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“What unites Indians is a love for songs” by linguist Ganesh Devy

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It should not be an exaggeration if one claims that in terms of the average citizen’s ability to recall a large number of songs and to hum them in however terrible a voice, India probably tops the world chart.

When I was three or four years old, my father brought home a radio set. This was six decades ago. It was among the few radiograms that the village had by then, a proud possession for us and quite a public spectacle for the neighbours.[…]

Six decades later, I still recall with great clarity the sweet melodies I heard coming through the first radio programme I ever heard. Over these decades, I have been listening to the radio, almost entirely for the musical part of its broadcast. Of course, it was not the radio alone that brought songs to me. They came from older members of the family who used to hum while carrying out activities at home. They came to one during festivals and weddings and during ceremonies associated with welcoming new arrivals in the family. They came from wandering mendicants, bullock-cart drivers, farmers engrossed in sowing fields, women gathered to make pickles and spices, katha and kirtan performers and the sweetest among them came from mothers trying to put babies to sleep.

Later, much later, when I was in my thirties, I started working with adivasis in western India. Whenever our discussion revolved round their identity, they invariably alluded to the traditions of songs they had. By then, I had read plenty of Marx, Gandhi, Ambedkar and Lohia, and I liked to imagine that adivasis would want to speak in agony about the injustice that the ‘system’ had caused them. To my surprise, they were not as much articulate about things political as they were about things cultural. Through my years of work with them, I have met individuals who can go on singing the entire Mahabharata. The Bhils living on the border of Rajasthan and Gujarat have several epics of their own: the singers took immense pride in rendering the entire opus, without missing out a single syllable. I also came across members of the Bharthari community from central Indian forest states who could render, just for the asking, an entire saga of a legendary king. A friend of mine from the Banjara community once told me that the Banjaras have a poetic genre called ‘lehngi’. When I suggested that he should pen them down if he remembered any of the compositions, he said that he could recall close to 6,000 ‘lehngis’. I was not stunned by his claim because previously I had heard from a friend from the Nayak community that he knew more than 9,000 songs. And this one had a great voice. I still recall how mesmerized I was when he sang for a few hours, one song after another. […]

Source: “What unites Indians is a love for songs” by Ganesh [G.N.] Devy (The Telegraph, 1 November 2019)
URL: https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/the-musical-legacy-of-kabir-mira-nanak-tukaram-akka-mahadevi-what-unites-indians-is-a-love-for-songs/cid/1716091
Date Visited: 14 July 2022

Very few people know that Gandhi was extremely fond of Music and arts. Most of us have been all along under the impression that he was against all arts such as music. In fact, he was a great lover of music, though his philosophy of music was different. In his own words ‘Music does not proceed from the throat alone. There is music of mind, of the senses and of the heart.’ […]

According to Mahatma ‘In true music there is no place for communal differences and hostility.’ Music was a great example of national integration because only there we see Hindu and Muslim musicians sitting together and partaking in musical concerts. He often said, ‘We shall consider music in a narrow sense to mean the ability to sing and play an instrument well, but, in its wider sense, true music is created only when life is attuned to a single tune and a single time beat. Music is born only where the strings of the heart are not out of tune.’

Source: “Mahatma Gandhi – A unique musician” by Namrata Mishra (Sr. Asst. Prof of Vocal Music, R.C.A. Girls P. G. College, Mathura
URL: https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/mahatma-gandhi-unique-musician.html
Date Visited: 17 July 2022

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