29 December, 2009

Welcome 2010

As the world gets ready to welcome another year with great anticipation, maybe its time to do a little reflection about the past year. The Indian music world saw the loss of some of the greatest musicians of this century--Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, Smt. Gangubai Hanagal, Smt.D.K.Pattamal being the most famous of them. Each of these greats are institutions by themselves and their loss leaves a huge void in the music world. What however saddens me is to see how the media in India in general reacted to this loss. A few lines, a small announcement in maybe Page 8, a couple of minutes from the news channels, was all they could think of as a tribute to these legendary musicians. These same people had pages after pages, hour after hour devoted to the demise of Micheal Jackson so much so that months later, people are still getting news about him. Have we become so corrupt mentally that we are unable to recognize our own "jewels" unless its "news" that increases the TRP ratings of the news channels or sells more copies of the publications? This is not to undermine Micheal Jackson or his standing in the popular world. What he achieved in his life time was equally laudable but please, do appreciate and respect the contributions of the great masters of Classical music too. International newspapers had bigger articles on Khan saab than what was written by the media in our own country.

I come from the same state as the great Gangubaiji did---Karnataka and one of my interactions with her is something that will always be fresh in my memory. She had invited me to perform in the annual music festival that she organized in memory of her Guru--Sawai Gandharva in Kundkol near Hubli. This is a unique music festival that is held in the house where her Guru lived and where she and her Guru Bhai, the great Pandit Bhimsen Joshi ji learned. The whole village becomes your audience and people travel from nearby places for these 2 nights when artistes come to pay homage to the great musician. The year was either 1991 or 1992 in Oct and I had just started performing a few years ago. My turn to play came around 4 or 5am. There was not an inch of space anywhere and I remember playing my Guru's composition, Parameshwari that morning. As I always do, I was totally engrossed in my playing with my eyes closed and opened my eyes only after finishing my Alap and Jod portion. My Tabla accompanist that night, Shri Ravindra Yavagal asked me to look behind me. There was Gangubai ji sitting right behind me on stage. I was completely floored that such a great musician was sitting behind me on stage and listening to me. I immediately told her, "Amma, why dont you please sit in front or on a chair nearby?" She said that there was no place and she was more interested in listening to me rather than think that it is below her dignity as a senior artiste to sit behind me on stage. Such humility towards music where she taught me that "art" is greater than the "artiste". The blessings she gave me after my concert that night is something that I cherish and value. A truly great musician is always the most humble too.

So, as we end another year and get ready to welcome the next, let's all sensitize ourselves a bit more where we can give equal space to Classical Arts and Popular Arts.

A very happy 2010 to everyone!!