Strolling down the lanes of Agra I happen to catch wafts of a qawwali coming from Fatehpur Sikri or some nearby darga. Despite the rustic, untrained and maybe even de-noted voice of the singer, there is something about that music that does not fail to entrance me, even if for only a moment. Such has also been the experience of listening to a Prabhati (morning song) being sung by wandering minstrels - Baul - in Kolkata, or a Manganiyar singing Kesariya Balam in Rajasthan. No, it is not about the genre. Neither is it about the ‘gharana’ (the school) nor the ‘talim’ (the grooming). It is something so sublime and yet so certain about their singing that transcend the ‘tayyari’ (the practice and preparedness) and the ‘raagdari’ (the purity of scale) and pulls on the heart strings, enchanting every listener. So much in contrast with the performance of a Grammy Award winner in Chowdiah who, despite all the adroitness and gimmickry of his performance, could not hold me back from quietly leaving the auditorium, distraught and disappointed.
There is something about Indian music- music that has its root in or is intimately related to Hindustani music - that makes it possible for the creative energy to commune with The Creational Energy. When the notes are sung or played with accuracy, the musician experiences a satori, a kind of small Samadhi, through which it is possible for him to loose himself for only the music to remain. This is just a possibility. It’s not a given. It can happen only when the musician – be it a student or an accomplished performer – comes with the right ‘bhava’ - the state of being.
If it is about playing to the gallery, seeking popularity and short-term riches, the possibility, the opportunity goes a-begging. If it is true love, and mind you, when I say true love, I differentiate it from ‘learned’ love, which many artistes have now become adept in displaying specially on the tube – even if one does not strive for it, they become exemplars, almost demi-gods, worshipped by their countless fans. Doyens like Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Amir Khan; Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Hari Prasad Chourasia; the likes of Ghulam Ali, Abida Praveen and Mehdi Hassan, are some of the many examples who came with the right ‘bhava’ to make the possibility a reality. You listen to them not because they perform for you. You listen to them because they do not ‘perform’ … they are so blissfully lost in communing with the Prime Energy that, being a microcosm of That, you cannot but get drawn to it.
Swaratma is a platform, a humble initiative that I launched about a year back to contribute to keeping the soul of Indian music alive. Swaratma has nothing against those who want to pursue commerce by commoditizing Indian Music. Nor is it aligned to any so-called cause related to the growth and rise of Indian music. In very simple terms, Swaratma is a space for budding, aspiring Indian musicians to find their True North with respect to practice of Indian Music and in the process preserve its essence, its soul across boundaries of time and space.
I have been mentoring Indian Musicians for some time now to help them to not get distracted by the lure of lucre or get hijacked by the promise of performance. I do not know how successful I have been in blocking their journey towards Premature Artistic Abortion (PAA) but I am fairly convinced that these 3 or 4 of them have somewhere, somehow got a whiff of that which is not articulated, something that have not been handed over to them and yet (or maybe that’s why) they have knowing of it.
Going forward Swaratma would like to enroll original and may
eccentric Indian music buffs that have in their own ways been pursuing a
similar journey and would now like to be co-travelers. This, I envisage as, a
kind of brotherhood of Indian musicians, those who have accomplished and found
a place for themselves. We would also like to adopt budding musicians, who want
to make meaningful music, those who are students for life, to find guides and
mentors, hone their talents and bare their souls and uncover the hidden stars
While I do not, on purpose, like to look at a very big canvas at this point in time and would rather have Swaratma grow and evolve and incrementally, my vision for this entity is that, 10 years down the line, this becomes the most powerful body for accreditation of music teachers, gurus and musicologists on the one hand and a sort of a gurukul for serious pursuants of Indian music, from all across the globe where they get to know their talents in clear cognitive terms, are guided suitably to choose a path where the talents can blossom and are finally enabled to nurture the soul of music through sadhana and chetana - to attain swar gyan and atma gyan simultaneously and emerge as true ambassadors of the heritage of Indian music.