author: Shubha Mudgal
‘Set in the heart of the world of Indian music, these are stories with a rhythm entirely their own. They speak of hope and disaster, genius and fakery in surprising ways. And they are wickedly funny.’—JERRY PINTO After thousands of hours of training and practice, the gods of music smile upon the deserving few. Genius shines; melody and goodness reign supreme; and all is right with the world. Or is it? What happens, for instance,…
The late Sheila Dhar was an art aficionado who was known for her witty portrayal of musicians and music lovers! After many years, while reading Shubha Mudgal’s stories on realtime musicians showed the same flavour. The anecdotal bizarre situational complexities brought forth the maximum pleasure in reading and reviewing the musical times of India these days! While there is a parallel culture of disdain for classical music and it’s extensive riyaz to improve the performances the advent of the noveu-rich patrons has spoilt the richness of all traditions.
Subhaji’s deep understanding of Indian music field is used in generalising the plight of a harmonium player who is dying to get a foothold amongst musical veterans and their good books. The drive to win a Padmashri at any cost makes him a slave to the antics of the conning ustaad of a known gharana. He gives up some rare composition of his gharanas to the ustaad, records them and leaves empty handed. The cheating that leads to the desperation of winning the coveted Padma award lands him in his graveyard. The gracious and guarded world of Mr. Saxena the musical virtuoso is trampled with glory in the name of all India contest by a Panjabi venture capitalist. Saxena sir lends his might to back a project crores are invested and even more promised to co participants without any clue of any contractual document.
This kind of duping is common in high circles of music promotion and rarely highlighted. Many established writers fall prey to this traps in lieu of losing face. All these stories are true stories and one can identify how treacherous life can be for musicians who are upholding the age old traditions for sale for our posterity but get peanuts as return gifts.
Music companies also fall from grace when classical music is paraded and remixed to the fancies of PR exercises that land you in trouble and also get you no where. The presence of Rasikas and intellectually sound men cannot derive much appreciation in the face of these street smart music marketeers!
The hilarious tragic life of a simple classical singer from Maharashtra to US of A also consumes the attention of readers in the chapter “foreign returned”. Though witty it denotes the exploitation of Indian musicians in name of patronage and their uneasiness to the changed social and cultural space they have to inhabit to perform.
The world of lies and distrust mires even simple folk singers from small towns who wish a simplistic life but are prone to understanding less. The hapless Shivendra and his plight at the hands of an upstart plagiarising musical duo is a classic example in Bollywood where credits are taken for granted. Simple acknowledgement of sources of musical compositions are derided, forgotten and the main music director takes all credit for his manoeuvre.
The thin divide between mainstream singing careers and no background in training is nothing new but the chivalrous mindsets works without any mindfulness towards contractual agreements to avoid this mess.
Subhaji is an insider and this book makes for a superb read. Music lovers must definitely pick it up.
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