Music is for the soul; it is the oldest language of feeling and passion that transcends barriers like language, religion, region, etc. It unites people from all walks of life. It beguiles the senses, sets your mind free from the innate practicalities of life and creates a little space of escape where you can let the music empower, inspire and relax your mind.
For generations, people have used this medium to not only express themselves, but also to reach out to millions of other people. From the elusive folk music passed down from generations, to the emerging underground hip-hop music—it is dynamic and constantly evolving.
The recent trend of remixing old classic songs has garnered a lot of criticism for being lazy, showcasing lack of imagination, and being an easy alternative to earning quick money rather than by producing original music. However, India is not short of music or ideas. This diverse country has countless genres, instruments, and musicians with their unique music style still holding the power to enthrall the senses.
In a candid conversation, Sayani Rakshit, a member of Sangeetika, the Indian music society of Kamala Nehru College elaborates on classical music. She considers classical music to be permutations and combinations of ragas. These ragas are based on fixed set of seven notes which are combined in various ways to create countless melodies and compositions.
She further says, “Classical music is the deepest form of music that exists. There is no end to it, it has countless ragas. You have the most amount of scope here for creativity. For example, if am singing a composition, a bandish, I cannot tamper with the boundaries—but within the boundaries set by the raga, there is a lot of scope for creativity.”
Sayani mentions,“Beauty of classical music is in its routine. Ragas are sung at a particular time of the day. This is done because the notes have certain moods associated with them, which when sung at the right time are more impactful.”
She also adds, “I used to hate classical music when I first started out, but with a lot of practice and understanding, I am now an admirer of classical music. You need to understand the music in its various nuances and subtleties to appreciate it fully. This is why it is not very popular, because a person needs to understand various intricacies involved with this music to truly appreciate it.”
The underground hip-hop scene is rife with music that is politically and socially impactful. It is inspired and imaginative, hitting their audience with clean precision. Mcfreezak, a Delhi-based artist who is part of the Khirkee collective considers commercial hip-hop to be scripted. It feels artificial, highly constructed and fake, which loses the appeal of everything that real hip-hop aspires to be. Since it is not real, it is not able to connect with the real masses. Whereas their rap is grounded with the people and connects with their issues.
Mahima Dayal, famously known as Bawari Basanti, is a Hindustani classical and folk singer with a debut album “Underwater”. In a conversation with her, she shares her thoughts on folk music and considers it to be all about story telling and sharing wisdom. It’s one of the few art forms that cannot be taught, but is gained through osmosis.
She elaborates, “When I listen to manganihars, I can feel the sand falling through my fingers. Similarly, listening to bhangra and gidda music instantly puts an ecstatic smile on my face. This happens because folk music is a rustic reflection of our society and listening to it makes us feel more real. There is no pretence in the sound.”
Murshidabadi Project collaborates with musicians from all across the globe and specialises in simple yet peaceful Sufi music. He says, “Sufism talks about love and knowing the self to meet the divine. Its music is ideally raw and doesn’t require much accompaniment.”
According to him, Sufism is relevant in the present socio-political situation as it talks about love, peace and harmony. However, the mainstream audience is not in touch with it, as they do not have any choice as to the content that they choose to consume. The internet and television is so overpowered by the filmy music, that other genres do not get a platform.
As various classical genres of music struggle to gain ground in the contemporary demand trends of the music industry, a certain shift in the tastes and preferences of the audiences also can be easily observed in the subcontinent. Independent pop-rock band The Local Train or Indie artist Prateek Kuhad’s rise to fame is a testament to the previously mentioned shift in consumption. As new genres are on the rise, the idea of striking a balance between the contemporary and classical demands acknowledgement in the music industry.
Feature Image Credits: Vaibhav Tekchandani for DU Beat