Hindustani music has becomes one of the most sought-after musical systems of the world. The interest exhibited for this music is continuously on the rise. With its basic foundation on devotion and Indian philosophy, it clearly exhibits a superb quality of tranquility and meditation. This quality alone has fascinated the music connoisseurs of the world.
As a Hindustani vocal musician and instructor, I was afforded the privilege of performing and teaching this music to a vast audience in India, Canada and the USA over the last three decades. I found most of the students and listeners, especially outside India, to be quite curious and interested in this music. Their genuine inquisitive nature and somewhat critical attitude towards this music provided a stimulus for formulation of many ideas that are expressed in this book. In my experience, many among them exhibited somewhat reluctance to accept the traditional explanations, which provoked further inquiry into many thoughts, remarks, and inquiries and questions exhibited a potential of raising some basic issues about this music.
This book details a discussion based on the analysis of hundreds of such remarks, comments and inquiries from people, primarily residing in Canada and the USA. A few of their comments and questions are given here as samples. Prior to this account, there is a brief discussion on the four fundamental concepts of Hindustani vocal music: Raga, the concept of melody; Tala, the concept of rhythm; Vistar, the unique style of Raga development and Rasa, the concept of ethos expressed through rendering of Raga. The purpose is to give the readers a full comprehension of the comments and questions presented here.
The last chapter, Final Reflections, gives a conclusive commentary on all the points of the research discussed in this book.
Born and raised in Hyderabad, India. Jayashree completed her Sangeet Visharad (B.A.) in music from the Gandharva Maha Vidyalaya, while completing her undergraduate studies in Chemistry at Osmania University. On coming to Canada after marriage, she completed her Graduate Studies in Biochemistry at York University in Toronto and pursued a professional career as a Medical Researcher in Toronto and Calgary for nearly fifteen years, and then as a Technical Writer for nearly fifteen years. During all these years, however, she tenaciously pursued Hindustani Vocal Music with passion, giving performances all over North America, Europe and India, took directions from eminent vocalists Dr. Prabha Atre and Pandit Hridayanath Mangeshkar and completed further studies to earn a Master’s degree from S.N.D.T. University, Mumbai and a Ph.D. degree from Nagpur University, in Music.
As a Researcher, Jayashree is also inclined towards ‘why and why nots’ of every topic dear to her heart. Not surprisingly, she has endeavoured into the perceptions and viewpoints of North Americans towards Hindustani Vocal Music in particular, and Indian Music in general, to assess the difficulties faced are presented in this book. Her main objective in writing this book is two-fold: one to provide better understanding and appreciation of Hindustani vocal music in this part of the world, and two, provide insights to the visiting vocalists about the expectations of this audience.
She has received many awards, scholarships and prizes in both writing and music, including ‘Chaturastra Chatura’ award in India, and the ‘Alberta Centennial Gold Medal’ form the government of Alberta, in Canada.
Jayashree lives in Calagry, Canada, with her husband, Suresh, and is blessed with two daughters, Dr. Tejashree and Meghana, both married, and four grandchildren, Amruta, Arjun, Vikram and Jahnavi.
Throughout the book, the readers will find many illustrations, photographs and footnotes, which enhance the explanation of the unfamiliar presented here. Conventions followed in this book are as follows:
Glossary will provide a brief definition with page numbers for all the terms used in this book. The first occurrence of each term will be italicized and accompanied by a footnote on the same page. The name of the language from which the term has originated will be given. The subsequent occurrences of these terms will be non-italicized and in the same font as selected for the text of the rest of the book.
Bibliography will provide a details list of all the sources cited and referred to in the book. Most of the sources from the list are cited in footnotes as well. When not cited in the footnotes, they are used essentially for general information on the topic, A lot of material presented here is form my own music training and study over four decades and my experience as a performer for over twenty-five years. Material gathered during my training and performing years will be cited as ‘from personal communication’.
For ease of pronunciation, all terms, personal names and the names of any other things such as places, deities, etc. are presented in this book with anglicized spelling and without diacritical narks. Extreme care has been taken to maintain a complete terms may or may not be the same as existing elsewhere in music literature. Also, to all the terms that are in languages of India, i.e. Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi, etc., no ‘s’ is added for making them into plural forms. Therefore singular and plural forms should be read as per the context. For example, Guru, Raga, Swar, etc. are in both singular and plural forms depending on the context.
Considered to be one of the older music systems, classical music of India is also one of the major music systems in the world. It is a cultural admixture of many ancient cultures of the would, dating back to a few thousand centuries. When it is a matter of music, one cannot imagine any political borderlines, or borderlines of any kind for that matter. Cultural and more specifically the musical patterns tend to overflow all these borderlines all the times. There cannot be any rigid barricades, musical or otherwise, because one musical style fuse with another with no particular limitations. The result of such a continuous give and take over many centuries is the present-day classical music of India. India’s classical musical style has two major traditions, Hindustani music tradition spreading over northern areas of India into the countries of Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and Karnatak music tradition spreading over the four southern provinces of India into Sri Lanka, a country located to the south of Indian peninsula.
Although started originally as religious chanting, Indian classical music is said to be based primarily on India’s philosophy. It does not belong to any specific religion as such, especially in the modern times. If is a common finding even today to seen the people in Canada and the United State of America (from here onwards, referred to as the USA), referring to Indian classical music as religious music. Comments such as the following are heard in plentiful:
“Music of India, be it of the South or the North, has all its flow with a total devotional aspect…”
“India’s music entails humitity and surrender to the Almighty God…”
Such comments are perhaps based on their observation that the primary emotion exhibited in this music is that of devotion to the Almighty God. Even the concept of eroticism has a definite flavour of devotion to it in this music. Just to quote a brief example, in innumerable vocal genres of Indian music, pranks of Lord Krishna’ with the Gopis” are described in great detail. Articles that are described in these songs are water-filled pots of young maids butter, milk and cow, Lord Krishna’s attire and flute creating divine music, and so on. They may well be metaphors symbolizing something else in the realm of philosophy. However, the primary emotive content of all these genres is that of devotion and surrender to Almighty God. What is predominantly seen in such musical genres is ardent devotion with musical allure. Perhaps such observation has provided a substantial reason to perceive this music as devotional music. In addition to the devotional aspect, this music has also served as a major channel for conveying Indian philosophy to the general element and having served as a tool for such purpose, Indian music might seem to have assumed a religious flavour, that of Hinduism. However, brilliant musicians from all other religions have greatly contributed to its richness over many centuries. Therefore, Indian music may be called, more aptly, a culture specific music rather than religious music.
Classical music of India, both Hindustani and Karnatak traditions, is neither the music of the masses, nor it is uniformly distributed over all areas of the country. It is largely confined to major urban centres and urban areas. It is performed either in concert halls or in private chambers of music connoisseurs. Music concerts are called Sabha in the South and Mehefil in the North. Music connoisseurs gather together for Sabha or Mehefil on assigned dates and times at the designated place, attend them, go home either elated or disappointed as the case may be, and discuss them or read reviews about them published in the local newspapers on the following days. Therefore, classical music seems far removed from the general masses of the country. A discussion on this subject, however, is outside the scope of the present book. The purpose of the present book is to provide a detailed account of how this splendid music is looked at and thought of in Canada and the USA. Though this new perspective, it may also become quite clear how the varied facets of this music have made a remarkable contribution to the realm of music in the world.
To think of the tremendous interest exhibited in the West, especially in Canada and the USA, for Hindustani Music, in the last four decades or so, is to make an educated guess that there is a fair amount of curiosity about this music in these two countries. The guess is not just a well-founded assumption but an observation. The interest shown for this music is continuously on the rise. It has become one of the most sought-after musical systems of Canada and the USA. With its basic foundation on devotion and Indian philosophy, the music clearly exhibits a superb quality of tranquility and meditation. This quality alone could be the reason that has fascinated the people of Canada and the USA, and quite possibly, the world.
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