These days I am working on a little music experiment. I pick a Raga first thing in the morning and search it on Grooveshark. I listen to all the tracks that are listed in that search. Initially, I was doing it only to improve my understanding of Indian music by listening to as much of it as possible. But now I realize the hidden beauty of my experiment. A collection of five or six notes, repeated over and over again to create a tune did not really bring the word "variety" to my mind. But then I listen to Ahir Bhairav on sarod by Amjad Ali Khan, on flute by Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, vocal by Kishori Amonkar, on the sitar by Pt. Ravishankar and I can "hear" for myself how different the same collection of five notes can sound. Although it always creates the same image of a fresh morning in my mind, the little details of how a morning could come into one's life are vastly different. Often for me, it comes as a sip of freshly brewed coffee, but sometimes, with early morning honking in an ironically practical Mumbai suburb. Sometimes just as a reminder, with the smell of my shampoo lingering inside my beanie at dusk and sometimes, the annoyingly cliched yet refreshingly beautiful image of Rekha singing man anand anand chhayo (in Ashaa's voice!).
How music is delivered is obviously different. You can see that when you listen to Pt. Jasraj open almost every single rendition with the Shantimantra. But then you get to hear Mero Allah Meherbaan in Bhairav. Or a Bhavani Praise in Bhairavi by Begum Parveen Sultana. Sometimes, they sing for the audience and sometimes they sing for themselves. There are also those ethereal moments when the rendition gets its own identity and who performs it and who receives it suddenly becomes trivial. I love those moments. They have happened to me at live concerts. How music is received has so many faces too. I don't know what kind of emotions an early morning Bhoop inspires in others but for me, it always inspires a fresh start. Even if I listen to it at midnight. I learned classical music when I was seven. So I could not understand why Kafi would make me feel a bit sad, which it did, without my googling it up to find out that it is supposed to inspire longing. :)
There are many things in life that can be precise and mathematical. Music is one of them. How it is built, how it sustains itself and repeats, how we come back to the same point after each avartan -- is all very mathematical. And so is life itself. But then again, there is a common territory, a common ground where life, mathematics and music meet. Perhaps, where logic and art meet. Those territories come alive when you get lost in the alaap until the tabla reminds you that it is over. I always struggle with this question of what is more important, the habit of following order and pattern or the tendency of giving in to the larger chaos. Even though I always come out as a strong "J" on the Myers Briggs test, I have come to resent the negative connotation we attach to the word "chaos" in recent times. If anything describes my take on this question aptly, it is the structure of Indian classical music. It follows a routine, a pattern, a regime, a discipline. But then, on that rigid framework, it drapes the colors of melancholy and euphoria. The twists and turns that sporadic outbursts of passion create, the spaces between too much joy or too much sorrow that are filled with soulful notes of introspection.
For whom do I sing?
Sometimes I sing to be noticed.
Sometimes, to not notice.
Sometimes I sing for myself.
Sometimes I sing for others.
Sometimes, I sing for my song.
And then, when I can no longer see the purpose..
I would have truly lived my song.