The Great Indian Classical Blindspot!

Most Indian musicians approach musics of the world with some curious blindspots. Undoubtedly, Indian classical music is one of the many sophisticated forms of world music. Just like the art of ophthalmic surgery is as super-specialized as the art of cardiac surgery. Our training in Indian classical music, gives us a thorough and well-developed approach to analyzing, presenting and organizing melody and rhythm in a contextually specific way. Give us a raaga, we can perform an alapanai. This training definitely offers a basic level of vocabulary to engage with other worlds of music, just like all surgeons know how to hold a scalpel for sure. But if you are trained in ophthalmic surgery, you cannot ‘perform’ a heart transplant. You can probably get better at cardiac surgery, IF, and only IF you take the time to learn the ways of the cardiac surgeon. Most Indian classical folks/fusionists, do not take the time nor believe that it is important to learn about other musics, as they are. You need to learn about lets say, Jazz, its processes and keep your ‘I-know-it-all-cap’ aside for a bit. Of course this is not possible, if you believe you are supreme and that other musical cuisines are only extensions of biriyani, only made into pasta. There is an appalling lack of this spirit in Indian classical musicians and self-proclaimed musicologists. Most people think middle eastern music is all about belly-dancing and even better that Hindustani music has no Taala! The same amount of reverence and intellectual autonomy we credit our music with, we must be willing to do that to other equally complex musics. This means being willing to learn and start from zero in another tradition – a place where most Indian music ‘virtuosos’ dont want to find themselves at.



One thought on “The Great Indian Classical Blindspot!

  1. I have experienced this many times. My own “fusion” experiments were a most welcome exception, in that the artists I worked with came to respect the complexity and depth of the non-Indian components they were engaging. This was because we spent a long time on the process, moving beyond simplistic interpretations. You can’t do that if you’re in an expensive recording studio and the clock is ticking.

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