Classical music in democratic times!

From the Tanjore Court  to Madras Music Academy

A social history of music in South India By Lakshmi Subramanian, OUP, 2006, pp 196

The rise and fall of classical music? Not necessarily!

It is always great to be a connoisseur of classical music, arts. Only a high society that appreciates the great classical arts, music, dance and much else, can sustain  a high culture.

Seen in this perspective, the Indian music and dance, more so the  Carnatic music and Bharata Natyam, had got revived thanks to many promotional interventions, but somehow, the arts got stuck in a middle class mindset.

First, the book. A curious  title  I thought when I ordered the book from my usual bookshop supplier. Why curious? What is special about the South Indian music, called as Carnatic music, and the link between the Tanjore Court and the Madras Music Academy?

So, I read through the pages and found the book is making some new contributions to our understanding of how Carnatic music evolved. For long there was no objective writing on the Carnatic music by those based in Chennai, being mostly Brahmins, these musical experts, they have a way of  eulogising music as if it was a divine gift from Tyagaraja and as if it is the beginning and end of music!

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Sen’s new book seems to raise some questions about which there can be diverse arguments. Sen doesn’t tell the whole truth. Much of the misrepresentation and distortion of Indian diversity and Indian character had been done by the Britons. These distortions we Indians had come to believe, more so the Western-educated Indians themselves.
I am a bit embarrassed to thrown names that are too big and intimidating to the average Indian readers. I mean Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics and also our Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh. The provocation for this piece was the news that recently when asked about his pastime the Prime Minister m mentioned that” just he had finished reading Sen’s recent bestseller,” Argumentative Indian”. I was not surprised to find the book a bestseller. It carries the imprint of an Indian Nobel Prize winner.

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By David Crystal, Cambridge, pp 200,2003

A timely book for India,  for educators as well as  the general readers. English today is spoken by some 15 crore people world wide. English is a mother tongue in USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and in South Africa and several Carribean countries. Spanish is spoken in some twenty countries in Latin America. French lost its status,in Algeria French was replaced by English in schools. English is an official language in several countries notably in India. Yet, English language as a global language faces resistance in several countries by language riots, hunger strikes. Language deaths, again India is an example.

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By O.P. Kejriwal, pages 293, 1999, OUP

O.P. Kejriwal

This  is a rare book. A history of the history books on India. A band of Englishmen who came to India as servants of the Empire, went on to make their names immortals, as discovers of the Sanskrit language, translators of Sakuntala, Bhagavad Gita, Rig Veda and other classics that wee till then lying in palm manucripts or in the possessions of brahmins who didn’t show them to any outsiders.

I want Indians to remember this; there was also already in existence in Caclutta itself for half a century the Asiatic Society of Bengal (founded on January 15, 1784). Under the leadership of Sir William Jones (1746 – 1794) had made the first discoveries of India’s past and established a scientific chronology of Indian rulers and their dynastie. Jones who assembled around him, in his lifetime (he died a premature death in his 48th year) and after him a succession of Englishmen all turned into remakable individuals and great scholars who mastered Sanskrit, skills in deciphering Asokan edicts and other obscure inscriptions that all turned out to be landmarks in Indian history and scholarship. Each name is worth writing about in details. Such was the pioneering work that later proved to a historic step and a revolution in knowing India’s past. This story of the half a century of a legacy of establishing and provding India as a world  civilization makes Macaulay now a pigmy.

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What British colonial histories said of India was not true!

Ethnology and travel in Renaissance Europe visitors to South India 1250 – 1625

This is a very important  publication for all  Indians who are interested to know the India as it evolved in the last 700 years. The development of knowledge in Europe as arose in the European (Italian) Renaissance  to  the  18th century European Enlightenment. How the European travellers to South India,Tamil Nadu, as missionaries encountered the Hindu religion, how the Christian belief system encountered the Hindu customs like sati,caste hierarchies, how the Indian languages. Sanskrit contained new wisdom,  how  the  missionaries Renaissance experiences led them to learn the local languages,write treatises on Christian faith and in the process wrote first the  Indian  languages grammar, then develop the prose writing. They printed Tamil books in Tamil character as early as 1576.

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