The ITC Sangeet Research Academy, Western Regional Committee, in association with Music Forum and the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) organised a two-day seminar on ‘The Changing Profile of Indian Music’ at Mumbai on January 12 and 13, 2008. The Inaugural Session began with a welcome address by Pandit Arvind Parikh, Chairman, ITC Sangeet Research Academy (Western Regional Committee). The Seminar was inaugurated by Mr. Hans Ramaker, Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mumbai. The ITC SRA Western Region Awards presented each year to two senior artistes and four promising young artistes, selected from First Prize Winners of All India Radio Competitions, were distributed by Professor R.C.Mehta, Honorary General Secretary, Indian Musicological Society. Shri Anand Nayak, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Human Resources, ITC Limited, gave the vote of thanks.
The Theme papers were presented at a session moderated by Dr. Vidyadhar Vyas, Executive Director ITC Sangeet Research Academy. Eminent Musician and Scholar Dr. Ashok Ranade presented a paper entitled ‘Tributaries Make the River’ after which Prof. Wim van der Meer, Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam spoke on ‘Evaluating Evolution’. It was pointed out that Indian music has a 2000-year-old tradition in all the genres namely primitive, folk, religious, art, popular and confluence, which need to be given due consideration.
The two panel discussion sessions that followed dealt with Crossovers. The pre-lunch session looking at the Western perspective was moderated by Prof. Joep Bor, Professor of Extra European Performing Arts Studies at Leiden University and Associate Professor at Codarts Hogeschool voor de Kunsten, Rotterdam, a well-known sarangi player and musicologist. The panelists, all deeply involved with Indian music, were Prof. Rokus de Groot of the Dept. of Musicology, University of Amsterdam, Prof. Frans de Ruiter, Chairman of the Board of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Design, Music and Dance, The Hague and Professor and Dean, Faculty of Creative and Performing Arts of Leiden University, Prof. T. M. Hoffman, Ethnomusicologist and Director Indo-Japanese Music Exchange Association, Prof. Stephen Slawek, Professor of Ethnomusicology, The University of Texas at Austin and musician Mr Peter Pannke. They discussed the reasons for their experiments and objectives for undertaking their ventures of combining the music of different systems. The general trends in crossovers, evaluation of crossovers and criteria for such evaluation as well as developments and changes in the experiments were also discussed.
The post-lunch session began with a panel discussion that looked at Crossovers in the Indian perspective. It was moderated by Pandit Arvind Parikh. Introducing the session, Dr Ashok Ranade pointed out that it is the duty of the musician to help the listener make sense of the musical information freely available today. The panelists were well-known musicians Shri Trilok Gurtu, Shri Shankar Mahadevan, Shri Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Dr Trichy Shankaran, Mridangam player and Professor of Music, York University, Canada as well as Ken Zuckerman, Sarod player, Lutenist and Director, Ali Akbar College of Music, Switzerland. One of the main areas of discussion was whether crossovers threatened or enriched the tradition. Another valuable consideration was whether there is mutual learning in experimentation involving more than one system of music.
The topic for the last session was ‘Music education in the globalised world’. The session was moderated by Prof Frans de Ruiter, while the panelists were Prof. Joep Bor, Dr. Suvarnalata Rao, Research Scientist & Programme Co-ordinator NCPA and Mr. David Trasoff, Director Hindustani Music Ensemble, Pomona College, Claremont, California USA. It was pointed out that the increasing emergence of distance education and web-based education has lead to ‘migrating cultures’ with the greater availability of choice, which has made it important for teachers to keep abreast of the times. Composers and performers are seeking out new types of sound though music departments seem to remain conservative.
The next day began with a session on ‘Experiments within the tradition - Western Performers’ Views’. The moderator was Prof. Wim van der Meer and the panelists were Dr. Adrian McNeil, Department of Contemporary Music Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, Dr Saskia Rao de Haas, Cellist Composer and Mr. Ken Zuckerman, Sarod player, lutenist and Director, Ali Akbar College of Music, Switzerland. The session began with a demonstration by Dr Saskia Rao Haas who also opined that while there is a non-stop process of reinventing oneself, the experiments should not marginalize the tradition. She regretted the recent trend of artistes hiring PR agencies to ensure ‘professional’ success. Dr McNeil pointed out the need to plan and practise before presenting experiments. Mr Zuckerman added that many of the experiments were generated by organisers who are catering to a market place that expects something new.
The next session, moderated by Dr Ashok Ranade, presented the Indian performers’ views of experiments within the tradition. The panelists were Pandit Arvind Parikh, Dhrupad Vocalists Shri Umakant & Shri Ramakant Gundecha, Pandit Vijay K. Kichlu, Sangeet Samrat Shri Chitravina Ravikiran and Sangeeta Saraswathi Dr. Sudha Raghunathan. Pandit Kichlu began by enumerating the major successful experiments in vocal and instrumental music including use of sargam, ati vilambit laya, using 5 or 6-stringed tanpuras, jugalbandi especially of sitar and sarod and percussion ensembles, use of bisampadi talas or ending the tihai one matra before the mukhada. In his opinion the experiments that had failed since they had not set a trend included the AIR vadya vrinda, jugalbandi of vocalists and instrumentalists or jugalbandi of vocalists of different gharanas. The Gundecha brothers opined that the harmonium failed to present the proper swar sthana and its ‘invasion’ has lead to a decline in the capacity to hear ‘swar bheda’. They also felt that the wide acceptance of notation has lead to converting ragas to tunes. Shri Chitravina Ravikiran pointed out that notations were useful for preserving compositions but did not work for improvisation. While some experiments have been successful in the short-term, they have not stood the test of time. Some record labels have also been catalyzing experiments. Dr Sudha Ranganathan pointed out that sometimes what is successful in a particular concert may not be successful elsewhere. Pandit Parikh held the view that today classical music seems to become ‘massical’ with musicians falling into the trap of turning a performance into entertainment. Sponsors seem to need value for money, leading to a declining quality in listenership. However, with timbre fast becoming the most important component of music, in future, experiments at improving timbre will continue undaunted.
The next session dealt with folk, pop and film music. The moderator was Prof Rokus de Groot and the panelists were Dr. Shubha Chaudhuri, Associate Director General (Academic), Archives & Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (AIIS), Prof. Richard Widdess, Professor of Musicology, Head of Department of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and Prof. Regula Burckhardt Qureshi, Director, Folkways Alive and Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology, University of Alberta. Through the discussions it became evident that while folk music has readily adapted to the demands of tourism and has changed form to suit the concert stage, there has been a fear of loosing its authenticity.
The concluding session proved to be highly interactive, with many members of the audience participating. Possible topics for the next seminar and changes in the format that may benefit all music lovers were some of the issues discussed.