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Review: Elements of Hindustani Classical Music

books Updated: Aug 06, 2011 08:06 IST
Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times
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Elements of Hindustani Classical Music

Shruti Jauhari

D. K. Printworld

Rs 295

pp 190

It does call for immense courage to teach, sing, propagate and finally write a book on Hindustani classical music for one living in the midst of Chennai’s impregnable citadel of Carnatic music. Shruti Jauhari has managed to do precisely that; she has broken the formidable barriers of Carnatic music through her great passion and dedication for Hindustani music.

Born into a Jabalpur family of music connoisseurs, Shruti  was first introduced to Hindustani music by her father, R.M. Verma, himself a keen musician and staunch critic, and she later went on to learn the art from Pandit G.R. Kulkarni of Maihar Gharana. She was only 10 when she began her first lessons, and her love for music grew and endured even after she moved to Chennai in 1994. She now teaches music at the city’s K.M. Music Conservatory, and does give select public performances at home and abroad.

Her book is merely an extension of her dream to spread the greatness of Hindustani music, and in her neatly written volume she begins with an interesting chapter on the history of this art, engaging us with its fascinating evolution through several periods like the Vedic, the Gupta, the Tughlaq, the British and so on. Glimpses into the influence of Islam on Hindustani music actually left me thirsting for more details and deeper insights.

However, Shruti’s volume does not really purport to be a treatise on history. Rather, it is meant for those musically inclined and who might want to pursue this strand of music either as a rasika or a student, perhaps eventually graduating into a performer.

Shruti takes us through an enriching journey of the various “gharanas’ of vocal music, letting us peek into the lives of some illustrious musicologists and singers. Many of us would know who Tansen or Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was. But who was Gopal Nayak. Who was Sadarang, and who was Haddu Khan? Not many would have an inkling, and the book presents absorbing facets of these men. Yes, they are a little too brief, perhaps indicating trepidation on the author’s part. Would more elaborate descriptions put off a reader? I really would not think that.

The chapter on musical instruments talks about the “swar mandal” (an additional instrument to the tanpura) that “creates a very pleasant atmosphere” and among others, the “pakhavaj”, which also relates to the “mridangam” is southern India.

Fairly informative chapter on “rag”, “tal” and “chota khayal” and a fine index, divided into several sections, will make Shruti’s tome a delight for those stepping for the first time into the enthralling world of Hindustani classical music.

Yes, Shruti’s work will also endear to connoisseurs, and maybe a more detailed examination of this strain of music could be welcome.

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