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Music Inc. 2019: Lost Genres In The Indian Music Landscape

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Music Inc. 2019 gripped the need to create a cultural policy to bring traditional Indian music to Mainstream!

Music Inc 2.0 session on “The Lost Genres In The Indian Music Landscape” gripped the very nerve of this country to have a need for a comprehensive cultural policy in order to get back the lost traditional music genres of India, as to get their due honour and place in the music ecosystem.

Moderated by Atul Churamani Founder, Turnkey publishing the discussion panel included eminent Hindustani classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal, Durga Jasraj, Founder, Director, Art & Artiste, Abhinav Agrawal Co-Founder of Anahad Foundation and renowned folk and Bollywood singer Papon.

Churamani began the intrinsic discussion on why people today want to watch films rather than going for the classical music concerts, while even lesser want to experience the folk music, replying to which Subha Mudgal said, “There are music festivals where a large number of people who know the genre come to listen, but yes classical music today is a challenge primarily because there is severe lack of awareness about the form. There is a fear of it being unfamiliar and also it is non-representational since the presentation given by a musician equally depends on the interpretation by the listener on the work on what is happening. So there is a kind of a mindset that it cannot be comprehended by general listeners, and that has created a huge gap between the general music loving people of this country to reach the classical concerts.

Talking about the challenges the genre faces, Mudgal added, “So the support for classical music is becoming very difficult and the reason being is that there are overlaps that are happening which are not necessarily artistically driven but need to be driven. The genres are not considered as a part of the music industry as it is considered something that is practised, performed and can never make money except for lucky few.

Churamani made a point talking to Papon who’s a traditional Assamese Folk music artist saying”, Folk music is the music of the people as it’s called ‘Lok Sangeet‘, but why do we not see more of concerts, recordings of folk music and representations of folk music genres?

Highlighting on key hindrance in the propagation of folk music Papon said, “While I have seen my father who’s a folk artist performing in front of lakhs of people and people literally jumping to its beats, so I think folk music can be really rocking and can be on mainstream too, but here India anything that is not the film music be it folk or classical is facing a difficulty in reaching the audiences, since they are not being promoted by mainstream music industry. It’s been in only last 5-6years that folk music is now considered as cool, otherwise, it had vanished from the music scene in the previous decades.

Talking about the challenges that the event organisers face to market genres like classical, folk other than film music Durga Jasraj said, “Well it’s challenging and you need to be 2000% sure about what you are doing and be extremely committed to it, otherwise nobody will support you. So when you conceptualise, design a concept you need to believe in your concept and you need to help your sponsors understand and visualise it. So classical music was at some time for the Raja-Maharajas but today it is a part of the performing arts and it’s very important to have a connection with the audience and thus the presentation is very important.”

“Talking about connecting with the audience Churamani said,” we are genuinely shrinking classical music by continually playing what is more popular.”

Mudgal highlighted on the lack of opportunities to showcase rare aspects of classical repertoire, “Most classical concerts are happening in the evening hours 6-10 p.m where musician presents only the set of ragas sung during those hours of the day as per the time theory of Indian classical music, which are still in circulation. But the ragas that are performed at the dawn or during the afternoon,till some time back they were heard regularly on all India radio which programmed classical music at different hours of the day,but now it is not happening and therefore repertoire of classical music is rapidly shrinking, since neither the artists are getting an opportunity to perform those ragas nor the audience is getting an experience to listen to a great hidden treasures of the classical music repertoire.”

Adding to Mudgal’s point Jasraj said, “Actually this was bothering me for over ten years, so we came up with the concept of 8 prahar concerts, a 24 hour concert which based on the time cycle of the Hindustani classical music, which is now in it’s 5th year, and brings an opportunity to the artists to present a vast repertoire of the ragas of Indian classical music which are sung at different hours of the day starting from morning,afternoon, evening,night and dawn completing the full cycle and we had audiences sitting from morning 6 o’clock till 4.30 the next morning, who travelled from across the world to attend it. So each artist had to come up with a list of 10 ragas in each time frame and as producers, we designed it so that the maximum number of different unheard ragas were presented.”

Abhinav Aggarwal pointing out on why folk music is suffering said, “Looking at the scale of folk music as per our research our country’s 70% music is folk music but is not available, the reason being that the folk musicians do not have the kind of money to go and record in the recording studios to pay per hour, nor the villages have the kind of infrastructure. So the challenge was to have a good quality of folk music available and so we took this initiative to go to various villages with a mobile recording setup to record and restore folk music. We also created a livelihood generation project as part of our CSR activity to help the musicians especially those who were below the poverty line to help them earn their livelihood, that helped us generate funds too, which we further utilised for the cause.”

Jasraj shared about her initiative to restore folk music said, “We did a lot of research on the folk music of every state in India and found that for many genres there were hardly any musicians left to sing and thus thought to restore these genres. So we decided to go to 25 states of India to find these folk musicians and also found local good quality recording studios in the states. Today we have compiled 1000 tracks from each state of India, and we have 25000 tracks of Indian folk music. We are now contemplating how to bring this music out through Art and Artiste foundation which is dedicated to the cause of restoring traditional genres of Indian music.”

Mudgal brought forward the need of data collection saying that “We need to have data of how many artists are performing different genres across different demographics of India and we cannot think of planning welfare schemes for musicians if we do not have the numbers out there.”

Talking about the need to create a cultural policy as raised by Churamani, Mudgal replied, “There has never been a cultural policy to address these issues and especially to connect the traditional music with other industries like the music industry and tourism industry.”

“Although there are policies in the cultural ministry like of Repertory,wherein government of India gives you grant to work with 26 people in your Repertory which pays very minimal wages to the director of the Repertory and the artists, which needs to be revised since many many years, which will support both folk and traditional musicians,” added Mudgal.

Adding to it Jasraj said, “Well I would like to create a cultural policy to involve mainstream media to attract the youngsters to the cause of propagating our traditional music. We need to create the content of high quality be it on digital media platforms like YouTube, Radio, Television and it needs to be a collective effort by everyone.”

Churamani added his point saying “How about having a policy for the broadcasters to include 30-40% of the content including traditional Indian music?”

The session left food for thought, for an opportunity to create a dialogue with the policymakers!

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