Pop goes the music!

Pop goes the music!

Fresh tunes

Pop goes the music!

It’s a well-known fact that art isn’t born and doesn’t bloom in isolated, ivory towers. In today’s inter-connected societies, art forms survive the ravages of the real world by dancing to the tunes of the audience, the undercurrent of the market forces and keeps its pace by catering to the tastes of the younger generation.

Traditional forms of music and dance are struck by a series of changes and although the basic framework remains the same, the way the art is packaged and re-fashioned to suit the audiences’ tastes undergoes constant upheaval.

In classical music, the most overt change is the proliferation of alternative and non-native instruments in the mainstream circles. Many artistes are breathing ragas into foreign instruments and giving the traditional concert a new look. In the field of Carnatic music, legends like U Srinivasan and Kadri Gopalnath set the tone by bringing in the mandolin and saxophone in a ‘kutcheri’ setup. Now, there are many who are following such unconventional routes such as Carnatic guitarists R Prasanna and Baiju Dharmajan, Carnatic pianist Sathya and the like.

Baiju says that he finds many artistes experimenting with Indian music when compared to say, 10 years back, when “people were blindly aping the West.” “I am primarily a rock guitarist but use a few Carnatic elements while playing. It’s not always possible to play Indian music in Western instruments so one has to understand the limitations and challenges that the instrument poses and experiment within that limit.” In Hindustani music, modern instruments like ‘zitar’ and ‘satvik veena’ have made their inroads. The latter was invented by maestro Salil Bhatt in an effort to lure the younger generation to the tone of a traditional sound in a Western instrument. However, it’s not only the ability and thirst to experiment in classical music that have led to its repackaging. The digital space and exposure to technology have also revolutionised the way one listens to and consumes music. As people practise Carnatic and Hindustani music on iPads, the traditional systems are being altered only to be more dynamic.  

Another trend is the increase in the number of Indian music-based bands. While the independent circuit is already saturated with groups of various genres, classical troupes are coming up. Vinod Shyam, of the band ‘LayaLavanya’, feels that the trend is because the audience are looking for different flavours in classical music. He says, “The audience look for fusions, jugalbandhis and collaborations rather than solo classical concerts. This only makes it more interesting. The biggest change today is the incorporation of the ‘konnakol’, the Indian style of beatboxing or vocal percussion. In ‘LayaLavanya’ we have performed songs based on ‘Kapi’ raga with filmy melodies and also use elements of Hindustani, jazz and world music.” He also notes that the time limit of traditional classical concerts have reduced and the audience is looking for percussion elements rather than solo vocal recitals.

However there are always ‘purists’ who look at new formats through a negative lens. Harish Sivaramakrishnan, the vocalist of ‘Agam’ says that being stuck in a time-warp doesn’t help the art or the artiste. “Elitism is only a state of mind. There are challenges a lot of experimental artistes face as critics say that the essence gets diluted. However, who defines this essence? Nobody knows. The evolutions that are taking place in classical music are for the better as they are questioning institutions.”