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The rushed world of music

Published : Dec 18, 2017, 12:42 am IST
Updated : Dec 18, 2017, 12:44 am IST

Would it suffice to simply perform? Not really: you have to be transversal as an artiste.

An 11th century stone sculpture of Veenadhara Shiva.
 An 11th century stone sculpture of Veenadhara Shiva.

There has never been such a time for music. At the airport this morning I cross a bunch of young people toting musical instruments, part of a music group that was performing somewhere. I overheard their conversations charged with “jam” and “gig”.  I was trying out a new element, said one to the other. Within minutes I see another group of musicians heading elsewhere and talking about mixing tunes.

On the other side, Margazhi the holy month, the month of music and dance is born and classical music comes alive in Chennai, the Mecca of music and dance. Would it suffice to simply perform? Not really: you have to be transversal as an artiste. You have to gather your audience, both the physical and the virtual. On different platforms, networks, groups. There’s not just the kutcheri list that has to be drawn but the agenda for reaching out to your listeners. Recording, posting, engaging online, the scope never ends. You befriend everyone. From friend to fiend to extended groups to a wider, virtual planet. Now that alone will not suffice. You need to make your presence felt in myriad ways. You could transform into cultural activism and get bashed by some, cheered by others — does it matter? You are getting visible and that is vital.

Your sartorial choices have to stand for you. Accessories can speak louder than song. I will never forget the mami who went armed with binoculars for a house full concert by a popular Carnatic singer in order to admire the finger rings! The menfolk vie with the women for innovation in costume, colour and jewellery. Or simply a newly sported beard or broader and bolder Vibhuti stripes. That also helps, I was told.

Then the meetings. You travel to perform from city to city, town to village and catch up with other musicians, music lovers, aficionados, everyone you possibly can. Then when you have done it all, it’s time to remember your guru — it’s all because of him or her. But there’s a slight difficulty here. There’s no more the notion of a single guru. Who in the scaffolding does one pay homage to? The gurus that tilled the soil feel left out and pained but that’s part of the irksome trail.

The mad race does not forgive any slow-down. You are on the super fast merry-go- round. Keep spinning or jump off the race course. The fast track to “main slots”, the tug of hierarchy, the changing norms and recipes for success make classical music a volatile field today. Yet there never have been these many concerts. New stages, different spaces abound. Hybrid efforts, cultural rencontres have multiplied as frontiers shrink and Indian music gets more attention. There is a lot of flurry which sometimes leads to breathlessness.

I stood in front of the Veenadhara Shiva, an eleventh century stone sculpture in the museum in Indore, enraptured. I was alone in the hall that showcased several marvels. In the calm of the room I beheld this statue of serenity holding the instrument of the Gods. Removed from all din, connected only to the primal sound that the veena and the god represented, alone in communion with this spectacular piece of art, I felt transported beyond space and time into that location of music which endures.

Dr Vasumathi Badrinathan is an eminent Carnatic vocalist based in Mumbai. She can be contacted on

Tags: music, veenadhara shiva