Music and I
By Rajeev Taranath
I was born into a curious circumstance (curious and progressively important through a life time), because in many ways it lacked many of the supports that a conventional framework offers. My parents were lovely people and each walked tall on the planet. In a great and right act of recognition they came together in what was received in those times as a radical union. By which I mean that their act immediately made them either scandalous or heroic. And so I was born in to a glare, and was brought up in the conscious structures of a-culturation. Intense idealists that they were, they fed me with all the ingredients of the renascent culture of their time. Languages and arts and music were poured into me. I clearly remember the diet of reading I had- Vivekananda, Gandhi and Nehru, English classics, some Sanskrit- Alasingacharya’s Vachanabharata and Ramayana and so on. I did not have a grandmother giving me the shade of illiterate tales. I did not have the pleasure of fumbling with a dialect which I could call my own. I knew the glory of whatever that India was. I didn’t know the ghost behind that tree or the story of the local temple. To be told I was an Indian and a world citizen both specifically and generally was a bit of a strain. I hankered for those delicious sub-structures of belonging.
In time I simply had to find what I could not get in the given. I had to find out what it meant to be truly native, not the comfort of a childhood village or the comfort of a homogenous joint family but native in the idea and glare that a constant notion of India had become to me, that is India was the smallest unit that I could imagine as belonging to. This was a pressure on me. I groped among languages and the groping only made me a good mimic. I was unconsciously looking for that medium which would create and contain all that my India was.
And that turned out to be music. My affair with literature was beautiful and probably gave cherished moments of delicacy and insight. But it left me inchoate and drawn among conflicting perceptions. Somewhere I found that my reading of literature of modern , modern literature did not accommodate the brightness and the harshness and the gloom that my India was, that is I found myself forced frequently to cross bridges of paraphrase and equations and so the medium to me became opaque. I could receive it but not handle it.
Hindustani Classical music was the only medium in which I received my nativeness unalloyed. In it I linked myself with richness of my feudal past, with the strong and the weak emotional convolutions ranging from melodrama to sniveling sentimentality but always totally native and unapoiegetic. In music I found the India which I could take. One has to locate the precise distance from the corpus of creation. I lacked the kind of nearness that a Kambar or an Ananthamurthy have found in their writings. My nearness was where Tansen and Akbar and Allauddin Khan and Ali Akbar coexisted in a continuum, in a simultaneity.
In internalizing music as my personal point of distance in creation, I rejected my father the connoisseur. To be a culture-picker and judge of musical gems would put me far too distant form the hankering I had. I had to find my own god and fill myself with his music. And through that feel and create my time and place. That was the point when Ali Akbar flowed into me. His music gave me progressively versatile modes of perceiving, receiving and shaping everything or almost everything that this subcontinent is to me. Over these thirty years I have found myself unconsciously or half consciously using the very movements of Ali Akbar’s music as paradigms which always clarify and order –emotions, situations, scenes, relationships, practically everything. I don’t understand when it is said that Indian music is abstract. I can only say that it takes an Ali Akbar to create immediacies of the sensuousness, of dark, of unutterably sad and desolate and of the vibrant gold tranquilities, each of which comes through with the specificity of touching one’s love in the dark. In the grace I have received from my Guru, I have a medium in which I related to anything from an Indian pebble to an Indian panorama. In my art my land is transparently my place, my specific place and my specific time. I rejoice in being native.