आकलन (Aaklan) – A journey of Indian culture through my eyes 

Introduction (Part 2)

Namaskar and welcome to the second part of my ‘introduction to Aaklan’ series. We need to understand why and where have the things gone wrong or have they really gone wrong? Why do we say that there is a cultural invasion? Who has invaded us? Or probably have we ourselves evolved a system, which is invading us from within. We often hear experts say that art and music connoisseurs have increased. But do their appreciation skills also show the same graph line or has it declined. The fact is that music programmes held decades back also attracted gatherings of thousands sitting overnight for days in various festivals. Festivals happen today as well with music connoisseurs coming in huge numbers even if a percentage of them may not have in-depth knowledge of Taal, Raga and other nuances of our system but they simply enjoy the music.

If we say things are fine then can we count how many artists do we have in different genres of arts and crafts. How many musicians do we know in genres like Qawwali or Ghazal, Dhrupad, Haweli Sangeet? Let’s take for instance Hindi literature – how many of us from the younger generation know Nirala, Premchand, Dinkar, Bhisham Sahni, Neeraj, Jaishankar Prasad and Mahadevi Varma. Today, we feel proud to gift someone a Harry Potter series but giving Panchatantra doesn’t sound that charming. Why? We talk about Bhagwat Geeta but do most of us even remember who wrote it?

We have made self-satisfying excuses like – it does not sell; it has no future; people are not opting for it; it doesn’t attract masses, etc. For instance, what happened to crafts like Kani shawl and papier Mache of Kashmir, What happened to folk and tribal music, in fact to classical music as well? I have observed music institutes abroad like Trinity College giving the best of the Pianos and other musical instruments to the students to learn. But we all know what low quality instruments we see in our institutions. The respect for art and culture needs to be increased but it will only change when we talk about it.

My articles in this series will cover music styles and musical instruments of our country; the artists and their art; my experiences around the world as a musician and performer; and also about cultures and traditions of different areas of our country. The articles will focus on the glory of the past, pinpointing the moment of decline and challenges that continue at present. I will try to present facts with my analysis giving you a holistic picture so that you can form your own independent opinion and we can then collectively bring about a positive change in the field of art and culture.

© Abhay Rustum Sopori