Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kumar Shyamand Singh on creation of new ragas

Kumar Shyamanand Singh was against the modern trend of creation of new ragas and new styles and felt that this was harmful for the evolution of classical music. This is not to say that he was against creativity and innovation without which no art form can exist. He, himself, advocated them as essential ingredients of his own pursuit. However, he felt that our ancestors had created innumerable ragas and styles and we had received them as inheritance from them. We first needed to master them all before thinking of doing anything new in terms of creation of new ragas and styles. According to him, most "new" ragas were a changed form of the old ragas and as such could not be called "new" in real sense. An artist can create new ragas only if he is certain that he had learnt all the ragas created in the past. Otherwise, he would create "new" ragas that would not be "new" in reality. He felt bewildered about the need or urge in this regard as he felt that even mastering one of the many existing ragas in one's lifetime is extremely difficult and complex. He used to say: "Ek Saadhe to sab sadhe, sab saadhe to sab jaye".

He spoke of the rigorous training he was subjected to by his gurus where he was made to sing the same raga for days to perfect it. There were several ancient and archaic ragas that could be performed or sung by an artist. The need was to learn and try to perfect them instead of launching half-baked in pursuit of new ragas. He used to say that our ancient ragas are so complete and beautiful in themselves and on this basis questioned the need to create new ragas.

Kumar Shyamanad Singh on Time and Ragas

Kumar Shyamanad Singh had following to say on this aspect:

"It is my firm view that ragas must be sung or played in accordance with time indicated in the classical texts. This has been given to us by our ancestors. Why should we contradict this? Since ancient times, all artists have followed this time rule and played their music or sang according to this. Were they fools? I have never contradicted these rules and nor do I think I will do so in future. Those ancestors who have given us this rule were much more knowledgable and capable than us."

Gharana Gayaki

Gharana Gayaki has become diluted in recent times. Most famous singers have learnt from scions of different gharanas and the outcome has been a mixed one. Bhimsen Joshi who was rooted in Kirana Gharana but went on to assimilate other styles is a leading example of this new trend. In current times, Ustad Rashid Hussain Khan, who is from Rampur Sahaswan but who also has brought in influences from outside into his singing to the extent that Kumar Prasad Mukherjee does not consider him as belonging to his parent gharana is another example. That is not to say that there singing is not pleasing. Such an insinuation would be made at one's own peril such is the staure of these vocalists. However, the gharana purists of the time like Mashkoor Ali Khan of Kirana or Raza Ali Khan of Patiala are pleasing in a way that is difficult to surpass. In my humble view, tinkering with singing style one has inherited from the Guru beyond a point can prove self-defeating and can endanger the very creation. This is again not to imply that improvisation is prohibited. Quite the contrary, improvisation is essential and each artist must bring in his own contribution and stamp to what has been learnt otherwise he could look a bad copy of the original. However, this has to be done within boundaries and those need to be well defined. For me Gharanedar gayaki takes the cake.