Mujik! Mujik! Mujik! |
Dr. Raghutama Opeh
Music Technology has made unbelievable advances. But Music stands still.
The first man-made music consisted of spontaneous rhythmic howls, screams and shouts following pleasant happenings in the food gathering days. Rhythm was inherent in nature's cycles of the Sun, Earth, moon, tides of the sea, body vibrations of animals and humans .. heartbeat and breathing.
Fruits left in the open, having fermented spontaneously, made the early man happy . not to speak of 'highs' given by chewing of certain leaves. The resultant expressions of happiness were vocal interjections accompanied by jumping, running, rolling, rhythmic clapping etc. [rudimentary dancing]. Dance and music were always an inseparable unity. No African 'song' is complete without dance..
Seeing seeds from fruits etc sprouting and growing into trees led to agriculture. Cyclic nature of food production and harvesting/gathering - man's original economic activity gave free time between harvesting and sowing. Guarding against wild animals became less of a problem as agriculture was done in flat plains rather than in forests.
Development of language was a natural corollary to the sudden leisure that agriculture gave. People had enough time for 'gup-shup'. Festivals based on agro activities - diwali, holi, pongal, onam, ugadi, durga puja etc were born. Festivities meant dancing and singing.
Musical instruments made from hollow vegetable shells, fruits, reeds etc. followed as leisure activities. Most gourd for ektara and Pumpkin for sitar. Hollow reeds made excellent flutes. Instruments remained at best accompaniments to embellish the meanings and feelings expressed in the lyrics.
Songs not only told stories but also expressed all emotions including dissent and rebellion.
Parallel to social and material developments, music underwent changes. From one note vocals to three notes (of Naga dances of North East India), four note melodies of Egypt and the pentatonic music of Rome were associated with more and more instruments. (the pentatonic Morning Raga). Harmony developed in the form of Tonic-Fifth combination. The triad was to come much later with the evolution of well tempered scale.
Development of metallurgy and other technology not only led to better swords, arrows and shields, but also to better bugles, trumpets, cymbals, bells and drums. Stringed instruments came last.
Music and dance in India mainly belonged to folk tradition and Classical tradition. In the folk tradition came Yakshagana, Baul, Tamasha, Lavanya and harvest dances, spring dances etc. The performance of both classical and folk traditions were done by the lowest of classes/castes. When the performing arts became remunerative, the upper castes/classes took them over completely. The first brahmin to sing in public performance was the venerable Smt. Pattammal of Tamil Nadu and the first brahmin to dance in public performance was Smt. Rukmini Arundale of Theosophical Society, Adayar, Madras in the early 1900s. (Rukmini became a Presidential Candidate in the 70s)
Over the years, the all night elaboration of a raga gave way to one hour concerts with 'alap' lasting for only 5 to 10 minutes. With the dearth of demand for classical music, people stopped getting trained in the traditions.
With the first 'talkie' film Alam Ara, popular music of a new genre took off - Film Music. Initially, it was rooted in classical tradition; but broke away from the disciplined modes under the influence of mujra music. Foreign influence came in the shape of Guitar and Conga, Accordeon, Trumpet, Saxaphone etc. But the actual shake up came with OP Nayyar with his snare drum-Bass accompaniment. in comedy films Aar Paar('53), Mr & Mrs 55 ('55) and Miss Coca Cola by Guru Dutt Padukone!. Bhagam Bhag incidentally had a Nayyar blues sung by Kishore and Rafi. C Ramachandra introduced Rock and Roll with 'Eeena Meema Deeka'.
Genuine western harmonies came with RD Burman though Sam, a malayali assistant to Naushad in Saathi, was from Berkely School of Music. Sam went on to make songs with brilliant orchestration in Malayalam and Tamil films.
Western Popular Music started in India with Jazz. The musicians played for 'gora sahebs' (the hordes that embarked, during the II World War) while they danced in the hotels.,. Jazz bands started in Calcutta, Goa, Bombay and, lastly, Delhi points to the sea route taken by Jazz. Diners danced 3 to 5 piece jazz bands in hotels. There was also a Sunday morning Jam session for the youth. The musicians were mainly Europeans, Anglo-Indians and Christians who had picked up basics of harmony from church hymns.
Dances were organised at Railway Clubs and restaurants and at Church school Socials. It was a rare non Christian who danced 4 beat Foxtrot, 3 beat Waltz, symcopated Rhumba, Samba, Tango, Beguine and the subsequent Cha-Cha-Cha of the Latin Americas. The arrival of Rock and Roll, the hallmark of industrial machinery rhythm, led to the gradual decline in popularity of graceful Latin American dances. The R&R progressed through some ludicrous transient stage best forgotten. dances called, frug, camel etc. R&R then evolved into a free style dance where both the partners were free to his or her thing. While the Europeans and Americans broke free from discipline and regimentation, Latin Americans continued to come out with dances with newer steps like Bossa Nova, Lambada, and, involving the hands as in the recent 'Macarena'-leaving both partners free.
From the mid 60s onwards, college students formed bands and gave concerts of popular songs. Beatle songs were not too popular, being difficult to play. Slowly, ever so slowly, Hindi pop numbers started seeping into concerts, thanks to Usha Uthup (Iyer) who started with songs she sang for films under the baton of RD Burman..
The use of synthetic sounds began with Hammond organ in the early 60s. Then came the Moog Synthesiser, Drum Machines and sequencers. The rest is history.
The next quantum hop-step-and-jump was to Rap by Baba Sehgal with his puerile lyrics. It left behind a lot of styles of music like Reggae and many Latin American styles. Around this period, the rock bands of college origin breathes their last. Indian Ocean and Euphoria persisted against the tide of 'joint families' breaking up before giving up their ghosts to total commercialisation. Bands were formed with a Synthesiser, a drum machine and a singer. period!
Then came the Star TV and put an end to all music! Star TV not only spawned low calibre artistes like Ashish Soni but also boosted singers with below one octave singing range like Daler Mahendi. Parties and Discos reverberated with the sound of Bhangara-Agri-Pop. Comparatively, the really talented girls did better. Kavita Krishnamurthy, Alisha, etc. did sing some interesting songs. And some other good looking bad singing sensations had the voice and life span of mosquitoes sans the sting. Asha Bhonsle persisted with her classy renderings.
Film music progressed on a line almost parallel to Indipop. Classical Music remains a slow but steady moving bullock cart.
As for lyrics, there was no progress beyond 'I love you you love me' or '..you donot' shows the stagnant social scene sans individual freedom of choice.
To sum up..we have produced a horde of singers and instrumentalists, but no musicians.
Neither is one visible on the distant horizon..classical musicians have taken a try at the pop music scene. are they our last resort?