Posts Tagged ‘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.

Conserving Complex Content





Culmination of 3 Day Symposium Workshop with

Morning Raga-s


Mainly presented by


Jaipur-Atrauli Doyen

January 15th 2012 9:00 am

Preetamlal Dua Auditorium, Indore

View clip of Durlabh Raga Prasang Symposium – Workshop

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:

Digital Preservation of Music


Technology has helped in capturing and preserving works of art and artistic practices that relied solely on oral tradition in past. An engine of democracy it has empowered people in many ways. Ever since Hemendra Mohan Bose imported the phonograph machine that Edison invented in 1898 and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore recorded Bande Mataram in his voice, a sample of Indian Classical Music has been archived — not always the best, experts might claim, but the far and few recordings made are indeed helpful. In the late sixties as analog tapes found a commercial channel in sleeker cassette tapes, the recording companies began to release Indian Classical Music on this media too. Late seventies saw cassette technology become affordable and soon less media-savvy musicians too got a chance to have some of their music recorded. The professional recordings of established music companies were in time converted to digital music but the smaller albums self-published or released by small entrepreneurs are on verge of extinction. Understandably, a part of such music might not measure up to strict standards, yet it allows representation to the individual practitioner and probably to the form and content of his output. Digitization of knowledge and practices is being carried out at all levels. The reclusive stalwarts and budding artistes whose presentations were recorded on analog spool and cassette tapes ought to be credited for their contributions. This would also enlarge the database of Indian music recordings and bring to fore some forgotten bandish or difficult Raga that is no longer practiced.

Madhukali invites proposals from artistes, heritage workers, museum and music industry experts for digital preservation of Indian Classical Music.

Proposals may be for private analog recordings or limited release public recordings on cassette tapes.

Interested parties may send their proposals to ich at madhukali dot org.