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Western music interest grows in capital

Western music arrived in India with the colonial powers, its influence initially confined to coastal towns.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2006 18:55 IST

Western music arrived in India with the colonial powers, its influence initially confined to coastal towns. Delhi at that time was under Bahadur Shah Zafar - a poet in his own rights, one who had neither the will nor the power to resist the gradual British influence infusing the existing Indian culture with fresh intake from the West. Music, they say, is international with no language, nationality or borders - so making inroads here was just natural.

The popular or pop is light while the classical is deeper and soul touching, classified Western music. The light made its way to corners of the land, with young people deeply involved, their creativity giving fair competition to other musicians on the international arena. The Church music of today is also imported from West and is heard and played in every church and worship services, sans the rock and sway aspect of Western music. In Delhi, popular music was restricted to 'crooners' in all the five star hotel night clubs or in total contrast to small groups that met in homes for the more studied and practiced recitals.

Western classical music has a much older history, but did not match the pace with the progress that light music made in India. Classical music too has two divisions - instrumental and vocal. Delhi may have had a bit of instrumental music but was more or less dry in vocal music. Twenty years ago, apparently there were only two trained voices in the public domain in the city with an academic music degree -- Seetu Singh and Sharmila Livingston (nee Bannerjee).

In those days music was a hobby, not an academic profession. Today, with the Trinity School of Music offering a rock curriculum in addition to the classical, the numbers of takers has leaped exponentially. Delhi University too has for the first time opened up a degree programme in Western Music.

Things have changed. A one time dry desert for Western music, Delhi has since grown. With greater dispensable income, music is no longer a luxury for a limited few but an important extra-curricular activity for kids. With changes in import/export regulations, one can buy quality foreign branded musical instruments at somewhat affordable prices. Music teaching/training is becoming big business with classes costing up to Rs.1,200 a lesson, and schools of music opening up in the national capital region.

With the MTV age, music videos, well-funded college festivals, inter-school competitions, TV talent shows - there are any number of platforms available for performance, starting with the very young.

From a single city chorus namely "The Delhi Christian Chorus" conducted by Rev Richard Smythe in the late 60's and early 70's, the city now offers choices: Capital City Minstrels, Neemrana Chorus, Choraliers, Artists Unlimited, the Naga and the Mizo choirs and several smaller ones. Folks can join and/or go to more choices of concerts. The audience at most of these affairs is no longer mostly foreigners. Indians are working hard to get to concerts, shows, recitals, and musicals.

Promoters though are few - perhaps because of limited knowhow, infrastructure or funds, to develop and take classical music to greater heights in Delhi. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations is doing its bit by inviting foreign artists, chamber and symphony orchestras, and dance groups. The Delhi School of Music and the Delhi Symphony Orchestra are making their own contribution in a limited way - their performances just a few with inadequate publicity.

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