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On the Unbeaten Track – Manikbuva Thakurdas

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On the Unbeaten Track – Manikbuva Thakurdas


Pandit Thakurdas expounds his unconventional theories

Pandit Manikbuva Thakurdas is a persuasive speaker and original thinker. One has only to listen to him when he holds forth, with intense fervour, on the subject of music. Even at this age, he retains his powerful, booming voice and unfaltering diction.

On ragas

Each raga has a distinctive identity and character of its own. Our ragas did not have this identity even during the dhrupad period. Then, they were lopsided, because of the predominance of rhythm. It was the khayal style, which succeeded dhrupad, that gave each ragas its individuality. Even the term raga came into vogue only in the wake of raga-nirmiti (innovation of melody).

On the aroha-avaroha system

The system is wrong, because our classical music is basically avarohi (ie it has a descending character). It has evolved directly from flute-playing, which starts from pancham (fifth note) and moves down to the pancham of the mandra saptak (lower octave).

On the notation system

Our forefathers never taught and learnt music on the basis of notation, because they knew that notation was inimical to classical music. It is so even today. That explains why only the swaras of a raga are sund and palmed off as raga today. Neither are they rendered as in the past.

On scholastic education is music

It is based on books, a practice which must stop. It was Pandit Bhatkhande who introduced book education in music. It was copied by Pandit Vishnu Digamber with a slightly different system of notation. Soon, many other scholars entered the scene with their own versions of book education. The result is confusion confounded.

On the gharanas in Hindustani music

The gharanas in Hindustani music were nothing but an ingenious attempt to conceal defects in the voices of their pioneers. That is how each one of them evolved a style of his own. Notice, for instance, the defects of the voice which are so evident in the Agra style, which incidentally, died with Faiyas Khan! The kirana Gayaki is marked by nasal, high-pitched singing. The Gwalior style is the most versatile of all the gharanas. In the Atrauli-Jaipur gayaki, there is rigidity, with no scope for improvisation. There is an obsession with long and odd-shaped tans and unpredictable jumps. All credit should be given to Kishori Amonkar for her bold initiative in striking out a new path for the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana.

On his method of teaching

There is no rule that a beginner has to start his training with a particular raga. Neither is there any regimen for voice cultivation, nor any specific diet which has to be followed. There is also no system of taking written notes. The method of teaching is oral and aural, as enjoined by the old shastras. Textbooks are meant only for guidance and reference.

On the changing face of khayal

Khayal has only one laya, irrespective of gharanas. Book education is partly responsible for its present plight. Besides, even top performers today are falling prey to gimmicks. In their obsession to build up their own image, they play to the gallery and disfigure the personality of the ragas in a variety of ways. If something is not done to reverse the trend, khayal will change beyond recognition And very soon too.

On modern, self-composed ragas

It is sheer madness to indulge in such experiments. The so-called self-composed ragas are only old wine in new bottles. Take, for example, the raga that has come to be known as Dhanakoni-Kalyan. It is not self-composed. It is the same as the ancient melody, called Charu-Gatri, found in the shastras, but no longer in use.


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