Categories
music

Contemplation at Sawai Gandharva Festival: The Dangerous Trend in Indian Classical Music

Going with the trends is not always the best thing to do. Be aware of the trend; whether to walk with it or not, should be a decision and not a habit.

Not all trends are worth following. These days, not all trends are trends, most of them are just rumors which people believe to be a trend.

This came out through a contemplation of few moments, while listening to a flutist performing at the Sawai Gandharva Bhimsen Festival.  The flutist, was of course highly skilled, and played Raga Maru Bihag. The excellent Riyaz allowed him to explore Raga skilfully across the octaves. Almost all of the audience appreciated his music. He got claps at every ten minutes. I personally thought, he was following the trend which is common in young as well as a few elder artists- play for the claps; play to delight the audience, play to impress them and win their hearts.

sawai gandharva

In the same festival, a Sitar player also performed. The first Raga was played well- because it was played not as per the trend of getting more claps. The second composition- was absolutely as per the trend- fast, loud and with little music value. It got a lot of claps.

The more I listen to the classical music these days, the more I realize how everyone is trying to sell his music and attract more fans. The melody is and musical value is compromised for the claps and praises. It works, because it is a trend. Everyone does it, so why not me?

Indian classical music is a perfect balance of skills and aesthetics. The notes are approached in a graceful way and not to amuse or thrill the audience. When I go back and listen to the records of Pt. Kumar Gandharva, Pt. Nityanand Haldipur and other artists, who chose not to follow the trend, I realize their love for music and Swaras.

It is quite easy to play fast and loud and kill the aesthetics. Murdering a Raga does not take a lot of time; one arrogant note kills the Raga in the fraction of a second. I listen to the artists mentioned above and the tremendous efforts they take to not to heart and kill the Raga they are playing. I salute them for their love towards the music and the difficult choice which they made /make while performing in each of their concerts.

There is one more trend in the musicians around today which upsets me- they try to play same patterns in different Ragas; sometimes it sounds good, sometimes, it damages the Raga and its flavor. But, many artists can be observed doing this. Again, this must be a trend.

I think, classical music is going through a delicate period where the artists who are in charge, in a position of getting heard and are looked upon as role models, are walking as per the trend. I am not against artists trying out new things, creative outbursts in the Ragas. Creativity is always welcome, even along with the mistakes. I have listened to great maestros committing mistakes while trying to come up with something new and creative, which I do not find something to worry about at all. The problem which I see is, artists are following trend. They settle for what earns them praises and claps and just keep on repeating that. I would be much happier, if artists, for some time, close their ears to what audience is demanding and try to bring on surface the music which is yearning to come out from their hearts.

Indian classical music is able to transform souls simply because the fact that it is not played to please the listeners but because the artist looks at music as way of self-transformation. If classical music loses this touch, it will lose its magic.

Categories
Famous Musicians of India

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur – Silencing the mind

When I meet music lovers around, I always have one question ready for them. The question is, “Why do you listen to music?” Of course, every person has a unique answer. Some of them listen to music to forget their worries and hassles of the life. Some of them have approach of a learner- they try to learn and improve their own performance. If someone asks me this question, I have quite different answer. For me, music is a meditation. Not only playing music, but also listening to someone else’s music.

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur
Pt. Nityanand Haldipur

Can music help you to meditate?

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur is a unique flute player as far as meditative quality of music is concerned. Very few artists have this quality in their music as it is quite difficult to inculcate it in one’s music. I often face this question by many of the music lovers- what is meant by meditative music? How do we come to know if the music is meditative or not? I have a very simple answer for this question. The answer is, meditative music makes your mind silent. The activity of mind simply drops down. Many times, all of us find it very difficult to cut down the thoughts. During my talks, many students ask me this typical question- we sit silent for hours but we are never silent.  The fact is, it is always very difficult to separate ourselves from our thoughts, to cut the supply of energy going to thought process. Listening to some good music can always be useful.

As I mentioned earlier, Pt. Nityanand Haldipur carries this unique ability in his music. His music is like a constant flow. As soon as you start listening to it, you are dragged in it. Your mind just cannot function.  Almost all the masters who have ever walked on this earth, in some way or other ask us to silent our mind. Zen masters say, drop the mind. For hundreds of years, Indian Classical Music is being used as a gateway to god- in form of worshipping god and also in form of meditation.

If we go a step down, silencing mind is an outcome of breath stabilization. We need to stabilize our breath. So, when you listen to someone like Pt. Nityanand Haldipur, who plays flute with a steady and controlled breath, you are bound to be like him. I always keep on telling many of these students and friends to listen to such kind of music. Many of them report that it helps!

Read All Articles on Pt. Nityanand Haldipur 

Categories
Famous Musicians of India Kishori Amonkar Uncategorized

Kishori Amonkar concert at Gateway of India : Review

When you are into world of music, attending concerts makes a big portion of your life. It is the time when you can see the maestros performing. As elders say, you should never miss an concert irrespective of the artist who will be performing. But, some artists rarely perform. In case of such artists, the listeners strive for every single concert. Whenever they hear even a slight discussion that there is some concert by such an artist, they try their best to be there,to experience the magic of divine notes.WP_20140105_001

also, if a concert is written on your fate, you will never miss it. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar is one such artist who performs rarely compared to other artists.  During my first four years in Pune, I attended concerts by all the famous musicians including Pt. Mukul Shivputra, who is considered to be most infrequently performing artist in the world of Indian Classical Music. But somehow, a concert by Kishori Amonkar was something which I had not experienced. Then I got an opportunity to listen her live for couple of times.

This particular concert on 5th Jan 2014 was quite special because it was arranged in Mumbai. This was my first experience with Mumbai audience. The venue and time were both spiritual. It was an early morning concert scheduled at 6.30 in morning in front of gateway of India, facing the endless sea. Kishori Amonkar, though I had listened to two of her concerts before,was quite an unfamiliar artist for me. I was sincerely looking for more of her concerts so that I could understand her music better. Existence created the opportunity. And yes,I did not miss it!

The audience of more than 2000 stood up to salute Kishori Amonkar
The audience of more than 2000 stood up to salute Kishori Amonkar

the performance started at 7 O Clock.Without wasting much time, the organizers  requested her to start the performance.  Kishori Amonkar started with Raga Bhairav,a morning raga. The composition was spiritual. The skies were spiritual and so was the artist. The tall and robust structure of Taj at back, pigeons flying in their internal rhythm were adding to the already spiritual atmosphere.

It took some time for her voice to open up. When it opened up, she was beyond all the limits. What strikes me most about performance of Kishori Amonkar is her devotion and her level of involvement in the music. Her voice carries a deep resonance. Another thing worth noting is the patience in her performance. Kishori Amonkar is never in hurry. She is always giving full attention to each and every note and nuances of the raga which she is playing. While listening to her rendition of Raga Bhairav, I met many phrases in Raga Bhairav which I had never realized while practising. It was as if you are meeting completely unexplored side of a person whom you know for years. The second Raga chosen for the concert was Lalat Pancham. Her voice was moving steadily and gracefully in all the three octaves.

Kishori Amonkar carries a vision behind her every performance. One can find her constantly trying to materialize this vision through her performance. This striving, this struggle is so beautiful, so valuable! Her performance has nothing to show. It does not tell you how great the performer is. There is no effort done to show the greatness of the performance. It is like a waterfall, which flows for no reason. Perhaps this is what makes Kishori Amonkar one of the greatest artists ever….

View All Concert Reviews

Related articles- 

Swararthramani- Autobiography of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar concert in Pune: Review

Categories
music

My favourite instrument- tanpura

I know, many of my readers would have already jumped to the conclusion that flute is my favourite instrument. Well, not so true. This is realized when I really gave it a thought. The general observation is, if you ask several people which their favourite instrument is, and what makes it so dear to them, you will receive quite surprising answers. I have this habit of asking people their favourite instrument. My general observation is, it takes quite a long time to get accustomed to the sound of any particular instrument, to understand intricacies of it. So, many of my friends hate the sound of Sitar, reason being they do not understand which strokes are to be listened to and which are just supporting strokes. If one fails to understand the same, the performance will sound like just noise and nothing else. Conclusion is, in order to appreciate any instrument; you should listen to it for quite some time before commenting over it.

If you ask me, what my favourite instrument is, the answer which I give may sound funny and even stupid. My favourite instrument is tanpura, the instrument which is hardly capable of making three notes out of it. Though tanpura is a weird answer, I certainly have some reasons behind making it my first choice. The first thing is, you can listen to tanpura for infinitely long time. In case of other instruments, let them be extremely melodies and skilfully played. Still, after some time, you will get bored of the sound. In case of a tanpura, you won’t get bored. On the other hand, listening to a well tunes tanpura can make your whole lifestyle melodious. The sound of tanpura never irritates you.

Another interesting point is, in case of other instruments, the artists try to show their knowledge, talent and creativity while playing the instrument. Tanpura is the only instrument where the player has no role to play. So, the one who plays a tanpura is not trying to show his talent and skills. In other words, tanpura can be played in a ego less mode, without any interference of the person playing it. For this reason the sound of a tanpura is closest to me.

Apart from the above mentioned reasons, listening to a tanpura carefully can help the seekers of music. It is the very foundation of any musical performance. Many of the great experts in field of music judge an artist just by observing his way of tuning a tanpura. This instrument is very humble, not dominating it over other instruments. Irony is, there is hardly any artist who can sing or play his instrument without a tanpura, which in itself speaks out the greatness of this instrument.

Categories
Rakesh Chaurasia

Rakesh Chaurasia- Some intimate moments

I remember a stage where I could listen to flute played by Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia only. Rakesh Chaurasia broke the tradition. Flute was made popular and established as an instrument in the world of Indian Classical Music by late Pt. Pannalal Ghosh. Personally, I could never enjoy Pannalal Ghosh’s music. For me, it missed something.

The first instance when I listened to Rakesh Chaurasia was somewhere in 2009, when I listened to his record of Raga Hansadhwani. This recording did not make any special impact on me. I missed one of his concerts in Pune, in 2009 which was arranged somewhere near Karve Nagar. The first chance to listen to Rakesh Chaurasia came when he performed live at Garware College auditorium, Pune.  Rakesh Chaurasia played Raga Puria Kalyan that day. Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia has played the same Raga in an album named Possession in Osho Ashram, Pune. I have never listened to a Puria Kalyan of that quality. I even now keep on listening to this record as it has non-diminishing beauty. Considering all this, it was quite a big challenge to perform Puria Kalyan and create a lasting memory.

Rakesh Chaurasia was absolutely successful in doing this herculean task. I can still remember the Puria Kalyan played by him, very skillfully and innovatively. This is not the only concert which we attended. After this concert, we have not missed even one of his concerts in Pune. We met him couple of times. I and Dakshayani used to chase him so much that at one concert, Rakesh Chaurasia stopped and asked if we follow him like his shadow!

Out of all these concerts, the concert which I enjoyed the most is the one which was organized by Bedekar Ganpati Mandir in Pune. This temple is a very small temple located in Pune which has a long tradition of organizing outstanding Indian Classical performances. As the temple is really small, we were sitting just 6 feet away from Rakesh Chaurasia and Vijay Ghate who was accompanying him on Tabla. He played Raga Durga, then Kirwani and after that Bhairavi. The concert went off more like a personal concert offered for handful of visitors though there was huge crowd.

Being a flute player and a student of vocal music, I am a great admirer of Rakesh Chaurasia, amazed by the level of his performance. He stands tall on all the fronts- practice, skills, innovation, devotion and the most important, dedication.

While having a long discussion with him in Pune, we slipped a small card in his hands. The card read-

‘Krishna was not as fortunate as Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia as he did not get a disciple like Rakesh Chaurasia’


Categories
Famous Musicians of India Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra

Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra- making music alive

Indian classical music- situation today

After attending many concerts, given by many different and famous musicians of India, I and Dakshayani always discuss that the situation of Indian classical music, especially that of vocal music is quite disappointing. This disappointment is not because of lack of exposure or organisors, but it is out of our experience- what did we feel after attending each concert. The sad truth is, we are losing the masters day by day. Indian classical music might have reached a state of fame and popularity but many of the artists of today’s generation are not successful in making their music alive.

Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra- performances in Pune

The feelings which I expressed above become denser when we listen to some performance of these old masters.  Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra are the god fathers as far as making music alive is concerned. We are fortunate that we could listen to many of their concerts in Pune,all of them were masterpieces. The music is perfect with all the elements which are necessary for a good performance. One more thing about Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra which separates them out from others is the justice which they do to the being of raga they sing. They never overpower the raga they sing; rather they allow the raga to flow through the music.

Indian classical music- what makes it special

Another great vocalist from present period, Pt. Suhas Vyas was explaining us one day that great music comes out of a surrendered being. I liked this statement a lot, also it matches with our own experience. To be a good musician, the musician has to be a surrendered being. I will need help from famous saint Kabir to put this in words. In one of his divine dohas, Kabir says,

Prem gali ati sakri, ta me do na samay

Ya tum, ya hari.

(In narrow lane of love, either you exist or the god.)

In same way in the lane of music, the musician has to disappear. The divinity cannot enter his music unless and until he disappears. These old masters including Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, Pt. Suhas Vyas and many more musicians have surrendered themselves to their gurus, surrendered themselves music. The quality and aliveness in music comes out of this seurrender.

Indian classical music – What’s wrong today?

It can be seen that this submissive tendency is missing in many or rather most of today’s musicians. There are always exceptions. New generation artists like Rakesh Chaurasia and Ritesh and Rajnish Mishra give listeners a glimpse of this alive music.

The way ahead

This makes me think on the question- What makes Indian classical music distinct from other forms of music? Is it skills or practice or creativity? I think what separates Indian classical music is the difference in the attitudes. The correct attitude is the one where artists look at notes as something to be worshipped and not conquered. The attitude, where music is not a medium of being famous but a way to go in, a way towards serrenderedness. Realisation of this fact can revitalize the music, making it alive. I think we should always keep our ears open to what the masters in old days have sung and practiced.

 

Categories
Rakesh Chaurasia

Rakesh Chaurasia – The rebirth of flute

Why Rakesh Chaurasia?

In many previous articles, I talked about famous musicians of India like Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. These articles can be read here-

Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia – a living wonder

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur – Essence of simplicity

This is for the first time that I am talking about Rakesh Chaurasia. I liked him the moment I saw him for the first time. As far as i am concerned, I feel that every artist carries some aura around him. There are many great musicians, who are truly great artists but I don’t like their aura. In case of Rakesh Chaurasia, his presence spoke much about him. One can feel freshness, energy, openness from his being. So is his music.

Rakesh Chaurasia

Well, I never missed his single concert in Pune. The reason is his unparalleled flute performance. He is unmatched, in true sense. Rakesh Chaurasia comes with exceptional skills. He has really mastered the flute. His patterns are also out of mind. His entire performance is like a power pack.  When he starts, he is unstoppable. In all the concerts I attended, he played different Ragas without repetition. Every Raga was mastered. It was not like a few Ragas mastered. We sat 4 feet away from him in one concert at Bedekar Ganpati Temple in Pune and he played Raga Durga. It was really unimagined version of Durga. I could never imagine that some one will be able to play this Raga so ably.

Rakesh Chaurasia is a humble person. humble nature cannot be an excuse for lack of skills but it complement your skills. Same  happens in this case. Everything meets to make a perfect blend- talented, skilled, humble and humorous artist. Apart from this, he has deep respect for his Guru and his uncle, Pt. Hariprasad Chauraisa. When we met him, most of the time he was engrossed in talking about his uncle and not about himself. It is really rare to find all these qualities together in an artist of today’s generation.

You can enjoy his recording of Raga Des here-

Rakesh Chaurasia- Raga Des

 

 

Categories
music

Pt. Nityanand Haldipur – The essence of simplicity

Flute is the magical instrument, which is more magical in hands of Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. It is utterly simple yet very mesmerizing. To play flute is an art. To play it nicely is a meditation. To be honest, I have heard almost all the flute players India has. I liked Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia the moment I heard his flute. Same happened with Rakesh Chaurasia, the talented disciple and nephew of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia.Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

Apart from these two exponents of flute, there was no one who could give the divine test of flute. A third name entered the list when I got a chance to listen to Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. Both Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt. Nityanand Haldipur are disciples of goddess Guruma Annapurna Devi. But, it’s really difficult to make out that same person is the sculptor of both of these artists. You can make it out only if you have the ability to sense the divinity behind the notes.

Both Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia and Pt. Nityanand Haldipur are travelling on the same mystical path of music. The only difference is, their apparent ways are different. Pt. Nityanand Haldipur’s music is so simple that its simplicity makes it very special. It is quite difficult or I would say almost impossible to get a chance to listen to such simple music. This simplicity makes the music magical. This simplicity carries the essence of meditation.

It is a fact that it is quite difficult to understand the magic of his music. Over the time, we have lost our sensitivity for simplicity. Only special and extra ordinary things attract us. In this race of being more and more extra ordinary, we have lost our touch with the simple things. Hence, it is almost impossible today to find something utterly simple. Though his music sounds simple, it is absolutely difficult to play so. Each note is a master’s stroke.

I don’t know how many people have ability to enjoy mystical music of Pt. Nityanand Haldipur. I guess, it is God’s grace that I can dissolve myself in the web of his notes, sitting silently.

Read All Articles on Pt. Nityanand Haldipur 

Categories
Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar – Swararthramani

Kishori Amonkar is surely an unmatched person in the field of Indian Classical Music. Among all the famous musicians of India, she has created a very distinct position for herself. Kishori Amonkar, as she herself says, is in a true sense an artist who cares for notes and takes every care that a note is approached carefully, with love.  This love for notes, for music can be felt through all the performances of Kishori Amonkar.

Kishori Amonkar

Swararthramani – Book written by Kishori Amonkar

Kishori Amonkar, who is also referred as Ganasaraswati (Goddess of music) has written a book named Swararthramni which encompasses her impressions about music. The book comments  in depth about the musical interpretations of Kishori Amonkar. In one paragraph, Kishori Amonkar explains about feelings expressed in any Indian Classical Composition. Her explanation is really very authentic and genuine. She says that any composition in Indian Classical Music talks about a particular feeling of a person, eg. some one waiting eagerly for her lover. As Kishori tai says, later the reason of missing lover is just an excuse to pull up and express the other sorrows of the person. As she says in the book, the ultimate stage is the expression of all the human sorrows, which are quite eternal.

My observation is, what Kishori Amonkar is saying is absolutely true. Unless a song speaks of eternal, it has no appeal. If the sorrow or any feeling for instance, in the given composition is not taken to its eternal form, the music sounds shallow. There are very few musicians which can give us this the feel of eternal feeling. The beauty of such eternal music is, it gives us the sense of universal unity.  To name a few, Pt. Jasraj, Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pt. Shivkumar Sharma, Ustaad Shujaat Khan are some artists who can give their listeners this feel of eternal oneness.

Categories
Kishori Amonkar music

Kishori Amonkar Concert- Pune

A few days before, Arya Sangeet Prasarak mandal, Pune had organized a concert to collect relief fund for the drought victims. The concert featured many artists like Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra, L. Subramanyam, Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar, Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar and Pt. Ronu Majumdar. I, as usual attended the entire concert from early morning and also attended the evening session.

Among all these performers, I was very much curious about the performance of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar. The reason is, she is the artist which I have listened to live very less. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar is running her 81st year. It is so difficult to put the notes at right place at such a high age. But, I think it will be difficult for those who are not totally submerged in music. If your life is devoted to music, you can practice it till your last breath.

Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar

L. Subramanyam gave his performance before that of Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar. It was really wonderful performance and it was quite difficult to wipe away the spell cast by him. All the atmosphere was filled with the notes of the violin. But, within a few seconds, Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar had made her own environment. She started the concert with Raga Kedar. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar was given a vocal support by her disciples, who were very young. But still, it was clearly visible that they were finding it to difficult to sing with the energy level of Kishori Tai. What she sings, the Taan of Jaypur- Atrauli is very pleasant for your ears to listen to, but its a wonder to make them out of your throat. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar was effortless. Her voice was spanning high…higher than ever. It was clearly visible that she is made to sing. She was roaming in the world of notes when I was wondering about how she can do so at this age…

Her performance taught me one thing- If you are dedicated, you become effortless. Then you do not have to worry about the notes, but the notes worry for you. Ganasaraswati Kishori Amonkar truly demonstrated this phenomenon. generally it is said that it is difficult to master even one note. I would not say Kishori  Tai has mastered the notes but yes, all the notes are very friendly with her. That’s why she sings effortless……

View All Concert Reviews