So many genres of music go unnoticed in our everyday lives, clouded instead by the popularity of mainstream genres like Bollywood, Rock, Pop and Hip-hop. As if oblivious to these trends, however, I often find my mother singing away to tunes from ghazals by Jagjit Singh, Chitra and Ghulam Ali while doing her daily chores. These introduced me to the world of music at an early age. Although some of these sombre genres may not be to your taste, they really can be as pleasant as the rock band or the pop artists that we worship, and perhaps even as entertaining! In fact, the purpose of early sombre music, like religious Hindu music, was not just to pray to the Gods, but also to entertain the Kings. The biggest example of this hybrid was Tansen himself. Performing the ragas and tala of Indian Classical music, Tansen regaled the Emperor Akbar and his court.
We’ve often visited Temples or Gurudwaras but somehow failed to admire the holy songs sung there. I am sure that one of these many songs is your favourite too– that you hum it often to maintain your peace. It is naïve of us to think that such music belongs only to the older generation! I feel that every millennial secretly appreciates it too, but is perhaps not ready to accept this fact. Often, young people say that they weren’t born in an environment that appreciates music. This argument barely holds true because, in India, it’s impossible to grow up without listening to these holy ragas.
Our associations with these songs go deep, forming an unconscious part of our upbringing. In Sikhism, many children are taught tabla and harmonium right from a young age. Most Christians learn to sing no matter how unpleasant their vocal chords are. They practice singing daily and this polishes their vocals up! Music is an intimate part of their lives–like that invisible family member who, no matter what, is always around to lift the spirits up. At the same time, these devotional songs contain divine messages.
Besides lifting up the spirit, music also evolved to make messages memorable. Sikh music originated because Guruji felt that singing poetry out loud would help people stay away from the darkness of Kalyug (the ‘Age of Downfall’). Hence, the shabad (words) from the holy book Guru Granth Sahib started to be sung. But Guruji felt that the devotee must sing the holy words and melodies from the heart and should focus on the real meaning of the words.
One evening, while walking beside the Sukhna Lake, I heard the sweet sound of a flute come wafting my way with the breeze. Curious, I approached the man who was playing it. Let me tell you, the music he played wasn’t of any old or new Hindi song. It was self-made. It struck me that we really ignore the music around us, in its everyday form. Some sources say that folk music is actually older than the country itself, existing since the days of the Mahabharata. Folk songs were sung during ceremonies to entertain guests, or as a way to show off one’s singing talent to the Kings in the hope of getting rewards. In those days, a talented person was honoured fittingly. Since there was no written text at the time to pass knowledge down to the next generation, folk songs became the medium to preserve the culture as well as ancient information. From today’s melodious Pahadi songs to the energetic Bhangra dhol beats, music has always been a part of our lives but we often fail to acknowledge it somehow.
I feel that a true melomaniac (someone with a passion for music!) would appreciate music in every form. No matter how much I dislike cringe popstars like Dhinchak Pooja today, I yet end up singing their songs! Because ultimately, music helps relieve you from a low mood and soothes you in a way that no one can. That is its power.
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