What do you do when you co-passenger on a ten hour flight journey is an opera singer herself and wants to know everything possible about Indian Classical music from you?
Simple.... just answer her.
Never had I thought, I will be a cultural ambassador for Indian classical music and will be reeling off stuff about it to a swedish opera singer from Stockholm. She, being a western classical expert and professional, I was sure I wouldn't have gotten away by blabbering about facts I barely knew. Some hindustani classical tabla recitals and listening to M.S.Subbulakshmi & the likes are my only qualifications in Indian Classical.
Here I am being interviewed..heh. Decide for yourself if I tried hard enough to draw parallels between the saptaswaras and Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti.
Q: Indians thought about having their own music from after independence, 1947. Did your music emerge then?
A: :) No ma'm. I am sorry to say, Indian classical music ain't this new. The classical music emerged hundreds of years ago. The ancient scriptures called Vedas and Upanishads mention the same and are one of the oldest forms of music you will find in the world.
Q: What are the forms? Is it regionalised or something?
A: To divide it broadly, Indian Classical Music is in 2 forms - Hindustaani Classical(popular in the north) and Carnatic Music (South Indian Classical). There are different art/dance forms though which are regionalised but these are the 2 broad categories of Indian Classical Music.
Q: Where exactly was it born? Any particular Guru etc. ?
A: I wouldn't be able to tell you that. I reckon it was created by rishi-munis aka Gurus of yore. Carnatic music has few gurus by the name Tyagaraja(she took 15 mins to learn to pronounce it), Thiruvalluvar(she didn't even bother pronouncing it) etc. etc.I am not particularly sure about the Hindustaani classical. Hindustani Classical prospered during Mughal rule in India due to the likes of Tansen(pronunced instantly) and Baiju Bawra.
She: I know two people and have heard them - Pundit Ravishankar and Nusrat Fateh Ali khan.
Me: Pundit Ravishankar is an exponent of hindustani classical and Late Fateh Ali Khan is from Pakistan and a great singer himself.
Q: How does it happen in India? Are there schools to teach music or it just runs in families?
A: The family traddition of musician's son/daughter being a musician him/herself is true in eighty percent cases. But anybody who wants to learn can learn from a Guru. There are schools which teach classical music and provides degrees in classical music. Though, not many from the current generation have a liking towards classsical, it still thrives and thrives well.
She: Well thats good.
Me: Sure is.
After a few more questions, she finally took a breather. For all the grilling she did, she did reward me and a flight crew member by singing a 2 minute opera which, I must say, was worth an encore.