The Dying Art of Indian Classical Music

The Decline of Indian Classical Music

The Decline of Indian Classical Music

In today’s time, life is technology driven. Everyone is so engulfed in work that they have no time for anything else. However, people have found certain escape formulas to relax from their busy schedule, and music is one such escape. Music in today’s time is serving as a nourishing food for the soul.

Most people belonging to the younger generation want to listen to hip- hop, rap, and rock music because of which we see a decline in the popularity of the Indian classical Music. Let me ask you – when was the last time you enjoyed the mellifluousness of classical Indian music?

Classical Indian vocal music has two branches – North Indian classical or Hindustani music, and South Indian classical or Carnatic music. Having its roots in the Vedic era, and bound in a structure of ragas and talas, classical music was formal in nature, and received patronage in the courts of kings, such as Tansen in the court of Akbar. Though it assimilated many regional and folk traditions over the centuries, classical tradition never strayed away from its original structure. Rather, the new ragas that evolved from this fusion got absorbed in the classical tradition. Apart from the vocal tradition, instrumental music also finds pride of place in the classical spectrum. In the modern period, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, and Pandit Kumar Gandharva are renowned as Hindustani classical singers, while Dr Balamuralikrishna and M S Subbulakshmi propagated Carnatic Music. Other worthy proponents include Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Pt Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Pt Ravi Shankar, Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma, and Pt Zakir Hussain, who took instrumental music to another level.

Well, there is an ongoing debate that the classical Indian form of music is not dying. But, is it really not dying? I opine that the original form of the Indian classical Music that has always been a niche genre is losing its glory and grandeur. It is kept alive only in the form of fusions. Originated in the time of Vedas, the admirers of this kind of music have mostly been from amongst the urban elite. Since ancient times, it was performed amongst the nobility and the landed gentry. Coming a long way, in recent times, Indian classical music was performed in private mehfils or in concert halls, but it has not gained enough mass popularity amongst the people even today. Appreciating classical music requires some knowledge of ragas and talas, which makes it a bit difficult for the common man.

Decades ago, Indian classical music received Bollywood like attention, but yet again it has all gone in vain as the effect of it was ephemeral. People argue that shows like coke studio, bands like the Indian Ocean are promoting the classical form of music and are trying hard to keep it alive. But the thing to be noticed is the music we listen to on such shows is usually the fusion and not the exquisite one. We often tend to listen to the classical music, but not in its pure form. The purest classical music doesn’t appeal to the younger generation, Rather they are moved by the fusion of western and classical music.

The classical tones are either intermixed with some kind of foreign music or other western forms, making it more of a fusion song version churning out the originality from it. Contemporary classical vocalists have tried their best to contribute to its popularity by singing devotional songs and bhajans, but this attempt is restricted to the older generations only. We cannot deny that a gap has existed between the youth and the classical Indian Music.

According to the music experts, the classical Indian instruments like the Sitar, Tanpura, the Pakhawaj or Sarangi are constantly losing their popularity amongst the younger generation of the musicians. They are now more inclined towards the electronic instruments, which is why we are unable to listen to the magical concoction of the Ragas and the soulful rendition of music maestros. They are soon going to just appear in the pages of history books describing the beauty of this dying art.

Following could be the reasons behind the decline of the classical music:

  • Swag in Youth

The youth wants to listen to the music which makes them appear cool. They wish to have a playlist they could brag about and portray themselves as superior, by playing it in public. They don’t want to listen to something they consider as ‘ancient’.

  • Complexity

It requires a lot of time and effort to even become a mediocre achiever in this field of art. People don’t possess that kind of patience and are unable to comprehend it, which is why they have lost interest in it. Furthermore, it is quite complex to learn about the ragas, tones and syllables, so youth basically gets inclined towards western music which can be auto-tuned.

  • Change in Society

Art mirrors the society. As society is gradually taking a shift and is becoming more inclined towards western form of music, the popularity of Indian classical is depleting.

  • New Explorations

I can understand the evolution is necessary, but because of the experimentation of the new generation, the primary form of the music is getting extinct at a faster pace.

Things that could be done to save it:

  • Music Education

Children must be made aware of this form of music and should be taught the Indian classical music in schools and colleges.

  • Live Streaming

More and more shows should be conducted, so that people get familiar with the beauty entangled with this form of music.

  • Internet for Rescue

What’s not on the internet? Well, everything is on the internet so the availability of the Indian classical music should be expanded to save it from going in limbo.

All I want to say is, it is not the classical music that will die but it is the ‘classic’ nature of the classical music which will surely drift away, if urgent steps are not taken.