Bring in music and dance into our cramming education!

World Music Day was celebrated in Bangalore on June 21 all over the world. In Bangalore it was celebrated on June 18, by the Bangalore-based Alliance Francaise de Bangalore! Its director Mr.Eric Rousseau (what a famous surname!) narrated how France started this day in 1982 and since then this event caught on in Europe. In Europe you can see youngsters, mostly in Germany and France, would gather in groups and singing in groups or playing the guitar is second nature to young students there. Not so in India. Here, somehow our youngsters, students and others, don’t have this spontaneity of giving expression to their musical an dance instincts. Isn’t our curetne education system killing any instincts for music or dance? Educators, please think!
Anyway, in a city like Bangalore which is witness to many different musics and dances, the music day would see not only music, modern and classical, jazz etc., there would be dances too, besides classical dances, there would be hip hop and salsa! Bangalore is now getting used to so many musical and dance expressions, thanks to fitness clubs that employ the latest fashions in these art forms.

There is so much urban reporting on musical performances. More in the urban India, more so in Bangalore, one sees too many foreign music bands, often ear-percing rock music peddled as entertainment and crowds throng in thousands.

But not so to the Indian classical music performances. These performances are often one-man organised events. The events take place in some inaccessible halls, often difficult to reach and more difficult to get back home after the programmes because of long distances of driving back.

There is nothing like the European cities where you have old musical halls in central locations, or better transport. The rock music concerts are big ticket affairs and so the crowds are commercially tapped!

It is a great pity that music and dances in which India has such a great classical past, is today cut off from our education, culture and day to day living. Are Indians not grown up artistically and culturally? Where are the educators who don’t ask such questions? What is education? What it is for? Music and dances appreciation is the very definition of any educated person!

Yes, music is not a thing that comes easily to minds when education is talked about. Not these days. When we say Indian classical heritage, we mean both the music and the classical dances. India can trace its musical hertiage to Vedic times and our shastriya sangeeth is as old. So, too the Indian dance style, the shiva tandav and rudra style, the famed Indian dance of shiva as beaten into classic bronzes in the South portray so graphically. Dance of Shiva is now an Indian image the world over. Ananda Kumarasamy had immortalised it, he did it ironically in America, in Boston.

The great Hindustani classical music is also very old, almost predates the European classical music that starts in the 17th and 18th centuries only. Now, the European classical music dominates Beethovan and Wagner are the ultimate symbols. Yet, when it comes to music or dance forms, it is the older European centres, Vienna and St.Petersburg that comes to mind. German music, Italian opera and Russian ballet that sums up the Western heritage. London is only a marketing outlet, always!

As for America we just now read in the New Statesman, that in spite of more than a century of efforts America couldn’t produce a Beethovan or a Wagner. All America could do is to invite outsiders, pay for them and make a show off! American culture doesn’t allow for classical elements. To have a high culture you need so many elements: a history, a memory, a sense of ethnic cohesion and of course a huamnist tradition, tolerance and an audience. American audience is, sawyed as much by George Bush brassness as by the market forces, mass culture, commercial culture of fast food, hollywood and Wal Mart! Berlin and Budapest is still a place for serious listening audience. Not so in the boisterous New York or Washington. Instead of symphony, it was symphony orchestra, a term coined in America, Chicago Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1891. There were many emigrees, Russians and Hungarians and others who lived in America and yet they could replicate a Berlin or Vienna atmosphere.

In India we have both the Hindustani classical music as well as the South Indian Carnatic classical music. So too the dance forms. Thanks to so many pioneers, we have now all the traditional dance forms from different regions revived and developed. Thus, Odissi is now as much pleasurable as Kathak or Bharata Natyam to watch and appreciate. Kelucharan Mahapatra is a living creation of the original Lord Nataraja sculpture. There are many inter-State exchange programmes we can promote and achieve the much talked about national integration.

Now the new generation of young Indian musicians, an L.Subramaniam or a Shubha Mudgal, bring altogether a new experience of the very same classical forms in different fusions or joining together of the Western and Indian artists. This is as it should be. India should go out and seek for new integrating elements in the truly global music of the universal reach, touching the hearts and minds of people cutting across diverse cultures.

At the same time, we need not be afraid of new experiments. Ravi Shankar and Balamurali Krishna have evolved new Ragas and they have also demonstrated Indian classical music can be improvised to newer aesthetic demands of the more demanding connoisseurs.

Uday Shankar and Tagore in their own ways contributed to the creative evolution of newer, free flowing experiments in dances and in the case of Tagore in Rabindra Sangeeth. Now, the new jargon is music makers, those who experiment, do fusion music. Why not?

The point is that India need to promote its classical musical heritage in a more confident manner, build more elegant music halls, at public expense and also send out more music and dance delegations to international meets. As it is, Indian music and dances are still being performed at privately constructed, old-fashioned cheap halls with no acoustics worthy of modern day standards. A nation becomes strong not only when it develops economically and also acquires modern weapons. A nation is taken seriously only when it has its classical past well-placed in the globalised world. For more meaning to the diverse cultures and peoples who inhabit this emerging planet of a more mixed cultures. Music and dances can give more material minded world a newer dimension of living. Americans do much for inviting the Indian musicians, both Carnatic and Hindustani, singers and instrumentalists and at lest helped top put Pandit Ravi Shanker and his sitar on the international stage. Also, the American press wrote so highly on the Indian classical music that today even urban Indians, for long learning traditional classical music was not part of the British-laid clerks-producing-education system, now at least try to imitate the West and there is brisk sales in all music shops! That is the modern day development in music listening and music appreciation!

One hopes with the education system also changing there is a more space for music in our education curriculams and many independent schools and colleges bring some pride to Indians by giving music teaching and music appreciation a higher priority!


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