Posts Tagged ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’

In Quest of Conservation

11.15.13

To view details of participants & proceedings visit page Seminar Raga Conservation

Since its inception, Madhukali orchestrated its activities, based on music practice, teaching and principles of Dr. Lalmani Misra. RagSem1In the past decade it has been more concerned with community of musicians and educationists, instead of individual performers. The reason for this shift was due to (initially subconscious) response to change brought in attitude towards and treatment of Indian Classical Music. As the market forces tried to bring it into main-stream, individual musicians were turned overnight into stars and brand-ambassadors. The strategy did not succeed in increasing revenue to any worthwhile level but it did bring in a change in attitude of general public and of the musician – be it a learner, teacher or performer.

Since 2007, Madhukali with support of Omenad, has been working to raise awareness of artistes, teachers and aesthetes about the necessity of safeguarding the knowledge of music that for millenniums has been transmitted orally (but also bolstered with text, even though there are periods of gap). Artistes, composers, craftsmen, scholars, aesthetes and enthusiasts have been approached and informed about the necessity of their active support towards safe-guarding of Indian musical heritage.

It is a matter of understandable pride and joy that community has begun to exhibit response to Madhukali’s exhortation. Music department of a Government College at Indore is the first such institution to examine the idea of conservation as applied to Indian Music.  The institution proposes to organize a national seminar, sponsored by Uniersity Grants Commission on January 31st and 1st February 2014. The area to be discussed is, “Raga – Conserving  Musical Heritage of India”.

The science or discipline of artistic musical expression is embodied in Raga-s. Raga-s, in turn depend on certain self-evident principles, such as Shadja-Pancham Bhav (Perfect interval ~ Pythagorean cycle of the Fifth) and consonance of ninth-thirteenth Shruti. As after stabilization of Shadja, Jaati-Gan turned to Prabandh, the principle of Raga consolidated into Ten Lakshana-s.

Technology allows multiplicity at all levels. As number of listeners and the variety of music they could now access increased, the area for innovation and experimentation available to composers and  artistes too increased several folds. These modern changes began to impact traditional practice of classical music.

RagSem2The element of “intangible” finds its best expression in music. Most invisible, music is the fundamental art-form that manifests the conscious mind. Safe-guarding, conservation and preservation are all abstract ideas expressed through concrete line of action. Once we understand how to safe-guard the element of intangibility in music, we might have a lead on how to safe-guard its expression in other practices.

The essence of intangibility rests on the attitude or mind-set. While obedience was an intrinsic given, it was the time spent by Guru with Shishya that transferred this from elder’s mind to younger without any loss. It is the intangibility involved in  this passage of right attitude, that music exhibits its primacy as vehicle of the intangible. Not only the content, but the form needs equal attention for the art to survive.

It is for its determination to examine the various facets which have contributed to formation, carriage and preservation of Raga that this particular conclave of scholars is worth watching. Madhukali hopes that even as this first show of concern by the Classical Music community is an important step – if only for raising visibility – forward, the discussions too would contribute to better understanding of the act of safe-guarding.

Interested scholars may send their queries and submit their abstracts & papers at raga@madhukali.org  For submission of fee and registration etc. contact suvarna_wad@rediffmail.com

Download Brochure 
The deadlines are:

Submission of Abstract (only soft-copies accepted):     28th December 2013

Submission of Paper (pdf & doc using UTF fonts only):  15th January 2014

Registration (along with applicable fee) on or before:    28th December 2013

Abstracts submitted & approved within time-frame would be included in pre-Seminar publication.

Continuity called heritage

07.21.13

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.

Categorization of Music Practices

04.10.13

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

03.18.13

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.

Wiki for ICH NGOs

11.26.11

Forum of NGO and CBO in their meet at Bali agreed to stay in closer collaboration through a wiki.

Prof. Egil Bakka created this wiki for NGOs accredited as adviser to UNESCO Convention 2003. The wiki is adding members while getting several good suggestions.

The forum had already started publishing an e-newsletter. With cloud-based space for discussions, sensitive issues will find better resolution.

Thanks to Eivind Falk, Wim an Zanten, Amareswar Galla, Carmen Padilla and others for their contributions to this initiative.

Dawn of Awareness: Manganiar Singers

11.13.11

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Heritage

06.30.11

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.
 

Preservation: Past in Lap of Future

06.24.11

The young are creative. They are also curious. Access to information has been greatly increased by technology. This is just right for uniting all above for greater preservation and safe-guarding of cultural practices. Barry Schwartz, author of “The Paradox of Choice” suggests ‘gentle nudging’ and empathetic curation to reduce paralysis from excess of choice. This ‘parental wisdom’ already exists in traditional practices. The website of  UNESCO is a great resource of cultural practices across the globe that have been included in Representative list. Ms Cécile Duvelle, Secretary of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage explains essence of the convention.

The criteria referred to in the video-clip form the very basis of UNESCO’s Convention 2003.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova has endorsed recommendations by the International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World Committee to inscribe 45 new documents and documentary collections from all over the world on the Memory of the World Register, which now numbers a total of 238 items. The recent newsletter reported this observation of Ms. Bokova,

By helping safeguard and share such a varied documentary heritage, UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme reinforces the basis for scholarship and enjoyment of the creative wealth and diversity of human cultures and societies.

Educators, activists and enthusiasts have only to get the youth interested in a single Intangible Cultural Heritage practice in their region; their energy would do the rest. There are ample examples of individual mandate contributing to strength of collective. It only needs a little effort to bring information to their notice. The multimedia web service of UNESCO provides rich resource on its website.

Digital Preservation of Music

05.16.11

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.

anniversary Celebrations for ICH Convention

02.11.11

In the Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee (5.COM)  at Nairobi a decision was taken to focus attention and garner support at all levels for Safeguarding of ICH practices by celebrating the year 2013 as tenth anniversary of the Convention.  Madhukali plans to organize events in spirit with the Convention. Suggestions for holding activities relating to music, dance and other arts that encourage appreciation, continuance and strengthening of  ICH practices may be sent to ich at madukali.org.