My Musical Journey

What a beautiful journey, and an even more beautiful destination
" So that I can take all music from you to make everything musical and rhythmic. Blessed to have you in my life!"
" So that I can take all music from you to make everything musical and rhythmic. Blessed to have you in my life!" Author


For a young girl born and brought up in the national capital of the country, who usually never imagined life beyond 200 km radius of Delhi, moving down south after marriage came with mixed feelings of happiness and fear.The initial reluctance on marrying a South Indian boy was reduced to zero by the decisive  remarks of my always casual looking father, and importantly because rarely he imposed his will on others.  In his words, “Ritu, that house has many generations, these generations will always love  and protect you”.Reassuring words coming from father are always important. And you become more firm when assurances came from someone, like my father, who has zero interest in influencing other’s decision.For me protection and shelter of generations under single roof were only some dictionary words till I entered my new home. Every event for this new entrant was like a dream and nothing normal has happened to me; and the biggest happiness and joy came when my grandfather met me and blessed me.As a normal girl I was expecting a pep talk; how to make home and keep everyone happy. But noooo!!Now I realised that I have entered an extraordinary zone of my life. Pep talk was given not on Roti, Kapra or Makan, but on music. Gift was given, not the jewellery but a musical instrument with diary of notes. And a task!!What a beautiful journey, and an even more beautiful destination. I could not imagine such a romantic culmination of dream, desire and destination. I always read that music is the only art which is closest to God. I could witness the same with my open eyes.Daughter-in-law is under pressure but to learn music in time bound manner. I’m asked to learn music for my own happiness not to perform. Imagine, in a pep talk you are told that music will make you more beautiful inside and outside. I couldn’t ask for more than this.I didn’t know I will be able to learn or not, but after talking to Tatha (grandfather)  for many days I realised Indian music is fully dedicated to God, but we are losing feelings on many counts.I have decided to turn into an interviewer and ask some questions to my 85 year old Tatha, Sh. Akella Mallikarjun Sharma. He is a veteran music academician and started learning music when he was just 3. Here are the excerpts:

 1. Tatha, You have 70 years of music in you. You have seen four generations evolving in front of you. Music also moved in these 7 decades. How do you describe your journey? 

Ans: I was born in 1938. I worked as a music lecturer and principal in Government music institutions for a period of 35+ years, after which by the grace of the almighty I could discover my own deficiencies in 2001. Later I was blessed with a highly logical method of learning music which makes the entire process of learning very strictly time bound and result oriented for the first time in the history of Indian karnataka music. Since many centuries people have been following a very highly illogical and suicidal teaching methods that would fetch 0 results from a student’s end but would fetch lots of money to the teacher. These so-called highly talented music teachers deliberately  elongated the process of teaching music to squeeze money out of the student’s pocket till they exhaust their resources, making the poor student a perennial dependent upon the so called “GURUs”. In this process of teaching the GURU sings or plays the instrument himself/herself and asks the student to follow him/her, which is just a direct imitation but not learning at all.    This methodology of teaching has led to the depreciation of independent instincts & skills of a student. To keep the students all dependent, these so-called GURUs would only give the lyrics of a particular song without any notation or audio file, hence the students start to depend on their GURU to teach them how a particular song is sung.    All the more, none of these highly egoistic, selfish, foolish GURUs have strived hard for the welfare of our kids. They have diluted everything right from the student selection to framing a logical syllabus that would properly initiate the student to follow a very strictly logical method in learning (NOT IN TEACHING) basing up on his/her own skills independently.    A method was needed that would rapidly minimize the role of these deceitful music teachers to less than 5% and maximize the role of the student to more than 95%. Hence I have designed a 3 phase (General, Symbolized & detailed) method that included giving notations along with the respective audio and/or video files to independently follow and proceed further and further. By this a student can save lot of their invaluable time, energy and money. A newly and very strictly logical plan of learning has been evolved by the grace of the almighty, making the process of learning music very strictly “TIME BOUND AND RESULT ORIENTED” in the history of our karnataka music. 

2. Tatha you said, in music feeling matters. And one more important thing you mentioned is that in all forms of art music is closest to God. Why only music? 

Ans: Music is nothing but an amalgam of sound & vibrations that’s purely invisible and shapeless just as the almighty. It is the only invisible finest of the fine arts on the globe which is based on two invisible elements i.e., note and rhythm.    When we close our eyes, we internalize our consciousness where the true essence of self or sprit or God lies. A person has to close his/her eyes to single mindedly concentrate upon these elements to bring the total effect of it to the mind I.e the almighty.    These two elements have to be obtained mostly by instinct right from the birth. Among them any person may have rhythm instinctively right from the birth but notational knowledge of music can only be obtained by consistent practice of consonant note relations. Thus any person having such instinctive abilities up to a required level can properly and efficiently manage the path of learning by themselves.     Hence a music teacher must be selected based on pure merit and experience but sadly the selections are made by reservations and hence are always suicidal to the students, though not to the non musicians. 

3. The Indian music industry is growing, and music is preserved also. But talking to you suggests it’s only at performance level, no real artists have grown? Why? 

Ans: Audios of many main artists are preserved up to some extent only. But, none of the videos of the instrumentalists focusing mainly upon their invaluable finger techniques had ever been preserved for posterity. 

4. You have been a music academician also. You taught students in various schools and universities and some of them must be great artists today. But still you feel kids are not assessed properly because teachers don’t have capabilities to teach them. What kind of capabilities you are talking a teacher should possess to assess new talent? 

Ans: All musicians are mostly performers but not teachers. Their only goal is to earn name, fame and money. None of them strive for the welfare of the students. Students are just monthly ATMs to them. Only with this idea, they have influenced the higher ups in becoming the principals of the Government Music Colleges in our state of Andhra Pradesh. Even though they have ZERO teaching experience they are selected to teach the students based on their performance skills which is utterly wrong. These so called performers should never be encouraged to teach the student at all, they should only be allowed to occasionally share their performance experiences and nothing more.            I retired in 1996 and after 5 years in 2001 the almighty opened my eyes for which I felt very bad of myself and prayed to him to save me from the wasteful life as an inefficient teacher. Later on He gradually showered me with many important techniques pertaining to the independent learning of music which I have very sincerely been following and obtaining amazing results from.    To tell the fact, each and every individual is equipped with some kind of talent hidden in them. Only a true teacher possesses the ability to bring out their talents. The teacher must be very efficient in various methods of exercises with respect to  shruti or lia (The very basics of music) to test the students of their abilities either to assess their instinctive levels or to stabilize their abilities at the required levels.    Even though each and everybody is interested in learning music, certain level of talent is required to start with. Without the minimum required level of talent they won’t be able to move forward.    Generally in Government institutions and universities the administrative officers purely concentrate on the financial income of the institute/university and pressurize the teachers to admit as many students as they can for better revenue. The selfish teachers yield to such pressures and sacrifice the standards of the art.   

4. You said everything should be in time bound manner, and end result matters. This is an important statement by a veteran musician but why do you want this to be time bound? 

Ans: As a professional violin accompanist I have traveled the world very extensively, but very sadly I am compelled to write that I couldn’t find even a single efficient and honest music teacher so far. In my very critical view, each and every musician is very certainly a deceitful person who while teaching music wants to elongate the process of learning as much as they can in one way or the other.    To avoid such misdeeds a teacher must be restricted to finish certain items of the syllabus at fixed deadlines. For example, last year I announced a package to learn “ Swarakalpana” (A very important form of singing, self developed or manodharma note renditions) for the compositions composed in 6 different talas within a duration of 3 months. The interested candidates could apply and remit Rs. 3101/-. The candidates are provided with a PDF & the respective audio files through a google link. This material contains the basic preliminary exercises required to master “Swarakalpana ‘’ within a  short duration. An Individual upon successfully completing these exercises within the first month would receive Rs 3000/- as a token of appreciation for completing the test in 1 month. An Individual upon successfully completing these exercises within the 2 months would receive Rs 2000/- & those who take 3 months would receive Rs 1000/-. An individual exceeding the 3 month timeline would receive nothing.Through this process more than 30 candidates have successfully learned singing both the mathematical and creative Swarakalpanas in the six popular talas. Many teachers all over the world can follow such innovative solutions to teach kids. 

6. You have been critical of awards in music. You say awards are not given genuinely. Even small awards are influenced. How you see this influence affecting the future of music, specially classical music in India? 

Ans: Always and everywhere only the parasitical performers are honored with awards but very sadly a music teacher who strives hard for students and the society has never been honored properly. 

7. How do you see the future of music as a treasure in India? You are hopeful that we will be able to preserve the goldmine of Classical Music in real form? 

Ans: No doubt, our classical music is the greatest among all on the globe, but, for many centuries the egoist, selfish and foolish musicians have been the sole cause of all the chaos. This can be helped by making a proper plan of action in which both the students and the respective teachers would get proper incentives linked with their regular increments of their monthly salaries while arriving at the targets of creative music at a fixed duration of time.  Tatha  is someone who speaks firmly and I could make out that he wants a structured education for Music.Tatha, I can’t assure you that I would be able to deliver something big, but I will definitely try and learn music the way you want it should be. Keep your blessings on me so that this art I can also learn and imbibe. Tatha, you have to be happy and healthy always, not for anyone but for me. So that I can take all music from you to make everything musical and rhythmic. Blessed to have you in my life!!

(Ritu Gupta is a professional, working for a USA based MNC. She is practicing Sahaj Yoga and got self realisation when she was a kid. Recently, after marriage, she’s moved to Hyderabad.)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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