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Music Is Rooted In Spirituality

Musical vibrations can convey moods and emotions and have the ability to mould and shape our consciousness

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Music is a precious gift of God to mankind. Music is a celebration of life. Music is an experience that has the ability to dissolve boundaries between people all over the world. I believe all musicians in the world are like one family — the common link being the seven beautiful musical notes, ‘Do Re Me Fa So La Ti’ in Western notation, and ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni’ in the Indian system. If we include the half tones that are the sharps and flats, we get 12 notes. Music has been practiced for at least 5,000 years, yet we have not been able to discover a 13th note!

In India, the meaning of ‘guru’ is far deeper than, say ‘teacher’ or ‘mentor’. Great musicians or gurus have been likened to pujaris or priests, who perform upasana. That is why we touch their feet. It is not an act of subservience, but an elevating and liberating action. It is understandable to adopt or adapt to a modern way of life and merely aspire for technical virtuosity, but this should not make us forget the most essential values of our tradition and culture.

It is a common misconception that classical music is entertainment. Classical music has always had and will continue to have, a select audience. In the early years, there were only private mehfils. Music has come out to the concert halls relatively recently. We are talking about an audience choosing the experience of classical music over the ninety to hundred odd TV channels at home!

Yet today, musicians are performing to packed houses. In India, I see huge venues filling up. So, in spite of all the new technical and electronic gadgets like the keyboard synthesiser, cell phone ipod — the world is still interested in and cares for, classical music.

Swara hi Eshwar hai! In every culture, music has its roots in spirituality. Music has always been an internal part of worship of God. That is why hymns, carols, bhajans, shabads, kirtans etc. are all forms of prayer. Through music we can convey our innermost feelings. From childhood it has been my aim to sing through my instruments, be it Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri or folk.

When I’m performing, in search of perfection and excellence, with my eyes shut, I feel connected to a cosmic power from where I receive the messages which my audience experience. When I am able to get across to my audience; when I am able to get them involved, I find that my listeners always give me the inspiration to create that special atmosphere, the ambience in which music, the musician and the audience become One.

Musicians and listeners of music have been communicating with each other across all barriers through this ‘language’ from time immemorial. Just as we, irrespective of our race, origin, religion or language, use flowers to worship, welcome, honour, bade farewell, and celebrate, we similarly arrange musical notes into ‘bouquets’ or compositions which display all our human feelings and emotions. Musical vibrations can convey moods and emotions and have the ability to mould and shape our consciousness.

Different types of music have different effects on the mind — both positive and negative. Our mind is like any living organism. It must be nurtured and needs stimulation to develop and grow. Music is one of the most important ‘foods’ for the intellect. Each musical note is connected to this most important part of our minds. Music has many faces. Conversation, recitation, chanting and singing, are all part of music.

Music can be either vocal or instrumental. Vocal music appeals to most of us because of its poetical or lyrical content. Instrumental music on the other hand, such as what I play on the sarod, is pure sound. It needs to be experienced and felt. Since there are no lyrics, there is no language barrier between the performer and the listener, and that is why instrumental music transcends all barriers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Amjad Ali Khan

The author is a sarod virtuoso and was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2001

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