Raga Dreams….DH middle

Bollywood Dance Troup, World Environment Day 2...
Image by JIGGS IMAGES via Flickr

Even as I’m shuttling between Bangalore and Chennai for the music season (performing, listening) the Deccan Herald featured my article for the middle column today

“There’s one Hollywood number in the list,” declared my 10 year old. She had just returned home from her rehearsal for the annual day bash at our apartment complex. In her inimitable style, she stood there rattling off the details. “Nine items – different groups of children dancing to Bollywood numbers.” Each year the children in our complex practice hard for the annual show and it’s the highlight in many a parent and grandparent’s lives. Dressed in their Sunday best, little ones and not so little ones put on their most creative dance moves watched by the adoring crowd of relatives and friends. This year my daughters were the emcees for the show and they walked around as if they‘d won the lottery!

“Why is there no traditional music or dance programs at our annual day?“ Girija aunty was busy bending the ear of anyone who’d listen. It was her reedy voice in my head that set me thinking about Bollywood and its pernicious influence. Why do kids today act as though Indian culture means Bollywood? Going by the number of Bollywood dance classes mushrooming all over the city, I won’t be surprised if schools take it up as a vocational hobby class. I recall as a kid that there were times when I’d rather have learnt western piano or sang ghazals with Jagjit Singh than do what my mother wanted me to – learn Carnatic music. Today as a practicing classical musician and a mother I try to understand why our kids are not more enthusiastic about traditional music.

“I really don’t understand the nuances of classical music, it’s just too complicated for me!” Maya, my friend’s eighteen year old shakes her head in despair. “The hardest part is when the musician breaks into a raga” she says, looking at me for sympathy. “Do you realize that many of your favorite filmi numbers are based on these very ragas?” I ask her. I see that perks her up, at least that’s what I think her raised eyebrow meant. “There‘s only one way to get past this. Listen to a wide variety of artistes. Classical music has a way of growing on you. Soon you’ll wonder if you’d have enough time to hear all that you want!“ To my amazement, she resisted the urge to roll her eyes. I hope my advice and our children’s natural curiosity will bring more of the Pappu can’t dance crowd to the classical concert halls.

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