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15 comments | Friday, August 12, 2005

Thanks again sriram for that wonderful comment on my previous post.

I have been thinking about writing about this topic for quite some time now, and I must say that Sriram's comment comes as a direct initiation for me to write this one. Ofcourse, I was planning to write this in an entirely different context earlier, now I am writing it in continuation to my previous posts..

I would like to take a small example from my times at BITS, Pilani. I used to be part of Music Club, which had a group of people from various cross sections of the country trying to play myriad styles of music. I still consider that my association with Music club has helped me grow into a better musician that what I used to be 6-7 years back. Music club organizes this event called "Music Nite" twice every semester. Music Nite is a 3 hr long event where popular indian film music is played and a few western numbers. Due to various reasons (which i wouldnt want to elaborate on this post..) there is a vast majority of students from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in BITS, Pilani. One point in time , few of us thought, why not play one tamil and one telugu song for the nite along with the hindi numbers? The idea sounded good as the crowd would love it!!! We decided to go ahead and play one tamil and one telugu song for the event. The Tamil/Telugu junta tripped over the songs... There were "Once moree...." requests resounding in the auditorium... all looked good....

The next day, my hostel room sidee, came up to my room and said... Harish, the music nite was amazing... except for two songs... I dint understand a word of those tamil/telugu songs that u played it sounded so silly to me... Now, The tamil song was pacchai Nirame from the movie alaipaayuthey. (which later became Saathiya... when the movie was remade to hindi!). I dint comment on what he said, but neverthless was forced to think why did he make such a statement? 1 year passed, Saathiya was released... and we decided to play the title song for another music nite.... The day after , my friend came back again... and said.. the Saathiya song was out of the world... what a great "tune"..

Okay that was just a scenario I had to quote to say what i feel about the need of knowing the lyrics of a song to appreciate a tune... This is one point which I vehemently disapprove of. I strongly agree that Lyrics contributes a very important part of the song and it adds a lot of value to the song as a whole... But, Lyrics is absolutely not a requirement to appreciate a piece of music. Its just the language oriented mind set of humans that makes one believe that i wont be able to appreciate the song if i dont understand the lyrics.. It tops the list of paradoxes when the same set of human beings can appreciate a flute or guitar recital where there is absolutely no lyrics.

I feel (this is again my personal opinion no offenses meant!) Lyrics or poetry has a very small role to play in the overall beauty of a musical composition. Its the music, the notes and the formations that make a piece really admirable. So, I feel one need not necessarily know the meanings of every song that he sings to make the song sound good. Its the internal bliis that one experiences while rendering a composition that translates to a good rendition.

Now, This particular line from sriram's post really interested me...
"A person who enjoys bhakthi
soaked music may not enjoy the saaki & shabaab music, and vice versa."

Agree!! Thats whats been happening all around me also. I just want to go and ponder a bit deep into this particular reference coz, I still have my grandfather visibily expressing his dislike to me playing "Saaqiya jaaye kahaan.. hum tere maikhaane se..." during the pooja times at my home... He says "all this songs deal with courtesans, immoral life, alchoholism and adultery....Why cant u play a thyagaraja kriti which is so rich in bhakti and positive energy?"

Well well... I beg to differ here... for me , till the moment he reminded me that the song actually deals with alcohol and women, I dint quite realize it... I was enjoying the subtle nuances of misra charukishi and some breathtaking harmonium interludes of this stupendous ghazal! Now - Bhakti- The term-No one uptill now has been able to give me a convincing definition for the term bhakti (yeah, i know, u can probably go read gita or upanishads or .....) I always found it quite perplexing as to why bhakti is always linked up to a religion or belief or god? I refuse to accept the argument that only a song sung in praise of Rama or Krishna or Jesus or Allah can invoke Bhakti... From my understanding, Bhakti leads u to a state of sublime happiness and all those great saints Tyagaraja Swamy, Jayadeva... they have all experienced it..

I experience sheer joy of life when i listen to music. I dont categorize it into carnatic , hindustani, ghazals or Rock.. I listen to what gives pleasure to my mind.. I dont care if it has lyrics or not, I dont care if I completely understand the lyrics or not , I dont care a bit if the lyrics has got to do with Rama Bhakti or Shabaab... For me, its all music, and personally those forms of music which dont bind you to rules or conventions... because, I belive music is also a force of nature... No body puts restrictions on the directions of wind flow or tides...

If you insist on looking at it scientifically also... language is constiuted of various syllables put together and uttered together... similarly even music is made up of various syllables uttered together, when for a human being the latter does not make sense in the liguistic point of view, he starts retorting saying i dont understand this... What i would say is... Dont even try to... Just listen to the sound it generates... if its good to your ear, u will surely experience happiness and thats exactly what bhakti also gives u. So Rama, Krishna, Allah, jesus, Saaqi, Sharaab, Shabaab, Maikhaana... all are just mere words and its the music that encompasses them that generates the feeling of sublime happiness or bhakti

Long live Music!


Blogger Sriram said...

This is getting more and more interesting... :)
First, i absolutely agree with you on the fact that one doesnt have to understand the lyrics to
be able to appreciate a musical composition. Afterall, thats the greatness of music. Its the
universal language. A capable musician can convey any emotion to any person irrespective of the
language through sheer musical brilliance.

But my point is that when a musician is attempting to play another composer's composition, he should understand what he is playing. He may not need to know a word-to-word meaning, but he should
understand the overall meaning of it and what kind of expressions he is expected to inculcate in
the rendition. If this doesn't happen, it will result in a great injustice to the composer.
The music may sound good, but the composition suffers.

And here is what you had to say: "I feel (this is again my personal opinion no offenses
meant!) Lyrics or poetry has a very small role to play in the overall beauty of a musical

That was rather unexpected for me from a Ghazal lover. For, the very definition of a Ghazal
is based on the poetry but not on the music. And i personally feel that, the beauty of a Ghazal
is equally dependant on poetry and music. And i think the second biggest reason for the popularity
of Ghazals, IMO, is Urdu, one of the most romantic languages. The first reason ofcourse, is the widespread
Bar network... :)

That was in a lighter vein, but thats the reason i see for the popularity of Urdu Ghazals, though there are Ghazals in other languages. I think, that language suits well to this form of music.

I am too mundane a person to talk on things like "Bhakthi" and its essence. But singing a "sharaab" song during pooja sounds too far stretched. Well, first, it hurts the sentiments of people, for, not everyone will be as matured as you to appreciate it. One should attain a state very close to "nirvana" to be such a
"sthithaprajna" and thats why not every one can be a jayadeva or tyagaraja...

Here is an article i chanced upon sometime back, quoting paramaacharya on the role of saahithyam in a krthi.
you may read it, not because he is paramacharya, but because he is one of the best connoisures of music.

BTW, Yesterday i was at a concert by S.Sowmya. 15-20 minutes in to the concert, she started singing a madhyamavathi aalaapana. And people around me were looking at me wondering, why this guy is smiling so much.... :)

11:58 PM

Anonymous Srimatha said...

visited ur blog after a while, n could not resist sharing my thoughts!:) well, lots happening here..where do i begin.. I agree with u harish, that lyrics is not an absolute necessity to appreciate music. saaqi shabaab or an evarimaata..u can enjoy and explore the music without bothering about the lyrics. that's why we have loads of musicians singing glorious neravals at places like 'thammudu badalina vELa'!:)) but that much insensitivity to language is something we could do away with.

but beyond that,i find the raaga-rasa theory a very limiting one. Kaambhoji n kaarunya n such associations only limit the possibilities the raagas have. a creative and sensitive musician can bring out the same emotion in many if not in all raagas. infact that is the beauty of classical music, where so much is left to the individual's creativity, imagination, ability. n here, the bhaava/rasa is much beyond the rasa/bhaavas like kaarunya etc. its the emotion of that raaga, the raaga bhaava that envelopes us..

yup, it wouldnt matter to me if it was a saaqiya jaayen kaha playing during a pooja, coz the music in that rendition is divine, rising above the lyrics. but that is if u r talking about a hariharan or a mehdi hassan. imagine the same in jagjeet singh's rendition! he is one of those ghazal singers for whom the lyrics is a greater priority than the music. n i cant stand a saaqi during pooja where lyrics is the priority..

the guy who dd not understand a pachchai nirave coz of language, is too much an infant as far as music is concerned. hooking on to lyrics is an elementary stage of music appreciation, acc me, n most people stop there.i feel they r better off if they dont venture into explorative forms of music like carnatic/hindusthani/ghazal etc.

In short, if the music is strong, n the listener is a musically mature one, he/she can easily forget the lyrics.
uff! read too much, n hence this looks confused mixture of kambhoji and athana n what not!:))

10:44 AM

Blogger A. Noname Moose said...

Words have meanings. Just like music does. To say one is important and the other not, is like saying you can breathe but not eat.

'choli ke peechey...' is a catchy tune. Would you play it during devi-pooja?

'Nuff said.

9:50 PM

Blogger Arvind said...


First timer via Chin's site. You have aptly brought out the role of lyrics vis-a-vis music.

I always keep arguing the following. Lyrics are, but, adjunct, when it comes to music. If people are after lyrical content, they might as well read all the poetry out there.

At the same time, decent lyrics carry the song well, so better the lyrics so much better.

But no lyrics, does not take away the value/quality of the music - so people enjoy less, when Yanni plays ? or for that matter any Carnatic/Hindusthani concert which is instrumental in nature ??????????

2:21 AM

Blogger Chinmayi said...

I have felt it so many times too.. when people said they cant unerstand.. and I felt sad that they were not able to appreciate the music alone.. And another thing.. whats the raga of the ghazal?? Sometimes I was like why do we have to go into theory each time?

And in any song its music, and the mood.. its the emotion, maybe that gives the song to be classified into a particular genre!

10:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Master piece of a News on BITS Pilani written by Prof BR Natarajan titled
Music Club's Night to Remember Show:

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent and the audience in this show will vouch for the fact that in Music Passions indeed enjoy themselves.

The Birla Institute of Technology and Science ( BITS ), Pilani Rajasthan provides an atmosphere that nurtures techies and whiz kids who are encouraged to do What they Believe in unlike many other campuses which end up producing zombies.

BITS Pilani has a host of clubs - Music, Hindi Drama, English Drama etc and all are wholly and solely managed by "BITSians" who are the students of the Institute.

BITSians firmly believe in the now famous dialogue "Jo desh ke kaam na aaye woh bekaar jawani hai" ( They who come of no use to the country are a waste of youth ) ..

Prof R Mahesh Incharge of The Recreational Activity Forum ( RAF ) of the Institute which regularly organizes film shows for the BITS community joined hands with Ms Pratibha the student secretary of Music Club of the Institute to present an evening of entertainment in the auditorium on 27th February 2006.

The opening song was from the film Sapney to remind everyone that every BITSian has a dream to be achieved. There were songs from Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi movies. The jam packed audience truly felt raindrops after the Lagaan Kale Megha song and saw rainbow of talent during the Rang De Basanti song. The song from the Hindi film Nayak revealed the heroes of tomorrow and the Kadam Kadam song from the film Laksya drove the point that BITSians go bang for the Target.

One Jon Bon Jovi song was enough to give a soul stirring feeling and the night ended with rendering of the all time hit patriotic song Mile Sur Mera Tumhara which reiterated the fact that BITS Pilani is indeed an All India Institute of the country and for the country

While the audience walked out with the feeling that Music is the moonlight in the gloomy night of life, for the music club folks it was the culmination of their hard work, sleepless nights and hours of rehearsing to do this music show as the Night to Remember.


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