Thursday, December 18, 2008

~On Appreciation of Indian Classical Music, by Ravi Shankar~

Indian classical music is principally based on melody and rhythm, not on harmony, counterpoint, chords, modulation and the other basics of Western classical music.

The system of Indian music known as Raga Sangeet can be traced back nearly two thousand years to its origin in the Vedic hymns of the Hindu temples, the fundamental source of all Indian music. Thus, as in Western music, the roots of Indian classical music are religious. To us, music can be a spiritual discipline on the path to self-realisation, for we follow the traditional teaching that sound is God - Nada Brahma: By this process individual consciousness can be elevated to a realm of awareness where the revelation of the true meaning of the universe - its eternal and unchanging essence - can be joyfully experienced. Our ragas are the vehicles by which this essence can be perceived.

The ancient Vedic scriptures teach that there are two types of sound. One is a vibration of ether, the upper or purer air near the celestral realm. This sound is called Anahata Nad or unstruck sound. Sought after by great enlightened yogis, it can only be heard by them. The sound of the universe is the vibration thought by some to be like the music of the spheres that the Greek Pythagoras described in the 6th century B.C. The other sound Ahata Nad or struck sound, is the vibration of air in the lower atmosphere closer to the earth. It is any sound that we hear in nature or man-made sounds, musical and non-musical.

The tradition of Indian classical music is an oral one. It is taught directly by the guru to the disciple, rather than by the notation method used in the West. The very heart of Indian music is the raga: the melodic form upon which the musician improvises. This framework is established by tradition and inspired by the creative spirits of master musicians.

Ragas are extremely difficult to explain in a few words. Though Indian music is modal in character, ragas should not be mistaken as modes that one hears in the music of the Middle and Far Eastern countries, nor be understood to be a scale, melody per se, a composition, or a key. A raga is a scientific, precise, subtle and aesthetic melodic form with its own peculiar ascending and descending movement consisting of either a full seven note octave, or a series of six or five notes (or a combination of any of these) in a rising or falling structure called the Arohana and Avarohana. It is the subtle difference in the order of notes, an omission of a dissonant note, an emphasis on a particular note, the slide from one note to another, and the use of microtones together with other subtleties, that demarcate one raga from the other.

There is a saying in Sanskrit - "Ranjayathi iti Ragah" - which means, "that which colours the mind is a raga." For a raga to truly colour the mind of the listener, its effect must be created not only through the notes and the embellishments, but also by the presentation of the specific emotion or mood characteristic of each raga. Thus through rich melodies in our music, every human emotion, every subtle feeling in man and nature can be musically expressed and experienced.

The performing arts in India - music, dance,drama, and poetry - are based on the concept of Nava Rasa , or the "nine sentiments." Literally, rasa means "juice" or "extract" but here in this context, we take it to mean "emotion" or "sentiment." The acknowledged order of these sentiments is as follows: Shringara (romantic and erotic): Hasya (humorous): Karuna (pathetic): Raudra (anger): Veera (heroic): Bhayanaka (fearful): Vibhatsa (disgustful): Adbhuta (amazement): Shanta (peaceful).

Each raga is principally dominated by one of these nine rasas, although the performer can also bring out other emotions in a less prominent way. The more closely the notes of a raga conform to the expression of one single idea or emotion, the more overwhelming the effect of the raga.

In addition to being associated with a particular mood, each raga is also closely connected to a particular time of day or a season of the year. The cycle of day and night, as well as the cycle of the seasons, is analogous to the cycle of life itself. Each part of the day - such as the time before dawn, noon, late afternoon, early evening, late night - is associated with a definite sentiment. The explanation of the time associated with each raga may be found in the nature of the notes that comprise it, or in historical anecdotes concerning the raga.

Although there are 72 "melas" or parent scales upon which ragas are based, Indian music scholars have estimated that, with all their permutations and combinations, there exist over 6,000 ragas ! But a raga is not merely a matter of the ascending - descending structure. It must have its "chalan "- or certain note patterns characteristic of the raga; its principle important note (vadi); the second important note (samavadi); and its main feature known as "jan" (life) or "mukhda" (face), the cluster of a few notes by which a raga is immediately recognised.

In terms of aesthetics, a raga is the projection of the artist's inner spirit, a manifestation of his most profound sentiments and sensibilities brought forth through tones and melodies. The musician must breath life into each raga as he unfolds and expands it. As much as 90 percent of Indian music may be improvised and because so very much depends on understanding the spirit and nuances of the art, the relationship between the artist and his guru is the keystone of this ancient tradition. From the beginning, the aspiring musician requires special and individual attention to bring him to the moment of artistic mastery. The unique aura of a raga (one might say its "soul") is its spiritual quality and manner of expression, and this cannot be learned from any book.

It is only after many long and extensive years of "sadhana" (dedicated practice and discipline) under the guidance of one's guru and his blessings, that the artist is empowered to put "prana" (the breath of life) into a raga. This is accomplished by employing the secrets imparted by one's teacher such as the use of "shrutis" (microtones other than the 12 semitones in an octave, Indian music using smaller intervals than Western music: 22 within an octave): "gamakas" (special varieties of glissando which connect one note to the other), and "andolan" (a sway - but not a vibrato). The result is that each note pulsates with life and the raga becomes vibrant and incandescent.

Next to be considered are the "talas" or "rhythmic cycles" of a raga. There is unique intricacy and rhythmic sophistication in Indian music. There are talas ranging from a 3 beat cycle to 108 beats within a cycle! The most popular talas are those which have 5,6,7,8,10,12,14, and 16 beats to a cycle. There are also other cycles such as 9,11,13,15,17, and 19 beats, etc., which are only played by outstanding musicians on rare occasions.

The division in a tala, and the stress on the first beat (called sum), are the most important rhythmic factors. While there are talas having the same number of beats,they differ because the division and accents are not the same. For example, there is a tala known as "Dhamar" which has 14 beats in the cycle divided 5+5+4: another tala, "Ada Chautal" has the same number of beats, but is divided 2+4+4+4: still another tala, "Chanchar: is divided 3+4+3+4.

In vocal music, a drummer will accompany a singer either in slow, medium, or fast tempo at the start of a song in whatever tala the singer chooses. He will do the same when he accompanies an instrumentalist in the gat section of a composition. Like ragas, talas also have their own characteristics. Some of the older traditional talas , such as "Chautal" (12 beats) and "Dhamar" (14 beats) are played on a two-faced drum known as pakhawaj. This accompaniment is used in the old traditional "Dhrupad-Dhamar" form of singing and in instrumental performances on the veena, rabab, surbahar, etc. Today, most vocal and instrumental music is based on the contemporary form called"khyal" and is accompanied by the tabla, a two-piece drum.

The improvisatory nature of Indian classical music requires the artist to take into consideration the setting, time allowed for his recital, his mood and the feeling he discerns in the audience before playing. Since Indian music is religious in origin, one finds the spiritual quality in most of the musician's performances.

The traditional recital begins with the alap section - the stately and serene exploration of the chosen raga. After this slow, introspective, heartfelt, sometimes sad beginning, the musician moves on to the jor. In this part, rhythm enters and is developed. Innumerable variations on the raga's basic theme are elaborated. There is no drum accompaniment in either the alap or the jor.

The alap and the jor evolve into the gat, the fixed composition of the raga. Here the drums enter with the wonderful rhythmic structure of the gat and its time cycle, the tala. This section in based on the "Khyal: form. From this moment on, the gat (which can be anything between 4 and 16 bars of fixed composition) becomes the vehicle for the musician to return to after his improvisation. While the artist has complete freedom to improvise, he may do so only as long as he does not leave the format of the raga and tala. This freedom within the bounds of artistic discipline comes only after many years of training and sadhana. This is why one cannot rightfully compare the improvisation in Indian music with the improvisation of jazz.

The step-by-step acceleration of the rhythm in the gat finally culminates in the jhala portion as it becomes more and more playful and exciting.Sawal jabab ,the dazzling and rapid dialogue between sitar and tabla, has the power to enthrall even the most uninitiated listener with its thrilling interplay.

Often at the conclusion of a recital, the musician may choose to play a "thumri' or "dhun." This semi-classical style is much freer and completely romantic, sensual and erotic.

Indian music is much more appreciated and respected today in the west. Many composers and musicians have been influenced by our music. The openness, willingness to learn, and sincere enthusiasm of western audiences are a continuing source of inspiration and delight.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

~The Infinite Hate project~

"Hey man, Why the fuck did you shell out 350 bucks for Death Magnetic? I mean their tracks were on limewire ages ago, why didn't you just download them?" The fake accent did not set my blood on fire. It was in the frank manner in which he expressed himself as if he was talking about a class 10 First Terminal examination that did.

Naturally I bothered to interfere and reply. My argument- Why Buy an M.F Hussain Painting worth crores? Why not just go take a picture of it using his 30 something mega pixel camera,make it look nice using an illegal pirated/downloaded version of Photoshop, take a printout on glossy paper and stick it on his Godforsaken wall? After which he should ideally further praise it and call it " Amazing Shit" and talk about what a genius of painter Mr. Hussain is.

Music is Art. I say this again and NOT for the last time. There is lot of hard work put in into creating a record. Yes even if its Timbaland.Even if its Himesh. Countless hours in a studio, Recording,getting the Mix right, Mastering, then getting it approved only to face rejection over and over again. And don't even get me started on what a struggling musician has to go through.

Music is art. To me An artist creates magic using his brush with paints of vivid shades of colour.A artiste composes magic using the instruments of his choice and choosing the right notes.His canvas- the 5 lines of the staff Or thanks to technology, software on his computer.

What disgusts me most is the way music is now treated like a bar of soap.
A mere commodity. What disgusts me even more are the "I luuuurve muzic"
"muzic iz ma oxygen"that kids write on their respective social networking site's profiles when they don't give damn.

There is a certain sanctity that was,that music has lost. I don't blame it on fast paced lifestyles.I don't blame it on Pricing. I blame it on a digital format called "MP3" If you don't know what that is...well, i can't really comment on that now can I?

This gem of a format not only kills audio quality, but saves space, So
you can cram a million songs on your digital player. Whatever happened to the CD??

There is a certain satisfaction that an individual receives in going to the record store looking around, deciding which artiste he or she would rather spend on, bringing it home and listening to it that seems to have been lost.

Yes I download. Yes downloading is what fuels my hunger for new sounds. But Yes I do make it a point of picking up that artiste's CD the next time I'm going to a record store. Though i must add That all the electronic music i have, save 45 tracks, i have downloaded.I have downloaded illegally from the artiste's myspace page. Why? because you simply don't get them in this country.

And remember something called Vinyl? You wouldn't. It went out of production before you were born probably. Vinyl is what a large chunk electronic genres prefer because it aids while Dj-ing and the Vinyl sounds very different form your conventional CDs.

But why did I give you that piece of "Gyan"?. You were too busy worrying about if I was attending rave parties. Somehow even though the older Indian generations(read above 40 years of age)appear(or pretend rather) to be very "with the times" the mere mention of the words "Trance" or "Electronica" "House" or "Nightclub" seems to make the emergency department of their very "with the times" active brain Fire Neurons up in overdrive. And don't even get me started on your regular rock Gig.(Don't bother telling me or my friends that you go for the beer and nicotine lest your in need of a broken nose or a dislocated shoulder.
(It doesn't matter if your a girl.)

Its amusing to see how people don't want to buy a CD, don't want to pay for A concert ticket,and yet insist that they love the artiste and their music.Its beyond my understanding. How people imagine their artiste surviving without support.There is this idea that "If he is on stage, he has got enough cash to last a lifetime of luxury" that i can't be a part of.Yet there still are millions, who save up, make sacrifices and buy those CDs, who PAY and buy tickets to attend those concerts. They aren't God sent saviours. They are among ones like you and me.They are the ones called 'True Fans'. They keep the music alive.

My only request is- Give music the sanctity it deserves. Treat it with respect. Across all decibel levels , across all genres.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Regret, Remorse, and their other friends.

There have been times when i have regreted dropping the guitar at the age of nine and concentrating only on the Tabla. But its never been so strong. I always thought through time aided talent alone would i become more skille. I made a critical error.

I know this guy whos my age in music class, who doesn't know a shit's worth when it comes to musical instruments, processors. His range of music is strictly limited. Yet skill wise he is far up the mountain that i've just started climbing.

I blame myself actually. I am the one not trying hard enough. I guess I was too busy learning and making my own riffs(that i didn't write down, cause i didn't know how to then sadly ) while the rest were learning that Metallica song or that Megadeth solo. If only i was doing that would my skill be something to be proud about i guess........

So now i've started doing something i hate myself for--- Looking for Tabs on the internet instead of figuring them out myself and working on songs that i will hopefully cover in the new future.

They say that you should play the guitar until your fingers bleed. I don't know if that actually happens, but God help you if you try and stop me from finding out.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I picked up the guitar yesterday, and couldn't bring myself to feel what i was playing. To say i was bewildered beyond imagination would be a very big understatement. Nor was i interested in playing a few tunes on the Sitar downstairs or reading about some great musician God Being on the internet.I couldn't even bring myself to sing. I also was not surfing for new sounds, or new artistes.I have this feeling i'm becomming repetitive in whatever i compose or whatever that comes naturally to me. And this has scared me. Its been more than 24 hours and i still havent found what i'm looking for. .........

I have this urge to be constructive, but i can't make myself do something constructive. Maybe my obsession for instruments and learning about recording techniques came to a point where it could not go any higher, you know -" only one way to go , when your on top of the hill". WAIT i think theres still hope. I am still eagerly waiting for december 13th.(thats the day i get my issue of the Rolling Stone magazine). This is like the first time something like this is happening to me. I mean, I'd rather sleep than churn out a few licks or noodle around withe the guitar!!!!! WHATS WRONG WITH ME?!!!?!?!?!

This is my worst nightmare.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Their concert begins in 45 minutes. I can run down to Pragati Maidan right now. I have enough cash to last a few hours including transportation. I have the Passes aaaaaaaaaaand theres no one at home. But I won't go. I have no clue why.

My only consolation right now is a few old tapes, and my Social Science textobooks, and a cup of very bad coffee.

--Jethro Tull with Anoushka Shankar--- i hate the system--

My dad took out V.I.P Passes for their concert tomorrow. AND THEN TOLD ME HE HAD THEM ALL ALONG BUT DIDN'T MENTION THEM BECAUSE OF MY EXAMS STARTING THE DAY AFTER, because it would apparently "distract me". I cannot study any longer. He should've told me about them after 2 weeks or something. Needless to say I'm fuming.

Being at Hamshadhwani tomorrow will be more useful than studying very interesting things about crop patterns,The Rural economy, or what chappals Gandhi wore 80 years back. Two reasons-
1.) Its a blend of different musical cultures. Something like this i could have never imagined.
2.) Because its two B-I-G artistes performing, there will be Very good sound engineeers, And a very good mixing console. And i like being behind the mixing desks watching engineers' adjust the faders, tune the EQ, etc .etc .etc. They are the reasons artistes sound magical, and not just amazing. AND I GET TIPS FROM THEM.

And now i will be giving my papers while thinking of what it would have been like.
I wish the folks who expect to see good grades on my card a whole lot of luck.
They seriously need it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I just got my hands on Niladri Kumar's album. Its simply amazing.My friends say i'm obsessed. I say they are the ones ignorant. No review for now.

Now playing: Priority(whole album) by Niladri Kumar

Saturday, November 22, 2008

~Gods of Metal~

I'm just plain weird.( haha like you didn't know =P )
Especially when it comes to genres of music.
Last night i was all totally lost in Indian Ocean's "Kandisa"( A band that my friends didn't no existed until the track "Bandeh" came about), Heck, I even added Rahul Ram on facebook(he hasn't accepted the request as of now >:( )

And today I got up with Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" playing very loudly in my head(weird, cause i haven't heard that song since.........uhm well..... last week)
And now--------------- IRON MAIDEN. There is just something about them that is hellishly heaven like. I heard my first Maiden song at the age of 10... i think. This was the year 2002. The song was "The wicker man" . And I've been listening to them since.

I just wish i tried to play their songs at that time......even if it was on a run down , low end acoustic guitar.And now 4 years after the 'initiation' into Electric Guitars, power chords and licks incorporating a lot of "wah-wah" and beer :D , i still can't play their solos :'(
well..their complete solos to be specific.

And you know what happens to me when i listen to to much of Iron Maiden??? I get into the "I haven't seen them live" sulk mode. *sigh*
I can't forgive myself for not running to Bangalore 2 years back for their "A matter of life and death" tour. I missed their gig in Mumbai a year later.And now thanks to the education system again, I will miss them playing their final gig for their "Somewhere Back In Time" tour again. (ITS ALWAYS THE FUCKING SYSTEM I TELL YOU!!!!!!!!) Education in this land is counter-productive...something that I'd love to tell you about.

Contrary to popular belief, I AM the sort of fan who would start crying at their concert. And I'm actually proud to admit it :S

There is something magical about them. its their compositions, and their tone that is so.........unique. You know from the clangy galloping bass lines , that its Steve Harris playing with his ROTO SOUND flat wound strings. You know from the energy of the vocals that its Bruce. And don't get me started on Smith 's and Ger's Guitars and Nicko's Drums :)

Now all i need is a decent amount of cash, and a plan to sneak out to Bangalore a month before my .........shh......."BOARD EXAMS". however , my friends worry that I'll kill myself for missing them live ---Unlike the others who kill themselves for not getting above 90.And you know the scary part? I feel my friends concern is justified :

Now playing : My downloaded Iron Maiden collection. Except the Album - "A matter of life and death", which i bought two days after it hit the stores and prize as much as my Issues of The Rolling Stone magazine (which i put back into their plastic seals after I've read a part of them).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The A to the Zitar of Contemporary.

The "Zitar" is not the electric Sitar. "Don't call it an electric sitar; you'll disrespect what is a 300 year old science perfected by guys who figured out the supreme art of playing" says it's creator Niladri Kumar,who loves his pair of union jack socks and has also designed the "T-shirt Kurta" which according to him is "More comfortable to play in than silk, and fits in beautifully" .

Now, My knowledge of Indian classical music is limited to playing the tabla, live concerts where most people are dozing off and playing around with The Taanpura and Sitar downstairs. I have tried a number of alternative tunings on the guitar, which played the right way often churns out something amazing, provided my distortion levels and the reverb are set right not to mention the "High Med and Low and FDD"..... (you get the point)

The Zitar looks like a toy version of the woman's Sitar(Yes they come in different sizes). Its loaded with a Seymour Duncan Double humbucking Electric Guitar pickup, Run through a Boss GT6 or a Line6 Pod XT live Digital guitar effects processor. The tones generated are unique,abstract, strange and beautiful. The 5 stringed instrument has a steel Gauge 3 string for the first, and unwound Brass string for the second, a second steel Gauge 3 for the third, a gauge 1 on the fourth and fifth strings all which (i assume) are tuned to the natural scale and its played in the usual sitar position. Perfect Fusion."Z is the last letter of the alphabet, right? Well, A Sitar can't get any smaller or any louder than this" and I Believe him.

His latest album Priority is something for which my fingers have a terrible itch to get hold on. A video for the track "Priority" is being aired on Vh1 and hopefully elsewhere as well. He seems to be playing the Zitar like a fusion artist would shred on the guitar. But what makes him different is unlike the others, he has finally come up with something that's normally alien (from a 16 year old's point of view) to Indian classical strings, something that'

And he is the one who got me to start fiddling around with a real Sitar(much to my family's dismay, who would rather have me doing trigonometry among other exciting things)

Definitely someone to watch out for.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hello again!

Hellooooo again!
I haven't posted in like ages...........and thats an understatement.
Blame it on my inability to figure out that the blog and the account registered both have the same password, or the beer. :D :D :D

Now playing : Going Wrong(extended mix) - Armin Van Buuren!

Thursday, February 7, 2008


How many times has it been, that I've heard " you seem to nice to be a metal head" or "Trance is the music they play at doped rave parties" , or the fact that being alternative is being alien.
Quite a few times actually.
The sad part of it all is when people listening to Symphonic Black metal are dismissed as Baby raping, Satan worshipping freaks, while those swearing by hip-hop, which is normally associated with drug abuse,gang- violence, materialism is perfectly normal. Electronic music producers,and followers are accepted to be rave party going freaks, and Classical music listeners as plain boring and goth rock lovers as depressed and suicidal.
Its only the musically educated sect , that understands the technicalities involved in every composition,that can truly accept music for what it is, irrespective of all Genres and Sub- Genres.
The sad thing is , this sect is very small, and dwindling.
So very unlike that sect, i have decided to give up educating people and getting them to accept music. Its easier to believe the world is going to end on the 22 of December 2008.