AN INTRODUCTION TO INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC
Art in its mysticity is experienced in different forms all over the world. It is said that the culture of a place is directly reflected in the classical forms of its art. Indian music has an abundant, unbroken heritage that has been gathered for centuries together through its oral traditions. The origins of Indian classical music can be traced back to spirituality.
Many moons ago, it was confined to the walls of the temples and was also offered as a patronage to the palaces that dotted India. It has its own elaborate grammar and aesthetics and is also used as a form of worship where devotees offer ‘sound’ as their prayer. It has evolved into a synthesis of influences brought by the temple culture and the Mughal rulers.
They say that nothing can soothe your soul like Indian classical music. A well-rendered classical piece would have melodic magnetism married to aesthetic fulfilment.
Jugalbandi literally means ‘entwined twins’. In the context of Indian classical music, it refers to the coming together of voices or instruments in a duet. Each instrument has its own sound, and when they are brought together, they create magic. That is the beauty of a good jugalbandi. Both the musicians play off each other energies without any one sound dominating the other. When people express a higher form of consciousness, they truly connect to the music. It manifests through a multitude of emotions, each having its own aesthetic significance.
Over the years, musical maestros Pandit ShivKumar Sharma and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia have presented works that are deeply seeped in tradition yet seeking to reach into the infinite realm of creativity. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma is an Indian santoor player from Jammu and Kashmir. It is a 100-string delicate musical instrument that is played using a variety of techniques – plucking, rubbing, vibrating, strumming – each to deliver its own sound. In an attempt to celebrate the vitality of our musical landscape, we have a one-on-one conversation with both the maestros. First up, is Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma.
Q. The Shiv-Hari connection from the ‘Call of the Valley’ days to the ‘Valley Recalls’ to now – tell us how you’ve come along.
Hari and I did an LP in Sweden and we called it the Shiv-Hari combination. Later on it was released by HMV. After that we played a lot of jugalbandis abroad. ‘Valley Recalls’ was done by a London-based record company called Navras Records and was a recording of a live performance in Bombay.
In the 1970s, we toured together and in the beginning of 80s, we went solo. We are coming together after a long time and playing in Holland for the first time. And we are excited to see how this unfolds.
Q. What is the one thing you remember of when you met Hariji for the first time?
A. The first time we met was at a youth festival. I came from Jammu and Kashmir and he came from Cuttack. In 1961, we met in Bombay in a film recording studio. You meet so many people in life, but remain in touch with very few that you can call family.
We developed a bonding – with God’s grace – we have some previous birth connection. I have a feeling that this was destined. It cannot be explained in words, but our relationship, our bond, comes out in our playing. There is complete understanding and appreciation for each other as people and that reflects in our music.
Q. You are going to be performing in Holland for the first time together. Is there anything special for the audience?
A. I have played individually in Holland, but this is the first time that the Shiv-Hari duo is performing together. Indian classical music is based on two factors – what time of the day is the concert scheduled – we will choose the raag depending on the time of the day. The second factor is that what we play is not rehearsed – we improvise as we feed on each other’s energy. The beauty is that we first discuss the raag and take it further from there.
Q. What are you expecting from the audience?
A. My past experience of Holland has been very nice. I am coming to Holland after a few years and am curious to know about the changes. Our music is appreciated everywhere and we are looking forward to a receptive audience. The first and foremost is that we enjoy our own music and then the audience also automatically begins to enjoy it.
Q. What is the relationship between spirituality and Indian classical music?
A. Spirituality is the origin of classical music. It is meant for an inner experience. It relaxes you, calms you and creates a very happy feeling.
Q. What is your advice to the younger generation of classical musicians
A. Mere yeh maana hai ki (I believe that) you should never give advice unless it is sought for. Some young musicians personally ask me, and I can tell them what I think.
Q. What is Hariji’s favourite raag?
Hariji jo bajate hain, usme jaan daal dete hain. (He puts life into whatever he plays).
Q. What is the favourite film you’ve done together?
We had done some good work in Silsila.
Q. What has been your most memorable concert?
I have never been 100% satisfied with any of my concerts. I am a self-critic. But I do remember a moment from one of my concerts at the Osho ashram in Pune. I played for an hour and after I finished, nobody clapped and everyone was sitting in the same posture. I left the stage and the audience didn’t open their eyes, didn’t look at me and I didn’t play anymore. That for me, was the biggest compliment – when people connected with my music like spirituality.
Thank you Panditji for your time. We are looking forward to hearing the wonderful jugalbandi of Shiv-Hari perform in Holland for the first time on 25th June at 3 PM. More details here.
Author: Vipasha Tilak