Welcome to Swaratma
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 Bengal, 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 taleem (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 a recent 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 classical 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 Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Amir Khan, legends like Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), Ustad Vilayat Khan (sitar) and Pandit Pannalal Ghosh (flute); exponents like Begum Akhtar & Mehdi Hassan (ghazal and thumri), Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Wadali brothers (qawwali), Hari Om Saran (bhajan), Purna Das Baul (folk) and playback luminaries like Kundan Lal Saigal, Muhammad Rafi and Manna Dey, 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'. There is no performer as s/he merges with the performance to commune with the Prime Energy, taking their audience to another world of sublime bliss.