Book Review: Shāstra, Shikshan Va Prayōg

By Dr. Padmaja Misra



BhāratīyaShāstrīya Sangīt: Shāstra, Shikshan Va Prayōg






Music perhaps holds the strongest appeal to global citizen, but only as form of entertainment. Manufacturers plan their gadgets to include the ability to store / play / transmit music. All relaxation activities and some times at work too, music runs constantly in background. It therefore comes as a surprise through this book that the scholars, conscious of music's popular appeal are happily engaged in going back to roots to cherish and nourish its fundamental classical form. By its longish title, Bhāratīya Shāstrīya Sangīt: Shāstra, Shikshan Va Prayōg sounds to be some academic commentary on aspects of ancient Indian music with little contemporary appeal. But soon as one turns the pages, the colourful Ragamala paintings wash away such prejudices. Rajiv Trivedi explains in his editorial how papers were invited for Omenad Symposium with innovations envisaged in areas related to scholarship, teaching and practice of Indian classical music.

The first section -- Shāstra -- contains only four articles but they present a holistic span of Indian music. Dr. Bageshri Joshi unravels the mystery of Raga concept from ancient to modern times referring to such virtuosos as Pt. Kumar Gandharva and Vidushi Kishori Amonkar. She says that while word is the external shell, sound is the intrinsic essence of a Raga. Together they give rise to motion or speed which is essentially a dialogue between the two. But when at some particular point the speed reduces till the motion disappears, the idea is born. This idea is responsible for manifesting the secret of the Raga. The duality is further examined by Dr. Santosh Pathak as the uniting force resulting from interaction between the medium and expression. Lucidly, he brings this philosophical question to level of practical application, tracing motivation and training of an artiste to the instruments he chooses to play or innovate. Ustad Allauddin Khan's search for adequate expression makes him modify, innovate and create new instruments.

Dr. Naval Krishna, who traces his lineage as art critic to grandfather Rai Krishna Das, too takes up a philosophical inquiry. How far is it possible to represent the content of one medium through another? On one hand, the scholar gives insight into Indian miniature paintings, on the other he conveys how more poetic than musical beliefs might have been responsible for Ragamala paintings. The section ends on a contemporary note where Dr. Rajiv Trivedi examines the scope for classicism in art in the present century. He forwards a hypothesis that fundamentals of Indian music system are such that paradigm of realism / modernism / post-modernism is contained within; yet, the increasing focus on fragmentation objectivity and materialism have eroded elements like faith and imagination without which, evolution suffers.

The second or middle section (Shikshan) sounds like manifesto of OMENAD (the goals and aspiration for imparting knowledge of Indian Classical Music) with a number of scholarly articles on education of music. Obviously, some facts and principles are repetitive, but that is what education is all about. Still, Dr. Wad is vocal about changes required in present institutional music system while Abha and Vibha Chorasiya come up with very practical suggestions about teaching music to students in the modern age. Bindu Juneja and Vibha Nagar examine teaching practices in Indian dance. Other scholars like Poonam Khare, Divyata Jain too have some interesting points.

It seems that innovation is at best when we come to practice of music. The final section of the book (Prayōg) contains five interesting articles. Although music-healing is by no means a novelty (Prof. Lalit Kishore Singh, in the preface of his 1954 book, Dhwani Aur Sangeet, speaks of it as fancier aspect of music research), Dr. Sharada Velankar examines the validity of presumptions on which music is structured as therapy. There is a brief note about Ranjan Veena by artiste-inventor Niranjan Haldar. A sketch detailing this new instrument is quite useful. However, more elaborate information could have been given. Dr. Sudha Dixit puts forth arguments in favour of her thesis that orchestration would ensure longevity of Indian music. For those readers who are moved by her belief, notation of the orchestral composition presented at Omenad Symposium is also included.

While most research papers are objective, didactic statements, the paper by Mr. G. Rajnarayan provides a wonderful insight into the subject despite (or perhaps, because of it) sounding like an autobiographical piece. The CEO of Radel India, Mr. Rajnarayan is both a first-rate musician and a first-rate engineer. Indeed, the development of Indian electronic instruments is a by-product this inventor's evolution. This slim volume shall be remembered for carrying the first ever tale of electronic Tanpura, Tabla, Lahra-peti in inventor's own words.

But that is not all. To match the hardware, there is also the software. Electronic instruments may said to be the greatest invention in field of Indian music which granted greater universal appeal to Indian classical music, but the innovation that would truly drive this genre towards global acceptance is the new notation system. When one begins to read Dr. Ragini Trivedi's paper, one can't help being impressed by her scholarship. She traces the various attempts made during ancient, mediaeval and modern times and points out how western notation system is unable to represent Raga-music accurately. But one is astounded when her theoretical points create a new notation system right there. The Ome Swarlipi may have some weak points but none that were apparent to writer of these lines. The notation system is free of Devnagari script; in fact, it uses simple symbols for seven notes and many other symbols already used in existing systems. Simplicity and printer-friendliness of this system are sure to result in publication of many compsitions which could not be represented due to complexity.

The book uses easy-to-read Hindi font and is neatly presented. However, for a book with so much fire-power, the title and minimalistic statements on back cover are too bare. A casual reader might pass this volume over for some glossier one. It takes a lot of courage to say, "His loss".


Bhāratīya Shāstrīya Sangīt: Shāstra, Shikshan Va Prayōg

First Edition: June 2008.

ISBN:  978-81-8097-115-0

Published by:

Sāhitya Sangam, New 100, Lookerganj, Allāhābād. INDIA

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Bharatiya Sangeet Vadya on wikipedia

Raga Vibodh: Misrabani

Sitar Compositions in Ome Swarlipi

Raga Rupanjali

Raga - Ranjan

List of books on music.

Musical tracks.

Annotated compositions.

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