Hindustani music, one of India's art music traditions, has evolved over several centuries into the complex ecosystem it is today. While many bemoan the loss of purity' in this musical system now, the truth is that it has always been in a state of flux - every generation absorbed elements from the past, reinterpreted them and passed them on to the next. Presently, Hindustani music is poised at a critical juncture where tradition is being challenged by changing vastly different from that prevalent until the last decade of the twentieth century
Hindustani music, one of India's art music traditions, has evolved over several centuries into the complex ecosystem it is today. While many bemoan the loss of purity' in this musical system now, the truth is that it has always been in a state of flux - every generation absorbed elements from the past, reinterpreted them and passed them on to the next. Presently, Hindustani music is poised at a critical juncture where tradition is being challenged by changing vastly different from that prevalent until the last decade of the twentieth century.
Chasing the Raag Dream traces the evolution of the Hindustani music world to its present context, with a view to finding possible pathways to ensure a healthier future for it.
ANEESH PRADHAN is a widely recognized performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. A recipient of prestigious awards, he has been recorded by many national and international record labels. He has been a regular contributor to newspapers, journals and digital publications in India and abroad, and is also the author of three books, Baajaa Gaajaa: Musical Instruments of India, Tabla: A Performer's Perspective, and Hindustani Music in Colonial Bombay.
Hindustani music, the art music system of northern India, Itransports music lovers to an abstract world of sublime experience far removed from the maddening reality that surrounds us every day. Only a few would be aware that this oasis of solace and beauty is actually created in an ecosystem ridden with contradictions, which have frequently led to conflicting opinions about its very future. Undoubtedly, this music is only a small part of India's musical landscape, and every system and form of music faces its share of challenges. In this book, I have focused on the challenges that this music and its practitioners face today; a subject I am familiar with as a student, performer, teacher and researcher.
Conditions in the past were also difficult, as would be evident from a brief overview of those times. Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Hindustani music was pursued professionally only by members of musician and courtesan families. Royal courts were the primary source of patronage and musicians had to travel to princely states across the country in the hope of procuring professional positions as court musicians. They often tried to obtain letters of recommendation from previous benefactors with a view of approaching prospective patrons. Family and professional networks helped them secure work. Some also received patronage by default, when they inherited professional positions occupied by senior members of their family. In other words, musical merit played an important role in procuring patronage, but it was not the sole criteria. In order for the dream and desire to perform successfully in princely courts to become a reality, great hardship, uncertainty and risk were involved.
After the decline of royal patronage in the second half of the nineteenth century, musicians migrated to colonial cities like Calcutta (Kolkata) and Bombay (Mumbai) in search of patronage from the commercial, industrial and intellectual elite. They taught and performed, evolving adaptive strategies, reinventing themselves to survive in the new environment and to establish their credentials to a largely uninitiated audience. Gharana, a modern incarnation of bani and gayaki (both referring to vocal styles) and baaj (referring to instrumental style), did not merely assert stylistic distinctiveness, but also defined identity through familial and guru-shishya or master-disciple linkages. Perhaps this would be similar to terms like ‘brand name' and 'brand equity' in today's consumerist world.
Before discussing the specifics related to different stakeholders in the Hindustani music ecosystem, it would be relevant to take stock of the major problems concerning this music tradition which have become talking points in private conversations as well as public discourse.
The first to head the list of stumbling blocks for performers is that the limited concert opportunities are unable to accommodate the increasing number of performers. Amarendra Dhaneshwar, music critic, organizer and vocalist, argues that the number of concerts has risen today and that there is no dearth of talent, but there is a serious lack of equality of opportunity for the talented. He goes further to suggest that an almost insidious pattern exists in the manner that performers are chosen for concerts. He states, ‘Almost the same musicians are chosen to perform in all the festivals. So when we look at the performance scene we also need to look at the – I would use a little strong word, but politics of concert organizing [sic]
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Art & Culture (810)
Emperor & Queen (494)
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