The Week, March 2013
I feel embarrassed or rather find it technically impolite to say that I create Ragas. A new Raga is like a new born Baby. A Raga for me is not just a mere scale. It is much more than that, perhaps like a living identity. When a child is conceived, in this case a Raga invoked, how can you not accept the Raga? The Raga would ask me ‘Do you know me?’ and I say ‘I don’t’. Then I have to give it a name and hence the Raga becomes mine, just like my own offspring. Many might find this humorous but I have woken up on many occasions with answered musical doubts in my dreams. As an artist, our minds work twenty four seven around music. I would like to believe that the motivation for this is, spiritual. What should be the duration of a Raga? What kind of tempos and rhythm should be tested to bring out the essence and right kind of positive effect? Though the guru of every classical musician taught the Raga and compositions within the Raga, no guru could make a standard or a rule book about the duration of a Raga. For some odd reason, this was always left to the disciple or student to decide how long or short him or she would like to perform. The purity of a Raga also depends and varies from artist to artist and school to school. In many cases, even the treatment to the Raga varies. I only wish the guru’s advice their students to be more precise while presenting a raga. The time has come for the better presentations especially with regards to the duration of the raga and its execution. Every raga has its limitation, less or more. Even a musician is limited every instrument has tremendous limitations. The track of time was lost because of huge stature of certain musicians listeners. The music becomes repetitive and boring, if the improvisation is done more than the requirement and the demand of the raga.

All the historical great musicians became well known with their three minutes recordings of 78 rpm of HMV (now Sa Re Ga Ma) and Hindustan records. Later 45 rpm came in followed by LPs then CDs /DVDs and now itunes. According to all the ‘greats’, including my father, music is the name of quality not quantity. Very few musicians are trendsetters. Today, ninety five percent of musicians are following conventional way of presentation but if we look deeper we will realize that tradition itself allows innovations. Often a three minute film song by any playback singer becomes more appealing than a long rendering of a Raga. The interesting aspect is that any song classical including a popular film song is based on the age old seven musical notes Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. What matters eventually is the music, the effect of music and the realization of the twelve notes of music.

Although, Carnatic instrumental music is a unique tradition in itself with the use of instruments like the Veena, Violin, Nadarswaram etc, they revolve around instrumental interpretations of vocal forms. There of course elements common to both vocal and instrumental music down South. However, sense of proportion was not an issue down South. On many occasions during my concerts in Chennai, it was complete bliss to see the power house of Carnatic music, M.S Subbalakshmi, Semmanguddi Srinivas Iyer and D.K. Pattamal together. I am so happy to see so many wonderful artists of the younger generation of the Carnatic tradition like Vocalists T. M. Krishna, Sikkil Gurucharan, Abhishek Raghuram. Of course, there are many artists who never got their dues but most of them have been recognized, in some way. I very strongly feel that today there is an audience for all kinds of Music. The main reason for the people to attend a concert is that they love their favorite artist. Age does not matter, because our music and the relationship are timeless and ageless. I am so happy to say that there are so many young talented musicians all over South and North especially in the generation of my sons, Amaan and Ayaan.

It’s great to imbibe cultures from all over the world but let’s make ourselves proud of us. The main problem now is tolerance. All the unpleasantness and tensions are a signs of our intolerance. Like music, I hope India becomes a symbol of humanity, love, peace, coexistence and tolerance. I pray that India sets examples for the entire globe. I hope we are able to show the world that we can do without arms, war and weapons. I also hope that we are politically stable and refined! This is the India I’d love to see.