Let's start talking about Indian classical music
As I learn how to sing better, I learn by listening to and breaking down the greats. I explain what I know, draw from the crowd, and throw in a bit of history of it all.
Indian classical music is intricate and beautiful. It’s an art form with arrangements & compositions passed down through generations (some dating back 500+ years) for their melody, appeal, and message. The history of classical music and India are intertwined in myriad ways. While past squabbles and conquests are what we read in history books, music took a different route - mixing and shaping the cultural identity of the subcontinent.
In this weeklyish newsletter, I’ll share renditions by Indian classical musicians as I discover them. Where applicable, I write about the piece itself - author, mood, raag(a), tempo etc.
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Why am I doing this?
I started (re)learning Hindustani classical singing 3 years back. I was going back to what I loved doing - singing and making music. Prateeksha can attest to me lugging my guitar(s) along as we moved 8 (soon to be 9) times in 11 years.
I’m forever indebted to my parents for developing my interest in singing, by actively pursuing the cause and paying for singing lessons while I was in school. My amazing mother taught me songs from as early as the 50s, 60s and 70s Bollywood and Sandalwood eras. She’d record songs that came on TV/Radio in a tape recorder, transcribe the lyrics, and play-rewind teach me the song. I probably learned more than 500 songs this way.
There was always music at home. Kannada Dasapadas, Bhakti & Bhavageete from 80s, 90s, or songs from Bollywood. My parents, both music lovers, had grown up through the Radio era which famously entertained via wireless audio.
Outside the home, I learned classical singing primarily from 2 teachers.
Carnatic classical music under Vid Padma Murthy in BSK 2nd stage, Bangalore from ‘92-’95.
For a brief 3 months, I studied under Smt Prabha Mallya in BSK 2nd stage (disciple of Pt Rajan and Sajan Mishra brothers).
I had to quit singing at 17 when my shell upgraded and replaced my once flawless voice with a painful & hoarse groan.
That’s when I picked up the guitar 🎸 and did a complete 180. I found music in a medium I only vaguely knew existed. I explored Rock and Metal first - cause it was so cool and that’s what angry teenagers listen to. We also got good internet around that time, so I became a self-taught guitarist for the next 13 years watching YouTube videos and online tabulature.
I lived for a while in Thyagarajanagar, which incidentally was home to Babu Sir, a local legend. I learned Drums from him and his students for a year (~2005). He taught me the waltz and the 4-4.
Moving away from India
After I moved to the Bay Area, I had a renewed interest to learn how to play the guitar. I took lessons from Greg Vaughan and started quickly piecing together the structure of Western Music. I was learning the grammar for a language that I already spoke well. I also took drum lessons for about 1.5 years from Jim Leadbetter before I moved out of the area.
I found Nachiketa Sharma (my current teacher & guide) through a colleague. His teaching has given me a framework for Indian Classical Music based on first principles. My learning now involves actively listening to performances by musicians and understanding their interpretation of a particular Raag (mood and what is referred to as mode in Western music).
This effort is partly for documentation; notes from all my listening. It’s also a way for me to summarize my learnings, put words to feelings, and to create community.
Being exposed to both Western music theory & Indian classical music, and being a musician gives me a unique perspective on music, which I hope to share.
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I will share as I listen and learn. Eventually, I hope you can learn to pull/listen to songs and raag(mood) yourself.
Occasionally, I will share playlists with a particular theme or mood in mind. If you like your playlists , this is the place for you.
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