A few points to share….

Dear Readers,

My laptop chose an opportune moment to fall sick. It is now confined to the portals of  a service centre and is hopelessly waiting for some healing touch. The quotation that I received from the service guys is mind boggling to say the least. So that explains the delay in response to a few queries and comments. Sorry for the inconvenience. I will attend to the same asap.

However, I do have a few interesting articles that I wish to share with you today.  Mr. K.T. Jagannathan and Mr. Ragothamman shared these links with me and I would like to share the same with all of you.

1. The first, is an article written  by Sarod Maestro Amjat Ali Khan as the Guest Editor for the day at ET. I tried finding the URL… but couldnt do so. So I post the transcript that was sent to me as is…In this piece the Maestro shares his opinion on the state of patronage for arts, Music in particular.

“Music is a precious gift of God. Every human being is born with sound and rhythm. The heart beats or pulse rates in a variety of tempos are

indications of rhythm. Conversations, recitation, chanting, singing are all part of music. A poet’s muse for his lady love is music. So is a devotee’s hymns sung in the name of the almighty. Music is all-encompassing. It’s compassion; it’s passion. It holds a self’s emotions within the body and binds many human beings of various hues and diverse cultures together in harmony.

Since time immemorial, music has had the patronage of emperors, kings and the high and mighty of society. During the reign of the Mughals, for instance, especially when Emperor Akbar was king, the ruling class truly encouraged classical music. The greatest singer and musician of that era, the legendary Tansen, was called one of Akbar’s nine jewels or Navaratnas. Swami Haridas of Vrindavan, Mathura was Miyan Tansen’s guru. Our forefathers and we are the humble representatives of this great legacy of Swami Haridas and Miyan Tansen.

Indeed, most of the rulers who patronised music were not very well versed about the technical aspects and intricacies of classical music. There were a few exceptions though—some rajas, nawabs and maharajas, who were aware of the depth and beauty of classical music and extended respect and love to musicians. They in fact took pride in the fact that they were patronising some of these great artists. Having them in their court was considered a great honour. Of course, it goes without saying that there were also musicians who considered having to entertain rich patrons who were ignorant about the technical aspects of Indian classical music, as a great punishment.

Yet, they had to keep the show going! Credit goes to all the rulers of the world who patronised creative people such as my own forefathers, who incidentally were the court musicians of Gwalior. The 5,000 years’ journey of Indian classical music has been on trust, faith, sadhana and complete renouncement to the Guru and God. Needless to say, patrons in every era and its rulers also played a very important role.

It however isn’t the same today. I remember playing on one December 6, at a Nehru Park festival in Delhi. Nearly 10,000 people had thronged the venue. But I realised soon that there wasn’t a single policeman to guard the venue. I realised that our leaders would rather protect themselves than an artist, who should be treated instead as a national treasure.

I play around the world, but India, and especially Delhi, is perhaps the only place where there is no concept of ticketed shows. Here, sponsors claim they are helping you, but they would instead make money and score lots of brownie points by giving away free passes. When something is free, there is no value to it. I have performed at shows and seen people coming there to just be part of an eclectic crowd. They don’t love music. They just don’t want to miss an important occasion to be noticed. It is a great disservice to music and musicians. I hope corporate houses and sponsors will start promoting ticketed shows around the country. Nothing’s more satisfying to an artist than to know that his show is a sell-out.
In recent times, our country has been obsessed with Bollywood music and dances. The western world always had Hollywood but fortunately it could balance the value of all art forms beautifully. So much so that the Western Classical music industry has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry, with artists of the calibre of Isaac Pearlman, Anne Sophie Mutter and Yo Yo Ma being the greatest examples. They still hold their traditional opera and symphony of legends like Bach, Beethoven and Wagner in the most spectacular presentations even while Beyonce and Michael Jackson grew up the popularity charts! In India, I am worried about a cultural destruction and an uncultured aggression.

But there may be a way out if some of our corporates and young leaders can come forward and promote the artists and their art. Today the whole world is interested in sports, mainly because there is an element of winning and losing in every game. Fortunately, in classical music, there is no such competition where one has to lose or win. It is only a long journey in search of excellence and perfection just like sports. Even here, you are as good as your last game. In this case, your last concert and there are no retakes! I hope that we have a counter part of IPL for the music industry soon.

Having said that I have great hopes and expectations from all our young leaders and politicians too. They have to bring about policies that inculcate a sense of appreciation for music among the young people of this great country. Corporate and political patronage is a must to promote music anywhere in the world. Somewhere, I feel, we have slipped. And traditional musicians aren’t being given their due credit. Once the mindset changes, music will be a bigger industry.

From the school level onwards, we have to inculcate and inject love, compassion, discipline and kindness in the mind of our children. I have taught at many universities in the US and Europe. My first professorship was in York University in England in 1995. I spent a month there teaching students who were learning Western Classical music. Here too, I prepared an orchestra where all the students performed the pieces they had learnt in the University Hall at the end of the course.

I recall an interesting incident after the concert at York University. I asked Prof Niel Sorrell, the head of the music department, as to why the vice-chancellor of the University did not meet me after the concert as he was in the audience. I understand that as he was coming up to meet me he said: “I don’t think that I am properly dressed to meet the Maestro!” I thought that this was an ultimate way to show respect to not just an artist but to any person we are meeting for the first time. I wish our universities become centres of music research as well. “

2. The second is a link to an article by Suganthy Krishnamachari featured in “The Hindu”. http://beta.thehindu.com/arts/history-and-culture/article304265.ece

This write up discusses the wok of Prof. Dr. Murugesan, Professor Emeritus, Folklore Department, Tamil University with respect to tracing the origin and development of “poikaalkuthirai”. What really got me thinking was this quote towards the end of the article.

” One does not need to invest an art form with antiquity to make it appealing.”- Prof. Murugesan

3. The last is a link to page in Narthaki, where the recent SNA award winners share their comments. http://narthaki.com/info/rev10/rev864.html

For those who are too busy to read the complete acceptance speech excerpts from the celebreties, I would just like bring your attention to parts of it (from Leela Venkatraman, the dance critic and  the dancer, Vyjayanthi Kashi)

Says Leela “… At times, I have had a feeling of deep loneliness, for there are thoughts which cannot be shared. I also have realised that there are many aspects at work in the dance scene and even the frankest critic cannot write all that one would like to. There are things which can never be printed without creating an upheaval of a type that is not desirable. So such thoughts are kept to oneself, and will go with one to the grave.

….I am very appreciative of the younger lot of dancers who take criticism in the right spirit and do not flinch when told something is not correct. Most of our good dancers among the younger crowd will go far because they have the right approach. And I strongly feel that it is this group that really needs constructive criticism.

For long, I have felt that for the dancer who has really arrived so to speak, there is little need of a critic’s writings – not that the power of the pen can ever make or break any artist – it can however give a boost to the young dancer at the right time.

Talking about senior dancers who have always been very uncomfortable with criticism, a close friend of mine told me what happened recently when he asked a highly placed person of Times of India as to why the paper had stopped critiquing articles, the answer was that the staff had got fed up of the constant whining of dancers who could never take any criticism and had decided that it was best to do away with assessing dance performances! He said that political interference was also sought in cases against certain critics. The paper felt enough is enough. Will The Hindu take a similar view? Hope not!” 

One cant help but connecting this to Vyjayanthi Kashi has to say..

“Today as I recall my first review and the consolation of my Guru Acharyalu … I am happy that the “not fit to be a dancer” statement made me work hard enough to receive the SNA award.”- Vyjayanthi

4 responses to “A few points to share….

  1. Leela should have named the “senior dancers who have always been very uncomfortable with criticism”. Who sought political interference in cases against certain critics? If Leela is afraid to name the names, she is merely a coward, and cowards deserve to feel lonely.

    When she said that “the frankest critic cannot write all that one would like to”, she forgot one exception: Ashwini Shankar. 🙂

    Times of India recently introduced “Most promising Bharatanatyam dancer” award. In the adults category, the judge (a more or less “senior dancer”) gave this award to… her own daughter whose picture – in the Odissi (!) costume – was proudly printed in Chennai Times.

    So, would Sangeetha put a new poll on her blog:
    “Is it OK for a Bharatanatyam judge to give the first prize to her own daughter who specializes in Odissi?”

    Hi Ashwini,
    I think when LV said “the frankest critic cannot write all that one would like to”.. she didnt really mean about the anonymous writing on the internet. I think it should be way harder if one had to associate his/her “real ” self with what they write, especially if they had some real nasty things to say. That’s why probably people give that more credence too!


  2. true sangeetha.Ashwini stop whining and start dancing!! pahh like i have said before you poor frustrated (……….)!

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