Consumption of Traditional Classical Music
The phrase “consumption traditional classical music” by different interests has a very wide connotation because we do not mean only the listening public of classical but to a very large number of groups who either directly or indirectly consume traditional classical music. Their role largely lies in manipulating, controlling, directing and sometimes also patronizing tradition Indian music. Our legendary musicians of the past centuries could not have dreamt of such a musical ethos and may have found it almost impossible to survive in such a bewildering situation along with their traditional classical music.
The serious listeners of traditional Indian classical music are no doubt important but somehow or other they are being relegated to the background. Their numbers are not only dwindling but there is less and less concern now for their maturity of understanding and their responses and reactions to present day styles of classical musical presentation. The true classicist is admittedly having rather a difficult time in such conditions.
In the present situation, one must concede that the greatest single consumer of traditional classical music and perhaps socially and financially the most relevant is the “advertiser”. Were it not for advertising, many public musical functions would not have been financially possible. Advertisement has not only merely made unpaid admissions into classical music concerts possible but also made possible the engagement at very high fees of professional musicians. In the business world, this is today not considered as a mere advertisement but a useful strategy in promoting good public relations. Along with promotion of classical music goes promotion of commercial products also. Many commercial organizations have been found to go a step forward by generously donating to various “Relief Funds” and ‘Trusts” in fulfillment of what might be described as their social responsibilities. Along with traditional classical music, cultural programme has become a necessary appendage. Many classical music recitals by many artists in cities like Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras are sponsored by organizations that have nothing to do with music. They are basically interested in celebrating themselves through cultural events. Apart from regular concerts and conferences, there is a plethora of functions like celebration of anniversaries of musicians, awarding of titles, purses etc.
Another very important consumer of traditional classical music is undoubtedly the Government. Apart from owning a very large network of Radio Stations and Television Stations, music is now looked upon as a strong force of cultural integration in the country. The Government establishment in promoting traditional Indian music supports very large number of people in various Ministries, Directorates and State Governments. Traditional Classical musicians, having the necessary contacts, also find place in goodwill missions where they present themselves as cultural Ambassadors of the country.
The owners of gramophone records and cassettes or those owning record, cd, cassette libraries are amongst the serious consumers of classical music. Often they organize serious listening sessions and try to bring back to life the classical music of the musical giants of the past. They also set the stage for drawing comparisons of styles and art forms, highlighting the special qualities of artists of gharana styles. One wishes that the tribe of such serious minded persons increases. They and their records can form the best possible and the most dependable link between the classical music of the early part of the current Century and the present.
We have referred, earlier, to the significant and economically decisive role played by the “advertisers” group as consumers of traditional Indian classical music. Behind them, but of greater vintage, come the established organizers of ‘Music Conferences’ whether as single individuals or groups of individuals or as Associations or Institutions. They hold conferences every year almost as annual rituals, to which they invite musical celebrities and performers senior, junior and the up and coming artists. There are no yardsticks of selection as such but some conventions only. A celebrity or two is a must mainly as box office draw. Then there is a balancing of vocalists, instrumentalists, and often a dance item. There is also a group of accompanists of various types. The organizers of conferences generally have an attractive name for their conference and their finances depend upon donations, souvenir-advertisements and finally sale of tickets. The anatomy and the goings on in these Conferences would make a fascinating study. As consumers of traditional music, it is sufficient to note here that they have now become a commercial proposition. Both individuals and institutions in this group make a living out of these conferences. The patronage of classical music or encouragement of talent or promotion of serious authentic music and its listening are only incidental irrespective of whatever may be generally professed.
In this field also there are big organizers, small organizers and some of the “Classical Music Circles”. Like the music schools there has lately been a mushrooming of these music circles with organizers who, in the present competive conditions, are trying to find out and establish an identity of their own. It is good to be an impresario, or a promoter, or organizer, or even an office bearer in some institution or circle according to one’s ability, connections or pull. As things are now developing, one’s “musical presence” must be made known (whether as performer or organizer) to be able to forge ahead in fresh fields and pastures new of the great world of classical music. That is perhaps why in every leading city; even professional performers of music have their own small circle or institution. Between these institutions there is “an exchange” of artists who perform on reciprocal basis. This is how music is exchanged and performers get exposed to new environments. It is a regular quid pro quo business. An classical artist today thus needs a sponsor or promoter to be able to come into circulation in the field of music. Present day economic conditions have thrown young men and women artists early in-to the world and they have to learn to swim with the times or get pushed to the sidelines and wait patiently for another break or lucky turn of events. A traditional musician of today has necessarily to be a combination of talent, training, contacts, opportunity, and courage and finally luck.
The foreign returned artist appears to enjoy a special status symbol. At least he is considered to have had the benefit of foreign exposure and has been able to treat foreigners, belonging to a totally different cultural ethos, to the refinements of Indian Raga music. It is debatable how and why such exposure should be accepted as a basis for extra recognition. He can of course be credited with having gained more experience in the field of classical musical performance before varied audiences.
Today’s classical musicians do not succeed or survive on the basis of merit and performance alone. Much more important factor is the extent of contacts and the circle of acquaintance which the musicians are able to cultivate. This can be extrapolated as the dignified but camouflaged art of “managing” organizers and securing bookings at different concerts and programmes. Sometimes Newspaper music critics are also very affectionately cultivated not so much for their love of music or depth of understanding, but for the publicity coverage they can give to classical musicians of their choice or liking.