The Week, October 2009
“India is the only country which has two tradition of classical music namely Indian Classical Music of the South and Indian Classical Music of the North. Historically they were also addressed as Karnatak and Hindustani. However, I prefer to call it just ‘music’ as music from the North and the South are essentially the same. The base of any music in the world is common - the seven notes Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. In western classical music, they call the very same notes, Do Re Me Fa So La Ti. Music has connected the whole world together. Music does not belong to any religion; it is the language that creates the barrier. The future of Indian classical music will always be bright. Classical music is like the sun and rest of the music that flows from it are its rays. We are very fortunate that we have had such strong pillars in music like Swami Haridas, Swami Purander Dasa, Swami Muttuswamy Dikshitar, Sama Shastri, Swami Tyagaraja, Swati Thirunal, Miyan Tansen and Baiju Bawra. With their blessings we have a large number of young talented musicians in India today.

Indian classical music is our identity whether it has been in the past, the present or the future. It does not belong only to the entertainment world, it is a way of life, it is based on dedication, surrender ness, faith, trust, spirituality, religion and rigorous practice and discipline. Anybody, no matter which gharana or guru he or she belongs to, has to surrender himself or herself to the guru and to the almighty. It is almost like entering into dark tunnel with the hope of seeing sun rays some day. It sounds very impractical, but this is how it is. There is no formula here. Many times I am questioned by people that will their son or daughter make it in the field, I have no answers because there never was and never will be a magic mantra.

However, over the years, I do a see a change in the attitude of disciples. While some are a symbol of dedication and grace, some want to become superstars overnight and in the process, defocus from their path to the extent of disagreeing and questioning with what the guru has to say! I often say this that this line is not from someone who is in search of glamour alone. Behind it come years and hours of shaping and dedication.

Today most of electronic media is only encouraging the kind of music which is not classical. But real classical musicians are not created by the media. The listeners of our country are very choosy and selective. Nobody can impose an artist on them. The only way for a young musician to make it is to work hard, practice rigorously and exercise discipline to achieve their goal of life. Not only musically but even in terms of Indian etiquette (tehzeeb and tameez). Fireworks of music alone don’t give colour and fragrance to the music that you produce.

I disagree with some people today who say that Indian Classical Music is a dying art form. We must understand a few things here; it was never for the masses to begin with. In the early years, there were only private mehfils happening, and then it came out to the concert halls. Today, musicians are performing at Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and Sydney Opera house to paced houses. You are talking about an audience fighting against the ninety to hundred odd channels at home! Likewise in India, when I see huge venues filling up, I don’t think we can really complain. With time, it is the responsibility of the artist to let the youth relate to their music. The mainstream attention that bollywood and now the Fashion industry are experiencing, Indian classical music experiences three decades back!

In the sixties and seventies, there was a phase to carry on playing Ragas for two to three hours. Frankly, after maybe an hour, it was all repetition. However, due to artists wanting to prove a point, a section of listeners drifted away to easy listening. One must keep in mind that no books or shastras ever mentioned about the presentation of Indian Classical Music. By making it up with times, you are not diluting it at all. I believe in being traditional and not conventional. In the early eighties, I had recorded an album of short pieces (around Ragas) in one album. At that time, I was of course criticized for not going into too much detailing of Ragas, but I am happy to see that today, this has become a trend! I see a great journey of Indian classical music being carried forward by brilliant musicians of the younger generation. These people are getting a ready made remedy to work on the research and time spent by me and all my contemporaries in all these years. Thanks to the net, I pods, DVDs and CDs, we are at every home in the world.

I am very happy that there are young dedicated musicians, they are also committed performers. I wish them all a very bright and successful future and I am sure that our classical music and legacy will flourish not only in India but all over the world. I am also very satisfied with the response of whole world to our country and its tradition.”

-Amjad Ali Khan