Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Bonding Voices Blending Strings


photo3He is pretty weak – one might say, fragile – these days. For the necessary movements, he prefers to walk on his own, holding on to wall and furniture rather than take human help. Failing eyesight makes it difficult for him to recognize people unless they come close under bright light. The speech falters and one wonders if he is meeting the famed musician and composer who carved his signature in playing Santoor and created a whole new choir based on Indian classical music. Pt. Omprakash Chourasiya, one of the senior players of Santoor, established Madhukali Vrind with the express of reviving the ancient tradition of orchestration and choral singing. Instead of Vedic hymns he chose poems of national poets. All these poets, in their own way, had contributed to enriching the modern Hindi language.

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Veena Heritage Alive



Music has been as much a discipline for study as it has been an art-form. Natural ease with musical expression had prompted Dr. Lalmani Misra to try out various instruments. It was both, the extra-ordinary quality of the instrument and the diminishing number of its practitioners, that he decided to take up Vichitra Veena.  By the daytime he played and taught various instruments to students, at night, he played Vichitra Veena working out ways to exploit the range of this grand incarnation of Ektantri Veena.

Invited to initiate study of Indian classical music, when he reached America, willing students enrolled to learn melody-based structured system. By now, the continent was familiar with sound of Sitar and Sarod. The deep tonal sound of Vichitra Veena accorded a new experience. He was invited to play at one venue after other and soon invites from other cities started floating in. Dr. Misra was a teacher first and so had to defer several of them.

Back to his duties as Dean, Faculty of Performing Arts and Fine Arts, at B.H.U. he had still less time to give public recitals. He could find time only for the Akashvani recordings at due intervals and for occasional  recitals at Malviya Bhawan in B.H.U.,  and in the city. So, it was in America that he could play Vichitra Veena in public at least once a week. A prodigy, he had started out being an artiste  at an early age and having experienced this life to full, accepted the role of an academic in his thirties.  Never had he stopped playing; but, little benefit would reach public, as his academic responsibilities kept him from public performances.   Almost two decades later, he could perform with some regularity.

4PAN1TIf all his recordings are preserved, Akashvani would have over fifty Raga-s he played on Vichitra Veena. If all these recordings find the light of day the quality of appreciation of Indian music is sure to improve. For the time being, it is his live recordings in America that are surer to reach the listeners. These recordings were preserved with care first  by son Gopal Shankar Misra and after his death on August 13, 1999, by daughter-in-law Padmaja Misra. On this occasion, Dr. Padmaja Misra said, “If Akashvani publishes even a few of  their (Dr. Lalmani Misra and Dr. Gopal Shankar Misra) recordings, it shall greatly benefit as example and encouragement to Veena players.” It would indeed make it easier to understand and practice the Misrabani style, if both father and son’s recordings were made available. Some of these recordings may have been collected on cassettes after broadcast, but Akashvani alone has the original tapes. Till then, it is only recitals recorded in America that might reach the audience. The music world shall be deeply indebted to his American disciples, especially Nancy Nalbandian, for recording Dr. Misra’s Vichitra Veena performances.

In the first volume of Misrabani Vichitra Veena heritage aLive, RagaMalgunji and Raga Bhupali have been presented. The technique of Misrabani makes both presentations unique. Pt. Ishwarlal Mishra accompanied on Tabla. The CD is contained in a digi-pack and album cover displays a close up of Veena being played from one of the photographs taken during recital.  The music is available from several online music stores both for download and as compact disc.

Continuity called heritage


Over two years back, Madhukali invited unpublished analog recordings of Indian classical music in self-raised or inherited collections. Unplucked flowers, in mysterious ways, may turn into gems to be discovered by the fortunate. Heritage, like all things natural, is a presence waiting to be recognized. In a country rich in heritage like India, many scions of musicians families are blessed with letters, photographs and recordings of their ancestors. Yet, the urgent necessities of immediate life keep pushing the care of their inheritance off till they verge on brink of oblivion. Some music was received; not all of it can be restored fully or published at once. Commemorating the tenth anniversary of  UNESCO Convention 2003 for Safeguarding of  Intangible Cultural Heritage, Madhukali has released three compact discs restored from analog originals.

cdWork is also on progress for restoration and digitization of recordings of Dr. Lalmani Misra’s live recitals on Vichitra Veena, Sitar and other instruments as well as  wealth of  knowledge in lectures and lessons on Raga-s and essentials of Indian classical music. Apart from rich listening experience that each Raga recital provides, the collection is significant in another way. It constitutes an elaborate illustration of the Misrabani technique and style. How through  adequate application of Mizrab Bol-s, an artiste may create compositions starting from any beat in any Tal.

Dr. Misra had initiated a course in Indian music at University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia in 1969. He taught there off and on throughout the seventies. Many of the recitals he presented in Philadelphia, New York and other cities were recorded by disciples . Almost all recitals were in different Raga-s. The students benefitted from such rich resource by making copies from the original tapes. It is possible that such copies may still be available with them while a few originals have been misplaced or deteriorated beyond restoration.  It would benefit the music world if  copies of such recordings are added to the main collection available with Dr. Misra’s family.  Madhukali in collaboration with Misrabani, would soon release the first volume to commemorate the birth anniversary of Dr. Lalmani Misra on 11th August.

Tribute to Shankars: On Art & Human Warmth


As recalled by Pt. Omprakash Chourasiya

Ample literature is available on contribution of Pandit Udayshankar and Pandit Ravishankar in getting universal acclaim for Indian classical music and dance. Topmost celebrities and experts from around the world have highlighted their qualities. During the period when I was in process of being recognized RaviOmprakashas an upcoming artiste of Santoor, it was divine intervention that I was granted access to both of these stalwarts as a family-friend. I was blessed with their kind concern. This clearly indicated that with these great celebrities the only thing which counted was music. A scholar of music was musician first, anything else besides, and therefore, worthy of their attention.

Ravi ji’s elder brother Udayshankar had become active as early as 1930s, touring round the globe with his ballet troupe and earning kudos for Indian art. The troupe required live music and for some time Ravishankar ji too acted as music director for the troupe. When after a brief stint, Ustad Allauddin Khan too expressed his inability to travel with the troupe Pandit Lalmani Misra was requested to accompany the troupe. For several years during late forties and early fifties, Pandit Misra travelled creating novel orchestral compositions.

Click here to read Tribute to Pandit Udayshankar and Pandit Ravishankar by Pt. Omprakash Chourasiya

Music Learning in Digital Age


Urgency for conservation and continuation of heritage practices is unquestionably enhanced now, in comparison to even a mere century back. The awareness, better still, concern has always been there.  If all past knowledge is preserved in condensed, usable form, the given discipline is assured of health and growth. When the essence gets buried under innovation, the discipline itself is lost.

1It does not suffice to trace the origin of Indian Veena-s or of Harappan civilization; it is also necessary to examine how the idea and facts  of yore are still relevant. Often, individuals as well as institutions make the mistake of equating the form of practice as its essence. They err to consider completion of act in mere repetition of  tangible patterns.

Of all others, music is intangible most art form. Its teaching and training requires development of strong understanding between teacher and the taught. Indian musicians in past tended to disregard any other form of learning, which fell short of absolute one-to-one teaching. Thankfully, there always have been some unconventional musicians who kept the stream of scholarship vibrant, constantly  documenting, analyzing and directing the  practice of music.

It is scholar-musicians of this timbre who dare to defy the physical contact and move into realm of distance education. It involves intangibility at an extra level – that of not being physically present. Strangely, technology sometimes overpowers existing intangibility in hitherto unimagined ways. Like, providing tactile feedback to fingers of student

From formulating requisites  for teaching of Indian Music in the distance mode to actual innovation and practices, scholars from around the world contribute their ideas and experiences in this groundbreaking compilation –   Distance Education in Music. Edited by founder director of Madhukali, Pt. Omprakash Chouraisya, the volume carries the research paper in original language and its translation in Hindi or English. Published by Kanishka Publishers, Dariyaganj, Delhi this book shall prove useful to planners, educationists, musicians and interested learners. There are a few innovations like Digital Veena and Ome Swarlipi that do not find mention here, but ample information by stalwarts of music that shines benign on pathway to learning of music on one’s own.

Self-learning has always existed, even though it was not encouraged at elementary level. In words of Misrabani exponent Dr. Ragini Trivedi, “I call the instrument my father and after him, my brother used to play, Divya Veena. It is Divya (divine) because it teaches me how to play it.”

Categorization of Music Practices


Rajiv Trivedi

VibCov2As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of UNESCO Convention 2003, the idea of conservation and continuance of traditional practices through according them greater visibility has become a familiar concept. It may yet take time to percolate to every working adult, but community leaders have begun to realize its importance and are coming up with plans. It was reported in media that people of Varanasi are busy in making inventory of activities both ancient and current, so the ancient most city (Kashi) may be included in UNESCO’s representative list. Kashi has been seat of all Indian learning not only for creation but also for evaluation and incorporation. Music finds mention in Veda-s and has been an intellectual discipline ever since.

Broadly, practice of Indian classical music is in area of singing and instrument playing. Both these areas involve the form, content and governing rules. The techniques are quite different; yet, still, they are in the same domain of intangible.

Instruments involve the solid and the physical as well.

So, for the heritage worker, the various fields for consideration become distinct.

1. Body of Music.

2. Practice & Technique in distinct areas of Vocal and Instrumental.

3. Actual form of instruments. Tangible and Intangible Aspects.

4.  Intangible aspect of instrument making.

In a way, this implies that field of instruments is more demanding as it involves two extra aspects (No. 3 & 4) than vocal music.

Further divisions might be made on Stream – North Indian/ Hindustani and Karnatic – region, period, style and school. So to work for continuance of practices in the field of Indian Classical Music is a massive one. Existing body of documentation itself requires inventorying. If we leave the last century out of consideration when audio-recording techniques were evolving, music has been an absolute oral practice. Among all arts, it alone takes a form of absolute intangible.

It shall serve the cause if interest of academia may be harnessed for examining their content through the point-of-view of safeguarding ICH. Young researchers should be encouraged to take up studies that aim  either directly at preservation and safeguarding, or employ this as one of the factors for evaluation of current practices. Government and other organizations should come up with schemes to encourage publication of treatises under the head of “Safeguarding ICH”

Safeguarding ICH: Identifying Elements in Music


The difference between tangible and intangible heritage has been pointed again and again. Clear poignant measures may be taken for protection, restoration and appreciation of tangible cultural heritage. Whereas these measures often require a small amount of modification, by and large the principle remains unaltered. It is neither sufficient nor advisable to safeguard intangible heritage in this fashion. For, it exists in practice,  in continuity, more like an organism than a finished product.

One has to understand the motivation fuelling a practice in order to safeguard not merely the practice but its essence as well. Without taking into count this intangible – the immeasurable aspect of the art-form –, despite logic of methodology and objective examination, the benefic exercise would become the bane. The end of knowledge is not mere collection or aggregation; all these essentials lose value if creation of new idea-s is blocked.


Practice of music in India is traceable from Veda-s. This practice was motivated, in part, with aim of granting  joy and still more, for self fulfillment and absolution. It developed as a discipline with guiding principles based on tangible phenomena. Safeguarding of Indian classical music involves respect for both its motivations. Absolution, in itself an abstraction, provides the practice with ability to transcend the physical rules; yet due its innate obscurity is likely to be shunned for clearer goal of granting pleasure. The science of Indian music developed with clear principles, which permit it full play and space for innovation (Upaj) and safeguard its practice from turning into vain exercise in providing vacuous pleasure to undiscerning people. The danger of ‘entertainment’ devouring  ‘discernment’ and ‘absolution’ was never greater. With breaking up of all human affairs into consumption and production, demand and supply, the ‘fast buck’ has pushed away all other concerns.

Indian Classical Music practice was gradually being molded towards the ostensible goal of pleasing listeners, ever since music could be recorded and replayed. No musician had ever listened to himself singing in exact fashion over and over again. And now, the ability to sing in a manner that could not be bettered – because, this same performance would be heard with same flourishes and blemishes – changed the very mode of Riyaz.IMG_4825 The objective now became an exercise in dissatisfaction for executing blameless performance instead of immersing and losing oneself in one’s music. A still more dominant factor was Time; the necessity to bind one’s practice into definite duration.

It is not that idea of excellence and competence were absent prior to this; but they existed more as just reward that comes to deserving and fortunate practitioner. Concept of detached Karma (one has no right over the result of one’s action) modulated the practitioner’s psyche. Historically, a large number of practitioners, rooted in idea of absolution through art,  remained content with their station in life.  The increasing pressure of externality erodes the internal fulfillment, and most practitioners succumb to immediacy of tangible rewards than wait for intangible, uncertain absolution.

Stalwart vocalist of Jaipur-Atrauli school, Pt. Rajshekhar Mansur received training in music and life from his father and Guru. He confides how his father prohibited him from using music for earning livelihood.  Music is for mind and heart, not for stomach and flesh. And so the son took up university degree and pursued career in higher education, even as he kept learning with his father. Modern thrust on individual as efficient consumer-producer batters all activities into demand-supply chain. Individuals are taught to excel in an activity that comes closest to their heart and use it for subsistence.  Fulfillment is welcome so long it aids economic cycle; but self-sufficiency that opts out is frowned upon. It no longer fits in with the system. So long as music aims to entertain others, it is an activity involving exchange; but when its end is self-fulfillment, it denies the external world. Apart from such a stance being against consumption, it also exemplifies an alternative to rat-race existence.

The idea of attaining bliss – Sat, Chit, Anand – was evocative of spirituality and thus Indian music practitioners whole-heartedly accepted and professed it as ‘spiritual’. Any attempt to approach it rationally were opposed and rejected. Scholars, on other hand, had always  discussed practice and directed course of development.  Introduction of tangible aspects in recent past has reduced clarity and focus in academics.  Through equalization, trivia – because of sheer volume – now  commands greater attention of learner, practitioner than actual science.

Indian Classical Music thus faces threats on all platforms: political, social, economic and academic. Political correctness attacks it for ‘elitism’; socially, it is less than entertainment; it is no longer an economically viable activity  with inverted user: time ratio; academically a near-impossibility to teach with reduced attention span and learning time. Whereas technology aids most learning activities, inter-relationship of Music and Time, does not provide short-cuts.

Safeguarding Indian music thus involves re-affirmation of its shadowed goal – self-fulfillment, sublimation, absolution – through Appreciation, Practice and Education leading to awareness and consensus amongst practitioners for preserving innate strength and essence. People have to realize that solution to thirst in a desert lies not in turning it into ocean, but in a tiny, secluded haven. Music, like life, has existed only through giving not mining. As Magi would say, giving is reward in itself.

Dawn of Awareness: Manganiar Singers


In its endeavor to introduce the concept of Safeguarding ICH practices, Madhukali has been in contact with members of several communities. It is with a sense of fulfillment and joy that we acknowledge success. The musician communities of Rajasthan have fared a whit better than their counterparts as a result of projection and promotion of the state as tourist destination of India. Several f them have been fortunate in taking their art to distant lands. Suraj Bhopa is one such, who through collaboration with Italian singer Andrea Camerini, has toured widely and made his singing style visible to the world. Yet, it takes a community decision to plan survival and preservation of their cultural heritage.

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On his tour around the country the Mahatma espied an eight year old girl. She carried a bucket of water in her right hand and a two year old hitched on her waist protectively hooked by her left. He asked, “How can you carry this pail of water with that burden?” The girl replied, “It is not a burden, he is my brother.”

Caught up in the race to keep pace, we often forget our treasure, our heritage and consider it as a burden. Once the initial effort to break the inertia of proud belonging is made, our inheritance shall make us strong and confident to enjoy challenges life brings. With no past possession, we anxiously pursue worth that may grant us fulfillment.

Heritage is our ready-made fulfillment; it does away with the worry of attaining lasting value, for we have it right now. Look within and find it. Look around with that knowledge and find the world lovelier than before.


Surashri Kesarbai Kerkar — Indian Classical vocalist of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.

Content to Beg… Langa & Manganiar


There is joy in ringing in the new, but sorrow as it gets difficult to hold on to old. Poets have mourned this loss and patrons / scholars / enthusiasts have tried strategies to stop or delay the decay. After all, life can not be ordered about. The erosion is as much a reality as evolution. Often the old resurfaces in new forms. Yet, the loss in past two decades results not from the natural cycle but from a mighty force growing rapidly. What started merely with promise of ‘economic liberalization’ has affected the distribution of wealth and labor in a way that current life-style has become outdated overnight. Thinkers had predicted about such ‘future-shock’ but little study was made for veracity of their claim; effectively, no study readied people for this. The global concern for safe-guarding at least some of the practices – rich repositories of knowledge conveyed through oral tradition – is a creditable step in the right direction, but overall response is not sufficient. Only one university has made this a part of academic curriculum. That too as a short summer course. Yet a beginning has been made in the direction of Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage practices throughout the globe. Four nations have concrete plans while three others are in process of submitting theirs regarding Consultation on ways of celebrating the year 2013 as the tenth anniversary of the Convention.

India has always been a conglomerate of distinct cultures co-existing harmoniously while maintaining uniqueness. The myriad jewels nurtured in a static life-style were preserved in balance due to absence of any fierce volatility. They are so many that it has been difficult to inventory them. There was no need to do so a few years back.

Today, there are a thousand practices in that many square miles which would soon be annihilated by the massive force of changing life-style. He, who has more stands to lose more. Only if all communities had found a Kamal Kothari, numerous art-forms, life-styles can still be conserved, safe-guarded like the singing of Langa and Manganiars.

Interview with Roze Khan, community leader of Mangniar folk-musicians

Yet, what is the extent of preservation, even in the best case? Mr. Kothari through Herculean efforts brought these rural singers on brink of starvation to limelight. Small groups of folk artiste were formed like co-operative societies.  The tourism and culture departments of Rajasthan were motivated to promote tourism by supporting the folk artistes. The simple entertainers, under the demand of an alien interest learnt new forms of behavior. They exchanged their  simple faith for craft of a showman. As a result, with little respect for their own heritage they are quick to mimic it for the pay-master curiosity eager to subvert all in order to retain interest.

Roze Khan confesses that while others make money out of mimicking their art (Musicians in film industry who lift their tunes) they are content to teach their art to children in their self-styled ‘school’ at Barmer.  The word ‘Manganiar’ comes from an epithet, now considered derogatory – Alm-seekers, beggars. This has, thus, been a tribe, rich in humility – accepting that which was given – as blessed in the joy of making music. It is not music alone but their contentment that is precious and needs to be preserved, if not in all, at least in some members of society. With commercialization changing their very attitudes, they too shall be turned into mummified curio-s that one day having lost their sheen of interest to the buyers, will neither have humility, contentment nor hope to bank upon.

As a last word, this wandering tribe with open access to royal courts and street-corners alike, had an ability to recognize good music and ingrain the classical rules into their rustic lays; they have been instrumental in keeping alive many musical phrases which were lost with gradual death of many schools of classical music. With Langa and Manganiar-s it is not only spirit of stoic contentment and gaiety born of innocence that is preserved, but also a part of Indian Classical Music. They are content to beg… for your patience and enjoyment. Do send them your commendations at their email address: