Some lovers of classical music spend years mastering the art. Other passionate savants can identify ragas from their opening notes. And some are novice enthusiasts still struggling to grasp new musical language, waiting for someone to guide them.
City-based music academy Sangit Mahabharati has now compiled that guidance into a three-volume encyclopaedia on Indian music, bringing together entries on various forms of music, their technical terms, instruments and artiste biographies.
The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India is the product of more than 12 years of research and editing by 100 contributors, and covers 2,000 years of classical, folk and film music traditions through 5,500 text entries and more than 200 visuals. The Encyclopaedia will be formally released at Worli’s Nehru Centre on Wednesday.
“Our encyclopaedia tries to answer queries of anyone who wants to know something ‘more’ on a topic within Indian music,” said Pandit Nayan Ghosh, son of tabla maestro Pandit Nikhil Ghosh, who founded Sangit Mahabharati and conceived of the Encyclopaedia in 1961 before his death in 1995.
For the uninitiated, the books provide some concise and simple explanations of musical history and core concepts – a raga, for instance, is described as the “particularity of tone beautified by notes and their movements which delights the minds of the people”.
For practicing musicians, teachers and students, the encyclopaedia is a ready reference on complex details such as the delineation of individual ragas.
“Our main hurdle on the academic side was the lack of authentic data, often even conflicting pieces of information which required thorough scrutiny,” said Ghosh, who believes the sheer vastness and diversity of Indian culture made it difficult to produce a comprehensive account.
The academy had to operate with limited funds, staff and research personnel up till their association with the publisher in 1999.
The Encyclopaedia has already been purchased by a number of schools and colleges around the country, and the publishers plan to create an online version for future editions and updates.
“The Encyclopaedia focuses more on classical than folk music, and its biographies have limited information on musical characteristics of the artistes’ styles,” said tabla player and researcher Aneesh Pradhan. “But it is an important and commendable work that needs to be welcomed.”