially Indian Classical Music in the light of above questions, one will realise that it is very difficult to realise the full potential of this art form, even for those who practice it for their lifetimes.

Let me give you an example. What is sun? For a little kid who knows nothing of the world, it is just a red ball; probably a lollypop. As we grow up a bit, it is the sun – which does the arduous job of defining day and night for us. As we grow up a bit more, we realise that sun is what drives us. It is our source of energy. It is the very foundation of our survival. Our experiences and knowledge decide how we perceive things.

In same way, art can be looked at from different levels. Many will say that Indian Classical Music is like a prayer for them. While saying this, many conveniently forget that we do not pray to get fame for ourselves or in a prayer, there are no rivalries. A prayer has absolutely zero scope to show our intelligence and knowledge.

Many artists will say it’s their passion; something which they like as well as something which earns them a living.

For many, whatever they call it is, it’s the only thing they can do apart from basic reading and writing.

While I do not want to choose which answer is right and wrong, as it is an impossible task in itself, all these answers are from the perspective of the performer or the practitioner of the art.

What is Indian Classical Music, or rather, what role could Indian Classical Music play in the life of its audience? What’s in it for a kid whose parents barely manage sending him or her to school? What’s in it for a new born baby? for a coder who spends ten hours of his day in an artificial and stressful environment? What’s in it for a parent?

For any art, especially when it is a performing art, audience is as important as the performer. While artists spend so much time thinking about what role art plays in their life, do we really think about what our art has to offer to each of these audience members which at times cluelessly come to concerts?

It was quite a controversy when someone tried patenting turmeric. Indians suddenly woke up; we have been using turmeric for thousands of years may be. How can someone patent it?

Quite often, due to conditioning – by media, by peers, etc. or because of abundance of something, we start underestimating it.

Thanks to my mentors, as I get properly introduced to Indian wisdom, let it be about food, exercise, medicine, music or anything in general, I realise that our forefathers rarely discussed ‘why’. They just told us what to do but never told us why do it. In the age of science, reason and logic, lack of why was conveniently equated to absence of substance. As westerners take more and more efforts to study Indian wisdom, interesting things are surfacing up. Sadly, even now, when someone is throwing the ‘why’ right on our faces, we are unable to realise the significance and value of our own tradition. The same applies to the art of Indian Classical Music.

While so much research is popping up which clearly highlights the impact of music on brain development like this Swiss Study, we see a stark lack of awareness about all these things in young and even senior musicians who have been practising Indian Classical Music full time.

What happens in your brain when you are singing? Which neurones get fired up? Which centres are activated? How they communicate with each other? While western researchers are putting their best to study and document all these effects, the musicians will turn blank if you ask them these questions. I do not expect musicians to know about neurology but in today’s age, they should at least know how practising their art form helps the practitioner.

Through Baithak Foundation, we have been lucky to host more than 60 talented artists in schools and construction sites and thanks to community support, the work is expanding; but, as my general observation goes, most of the artists look at themselves just as performers and not as agents of transformation. Have they ever tasted the experienced the transformational power of music?

We have been taught by our Gurus that this art can change the life; it can bring about an instant transformation. We theoretically know it. Yet, hardly a few artists truly believe in the transformation quality of their art form.

While artists are happy to perform in small venues, as we interact with more artists, the subtle aims and objectives of the artists are quite defined – performing in famed festivals, at large scale events which bring huge publicity and money. There is nothing wrong about it; everyone is free to decide what they want in their lives.

But, more than justified focus on ‘eventizing’ Indian Classical Music is leading to another problem – there are hardly any artists in India who have first hand experience of the transformational power of music and are interested to take it to more people in that manner. On the other hand, a large number of western students and practitioners are getting increasingly attracted to Indian Classical Music and its transformational powers. Many are actively involved in integrating it with Yoga and other branches of Indian wisdom and are working towards creating valuable experiences. What happens if there are attempts to patent certain musical practices which we have been doing for years?

As the society matures, shift from entertainment to mindfulness is logical. As more and more artists get caught up in the rat race of concerts, unexplored opportunities exist for artists to absorb the practising aspect of Indian Classical Music and taking it to more people.

We should stop underestimating our own art form!

About the author

Mandar is a co-founder of Baithak Foundation. He is a passionate believer in the power of music as a tool for all round human development. Mandar brings his formal education in engineering and has many years of consulting experience with start-ups and MNCs. He is a published author with two books to his credit. He is a student of Indian Classical Vocal Music.


The Brick and the House

Can a house be robust if the bricks that build it are weak?

Yet, everyone is focused on building big structures and no one is concerned about the quality of bricks.

It is quality of each brick which determines the quality of house that is built using them. Yet, we postpone strengthening the bricks. I realized this while I was singing in front of Guruji. From my childhood, I never focused on quality of individual phrases that I used to sing. Instead, I somewhere felt that I can create a nice musical structure by arranging them nicely. Now, I realize the limitation of this thought. Unless each phrase is beautiful, the musical structure cannot go beyond a certain quality.

The same principal applies to everything in our lives. Each statement of an enchanting story has to be enchanting. Each dialogue of a mesmerizing speech has to be mesmerizing. This effort of improving polishing each phrase, each stroke, howsoever small it many be in the overall art piece makes art a meditation.

We are somehow hooked to numbers and magnificence and not enhancing even smallest of the components. That’s what stops us from creating wonderful piece of art. Observe a musical master piece of a great maestro or a wonderful painting to sculpture of any great artist. Every stroke is a master stroke and that’s what makes every the art piece unforgettable.

More or better? The choice is our!



Nature is the key to arts

A few days ago, I was invited in a conference which was organised to think upon today’s youth and how to reach to them through lecture series. In this conference, one session was devoted to tell whatever you feel in connection with today’s youth. Being one of the speakers, I chose a very interesting topic named why youth is not being attracted towards authentic things which dominantly include arts.

The main point of focus was, human mind always looks out for melody. It is melody that we are searching. Arts appeals us because it has melody. The more melodies an art is, more people appreciate it. Of course, my point ahead was why youth is not getting attracted to the arts.

The question only can be solved by the concept of melody. If a child is taught to observe melody from very childhood, he will search it in arts. He will be searching melody  in dance, music, poetry or paints. Now, the question which stands in front of all of us is how to introduce this melody and hence arts to the children. The obvious thing is, nature is home to all sorts of melodies. Melody can be very easily observed in nature in form of dancing trees, flowing rivers, singing birds and falling leaves. Children should be taught to observe this melody, to witness it from their very childhood. This melody creates infinite impacts on their hearts.

Then they will be always be searching melody. If they find it in any form of arts, for example in strokes of a painter, they will start feeling it and exploring it. My experience says, at one point you will try to create melody on your own. Then you will touch some form of arts on your own. Then you will take brush or flute in your hands and create art which is melodious.

Why today’s youth is going away from arts? The answer is, they were never close to nature. Nature is the key to arts.

art Famous Musicians of India music

Amjad Ali Khan or Mukul Shivputra

You have to make compromises in life. I do not like to choose things. But most of the times, you have to choose. Pune is a hub of musicians and performers. Performers love to play in Pune. Many times, it happens that two concerts get arranged on same day, at a same time. Then, fans have to choose and nothing else.

Amjad Ali Khan

Pune had two artists performing at the same time on same day. So, I had to choose.  One of combination was Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain who were going to perform at Ganesh kala Krida Manch. On the other hand a very rarely performing and gifted artist, Mukul Shivputra was going to deliver a concert at Garware College Assembly Hall.

This really confused me. I had attended twice concert by Pt. Mukul Shivputra but he did not sing either of the times. So, I had returned without listening anything. Concert of Mukul Shivputra is like a gamble; you go there keeping aside all your works, setting aside everything, getting way through high traffic. You hardly get a chance to get a front sit. Then, when you get seated, you expect something wonderful from Mukul. Mukul comes, sings for a while, shouts on his accompanists and leaves.

Mukul Shivputra

On the other hand, Amjad Ali khan plays same Ragas. I heard him thrice or more in Pune. He plays wonderful but he plays the same. But yes, he at least plays and that too marvelously. And yes, this time he had Zakir Hussain with him.

I attended obviously Amjad Ali Khan and Zakir Hussain. Yes, the same Ragas played very beautifully and Zakir not getting much scope to play. I enjoyed the concert. But, when I came back, from somewhere I came to know that Mukul Shivputra had sang two ragas. It was a shock for me. I opened him on You Tube and listened to some of his tracks.

I know, a choice cannot be done between Amjad Ali Khan and Mukul Shivputra, but still I know, I missed something. I missed something very rare and very precious.

Now I am again waiting. Some day, Mukul Shivputra will come again and will sing something. I am waiting for the day.

Read more about Mukul Shivputra

art philosophy Random

Accept whatever comes

Life is never in a fixed way or patterns. everything is uncertain, everything is momentous. To accept life in its totality is the true acceptance. This acceptance gives you key to remain blissful in whatever situation comes.

We are not good acceptors. We go on demanding. To accept things which come in the way requires tremendous courage. It seems contradictory. Generally we think that to try to change the situation, rebel against it requires the courage. We always assign virtue to bravery and offensive tendencies. The real qualities which need bravery are always considered to be symptoms of weakness.

To accept life in its light and darkness, valleys and peaks requires tremendous patience and courage. One more point to onote is, any quality which is developed through acceptance has grace with it. If I am not feeling like writing for some days, there are two ways which I can try. One is that I can try writing forcibly and the another one is, that I accept this non creativity in its totality. if this non creativity is accepted, it in due time gives birth to creativity which is not of this world. This creativity coming out of the acceptance of the non creativity will have different grace and authenticity.

So, just accept. Accept whatever comes in your way. If you accept totally, this very acceptance will bring the creativity out.


Art is always purposeless

It is said, that a purpose given to a thing reduces its value. Things which have no purpose are always beautiful, precious, priceless. When we attach some purpose to these things, they start to deteriorate. This same rule holds true for art. An art should always be purposeless.

Applications should have a purpose to them; but art is rather insight and innovation rather than application. Art can be on its highest peaks only when it is purposeless. A poem, written by a poet just out of nothing is much more beautiful than the poem he writes for some purpose i.e. for some theme, for a movie or book etc. May be, for art, purposelessness is divine; when you talk of purposes, you are making art worldly. You are bringing it again back in the world of humans from a divine world.

When there is a purpose, it means there is a human will. Presence of human will means going away from the divine flow. Art always blossoms when it is with divine flow rather than a human will……


The Sculptor

There was a very famous king living in the India. He had finest troop of artists with him and was very much in delight by the quality of these artists. He had finest singers, dancers, painters and yes, there was a very nice sculptor also with him. The king was always in wonders with the works of that sculptor. His art was of highest quality.

One day. The king asked the sculptor, “For me, you are the best sculptor in the world. I would like to know, who is considered as best sculptor by you.” The sculptor very humbly said, “The man, who taught me this is a sand sculptor and I can challenge, that he is the best one.” The king asked, “For which king he works? Perhaps I will offer him more money and we will bring him here.” Sculptor said, “Tomorrow we will go to meet him.”

The next day, both of them started their journey. They reached on a beach. On that beach, a sculptor was sculpting with the sand. He had made a divine piece of art. Tide came, and it was all gone. The sculptor again started to sculpt the sand. This was going for hours.

Finally king asked the sculptor, “What is the use, if such precious art is destroyed so much instantly? Come to my kingdom. I will set up a large art gallery for you. ” The sculptor said, “Everything is destroyed with the tide of time, then why to be get worried by such a small tide? This is only my art gallery. The whole existence is enjoying my art. ”

Without even saying a word, both king and his sculptor came back…..

art Ghalib poems

Ghalib- Submerged in the sorrow

The most striking topics which Ghalib handled in his poetry were love and spirituality. In general common reader does not come across a Ghalib completely submerged in his pain. But, if we read more, Ghalib was really submerged in his pain. Though his life was full of sorrow, he never had an attitude of a coward or tired one. Ghalib was always welcoming more and more sorrow. Even Ghalib, in one of his couplets says to god-

Send how much sorrows you want to……

My jug of Wine is also unlimited……

Ghalib had his father dead when he was four years old. His loving uncle died when he was 12 years old. Ghalib had a fixed annual pension of Rs.10,000, but this to was cunningly cut down by his wicked cousins to an amount of Rs.500 per annum. Ghalib had many debts to pay. He was once charged in the court for not refunding the money which he had taken.

Family life of Ghalib was also very tiresome. He had seven children, all of them died before completing their two years.  So, the couple adopted a niece and unfortunately, the poor niece also died.

It is said that joy is very superfluous, sorrow gives us the depth. It is said that the sorrow compells us to contemplate. Ghalib has tremendous sorrows in his life, which made him to think about the very basic questions of the human existence. The most striking thing abourt Ghalib is that he drank all of his sorrow with the same love which he had for wine.

It is said that sorrow is the fire which brings shine to the gold within a human. I think, this sorrow has given the birth to the Ghalib, who loved the life so much with its totality.

More articles about Ghalib-

Ghalib- The master of expression

art poems

Ghalib- the master of expression

One of the most famous personalities that the world of poetry has seen, is Mirza Ghalib. Very few poets have got the dignity and respect which Ghalib has got. Ghalib is among the most aprpreciated poets in the whole world. Many people have wasted their lives to study his works and at the end, so subtle was his pen, that they accepted it, that even by implementing the whole life to get meaning out of his poems, they are still not sure if they have got right meaning or not.

Ghalib- A master of expression

But, this Ghalib was condemned a lot for the two things-

1. Complexity of his poems and,

2. Plagiarism.

One of the contemporary poet even criticized Ghalib saying that only god and Ghalib himself understands the meaning of his poems and then, what is the fun of writing such poems which cannot be understood by other? Ghalib was also justified when he was creating complex poetry. Poetry is not like an entertainment show. It is a dialogue between intellects. So, the poet has a total right of demanding this ability from his reader. He has full freedom of keeping his poems away from those who cannot understand the subtle flavor in it.

The second blame is quite serious. But, the blame is generally concerned about the ideas of other poets being stolen by Ghalib in some of his poems. This blame is also useless because, all the ideas have been expressed before in one or another form. The skill of poet lies in expression of idea. As far as this expression of an idea is concerned, Ghalib can be considered as the highest peak the field of poetry has ever encountered.

art Famous Musicians of India music

Jingle Bells and Amjad Ali Khan

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan had been invited to USA for delivering a performance. He was requested to perform Jingle Bells. And he performed it nicely. But it attracted a number of critics and Ustadji was blamed a lot. So, I consider it my duty to throw some light on the quality of performance.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan

The first thing is that, he was condemned so much because it was not a traditional classical composition. If we analyze the tune of Jingle Bells, it fits very well in Raag Khamaj in Hindustani classical music. In instrumental music, words play no role. So, why this composition was not accepted as a composition in Khamaj Raag? I think critics somewhere consider other types of music substandard and that’s why they are hurt so much when a Hindustani classical artist plays a Western Tune. And I can point out thousands of tunes having same notes being played by many other renowned artists.

The second thing is that, many critics many times say that Ustad Amjad Ali Khan lacks deapth in his music. I totally disagree. This is basic mistake committed by humans. We associate simplicity with less quality. I would like to highlight that simplicity is the highest form or the highest   virtue of any art. If we judge Amjad Ali Khan on these criteria of simplicity, I think probably no other musician will reach the heights which Amjad Ji has seen. His music is very deep. But it just flows simply..and that’s why people misunderstand it as substandard or as deficient in depth.

It hurts when people call him a second rate artist. It hurts when people doubt his dedication. When his Sarod was broken, he was broken with it and this shows his dedication, his love for his art. His wife brought his spare sarod herself next day. It was not difficult to send the Sarod by courier by any other agency; but his wife comes. This shows the love and intimacy of Khan Couple towards the art.

I will request the so called learned condemners of Amjad Ali Khan that please have a look at him when he is holding his Sarod in his hand. Observe the care, the love and also the depth. It Is rare to find artist who is so much absorbed and who is so much in unison with his instrument.