where was the track? Oh found it!.... Last commitment. I said yes to my violin teacher that I would come watch her performance in a concert hall located about an hour away from my house, on a Saturday. I almost canceled it because of the said hectic day but somehow made it. What an experience it was. It was a jugalbandhi of violins, cellos, and flutes and it was extremely well done. But more importantly, the performance started right on time at 7.30 PM. Sorry, if you do not respect your art enough to be there on time, I lose respect for you.
This performance was given in a smallish concert hall in a smallish music school in a smallish neighborhood in a smallish (okay, not so smallish) town in the US. There were about 30-40 people attending, mostly friends and families of the performers, If I were to venture a guess. There was no drama or buildup to the show. The performers showed up, in all black, performed for an hour, took their bow, and left. Yet, it was the best hour of my week. I feel so rejuvenated, so refined, so cultured, so filled with art and what not.
This made me think, why do we not have this culture back at home. We are extremely good at churning out an army of fully-clenched-robotic-follow-the-path-that-every-one-takes-make-money-get-married-make-some-more-money-buy-house-have-kids-make-some-more-money-do-not-get-married-ever-again. Why isn't a career in music an appealing track for the regular John Doe walking down the street? Why does a career in music always have to mean participation in random shows on television or movies?
Is it because there is not enough money in it? Average small town musicians performing in university concert halls do not make a whole lot of money here either.
Is it because of the lack of talent? Uh... I don't think so. There is enough talent both in terms of teachers and shishyas in India. No doubt about it.
Is it because of the uncoolness of being a music professional? Firstly, I don't think it is uncool but that apart, some music students are considered geeks here too.
I think it comes down to not having the culture of celebrating music. Most music listening is limited to film music which carefully limits itself to a formulaic set of constraints. This way, you are not experimenting with expanding your music horizons. How many people roll their eyes off when you mention a carnatic music recital? How many people actually show up when they are invited to a said event?
Every big city has a couple of venues that facilitate the cultural musical performances and that is about it. There is no need to bring up small towns because music concerts is an alien concept for small towns. There are not many people supporting the cause, not many venues being created for the cause, and not a whole lot of encouragement for the talent.
I cannot even get started on the plight of the instrumental music. How many flute players do you know of that have taken up a career of playing flute? How many sitar players? How many violin players? What does their career look like? How much unconditional love, support, and encouragement do they receive from their families and friends? How many music universities do they have to support their education and future employment? How many scholarship programs do they have? Other than the film industry, what other career options do they have that they can be really interested in?
How many people sit on a lazy Saturday and wonder if there is a concert at a nearby temple or concert hall that they can attend? Like a real concert, not the one played on the idiot box with all the soapy drama attached to it. Metros like Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai are much better at creating that live music culture than some of the other places. But remember India comprises of whole lot of states with a wide variety of music styles and a whole lot of towns within those states. You can imagine how much change needs to take place for music culture to pervade through all these cities and towns.
My dream is to some day meet a random stranger on a local train in India, strike up a conversation and ask him/her what they do for a living and get this proud and contented response: "I learnt instrument XXX all my life and I teach it to kids at a local school in this small podunk town"