For Indians: Everyday is World Music Day

by June 21, 2018 0 comments

For Indians: Everyday is World Music DayThe idea of celebrating World Music Day for just 24 hours is a strange concept for country like India, where people celebrate music everyday anyway, says reporter Shailaja Khanna

The World Music Day, a phenomenon that started in 1982 in France, has no particular relevance in India, a country that celebrates music everyday anyway. While in the Western world,  a dedicated event is an occasion to listen to and perform music outside, in India there is no such need. Open air soirees and concerts have been an integral part of our lives, finding a place on every occasion, be it a birth, a wedding, an anniversary or indeed, even death. Music is so intrinsically woven into our life philosophy that we do not need to be reminded of allocating a special day to its pursuit.

Indian classical music has ancient origins and has been the subject of several texts from the 2nd century onwards, and has survived onslaughts from several other music traditions, including Persian. Based on a unique system of notes and their usage, called ragas and an intricate system of rhythms called taal, Indian classical music, both north and south Indian, is a highly developed sophisticated system unmatched anywhere in the world. It has been explored and researched in the minutest detail and remains an ever evolving system with innovations made constantly as it is heavily improvisational. It remains so vital a component of a musician’s very being that Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri once declared, “My music will tell you more about me than I ever can.”

The Sanskrit word raga has been translated to mean emotion and colour. Its rendering is linked with so many other ideas of mood (rasa), colour, seasons and time — concepts that don’t have anything to do with notes. Ragas can evoke the nine rasas or emotions – predominant being love (shringaar), peace (shanta) and melancholic solitude (vairagya). The visual depiction of ragas is enlightening too. There are six main ragas, pictorially always shown as males. Each of these ragas has eight feminine consorts called ragini and are visually shown as females. They further have eight sons or Ragaputras. The familial links are made due to the notes of the ragas that link them.  The visual depiction of ragas in the series of Ragamala paintings was started around the 15th century, (earliest known Ragamala paintings are from Gujarat around 1475) in various courts — Mughal, Deccan, Pahari, Rajasthani and Central Indian. The late Ustad Vilayat Khan, sitar maestro, agreed that he associated ragas with colours as well as images.

Such is the complexity of our music, that musician scholar Prof TS Sathyavathi recently delivered an entire lecture on the importance of time in Indian music. In her words, “Time plays a very important role; a composition that is to be rendered at a particular speed, must be only at that speed, neither faster nor slower. If you don’t sing it within the correct time frame, if you stretch it too much it becomes a different raga or it loses its impact. If you sing it too fast or even too slow, you are losing the essence of the composition.”

Therapy through music is well-known, and used all over the world, whether in a medical sense or to relax for well-being therapy. Music therapy offers hope to children with mental disorders, cancer patients, geriatric patients with brain disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, nerve-related problems like strokes, heart patients amongst others are helped by music therapy. Many doctors claim that people who have had heart attacks should be exposed to music therapy to reduce the chance of infarction.

There is an interesting documented incident in 1933 of Pt Omkarnath Thakur singing Raga Puriya to cure the Italian dictator Mussolini insomnia (apparently he fell into a deep sleep within half an hour), and of the latter offering him the post of researcher in music therapy!

Truly, we in India cannot make do with just one day in the year dedicated to music.

Writer: Shailaja Khanna

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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