Saturday, September 27, 2008

World Peace

The source:

UNI

Redefining world peace on World Music Day

Kolkata:


 

World Music Day should be celebrated every day of the year and not just on one single day, so we can redefine world peace in a much simpler and harmonious note, say Kolkata's musicians in unison.

Almost every singer, musician and dancer- everyone related to the World of Music- had the same opinion and message to offer on the occasion of World Music Day.

Incidentally, World Music Day was a festival that first came to be celebrated in France in 1982 as the Fête de la Musique. It was celebrated every year on the summer solstice. For more news, analysis click here>>

The idea was conceived by the French Minister of Culture Jack Lang in 1981. Today it has spread to Belgium, Britain, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, China, India, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan and many other countries.

In this connection, santoor maestro Tarun Bhattacharya said, ''If we all started our day with music, by simply listening to the strings of Pandit Ravi Shankar or Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, we would never have ill feelings in our mind. Then we can all become musical and would be able to channelise the power of music to find world peace.''

Another aspect that the santoor maestro talked about was that classical music today needs a better packaging. It should be sufficiently highlighted before the new generation so that they will be able to accept it more easily, he said.

He also urged the media to promote Indian classical music among the youth in our own country ''when there is such a good audience for it in other nations.'' Echoing his thoughts, renowned classical dancer Mamata Sankar stressed on the proper utilisation of the power of music which can make people laugh, cry, heal or hurt.

''Music should be such that it touches the soul. World Music Day is a day when we celebrate the union and meeting of different kinds of music from all over the world,'' she said.

''If we can come together in music, why then do we still fight amongst ourselves? she mused, while adding, ''Keeping my own culture and its heritage and classical music in mind I can still say that we need to promote world music and let the chords meet, because it has the capacity to bind people together.'' The term World music includes traditional or folk music or even root music, played by indigenous musicians.

In musical terms, ''world music'' can be roughly defined as music which uses distinctive ethnic scales, modes and musical inflections, and which is usually performed on or accompanied by distinctive traditional ethnic instruments, such as the kora (West African lute), the steel drum, the sitar or the didgeridoo.

Speaking on the essence of the day, famous tabla player Bickram Ghosh said, ''This is a day which brings musicians and music lovers from all over the world together to celebrate the union of so many kinds of music. This in itself has the capacity of redefining world peace.''

Another young percussionist and music composer Abhishek Basu said, for him World Music means that it should have a touch of Indian classical music, since Indian classical music has the power to open one's heart and free one's mind and communicate in a manner that no other language ever could.

World Music is, most generally, all the music in the world. More specifically, the term is currently used to classify the many genres of non-Western music, which were previously described as ''folk music'' or ''ethnic music''. However, ''world music'' does not have to mean traditional folk music, it may refer to the indigenous classical forms of various regions of the world, and to modern, cutting edge pop music styles as well. Succinctly, it can be described as ''someone else's local music''.

Examples of popular forms of World Music include the various forms of non-European classical music life Japanese Koto music, Hindustani Raga music, Tibetan chants, eastern European folk music and the many forms of folk and tribal music of West Asia, Africa, Asia- especially India and Pakistan - Oceania and Central and South America. In this connection, mention may be made of Pandit Ravi Shankar of India and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan of Pakistan.

Yet another famous Indian classical dancer Aloka Nanda Roy threw light on the universal character of music. She said, ''Music cannot be divided by geographical boundaries or caste or religion. Music is the language of brotherhood and peace, of the delicate emotions of love and warmth.'' ''Nothing can bring unity and harmony like music and dance.

This creative art has the power to bind people of all nations into one great brotherhood,'' she iterated. In similar fashion another renowned tabla player Subroto Bhattacharya said, ''Music can alone unite this world.'' Reputed classical singer Jojo Mukherjee appreciated the efforts of those who have tried to promote this day so that musicians, singers and dancers from all nations can come together and enrich the world of music.

However, musicians and curators of music have now come to dislike the term ''world music''

An interview with Shubha Mudgal

Source of the interview


 

In Her Own Voice: Vocal Virtuoso Shubha Mudgal

Interviewed by Shikha Malaviya


 

The recital hall at the University of Minnesota is packed on this breezy Fall day, reverberating with the heat of many bodies, squashed together in narrow seats, and the coughs and sputters of seasonal change. In our hands, a baby pink brochure promises us a lecture/demonstration by one of India's finest young vocalists. And in our hearts, a sweet slow ache for a slice of the ancient and modern, the near and far; a desire for the sounds of India, the rumbles of her ancient soul. "She will not be singing any pop music," I hear someone whisper. I smile. Pop Music is how I had found her, her full-bodied voice tucked in the middle of a folksy rock song titled Dhoom Pichuk by the Indian pop group Euphoria. I recall the first time I hear her voice, a commingling of rasa and bhakti, 'hey manjhi re…,' circling then sweeping my ears and heart. My mind spills forth a collage of all of her songs that I have ever heard, from the haunting Toona Song in the film Kamasutra to the fast-paced rhythm of Ali More Angana that my daughter and I often danced to. And then a glimpse of her dancing in the rain, belting out the hard-rocking Ab Ke Sawan. I was ready to hear her: rebel of the raga, saint of swaras. The hall suddenly falls silent as we stretch our necks, straining for that first glimpse of vocal virtuoso Shubha Mudgal.

The versatile singer that we know today was strong and spirited from the start. Born in Allahabad, in 1959, to a family that embraced literature as well as Indian and western music, Shubha grew up in an artistic atmosphere of variety and innovation. As a young girl learning Kathak in Allahabad, she replied to a dance examiner's routine query of "Aap kis gharaane ka naachti hain (what gharana (house) do you dance from?)" with the retort "Hum apne gharaane ka naachti hain (I dance from my own gharana)". That attitude would carry her through the world of Indian classical music, giving her gurus as diverse as Ram Ashray Jha, Vinay Chandra Maudgalya, Vasant Thakkar, Naina Devi, Jitendra Abhisheki, and most notabely, Kumar Gandharva, whose eclectic approach resounds in Shubha's performances, especially renditions of Bhakti and Sufi poetry. On this particular day, she is singing raga Pooriya Dhanashri, Aaja Na Din Dooba, one of my favorite Kumar Gandharva renditions. I gasp in amazement as I hear the same inflections, the exact same pauses, knowing that he lives through her.

As the lec-dem comes to an end, we all stand and clap. With strains of raga Pooriya Danashri still buzzing in my ears, I walk towards Shubhaji as she packs her tanpura, a black sleek wooden one minus a tumba, which she covers gently, as if putting a winter coat on a small child. I approach India's music diva, quietly and nervously. Shubha Mudgal stands in front of me, with her kohl-lined eyes and trademark tika bindi. Her face is innocent and childlike, much smaller and younger than the images on TV or in magazines. And then she smiles. My nervousness melts as I bring both of my hands into a namaskar. We set a time to meet the following day.

Shubhaji and I are seated on a grayish blue velvet sofa, in the home of a music-loving gujarati family in Minnesota. She is dressed in an understated cream salwar kameez and gold earrings. She teasingly asks the daughter of the house, 'Have you finished your homework?' Shubhaji greets me warmly, thanking me for coming. At once I am at ease, so much so, that an hour passes by like a minute. In sixty minutes, we dive into the world of Shastriya Sangeet, from gharanas to gurus. In a voice so soft that I sometimes have to strain my ears, Shubhaji candidly talks about her life as a musician, revealing a self that is passionate, dedicated, and determined.

Monsoon Magazine: How has having different teachers with different styles developed your outlook and meaning of music?

Shubha Mudgal: You know, in a way, with traditional master-disciple/guru-shishya learning, it's not very common to change teachers. In fact, I haven't really changed teachers. It has been possible for me to learn from several people because almost all the people I learned from had an eclectic approach themselves. My first teacher, Pandit Ram Ashray Jha, in a recent conversation with a certain music firm in the United States said, "Maine bahattar guru kiye the (I learnt from 72 gurus)" Normally, saying this would be considered quite blasphemous. But I think what he meant was that even though he physically didn't learn from 72 people, he took and adapted things from them to formulate his own style. I think that is the best part of learning from different people. Each one has focused on a certain aspect of music. And these aspects I learn from all of them. It becomes far easier for me to become open about gharanas, to follow and emulate their ideals, and to see how one can actually borrow from different styles, forms, gharanas and enrich one's own experience.

It is a little difficult to read about yourself in an article on classical music and have everybody labeled Gwalior or Agra or Jaipur and have yourself labeled as eclectic. But at the same time, it has given me an openness of outlook, which I value very greatly.

MM: I know this is a vague question, but what does music mean to you? How does one make a living as a 'commercial' musician and be true to the inner, more spiritual aspects of music at the same time?

SM: It's like life. You decide that you want to be honest and have a certain integrity about your work. And yet you are human and you fail at certain times. Sometimes deliberately, but mainly because it is human to err. Similarly with music, I try--and I am sure that every musician shares this sentiment-- is that one tries to be as honest as possible. There are times when you comprise, willingly, and sometimes you are forced to compromise. There is no doubting the passion and the obsession and the love for music that I, like so many music lovers, have. I mean, it's like a compulsion. I don't do music because that's the only thing that can earn me a livelihood. It also happens to be my profession. But even if it didn't earn me money or fame or concert tours to the United States, I'd still be doing that, which I have done. When one learnt music, it was because one felt compelled to learn. Perhaps one of the greatest things that you learn from music is a sense of humility. When you see other people who perform, you realize this, not just from maestros, but from a child as well.

MM: And what about spirituality and music? Could you shed a little more light on the connection between the two and also tell us a little bit about your own research?

What I am trying to do in my research is see how bhakti sahitya (devotional literature) can guide one's music: Is there a way of feeling saguna (a God with more physical properties)? And is there a way of feeling nirguna (a God that is abstract)? What are those differences? Can one at any point sing both in the same fashion? Because I feel that a lot of times, and this may surprise you, that one tends to mystify everything. Certainly the spirituality and grandeur of music is there, but that doesn't mean we keep harping about that. Today I may sing words, which are connected with a religious ritual, even though I'm not a very ritualistic person. It's only recently that I have started some pooja rituals. If bhakti (devotion) is a certain surrender, a certain focus and concentration on a particular subject, then even the act of trying to hit the correct note is an act of worship. If this is true, then we have to think about sahitya. How is it that so many of these medieval devotional texts (sometimes very erotic also) pervade, and are actually the most singable?

MM: And also the most reachable. It touches everybody.

SM: Yes. Its somehow seems to fit so perfectly. There are concerns and issue that I want to write about. For example, classical music has never been a form of protest. Poetry has. Literature has. But not Indian classical music. (In this vein) there are many issues that I would like to address-to not just put words to a melodic scheme, but to also write my own words. If the words truly reflect who I am, then it doesn't sound like a khayal. If I try to bring them into Braj and Avadhi (Hindi dialects), then I sound 500 years old. These are concerns that have drawn me towards literature, as well as a natural desire to look up sahitya and put words to music, and to see for myself, how the bhakti tradition has emphasized music, especially the Vaishnava (Lord Krishna) cult. In this cult, they say there are only two kinds of seva, bhog seva in which you offer something, as in money or food, and then there is raga seva, which is an offering of music. I think the idea of raga seva is wonderful.

MM: Your research must have inspired you to compose and write a lot?

SM: Yes, the ancient poetry that I've read has compelled me to compose. A lot of what I sing is from the texts that I have been studying. The words are from say, a Vaishnava text, and the tune that it's sung in, is my own. I guess what I haven't really done is to announce at every concert that this composition is mine. Because in a way it isn't, and yet it is. If I announce its mine, I feel that very often people would say 'oh, it's hers. Forget it.' Because we like to think that the older, more antique a thing is, the better it is. In fact, I've received reviews saying 'Shubha has a great stock of old traditional compositions,' and they don't know that it was composed, for lack of a better word, in 1996 or 1997 or 1998 or even in 1999. I guess it just goes to show that we have pre-conceived notions, about what a bhajan is or what makes a composition. If I were to say 'this song was written by Surdas and rendered in my own style', people would say 'you can't sing it that way.'

MM: This brings me to the next question. Through your so-called 'eclectic' style, one could say that you are redefining Indian Classical music and opening up a dialogue on what exactly music is. Your comments?

SM: I think the possibility has always existed. Just take a look at the different kinds of influences that have crept into Indian classical music. If you look at thumri dadra, Naina Devi used to say that the quwwalli influences it. In a quwwalli, you start the composition in fourteen beats and then the refrain towards the end goes into an eight beat cycle. That is also what we do in a thumri. Or for example, in haveli sangeet, we have the same situation present. There has obviously been borrowing from various styles. I think the nature of the music is such that it has always allowed adaptation from different influences and sources. It's just that we fail to acknowledge them. Or we decide to say, 'no, this is pure. It is untouched.' I don't think it is possible to be truly original in that sense, because somebody somewhere has already tried it. But yes, one should allow their artistic urges and compulsions to come through-I mean if you're a musician, how can you say, 'this one is from devotional poetry, so I'm not going to sing it.' I've studied khayal and thumri. But if I like Vaishnava poets, why can't I bring that into my music? Its been done before and it will continue. As long as the basic nature of the poetry and style is not really challenged-and if it is challenged, you are obviously making a place for a new adaptation. Perhaps in my lifetime nothing will happen. Or someone else will pick up on a thread many years later. I think it is necessary to be able to study within a discipline and yet try different things. You shouldn't have to be held captive. At least that's my feeling. But I may be completely wrong.

MM: I feel you're absolutely right. Maybe that's why there will always be critics that say 'she doesn't have a gharana.' I think you have shaken up the Indian music world and that you have given people something to think about.

SM: I think I have just followed what has already happened. It's not just me who has learned from several gurus. If you look at the life sketches of artists living today and gone by, they have been criss-crossing between the gharanas for ages.

MM: So why has there been so much attention focused on you?

SM: I don't know, frankly. I really have no idea. I think the only thing that I have done, although personally I feel that even that is not new, is my willingness and desire to work with different forms. Instrumentalists have had parallel careers in the film world and the world of classical music, like Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, etc., in which they have still retained their reputation as maestros of the classical music world. But classical vocalists have not really ventured into the Indian film world to that extent. Of course we have some, like Parveenji (Sultana), Kishori Amonkar, and Shobhaji (Gurtu). However, I think I've been unabashed about these things. I feel that I'm first a student of voice rather than a student of only khayal or only thumri. I feel its necessary for me to try. I have an imperfect voice, you know. My voice has many limitations. As other voices do. Mine perhaps more limited than others. And this is not an attempt just to sound good, you know, or humble. But the fact is that I have a flawed voice. I want to know how to either overcome those limitations, or to see how with those limitations-it's like being born with a round face. There's little you can do about it, you know---you learn to be happy with what you have and work around the limitations and use what you have to the best advantage. I want to see how I can use my voice, with all its limitations and imperfections-can I adapt it to other styles? For me it's the study of voice. But very often I am asked insulting questions like, 'Did you do it for the money?' or 'Did you do it for the fame?' These are questions that would insult any artist's sense of integrity.

MM: That is ridiculous and sad. If an artist makes a significant achievement, they should be appreciated, not questioned.

SM: You know, one of the prerequisites of being a classical musician is that you must dress a certain way or talk in a certain way. We are all contemporary people. There is no need to hide from that fact. We must take pride in being modern people.

MM: Speaking of modern and ancient, one of the things that you've achieved as an artist is a cross-generational audience.

SM: Yes, that is a positive way of looking at this. Young people do come to my concerts, although they may be confused about what I am going to sing. Is she going to sing Ali More Angana or Ab Ke Sawan? Its great fun though, to have people of all kinds appreciate my music.

MM: Yes, it's wonderful. In fact, it makes me feel that your singing in different areas has also created more interest in Indian classical music among younger people.

SM: Well, I must confess, that there was no such noble motive. I just felt that recording technology was very special and needed to be studied carefully. Singing to a track without having live musicians has a challenge of its own, and I needed to see whether I could do that. So my motives (to record songs in various styles) were entirely selfish, I have to admit.

But yes, I do feel very good about the fact that in India (its too early to say anything about the audience here, in the US), I get kids, even six and eight year olds, who attend my classical music concerts and sit quietly. I hesitate to say these things, especially in interviews, because it almost sounds arrogant (but then (laughing) so what). These children do not ask for the popular music. They sit with sketch books, sketching quietly while I sing. After the show is over, these children come up to me for autographs, and I ask them, 'Were you disappointed that I didn't sing Ab Ke Sawan?', and they say no.

MM: I wanted to ask you a little more about your work as a composer. I have not seen too many women composers in the Indian music scene. Why do you think that is?

SM: It's not the custom, especially in Indian classical music, to acknowledge the composer. Normally the composer's pseudonym is acknowledged in the composition. I don't use a pseudonym, because I don't write the poetry that I sing. But, for example, my guru, Ram Ashrey Jha ji, uses the pen name Ramrang. So if you hear a composition done by Ramrang, and you're a musician, you know it's him. Similarly, there's Sadarang, Adarang, etc. But in my experience, all musicians compose for themselves. There are women composers like Kishori Amonkar and Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar. But for some reason, announcing compositions is just not a part of concert practice.

It does seem surprising that there are very few woman composers that one can turn back to, but at the same time, I feel that music is beyond the issue of gender. Even men, who have written, have always taken up a feminine voice to write. Compositions, whether made by males or females, have always been addressed in the feminine. In the end, it really doesn't matter who's composing, as long as the musical statement is made.

MM: It was a wonderful surprise to see your personal presence on the web, through your website:Shubha Mudgal. Can you tell us why you started it and what you hope to achieve with it?

SM: I found that the web was a wonderful way of communicating (in the area of Indian music) but largely used by recording labels to advertise their wares. Or you have sites put up by fans/followers/friends with a photograph and some information, or perhaps a concert schedule. But there was no interaction. I mean, why would you want to visit a music site just to download a picture of an artist? The web seemed like a wonderful opportunity to be able to have an interactive dialogue with music lovers. I think that there is a great need for that, to have a place where people and musicians could ask questions: a democratic space not governed by some group or a recording label, which gives you answers not from a text book, but from personal experience. I also felt as a musician, that it was necessary to articulate this divide between the performer and the theorist, to start discussing things in a simple manner--not too esoteric or academic. It has been a struggle to maintain it though. As an individual, there is so much time and money that one can devote to it, because I am a musician first. And yet I feel that I need to do this too. I guess, unless it's a collective effort now, it's going to be difficult for me to maintain.

Our conversation ends with a discussion of what type of music Shubha favors. "I am keen on listening to all kinds of music," she shares. Although Indian classical music is the most dominant form of music in her life, Shubha Mudgal strives to bring other sounds into her world. And ours.

Come dusk and Shubhaji and her two-man troupe, tabla player Aneesh Pradhan and harmonium player Sudheer Nayak, are seated on a maroon carpet, bathed in a halo of yellow light and fresh flowers. Soon this magic carpet takes off, lifting us, the audience, through flights of musical fancy, making us never want to come down.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The little Einsteins

Though the following entry is not related to music, still I am posting the same on my blog.

Internet is a tool to either be used positively or negatively. These days, especially, the children are becoming more and more intoxicated to it. Keeping this in view, I have created a list on the net, which will strengthen the positive attitude of the youngsters.

This Group is aimed at searching and sharing Talents, Ideas, Innovations etc amongst the school-going adolescents. The school-going kids who wish to join
such forum as this one, should keep in mind that the children are the Future
of the Nation. Their Unique and Positive Ideas can make world a Heaven.Join this group.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Music For A Cause

I agree that "music is the universal language". Regardless of geographical location, social status and personal convictions, music has a way of bridging gaps and bringing people together. One group is proving that this is true as they tour the world and share their music while spreading the message of unity in diversity.

Roads to You Tour History

The Roads to You Tour was founded by an Arab musician/composer named Zade Dirani. Zade was in the US when the September 11 attacks happened. He was supposed to give a house concert in Maine, which was postponed due to the events that transpired that day. This tragedy struck a desire in him to touch as many people as possible through his music. Zade later on decided to bring his house concert to many different venues. His efforts continued for three years, attracting supporters along the way.

It was in 2004 when Zade and a friend, while hiking, discussed the roles of musicians and how they can contribute on a global level. They pondered how musicians can merge leadership with music and spread the message of unity and peace. This became the foundation of The Roads to You Tour.

About The Roads to You Tour

The Roads to You Tour joins together 45 young musicians and leaders from different parts of the globe. These musicians perform together and tour different cities in the hopes of showing the world that despite our differences, we are all connected. Musicians are chosen not only for their musical ability but also for their leadership. The music they perform are composed by Zade and other international composers.

Their goal is to tour the world with a different group of musicians each year. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss issues with fellow musicians and in the process build friendships and gain a better understanding of each other's culture. The musicians who participated will become a part of the International Musicians Assembly. At the end of the tour, each musician will be asked to give presentations in their own communties, sharing what they have learned through their experience. Musicians will also be able to keep in touch with fellow musicians through email and newsletters even after the tour has ended.

Educational Workshops

Aside from connecting with other musicians and with the audience through music, members of the International Musicians Assembly may also give presentations and workshops for schools and local communities. These workshops lasts from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the target audience.

Musicians Who Participated

Among the musicians who participated are:

Argentina: Ignacio Long - Bass

Canada: Andrew Beer - Violin

England: Ben Powell - Violin

France: Fabrizio Mazzetta - Cello

Greece: Anastassia Zachariadou - Flute

Israel: Uri Sharlin - Accordion

Korea: Daniel Hanul Lee-Violin

Lebanon: Joe Namy - Percussion

Palestine: Tareq Abboushi – Bouzouk

Monday, September 22, 2008

Music is an art which has the potentials to bring the world closer and together. The negative expressions like the terrorism, the separatism, the extremism etc can easily be curved through the music tenderness. But before going through all these aspects, let us first study the great Indian culture, which is a perfect example of 'the unity in diversity'.

India, the great civilization:

India, also known as Bharat, is a big country. Her Civilisation is 5000 years old. She has given birth to the world's most important religions. The Hinduism, the Jainism, the Buddhism, the Sikhism and many other religions with many philosophical interpretations have originated from this land of wisdom. She provided refuge to other leading religions. People of many races have come to India and settled here. She absorbed them all into her blood and fraternised them as her children. Unity and synthesis are the embodiments of Indian culture.

Physical Diversity and Unity:

India is a vast country extending from the Himalayas in the North to Kanyakumari in the South. The Himalayas separate her from the rest of Asia. The Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean make her a peninsula. We find endless diversity in the Indian Subcontinent from the physical point of view. There are wide differences in its climate, temperature, rainfall, soil, agriculture, flora and fauna etc., yet the fact that Indian economy has been primarily agricultural led to the development of common characteristics and common outlook. Today India is divided into 28 States and 6 Union Territories. Her population, according to 2001 census, stood at 1,027,015,247. The States of India are divided on the basis of the languages spoken by the people. India has been often described as a multicultural, multilingual, multireligious and multifaceted, pluralistic society. Her pre-history tells us about the Harappan people who lived in the Indus River areas prior to the coming of the Aryans. The Vedas speak about the Aryans and their spread in the Indo-Gangetic regions. The Sangam classics bear testimony to a well developed culture among the Tamils, even during the pre-Christian Era, in the extreme south of India. Apart from these early settlers, the Persians entered India in the North West. The Greeks, the Sakas, the Huns, and the Kushans followed them. The Arabs, the Turks, the Mongols and the Mughals came to India during the medieval times. These people belonged to many races. The Europeans, such as the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English, came in the modern period. Excepting the Europeans, all others have been absorbed into the stream of Indian life. It is due to this fact that many consider India as an ethnological museum of many races. Indian society is a multi-racial nation.

India's fundamental unity rests upon her peculiar type of culture. There is no single character or aspect that can be defined as culture. Culture is a product of a corporate civil society. It is expressed through language, literature, religion, philosophy, customs, traditions, beliefs, art and architecture. Thus culture is a complex of many strands of varying importance and vitality. India has achieved cultural unity by fusion of many cultures. She has assimilated the good qualities from all cultures. She has arrived at a synthesis. Her adjustability, accommodation and spirit of tolerance enable Indian culture survive several vicissitudes. Various cultural groups live side by side in India. This has made Indian society a multicultural society.    

As I have maintained throughout this discourse, Indian Subcontinent is a single entity as far as the culture and arts are concerned. If we could free our minds from the narrow political segmentations for a while, we all are able to feel this fact that the whole South Asian region bears the same traditions, adores the same culture, expresses the same emotions and feels the same sentiment of brotherhood and affection. In fact, before these political divisions, (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Srilanka, Bhutan), there was only one entity – the India, which has been referred to as 'Saptsindhu', 'Aaryavrata', 'Panchnad' etc. All other political entities of the Indian Subcontinent have originated from the one great territory. In the books of the ancient history, these smaller political entities have no references. What I mean to say that the entities other than India have come into existence a very long time after India had been culturally evolved. Therefore, whatsoever may be the political considerations, whatsoever may be the modern segments of nationality, religion, and all other dividing factors, the fact is that all the region of south Asia as well as the South-East Asia, had been the part of India, one or the other time. When I say this, I do not wish to hurt anybody. I just wish to establish that in the whole of the Indian Subcontinent, more or less the same culture and civilization prevail.

Culture and arts May help in the reunion of the Subcontinent:

In a statement, in 2002, India's then Home Minister, L. K. Advani spoke of the possibility of the reunification of India and Pakistan. Far-fetched as that might appear at the present time, many Indian netizens reacted with gushing enthusiasm and dreamy excitement. The possibilities of greater sports contacts, cultural and scientific exchanges, expanded trade, reduced expenditures on the military, greater focus and attention on socio-economic development, optimal use of common resources, the possibilities of poverty elimination and more human equity, and above all a united front against the former colonial and imperial exploiters of the subcontinent - these seemed to be just some of the many tangible benefits that would accrue from a political unity of the partitioned nations of the Indian subcontinent.

For most Indians who have learned to sacrifice an element of their regional or sub-regional identities for the greater good, the benefits of unity are too obvious and too compelling to ignore. Today, an expanding network of transportation and communication links have brought Indian's many nationalities closer than ever before and the most enchanting display of this multi-cultural pluralistic unity is to be seen in the folk dance festivals that take place throughout the country on Republic Day. Colorful and varied costumes, folk songs in different languages and dialects, joyously mesmerizing dance sequences, faces tanned or lighter-skinned - all light up in a wonderful pageant of grace and exuberance. For a few blissful hours - all of the nation's tensions and divisions are forgotten - it is a day for the human spirit to be one - but without pressures towards an artificial sameness or needless conformity. Millions are thus brought together in solidarity and unity with the land of their birth, but it is in their very diversity that makes these occasions so memorable - because it reminds every Indian of how our real unity does not derive from dictatorial force, military edict, or cultural coercion. Our real unity comes from a respect of individual and group differences and an intuitive understanding of the practical benefits of political unity.

Republic Day is one of the occasions where we also remember the horror and torment that the colonial policy of 'Divide and Conquer' brought to us. And this consciousness, when present, obliterates all that could divide us or break us apart.

Yet, for some of it's neighbours, India presents itself as a "threatening monster" - as a grand "bully", as an "imperial superpower" and worse. But India is not a unitary nation - relatively speaking, it's press is one of the freest, it's political democracy is amongst the liveliest, and it's democratic institutions offer checks and balances that few nations in the world are able to exceed. This is not to say there aren't hierarchical divisions in Indian society (that ought to be fought and eliminated) - but objectively speaking - these are no worse than those that exist amongst India's neighbors. Poverty exacerbates social divisions in the subcontinent, but inequities are to be seen almost throughout the world. Even if on the surface, life in the former colonial powers seems more equal - it should not be forgotten that the wealth of these now rich nations came about through the loot of the wealth of the Indian subcontinent and other conquered nations.

Yet, anti-Indian propagandists are often very effective in demonizing India. For many well-meaning Indians, it is very puzzling to be confronted with the kind of hate and animosity that India-baiters bring their way, and are rarely able to come back with any suitable rejoinders. India's weakness in confronting it's attackers is thus often taken for being "guilty as charged". Clearly, part of this stems from colonial acculturation, and the propaganda of religious separatists, and ultra-nationalist forces who exaggerate India's flaws, but fail to acknowledge any of the tangible and concrete benefits that flow from greater political unity. But perhaps, a more significant aspect of this India-bashing is the desire on the part of certain vested interests to keep the people of the subcontinent querulous, and forever divided.

While the situation is clearly premature for India and it's neighbors to unite politically, there are many more possibilities for mutually beneficial social, economic and political coordination and integration than has occurred so far. Of course, the greatest hindrance to greater cooperation is the role of the clerical and military elite in Pakistan, that continues to harp on what pulls people apart, rather than what might bring them together. When it comes to India and Pakistan (or Bangladesh, for that matter) no barrier seems more intractable - or as insurmountable as the obstacle posed by an allegiance to a strongly sectarian religious identity.

This is particularly ironic when one considers that when India was first conquered by it's Islamic invaders, there was a deep distrust of religious orthodoxy of any kind. It is important to recall what Al-Beruni had written of the Hindus of pre-Islamic Punjab: "At the utmost they fight with words, but they will never stake their soul or body or their property on religious controversy."

Later, when Punjab came to be ruled by Islamic sovereigns, conversions to Islam did not take place all at once. But even when they did, it was Sufi-style Islam that enjoyed popular following - not Quranic orthodoxy. Any objective appraisal of India's Islamic cultural legacy will illustrate how much India's Islamic art and architecture borrowed and built upon earlier Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions. The decorative motifs in the Sufi shrines of Punjab - in Ucch, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismael Khan and many other towns draw from traditions that hark back to Taxila. Ahmedabad and Champaner's tombs and mosques use motifs indistinguishable from those seen in Hindu or Jain temples. Similiarly, monuments commissioned during the rule of the Bengal Sultanate either recycled (or imitated) elements from older Buddhist or Hindu Bhakti shrines. Throughout the later medieval period, Hindu and Muslim artisans borrowed and adapted from each other, producing artifacts of incredible finesse and beauty.

The best Sufi scholars did not hide the fact that they borrowed profusely from what they found attractive about older Indian traditions, and in the fields of art, poetry and music, contacts between Muslims and Hindus (or Jains, or Sikhs) could not have been more extensive, and in many instances, were mutually enriching.

Were the people of Pakistan and Bangladesh to be liberated from viewing the world through the prism of religious particularism, they might see there is much that bonds all of the people of the subcontinent. Our geographical closeness, our related cuisines, our similar dress codes, our historic connections, our syncretic culture, our common languages - all of this ought to bring us together - not tear us apart. After all, religion can only promise it's adherents liberation (or paradise) after death - the problems of this life - of our daily existence requires secular solutions. And from a secular perspective, nothing could be more beneficial than the greater unity of the people of the Indian subcontinent - on the basis of respect for pluralism, commitment to democracy, and above all, a deep concern for social fairness, justice and equity.

During the freedom struggle, one could find exemplary and inspiring examples of Hindu-Muslim-Sikh unity. India's greatest freedom fighters were all deeply secular, and were sharply critical of all that ailed our colonized societies. The need for such unity is no less urgent today. But in political terms, there are few who can adequately articulate or champion the need for a broad federation of all the people of the subcontinent. Yet, there are some arenas where outstanding examples of secular collaboration can still be found. The people of Pakistan and India are both children of a very rich and illustrious cultural heritage - and in the field of Classical Music, the close cooperation amongst Hindus and Muslims stands out.

Consider how Sulochana Brahaspati of Allahabad, an eminent exponent of the Rampur Gharana got her initial training in classical singing from Pandit Bholanath Bhatta, and later became a pupil of Ustad Mushtaq Hussein Khan. Considered a leading light of the Sahaswan/Rampur gharana. In recordings, she has been accompanied by Ustad Sabri Khan (of Moradabad) on sarangi, and the late Ustad Dayam Ali Qadri (of the Farrukhabad/Moradabad gharana) on tabla. Sarod virtuoso of the Maihar Gharana, Partho Sarathy of Kolkata comes from a family of khayal musicians, and first learnt Sarod from his father, and then continued his musical education (in the guru-shishya parampara) with Ustad Dhyanesh Khan, the late son of Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Noted singer, Padmavati Shaligram studied classic singing with her father and her uncle, an old student of Ustad Alladiya Khan, the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana. Ustad Shujaat Khan, son of the illustrious Ustad Vilayat Khan,(and a very fine sitarist in his own right), has recorded with Sandeep Das on tabla. Sitarists and music professors, the eloquent Ustad Hameed Khan and Ustad Chhote Rahimat Khan have been accompanied by Pandit Ragunath Nakod (considered one of the greatest tabla players of the Lucknow gharana). Amongst the Dhrupad Gharanas, there has been particularly close and intimate contact amongst musicians of Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. Uday Bhawalkar who started his musical education at Ujjain, received the Allauddin Khan Sangeet Academi grant and became a student of Fariduddin Dagar in Bhopal. Dr Ritwik Sanyal of Katihar (Bihar), began his music lessons with his mother, a student of Ustad Zia Mohiuddin Dagar and Ustad Fariduddin Dagar, who in turn were often accompanied by Pandit Shrikant Mishra of Benares.

What is most notable is how the tradition of Dhrupad - an especially evocative and expressive genre of Indian Classical Music (whose lineage is traced back to the era of the Sam Veda by some scholars) has been preserved by Hindu and Muslim Maestros alike. This is just one exquisite example of the continuity of tradition, and the unity of India's composite culture that transcends all barriers. But there is no reason why such cooperation - why the love for a great heritage and tradition must remain confined to any particular field, or only to some Hindus and Muslims in India. The possibilities of greater collaboration amongst Indians and Pakistanis, (or Indians and Bangladeshis, or Nepalese, or South Asians in general) are many.

Yet, there are also serious obstacles. Wishful thinking, or idealistic propaganda about such a future will not take us closer to that goal. People will not only have to articulate the possibilities, but also actively struggle to realize them. The myriad difficulties and hurdles in the path of greater closeness will have to be dealt with frankly and honestly. In India, that will require educating those who are naively romantic about friendship with Pakistan (or Bangladesh), as well as those who have written off all Pakistanis, and see no distinctions between the rulers of Pakistan, and those who must suffer their writ. Hindutvadis who fail to distinguish between the vast majority of peace-loving Muslim Indians and a small group of fundamentalist terrorists, and constantly engage in unnecessary Muslim-baiting must also be isolated so that secular Pakistanis are assured that unity with India will not lead to any repression of Muslims by Hindus.

In Pakistan, moves towards peace and reconciliation with India may involve very difficult emotional and ideological choices. It will require tremendous courage, grit and foresight. And above all, it will require patience and perseverance in combating those who have so far been very successful in instigating divisions on the basis of religion. There will always be vested interests in society (and manipulative super-powers) whose wealth and influence derives from ensuring that the working masses of Pakistan remain prisoners of sectarian prejudice. To counter them will not be easy, but neither will there be much progress if such dangerous and divisive forces are not challenged.

It is up to the wise and enlightened in Pakistani (or Bangladeshi) society to ensure that the common people are able to let into their hearts, the tender murmurings of inspired melody-makers. And remake their nations in a brand new mould - where the dominant theme can be social progress and social equity instead of unquestioning (or chauvinist) adherence to any religion based on revealed truth.

Relatively speaking, prior to colonization, the Indian subcontinent was neither poor nor backward. It was a land where people had made numerous scientific and philosophical discoveries. It's arts and crafts had an élan and spirit that was hard to match, it's music - a lyric beauty, it's pluralistic traditions had color and spice. Pre-colonial India attracted respect, even reverence abroad. But today, the subcontinent is all-too-frequently dismissed with ill-concealed contempt or indifference.

Were the people of the subcontinent to break off their mental shackles - to liberate themselves from the psychological scars of colonization and conquest, they would find much that is inspiring and enlightening in the subcontinent's heritage. They would realize that rather than be exploited and used as pawns by others, they could make something of their own future. And amongst India's neighbors, there might come the realization that cooperation, rather than hostility towards India made more sense.

That could lead to a new dawn in the Indian subcontinent.

Alternatively, we may all have to put up with more strife and conflict. And many may needlessly suffer the unwanted consequences. Can the past be transcended? Can the people of the subcontinent reshape their destiny? Only time will tell. But the collective will led by wise counsel can surely influence the outcome.

However, in this thesis, it would be off-topic, if we discuss the political unity of the subcontinent. Our main purpose is to highlight the fact that the common people of the Indian Subcontinent are peace-loving. They respect the individual sentiments of all human beings. They love arts and the culture. They can be brought closer through more art and cultural exchange programmes. These programmes are organised by different national as well as the international bodies. Some of them can be mentioned for example, as under: 'South Asian Association for the regional cooperation, (SAARC)','Indian Council for cultural relations, (ICCR)', 'United Nations educational scientific cultural Organization, (UNESCO)' etc. Through these organizations and through the cooperation of many more associations as well as the individuals, we see many musicians come to perform here in India from the other parts of the Subcontinent and performing artists from India go to participate in various music concerts in the different parts of the Subcontinent.

During my deliberations over the 'music therapy', it has been established that music has a great impact over our brains. It cools down the chemical processes which keep on occurring in the human brain. It releases the tension and makes us feel relaxed and comfortable. Many artists have a feeling that music can inculcate the moral values upon the listeners as well as the performers alike. Music gives pleasure i.e. 'Paramananda' which is said to be the closest to the God. It makes our hearts free of anger and ill will. It liberates us from the narrow segmentations of our surroundings as well as our minds. It can be used as a tool to impart the moral values on the adolescents and the youth of the world. Our educationists have recognized this potential of music. That is why; they have included it in the school as well as the college/university curriculum.

This property of music can be of great use in our endeavour to evolving the world brotherhood and international unity. In the recent years, our educationists have understood and emphasized upon the imparting of 'the life-skills' on the students along with the following of normal format of curriculum. For this, the Ministry of Education, Government of Delhi has held several seminars and symposia in order to involve the teachers employed by the Delhi Government in this programme of educating the life-skills. The teachers have also been given access to Yoga-therapy, music therapy and they have been asked to visit 'Bramhakumari Ashram and get some ethical counselling there.However, in my opinion, if music is used as a tool to develop the moral values, it can easily and successfully do the job. Music is a kind of softener of negative feelings. It is used as a relaxant when we are under the stress. All those, who are involve the teaching and learning of music, would have experienced this. When we are under the stress and there is no available alternative, if we forget everything and listen to our favourite Album of music, and/or we play on our musical instruments or sing the composition that we like most, our stress is gone. Thus, we can recognize the potentials of music and use it as a developer of the human values.

5.4.4 National unity as well as international brotherhood through music:

We have seen that music can be used as a tool to develop the moral values. If we succeed in transforming all the human beings into the ethically sound persons, most of the problems in the society, which hinder the unity of people [at the national as well as the international level] will diminish. Music works as a relaxant and also as an antidepressant on our minds. It brings together the men and woman, without respects of caste or worth, without the respect of the strong and the weak, without respect of the rich and the poor, without respect of the religion and the nationality. In a music concert, the artists of different religions, faiths, nationalities, social strata etc can be seen together working in unison for the success of the concert. Music has no boundaries. Neither does have any specific language. That is why; we say that music has a universal language. It has a universal appeal. In our classical music, words of a musical composition have very little significance or rather no significance. In the instrumental music, there are no words at all. Thus, the instrumental music has no language barrier at all. This feature of music has been recognized by the United Nations' Organization too. Many musical bands have been continuously working for the cause of the international brotherhood. Some of them are referred to in this chapter for example:

The Austrian band 'World Beat Experience'

Whoever said that music transcends boundaries was definitely on the right track. The Austrian band 'World Beat Experience' has been uniting people through its music for the last ten years. This Austrian band plays a mix of Eastern and Western music to underline its credo of uniting the world through music. Taalis, Wolfgang Sambs and Helmut Schoenleitner have been performing in Europe, India and Thailand an assimilation of different genres of music. Calling it world music that will appeal to the people irrespective of their language or culture, the band presents a splendid blend of melodies. Elaborating on their music Schoenleitner says, "We want to arouse the universal conscience by music. Every time we perform we attempt to spread our knowledge and wisdom trying to bring people closer."

The band has been visiting India since the last six years. Having performed in various places across Maharashtra including Nagpur and Nasik the members are quite familiar with both Marathi and Hindi. Talking about the audience Sambs says, "People here are very alert about the latest trends. They appreciate and sway to our music and it feels great. Also things are quite liberal here, unlike Europe where you aren't allowed to move or mingle until the concert is over."

Quite interestingly the band members have been learning Indian classical music from none other than Pundit Suresh Talwalkar for the last eight years. "We were in Pune for Guru Purnima this time and we celebrated it in the traditional way offering prayers to our guru, Pundit Talwalkar. He has been a great motivator. We have learnt laya and tala from him during his lessons in Austria," adds Taalis.

While Schoenleitner is the director of Jazz Institute in Austria, Sambs and Taalis have been his students before they became partners. Talking about their talent Schoenleitner says, "This is the new generation, full of creativity and passion for the art. They are the best Austria can offer at the moment."

The band performed at Shisha Cafe on Thursday and the audience swirled mesmerized to jazz beats. With Taalis on drums, Sambs on Guitar and Schoenleitner on Bass guitar, the evening saw an exchange of music and acclaim. "We come to India once in a year and most of the times to Pune. The city is nice and the response here is very exciting. We generally present a mix of Indian and African flavour of funk and jazz. It is this blend of eastern and western music through which we attempt to unite people from all over the world," sums up Taalis.

Unity of Light:

Come February 1 and Kolkata will get to witness a musical experience like never before. The king of modern Indian music - Allah Rakha Rahman - is all set to present his first ever live concert in India. And no prizes for guessing where the maestro wants to flag off the concert - it's our very own city of joy. "It's very exciting for me to start the concert here as this city has a lot of associations with music. Also, this city is very new to me. This is my first trip here," said Rahman, while announcing the concert at the ITC Sonar Bangla on Thursday. The concert, titled the Unity of Light, will be held at the Salt Lake Stadium. After Kolkata, it will tour various Indian cities and will also travel to the US, Canada, the Gulf countries and the Far East. Speaking about the theme of the concert, Rahman said, "A lot of things have happened in the last couple of years which have changed the world in many ways. I want to express the sublime knowledge through my music." Most of the music will be based on his film soundtracks right from 1992. "I will present the tracks with alternate arrangements for the music. So they will sound totally different. There will also be tracks from Bombay Dreams, my other albums and some Bengali songs." The concert will feature other bigwigs like S.P. Balasubramanium, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Sukhwinder Singh, Sadhna Sargam, Vasundhara Das and Mahalaxmi Iyer. But one man who will be conspicuously absent from the Kolkata show is Rahman's preferred percussionist, Shivamani. "He will accompany me for the rest of the tour.


 

The music gallery in the premises of the Punjab Kala Bhavan


 

The online Edition of The times of India

CHANDIGARH: (March 14, 2003)

Punjab has a cultural history of instruments and rhythms so rare and dynamic that their sounds stir the soul. The State's musical tradition that may have slipped into obscurity over the centuries has been revived at a special museum in Chandigarh housing rare folk instruments of Punjab and momentos of some legendary stalwarts in the field. It's a coming together of the finest that the Punjabi folk music tradition has boasted of over the centuries. The legends and the instruments that made them so unforgettable for generations. Sardar Amar Singh Shaunki, master of the Dhadd instrument which dates back to the Sikh gurus, becoming an intricate part of Punjab's folk fabric. The Nightingale of Punjab, Surinder Kaur, for most of the 20th century enthralled audiences - army jawans, civilians and connoisseurs alike. And the gaiety of the tumbi of Yamala Jat is another of the rich memories. Rajinder Singh, one of the curators of this museum and an expert of Punjab's folk tradition, says, "Punjab has for centuries been a cultural gateway to India. Hundreds of cultures have visited this region. And because many of the invaders came only this far, Punjab became a melting pot of many cultures, customs and arts. That's why one can find here touches of the traditions of all parts of India and the world. Many features which were lost have also been preserved here."

The music gallery in the premises of the Punjab Kala Bhavan in Chandigarh is an ambitious project of the Punjab Sangeet Natak Academy begun last month. The idea is to re-acquaint with some rare, partly forgotten folk artifacts - the sarangi, algoza, bagtu, dauroo, and a favourite - the snake charmer's flute.

MUMBAI: (March 10, 2003)

If music be the food of love play on, said Shakespeare, and it was a colourful evening at the magnificent Gateway of India where music was the staple diet. It was a night to remember, as the mighty monument stood brightly lit in the tri-colour and some of the best musicians performed for a great cause. Darkness set the scene when suddenly a burst of light and sound emerged at the centre of a stage 120 feet long, 65 feet high. Cameras panned, dollied and trollied as singer Mrigya presented fusion music with qawwali and sufiana kalam.

"Sounds of the sea" concert was in aid of "Save the Children" and "Action Aid India Society". The concert was a collage of music styles from different parts of India and the world. The occasion was special for the performers. It marked the launch of Mumbai for a change with Save the Children India and a coalition of other NGOs, for creating shelters for homeless people and night schools and education opportunities for street children in Mumbai. Talking about the initiative, Jerry who is the event organiser said, "We looked at groups which have some kind of social responsibility, groups which do performance on human rights and things like that - that's how we got a way out and Gautam Ghosh, Mrigya who won the tap water award for peace and communal harmony, so we have taken the groups which have social responsibility".

The artistes were all well-known that included Sivamani, Niladari (percussionist-sitar), Bobby Cash (Country Music Solo Act), Mrigya (Fusion with Qawwali and Sufi), Indian Iranzit with Gautam Ghosh (World Music and African Tribal Music) and Silk Route (India's favourite Pop Rock Band). The lights captured the mood of the moment, and the sound was the envoy of them. Drummer Shivamani produced just the right rhythm with every instrument which came to hand.