Beyond Music (Maestros in Conversation)

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Item Code: NAK664
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Author: Geeta Sahai
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9789383098989
Pages: 324
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.0 inch x 6.0 inch
Weight 470 gm
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Book Description

About the Book


Ever wondered how late Pandit Ravi Shankar went beyond cultural boundaries to propagate Hindustani classical music and impact the global music scene? How did Ustad Amjad Ali Khan fight emotional and financial setbacks to settle into musical harmony with destiny? How did Begum Akhtar's soulful voice inspire a reluctant percussionist to dedicate his life to vocal music and emerge as the legendary Pandit Jasraj? How did late Dr Gangubai Hangai break away from the shackles of social ostracism to emerge as a legend of her times?


Beyond Music - Maestros in Conversation delves into candid opinions on issues, revealing thoughts on music-making and emotional sagas of some of the most accomplished, revered classical musicians-- Dr Prabha Atre, Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Dr N. Rajam, Vidushi Shanno Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Shiv Kumar SH Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, to name a few.


This book is not just about music; it is an exciting journey into the minds of musicians, bringing alive the fragrance their musical thinking.


A must read for all Hindustani classical music connoisseurs.


About the Author


Geeta Sahai is a writer, broadcaster and documentary filmmaker. Her short stories have won International awards and have been included in an international anthology-Undiscovered Gems. She was associated with worldspace Satellite Radio for nearly ten years as Programme Director-Radio Gandharv-24x7 Hindustani Classical Music Station. She has made many introspective documentary films Currently, She is working on a project on women maestros of Hindustani classical music of early 20th century.




I remember as a child I was often taken to classical music concerts, listening to great maestros, at times tagging along with my father, Pandit L.K. Pandit, to their houses or artistes visiting our home in Gwalior and Delhi, both. I had been with them as a child, and now as a practising musician. I always thought that I knew them pretty well, their inner world. But this book Beyond Music-Maestros in Conversation by Geeta Sahai and Shrinkhla Sahai-is a pleasant surprise. Through the book I came to know several incidents, facts and their thought process, closely. It goes to the credit of both the writers that the maestros bared their soul in the free-wheeling conversations that not only talk about music as an academic subject but also foray into sensitive issues pertaining to the growth of musicians as maestros.


This book is the product of a passion of the authors for music in all its forms. I have known few people with a passion for music and for interviewing maestros, as strong as that of the book's authors. I came to know Geeta Sahai nearly ten years ago when she interviewed me. It was one of the most in depth interviews that I ever faced. It was exhaustive to visit my real self and also very satisfying, to get an opportunity to share my deepest thoughts on so many aspects of music and life. During my visit to Radio Gandharv's studio (24 X 7 Hindustani classical music station on Worldspace Satellite Network) in Delhi, I met and interacted with Shrinkhla Sahai. I was amazed at her musical knowledge, zest for doing new things, researching and putting knowledge in a most innovative manner on the radio. Indian classical music needs people like Geeta and Shrinkhla who know how to reach out.


Both the authors succeed in bringing about that same knowledge, clarity and passion for music to this book. As I turned page after page of the book and read interviews one after the other, it was as if each interview opened a new window into the life of an artiste. For instance, in his interview my father and guru, Pandit L.K. Pandit revealed, 'I used to sit in the central park at Connaught Place for hours in the evening and do my practice ... there was no one to rent a house to a gaanewala.' One can imagine the pain that he must have gone through at that point of his life. Only the authors could have inspired the artistes to revisit their painful, hidden memories!


These twenty-five interviews are mirror to the inner trials and tribulations of an artiste. With the focus being on life and challenges of the musical world, the lucid language and various musical perspectives make the book thought provoking and an interesting read. It offers students, researchers and connoisseurs' deep insights into the rich and diverse world of Hindustani classical music.


Retrospectively speaking, Hindustani classical music has, over the centuries, survived and maintained its sanctity. The explanations and critical explorations that maestros have revealed in their interviews deepen our understanding of traditional music, its heritage, the musical trajectory, gharanas and above all the continued importance of our traditional music in the present high-tech. hurried world. In fact, these interviews unravel new ideas and illuminate grey areas of Hindustani classical music. Some of the important questions, like time classification of ragas or the relevance of gharanas have also been debated and maestros have come up with their candid views.


I am confident that this book with its long list including most of the revered names of today's musical fraternity like late Pandit Ravi Shankar, late Vidushi Dr Gangubai Hangal, late Vidushi Dhondutai Kulkarni, would certainly be useful and offer an exceptionally rich experience for musicians, music lovers, researchers and music students.


I am honoured and grateful for this opportunity to pen my thoughts.

I wish the authors, with whom over the years I have developed a special bond, best of luck in their endeavour.




Music is a universal language. So it is generally believed. Yet, the vocabulary of Hindustani classical music has a niche circle of connoisseurs. Seeing an artiste on stage and experiencing their music is just the tip of the iceberg. It takes years of training, skill, discipline and riyaaz to master the grammar of the art form that appears to be an effortless master stroke to spectators and listeners. The truth is that behind the syntax and emotion of each taan, murki, gamak, alaap and pukar that leaves devoted listeners spellbound, there is a deep-rooted ideology and perspective on music and life. This compilation of interviews with maestros of Hindustani classical music is an endeavour to share those aspects through the musicians' own words and to present a kaleidoscope of their unknown world.


Hindustani classical music has a spectrum of sub-genres within vocal and instrumental styles ranging from dhrupad, dhamaar, khayal, thumri, dadra, tappa and more. These have evolved over time and musical aesthetics have been heavily influenced by sites and modes of production and reception of music. At the turn of the twentieth century, the royal court was the main system of patronage for classical music. While dhrupad and khaya/were accepted as the respected genres performed by male musicians, forms like thumri and dadra were associated with courtesans and relegated to the realm of petty entertainment. These women musicians faced social ostracisation for a major part of the twentieth century. Even today, these forms are most often categorised as 'semi-classical' music though many musicians disagree with this nomenclature. 'I do not consider thumri semi-classical. I think thumri is a form of pure classical music and I am fighting for it to be recognised as such,' says Vidushi Savita Devi. Somewhat similar are the views of Vidushi Girija Devi, 'Thumri is like a garden having various flowers. The singer plucks flowers of different hues and fragrances and makes a bouquet of different ragas. Of course one has to see that the combination of ragas is acceptable. We cannot sing thumri without having a knowledge of khayal.'


Here we must point out that while we use the commonly accepted term 'Hindustani classical music' throughout this book, many performers and scholars prefer to use 'North Indian classical music,' and often musicians associate their gayaki to a particular gharana.


Gharana, or a musical style, is the foundation of the unique features on which most artistes have built their individual signatures. Gharana literally means household and denotes a formally structured system of musically and socially distinct singing styles. An important aspect of Indian classical music, gharana signifies a musical lineage, a socio-cultural position and musical ideology. The names of gharanas are linked to their geographical origins, for instance Gwalior gharana, Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, Agra gharana, Patiala gharana, Kirana gharana, Banaras gharana, and so on. While some musicians associate the purity and authenticity of classical music largely on the premise of the traditional roots of their style in a particular gharana- 'Each gharana is unique. For example, in Agra gharana gayaki they used to start with madhya laya and alaapchari, bol-baant was characteristic to Agra gharana, while in Kirana gharana the emphasis is on the notes, behlava; so you see each gharana has something special and unique,' says Pandit Jasraj. But there are many who find the concept of gharana irrelevant in the contemporary context when there are myriad influences and assimilations-'Society has undergone change, our perspective has changed and that reflects in our music as well. Technological exposure has blurred all distinctions between gharanas,' opines Pandit L.K. Pandit. Again Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty feels, 'See, even earlier this concept of gharana was archaic. It had no meaning. Four artistes belonging to one gharana will sing differently. Music depends on one's individuality, thinking, values, culture and humanity. Of course, a basic line of thinking is maintained in a gharana. In that way gharanas are important.'


These are some examples of the debates and discussions that are alive and in circulation today in the world of music. In these interviews, we have raised pointed questions connected with such issues and musicians have candidly expressed their views. Today, the circumstances of presenting music have completely altered. As pointed out by veteran artistes in this volume, the disappearance of royal patronage after Independence: ('Earlier, during the era of nawabs and kings, there was complete state patronage. An artiste had to just concentrate on his music. For all the twenty-four hours of the day he was busy thinking or composing music.' Pandit L.K. Pandit), the emergence of radio as a medium and the current dependence on corporate sponsorship, drastically transformed musical styles.


The impact of globalisation and commercialisation are also much- debated topics. 'One must change as per the place and environment. One has to adapt to change. We, classical musicians cannot live in our ivory tower. The distance between the artiste and the audience must decrease,' feels Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. On the contrary some feel that classical music is an abstract art and 'is not the music of masses. It is the product of a more deliberate aesthetic shaping process. A lot of thinking and experimentation has gone behind its formation. To expect classical music to become as popular as film music would be wrong' (Dr Prabha Atre). Disagreeing with such notions was the view of Pandit Jasraj, who says, 'I just don't agree with those people who are suggesting that classical music is not for the masses. If music is not for the masses then how can you call it music?'


The most controversial and debated topic has been the day-part time classifications of the ragas. While some maestros feel that the time classification theory is no longer required, others disagree. 'It is our tradition, there is a reason behind it and we should definitely follow it' (Dr Gangubai Hangal). 'I see changes happening ... personally, I do not like listening to evening or night ragas in the morning ... but after forty-fifty years it [doing away with time classification theory] might happen' (Dr N. Rajam).


Initially many musicians were hesitant about sharing their inner world, their untold struggle-'But my music says everything I want to express, why talk!' It was slightly difficult to convince them of the relevance of in-depth interviews for preserving music history as well as generating more ideas and dialogues about music. It was pertinent for us to go beyond music to unravel the mystic and the mundane aspects in their respective musical experiments. We were adamant to bring to a large audience their articulations, their thoughts, the process of music making, learning and teaching, and the trials and tribulations of their life journey.


We also knew the importance of making their invisible world accessible to the non-initiated listener who is intrigued and interested in music yet is intimidated by the idea of classical music. While voicing for the changes and the current growing popularity of the World music or Fusion music, Dr N. Rajam opines, 'Any art form should not be static. If it is static, it ceases to be an art form. It has to constantly grow, evolve. Change is necessary. But to change for the sake of change is not healthy. We cannot just overlook or bypass all the musical rules and regulations, made by our ancestors. We cannot just negate all those points and bring about change. No, that is not good. While keeping in mind those points, changes should be brought about; but not blindly.'


Hindustani classical musicians have often lamented about the diminishing audience interest in classical music in India and the absence of knowledgeable rasikas as in the earlier times. This compilation is also an attempt at bridging that gap between the layman who thinks 'I don't understand classical music' and the musician who feels an absence of appreciative listeners. The lacunae in integrating music education as part of school curriculum and the absence of media support are issues raised by many musicians in this book. In this context, we believe, it is critical to think and talk about music, to engage with the polemics and politics of music as an essential aspect of society. We see this book as one of the ways of opening and inviting music lovers into that conversation.


As the fields of ethnomusicology, cultural studies and performance studies are in their nascent stage and emerging fast, the locus of research in these disciplines has also shifted from the technical aspects of music alone to encompass the cultural and social aspects. This volume presents an overview of the Hindustani classical music world in the first decade of the twenty-first century and therefore is an important link in the trajectory of music history and research-the history of an oral tradition of transmission of knowledge.


It is our humble attempt to expand the boundaries that accompany the realm of classical music to a global community that wants to know more about the stars of the musical firmament. For many, who might not even be familiar with the musical styles within the classical genres, this might be a route to engaging with the music by first encountering the human side of these larger- than-life personalities. And that aspect is truly universal and humbling.








Dr Gangubai Hangal



Pandit Ravi Shankar



Vidushi Shanno Khurana



Ustad Sabri Khan



Vidushi Dhondutai Kulkarni



Vidushi Girija Devi



Dr N. Rajam



Pandit Jasraj



Dr Prabha Atre



Vidushi Shanti Hiranand



Pandit L.K. Pandit



Pandit Debu Chaudhuri



Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma



Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia



Vidushi Savita Devi



Ustad Amjad AIi Khan



Pandit Bhajan Sopori



Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt


Mohan Veena

Pandits Rajan & Sajan Mishra



Vidushi Shruti Sadolikar



Pandit Ajoy Chakrabarty



Ustad Mashkoor AIi Khan



Dr Arawind Thatte



Ustad Shujaat Khan



Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar








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