Is Traditional Art And Culture Losing Significance?

Posted on May 9, 2013 in Culture-Vulture

By Neelabjo Mukherjee:

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There was once a time when one would wake up with the tune of the harmonium from the neighborhood playing the morning raga. A melodious and yet somewhat raspy voice of a trained Ustadji would effortlessly glide over the notes while the neighborhood uncle would sip his tea–entranced by the serene effect of the raga. The girl in the uniform would rush for her school and come back to practice the scales or adorn the ghungroo for her daily dose of Kathak (one of the the traditional dance forms). The neighborhood boy would somewhat reluctantly comeback after the match of Gully cricket and resume playing the Sitar.

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But this was all before the age of Globalization  computers and the Internet which swayed the world like no other. Gradually, in the name of Westernization, Indians have reached a situation where we have one foot in the East and one in the West. Children spend their evenings at tuition classes or absorbed in a computer game. Teens and young adults play the guitar; listen to Pink Floyd and Metallica, sport a goatee and bang their heads because that’s exactly what every “cool” rock music lover is suppose to do. Dance schools have sprung up at every other neighborhood teaching “phoren” dance forms and the latest Bollywood jhatkas and matkas.

Now the question that arises, is, have we entirely washed our hands off traditional Indian music and dance forms? The answer is both Yes and No. On an optimistic note, fusion dance forms and genres seem to have found a new audience with shows like MTV Coke Studio and classically trained singers like Shafqat Amanat Ali and Arijit Singh making a mark in today’s mainstream Bollywood. Some organisations like Spic Macay are also trying rigorously to revive the classical scenario by holding functions in schools and colleges.

But on the flip side, it is also true that classical soirees and concerts hardly find any takers, especially among the youth. More importantly, Bollywood music of today is heavily influenced by the West and soundtracks based on classical music have gone into the foray since the 1960’s and 70’s. The occasional classical track that appears in the rare period movie is to keep it in sync with the period piece. With the advent of technology, untrained singers, with not-so-honed and not-so-perfect vocal skills are also making it big these days, demeaning the importance of classical music which requires rigorous practice for attaining perfection. Reality shows have by and large invaded and conquered modern television but these shows are also only about showcasing your repertoire of Bollywood songs & thumkas with the occasional classical round to just break away from the monotony.

In this situation, it is rather sad to see the ancient, age-old forms of dance and music which had been passed on through generations fade away in this age of globalization. While learning and imbibing from Western forms enrich the craft, it is not really advisable to entirely forget the very essence of our culture, because that is what defines what we are at the end of the day. One has to balance between the traditional and the contemporary because unless you remember your roots, you can never climb up the steep ladders of success.

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