The Khades in Dahisar are your typical middle-class Mumbaikars. The parents work hard at their public sector jobs while the two children — daughter, 19, and son, 14 — try to excel in their studies. It is not always that the parents and children see eye to eye. But there is one thing this family has little dispute over — watching the music reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee Marathi.
Says Dipti Khade, 42, “This show, with its mix of classical, semi-classical and light music, appeals to all in the family.” Last year, Khade started training in classical music after work for an hour as often in a week as she can manage. “I had learnt classical music as a child. Now that my children are grown up, I have time to pick up the threads,” she says.
Khade knows she will never do a stage show, but says she trains in music for personal satisfaction. The show on Zee Marathi, she says, helps her because the judges, Suresh Wadkar and Pandit Hrudayanath Mangeshkar, give valuable tips on singing.
Cut to the Jacob household in Aluva near Kochi in Kerala. An unwritten code of silence exists during the telecast of Idea Star Singer on Asianet. The grand finale of ISS 2008 held at the Chandrasekharan Nair stadium in Thiruvananthapuram on April 25 this year notched a television viewing rating (TVR) of 28.79 — a record in the south. Leela Jacob, 73, has no training in music. She puts down her addiction to the talent on display and the informative inputs from the judges.
Contrary to urban perception, interest in classical and semi-classical music is very much alive despite the onslaught of popular music around us. “It is not uncommon to see audiences of 20,000 now compared to some 200 people in the past,” says classical singer Purvi Parikh, who juggles daily riyaaz (practice) with running Tranceforme, a designer showroom in Worli.
If anything, music reality shows are helping rekindle that interest in the younger generation. Amruta Sonam, 22, a Sangeet Visharad and BA in music from Mumbai University, who trains 20 students, five years and above, in Mumbai agrees. “There is a new urge to learn classical music. Even the five-year-olds who come to me want to learn classical music.”
It is understandable why. As KS Chithra, well-known playback singer in Malayalam movies and a judge at the ISS, says, “There is a sthanam or a place for each note and classical training teaches the contestant to take the note to its rightful place.” Classical training clearly gives contestants an edge in the shows. Last year’s winner on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Little Champs, nine-year-old Kartiki Gaikwad had been training in classical music for two years when she appeared on the show. “Of the children who made it to the final rounds of the auditions, no less than 50 per cent were enrolled for classical music classes,” says Nikhil Sane, business head, Zee Marathi.
“Music shows based on classical music are bridging the generation gap. When the family gathers around the television set to watch the programme the young get exposed to the music that they would not hear otherwise in a world full of pop music. Not everyone wants a steady diet of Himesh Reshamiya,” says Sane.
Parikh, however, feels that with rising numbers there is a risk of watering down of the purity of the music, something the judges should guard against. “Not every child will become a Tansen, but it will create some kaansens (good listeners),” she says.
Devki Pandit, another classical singer, agrees on the need to expose television audiences to classical music. “Unless you expose them to it, how will you know whether it will click? Look at Jalsa, the classical programme on DD National on Sundays. It has such high TRP ratings,” she argues. “There is an audience for Indian classical music.
And it cuts across age,” says Chithra.