Archive for February 2016
I believe in calling a spade a spade though I have been misquoted a bit in this article and the accompanying interview in the Patrika Gwalior today. I SMSed the main points in my reply to the journalist and did not name any individuals, but said that programs must have diversity within and across genres and present new faces and the best young talents need to be given the stage SOLO – not in groups and contrived duets or jugalbandis that are of little value in establishing an artist’s image and career. The arbitrariness of the system and the behind the scenes insidious mechanisms that inevitably develop in a system that lacks connoisseurship and norms of any kind has denied opportunities to the best young talents of dhrupad for the last 25 years. This is also true of pakhavaj and all other genres. Two students of the Dhrupad Kendra Bhopal and two of the Dhrupad Kendra Gwalior have got national scholarships and national level awards in competitions recently but like the best young talents of the last 20 years in Dhrupad they are constantly denied the stage.
A system that lacks discretion and connoisseurship will commodify and destroy our arts. The process is already in an advanced stage not only in Dhrupad but across the arts in the country. Who decides what is good? Government Ministers? Bureaucrats? The Market Forces? or the well connected who have perfected the art of exchanging privileges within the system? In Germany it would be unthinkable for a Government minister or bureaucrat to call up the Berlin Philharmonic or the Schaubühne Theater Berlin and recommend the name of an artist or influence the artistic program, although these are completely State funded institutions. Here in India we all know that this routinely happens and is in some ways the de-facto norm. Institutional patronage with well defined norms and precedents and connoisseurship and discretion can create niche audiences for arts and isolate them from the brute forces of the market as for instance in Western Europe. It is the need of the hour in India to ponder on these issues or else what will remain of our arts will be hollow empty commodified shells. The process is already in an advanced stage across the arts.
Young pakhavaj player Sukhad Munde’s spirited defence of the organization of the Gwalior festival on my facebook post of this article is very welcome and heartening to read. Here is a young artist who also has the courage to engage in debate – because debate is precisely what is needed. He argued that a young player like himself was given a chance and also that the seven or eight dhrupad artists who came last year and also this year and presumably will also come next year, made the occasion memorable and that above all it is the music that counts! My response is that the inclusion of one or two young artists in such events are TOKENISMS THAT DON’T COUNT – they are precisely meant to silence critics and divert attention from the larger and systemic wrongdoings. Last year too a young artist who plays dhrupad on guitar was included. What is important is not their inclusion but the SYSTEMATIC EXCULSION of a very large number who are inconvenient to the powers that be. This year there was again a contrived duet of two past students of dhrupad kendra bhopal that neither can be possibly happy about. Such duets will not enable either of them to create an impression or even perform well. The whole point is that there is no system in place, no norms to ensure diversity of representation or identify and promote diverse young talent and give them a platform on a consistent basis. On the contrary there is the deliberate exclusion and marginalization of precisely the emerging talent and older inconvenient artists of merit who are seen as a threat to the oligarchies and their cosy give and take arrangements. This is what destroys music by destroying its richness and diversity. This is what will commodify and destroy the arts by removing their inner richness. This is how an arbitrary and corrupt system kills institutions and kills the arts. Tokenisms like including one or two young artists who are convenient make no difference at all.
I fully agree with Sukhad Munde that the music is above all, which is precisely why it needs to be liberated from these insidious mechanisms that have crept into our arts in the post-independence era of bureaucratic patronage. I have written about these things in detail in my forthcoming book on dhrupad – Dhrupad of the Dagars, Conceptual Foundations and Contemporary Questions. In the days of old even unknown artists could come to the durbars of maharajas and got an audience from the maharaja and the gunis and if they had merit got not just praise but also handsome purses and also appointments and in some cases even the revenue from a village or two to sustain a whole gurukul. The great Sarangi player Bundu Khan came to Indore in the 19th Century in tattered clothes and got summoned by the Maharaja and received an appointment on showing his art at the durbar. But of course it needed great preparation courage and confidence to sing or play before the adalat of gunijans. Today known young and older talents of merit who are perceived to be inconvenient are SYSTEMATICALLY EXCLUDED. This destroys diversity and richness and creates homogenized and commodified versions of art forms. This is what is creating PIZZA AND BURGER DHRUPAD today.
My Guru Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar would often speak of the difficulty of presenting the subtle aspects of sound and resonance in dhrupad with microphones and amplification. I have found that the most satisfying performances are always in fine natural acoustics. One of my favourite recordings is this one in a small space in Copenhagen with a high ceiling and wonderful acoustics.
Rahim Fahimuddin Dagar would often talk of pakhāvaj accompaniment that follows the aṅgs of singing, for improvisation in dhrupad compositions is a demonstration of the facets or aṅgs of the rāga within the constraint of the lyrics of the composition and the structure of the tāla – its inner subdivisions and points of emphasis – the tālī and khālī. He would praise the accompaniment of pakhāvaj players like the famed Ayodhya Prasad and Govindrao Burhanpurkar with his father that he heard in his youth.
Here is an example of the kind of pakhāvaj accompaniment he talked about – most probably by Ayodhya Prasad. A very perceptive account of his pakhāvaj playing is given by S. K. Choubey in his essay – Pandit Ayodhya Prasad in Musicians I Have Met (Uttar Pradesh State Publications Department 1958). This and other essays in Choubey’s book are also examples of the kind of critical writing on art and the discussions that went on in musical circles in the pre-Independence era when people freely expressed their opinions and an article on a musician or a performance could also be a critique of some or all aspects unlike articles now which merely express banalities and fulsome praise. I have dealt in detail with many of these aspects in my book Dhrupad of the Dagars – Conceptual Foundations and Contemporary Questions, which is about to go to the press.