Authentic Indian Music

The question that has now arisen is how do we entertain crowds without lowering the higher standard of Authentic Indian music? It is difficult to say what the shape of things will be or how the artists will meet the situations. This question persistently nags the minds or those who care for preservation of our authentic musical standards.

The musically educated listeners and patrons and the restraint of the musicians kept things under some form of check as no one was prepared to throw our rich musical heritage overboard. And then there always were “rules of the game” and any musician taking undue and unwarranted liberties was sure to be found out and, on occasions, openly cautioned and reprimanded by both seniors and even listeners. Where are these checks now? Many senior have rudely asked—was all this change and dramatization necessary? A genuine coin, in cultural phraseology, was never required to pass off as Counterfeit. Why did knowledgeable authentic traditional Indian musicians indulge in this risky adventure?

The innovations were introduced by the celebrities themselves. It is quite a mystery why they did all these. On the other hand, the heavens would not have fallen if they had tried to go a little slow and to remain in the main ­stream of our authentic traditional music. No doubt classical music, as a performing art, has been greatly enriched and a new direction has been given. The celebrities were themselves safe since they had their firm grounding and training in authentic classical music and were highly gifted artists, who could take some risks but the basic question is what about their follower’s and enthusiasts? With the “models” in front of them, they took to this new style which deflected a very large number of performers from the classical path. By a queer irony of fate, the true classicists now started to be called “old-timers” as against the modern and progressive artists who were sprouting all over. We have had no periodical evaluation of our authentic Indian musical culture from time to time as in the west and so the extent of deflection and devaluation in our classical music is difficult to assess with any degree of accuracy.

In the former days senior artists and even listeners used to stand up and reprimand any erring artists. We have seen this happen in concerts in Bombay, Pune and Baroda. One reprimand had a rippling effect on the performers in general for quite some time. Personalities like Faiyaz Khan, Vilayet Husain Khan, Pandit Ratnajankar, Allauddin Khan, Ahmad Jan Thirakua, and Hafez Ali never hesitated to frown whenever occasion demanded and their very presence acted as a check on the more adventurous performers. But to-day we have just compromise all the way. Even the seniors will just not speak out. Perhaps no one wants to be unpleasant and when compromise has become almost a way of life, how can we expect music alone to remain an island of chastity and discipline?

The above is only by way of background to come to grips with the real situation. There are strong opposing points of views also. One clearly is—must our authentic Indian classical music and cultural heritage remain confined to select groups of performers and listeners? Should not the gates be thrown open to all listeners and aspiring musicians in the present democratic set-up? Indian Culture must be clearly above castes and groups. We suppose the type of’ conflict and contradiction we are facing to-day are bound to arise when the environment and ethos are themselves changing in the field of music. We have a rush of newcomers. The culture of authentic classical music (though greatly commercialized) has phenomenally expanded. Despite some degree of lowering of standards and deflection from strict discipline, it must be conceded that extremely talented authentic musicians have emerged in recent decades displaying depth, refinement, and virtuosity of a level which is reminiscent of the old maestros. Is this not proof of the innate vitality and pulsating strength of our classical tradition and heritage? Entertainments apart, many basic questions are being raised and simple answers to them cannot be given. Is this not the emergence of a brave new world in classical music? Is this not a challenge and at the same time the sign of a great struggle to fuse the past with the present and create a new synthesis? Music can no longer be “caged” by conservatives, die-hards and fundamentalists. It is only the intelligent, gifted, imaginative, properly trained and hardworking persons who can today deliver the goods and satisfy the urges of the music lovers. They must be sound and honest and not upstarts backed up by publicity alone.

The situation, however, is still fluid, old values are clearly in the melting pot and new values are slow to develop and thereafter gain all round acceptance. How is authentic Indian music to survive, keep up its traditions and imbibe new develop­ments to fit into the changed age of listening and popular urges? This is the million dollar question today.