Indian Classical Music: Shaping up in the West

Posted on January 20, 2010 in Culture-Vulture

Menorca Chaturvedi:

This is part 2 of our 2 part series on the Indian classical music. Read part 1 here.

Indian classical music is an extremely rich tradition, having ancient roots. The Samaveda, one of the four Vedas, describes music, which transformed from Samagana to Jatis to Ragas.

It was originally used to help one meditate and attain the path of self-realization. Though Western Music too, had religious roots, Pandit Ravi Shankar strongly demarcates between the two. “Indian classical music is principally based on melody and rhythm, not on harmony, counterpoint, chords, modulation and the other basics of Western classical music.”

Indian Classical music has had an increasing populace of followers in the West. Interactions between Indian and Western Music can be traced back to the 18th century. Possible historical links are found between the nagaswaram and the oboe, for instance, or the sitar, oud, and guitar.

Peter Lavezzoli, in his book, ‘The Dawn of Indian Music in the West’, highlights the milestones of Indian Classical Music, in the Western countries. Showing the stark contrast in the response of the Western audience, during the last fifty years, he gives us an insight into the work of Ali Akbar Khan. Back in 1955, when he released an LP called, ‘Music of India: Morning and Evening Ragas,’ it did not seem to go well with the audience. On being reissued as a CD in 1995, under the title, ‘Then and Now’, it was nominated for a Grammy.

This clearly depicts the tremendous influence of Indian music in the West. Apart from this, we are familiar with the amount of efforts by George Harrison and the famous Beatles to popularize Indian music. The other artists, who were inspired from Indian music, include the likes of Mickey Hart, John Coltrane, and John McLaughlin.

While Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, also known as the Beatles’ Guru, spread Transcendental Meditation, Pandit Ravi Shankar had captivated a huge number of audiences in the West, gaining stardom at the Madison Square Garden Event.

In the present day scenario, passion for Indian music is a highly noted feature in the West. While some people take it up for their deep rooted interest in music, some others are inspired by its soulful harmony. There are, yet, others, who take up long-term courses in Indian Music, in order to diversify their talents, and transform their hobbies into productivity.

Music has always occupied a central place in the minds and hearts of Indians. Our uniqueness is our USP, and we should preserve the originality, rather than trying to imitate the West.