A musician is making Hindustani classical music more accessible: He’s singing it in English | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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A musician is making Hindustani classical music more accessible: He’s singing it in English

Kiran Pathak attempts to keep the genre of Hindustani classical music alive by translating lyrics into English

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Jul 22, 2016 14:22 IST
Krpa Savlani
Kiran Pathak attempts to keep the genre of Hindustani classical music alive by translating lyrics into English.
Kiran Pathak attempts to keep the genre of Hindustani classical music alive by translating lyrics into English. (Photo: Pratik Chorge/HT)

What do teachers do best? They break things down into a form others can understand and appreciate. At 62, Kiran Pathak, a Mumbai-based Hindustani classical music teacher has adopted an unusual approach to make classical music approachable: he’s translating and singing them in English.

The idea struck Pathak when he listened to western genres like rock, pop, and rap and couldn’t follow the lyrics. His inability to comprehend the music made him realise that there must be those who have the same problem with Hindustani classical music. So he started rendering traditional “bandishes” (sic) in English.

Though he started singing his renditions of classical songs in English four years ago, it’s only now that a web platform, 101 India, has started turning them into music videos. Pathak hopes this will popularise the idea. “I will see the interest increase now,” Pathak says.

Pathak also felt that India should lead this process of making classical music accessible before the west does. He says, “Now that musicians like [late] Ravi Shankar have schools around the world that teach Hindustani classical music, people are starting to adopt the music, and have started translating it into their language.”

Ask if the translations take away from the original feel of the “bandish” (sic) renditions, and he has a practical approach to the whole thing: “English is a widely spoken language. That’s why I chose it as the language to translate “Bandish-es” (sic) into.”

Pathak has already translated around 30 bandish renditions into English, and he has no plan to move to another language, even though he would like to further globalise the art form. “I don’t know any other foreign language. That’s the problem. Until now, I have composed in Marathi, Hindi, and in English,” he says.

Pathak also believes that not only do the lyrics need to be translated, but they also need to be made more relevant to what is happening in today’s society. He has written a few of his own, about which he says: “I try to compose ones that reflect new subjects, things the youth can understand.” He has added issues like mobile phones and dating in the lyrics of the bandishes (sic) he’s written to make them more relevant to today’s society.