Ajai R. Singh MD

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Sargam Articles on Music Jan - May2005

Founder President, Swara Sampada
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Ajai R. Singh M.D.

These are articles written by Dr. Ajai R. Singh on Music published in Sargam, the official publication of Swara Sampada, a music organisation of which he is the founder president. They were published as 'The President Speaks His Mind'.
 
 
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Sargam, Jan 2005

MUSIC, A PASTIME, OR THE RHYTHM OF LIFE?

 

I know most of you are proud to say music is your favourite hobby. And I also know for some of you it has become the only hobby. I know it has added so much meaning to life and to the joy of living itself. It has helped forge so many family friendships, become your favourite topic of conversation, made you aware what you missed out in life until now but wont any further. And a host of other such lovely realizations.

While all these are very important in themselves, I want to start with the very first, in which we found you proudly proclaim music as your favourite hobby, or pastime. Which is no doubt a great thing to happen. And let’s thank God it has. But, now ask yourself this question too: is it only a pastime, just a way to pass the time, to keep an idle mind occupied, to while away time? Or is it your means to find meaning and purpose to your very existence?

This is a crucial question to ask, and I am sure some day or the other you will, if you have not done so already. Music is not just fun. That it is, but much more. It is not just a means of relaxation for today’s stressed individuals. That too it is, but much more. It is not just a lovely means of self-expression, to make the whole wide world aware of your talent and nod in approval, if not sing and dance to it. That too it surely is, but much more. Let me say what it is in essence. It is the very foundation of good living, the very basis of a life led well. Let me explain.

What is a good life? It’s a life lived in harmony with others, in rhythm with your inner being, in tune with society, in tempo or laya with your goals. Harmony, rhythm, tune, laya are integral to good music. If, therefore, you understand and capture the essence of good music, you will some day also capture the essence of a good life, and hopefully, the very purpose of existence, at least in some measure, if not fully.

Such is my fervent wish and earnest desire for you. That when you sing, let your mind establish communion with your soul. That your voice, your sur, become the very expression of your inner being. That you some day transcend your technical concerns with sur, tala, laya, composition, metre, and get yourself tuned with the divinity waiting patiently within you to log in to you.

How long further will you make It wait?

How long will it take for the realization that music is not just to remain a pastime, but a means to establish such a rhythm in life as makes your mind and body, your whole outer being, establish communion with your inner being, your very soul.

Let the New Year bring in this realization for you, friends.

Happy   2005.

 

DR AJAI SINGH

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March 2005

KUDOS TO TEAM SWARA SAMPADA

 

If there is one thing that impressed everyone about what we achieved on February 16, 2005, at Kalidas, when all of us were thrilled with our performances, and surprised as much, it was how Team Swara Sampada worked. If you remember two years back, when  Swara Sampada was a new born baby, I had said: ‘ This is my Lagaan Team.’ It appeared a doubtful winner, but this was my best bet on a dark horse, and I was certain we would win in the end.

And, boy, did you guys gallop! Each one put his/ her best foot forward, in spite of the earlier misgivings, and the result was as astonishing as reassuring. For now, the critics, both from within your self as well as without, will be silenced by the uproar of achievement, and victory.

It is at such times I want to remind you that the task is far from done. We have reached just one oasis of comfort on a long journey forward, and we will achieve, and overcome, many odds, if we stick to the basics and remain together. The basics will always remain the furtherance of music as the central uniting force amongst us all, and the ability to have ‘Shraddha’ and ‘Saburi’, that is, infinite faith and the necessary patience to back it. There are many more milestones to be crossed, many more bridges to be built, many more peaks to be conquered. Let’s not rest on our laurels, or become complacent, for both are the poisons of success. Let us look ahead as a united force to face the challenges which, if handled maturely, promise rewards all the way through.

So, stay tuned to each other, learn to sacrifice short-term interests for long-term goals, and remember to ask yourself of every urge that motivates you to do something in music, “Is this something which only benefits me, or the group which has given so much to me?’ And, of course, the office bearers must equally note not to sacrifice the interests of the musical advancement of its individual members, for musical growth and friendly companionship are our mantras of success from now on.

Even if the heart be filled with pride, let’s keep our feet firmly on ground, dear Swara Sampadites.

 

Dr Ajai R Singh

22  March 2005

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Sargam April 2005

Music and Governance

 

We all of course know that music originated with nature, and the melodic sounds that nature hums around us is the source of so much that is sublime in music. We also know that the oldest musical text known is the Sama Veda, which is a collection of hymns to the Gods of Nature. Nature and religion have traditionally supplied the main motive force for music. Similarly, love and poetry have as well become its sustaining forces in the later years. Most music today is based either on nature, devotion or love, with poetry playing a significant role at every step.

But music and governance? What has music got to do with governance? At first the idea seemed farfetched even to me. But this is what the great sage from China, Confucius, propounds. Surprised? Well, let’s see what he says:

Confucius (551-479 BC) assigned an important place to music in the service of a well-ordered universe. He saw music and governance as reflecting one another and believed that only the superior man who can understand music is equipped to govern. Music, he thought, reveals character through the six emotions that it can portray: sorrow, satisfaction, joy, anger, piety, love. According to Confucius, great music is in harmony with the universe, restoring order to the physical world through that harmony. Music, as a true mirror of character, makes pretense or deception impossible.*

How can music serve to bring about a well-ordered universe? Music, by its very nature, can serve to bring about peace, and order, within one’s self. (Soothing music does it obviously, but even arousing music tends to give us an outlet for our passions, and thus helps in their resolution.). In so doing it supplies us the motive force to go bring about order elsewhere too, including the world surrounding us. If more and more people bring about such order in their internal, and external, lives, the chaos and disorder around has a greater chance of resolving. So listen to soothing music yourself, and let your environment hear it too.

How does it help governance? Since music is a mirror of character, it reveals what sort of a person you are within. What sort of music appeals to you is a reasonable way of understanding what sort of a person you are. It cannot allow you to deceive, or pretend, for it reveals what you are, whatever you may say otherwise. If we can understand what motivates us, we can also understand what should motivate us, and make necessary changes. If we can understand what music moves our rulers, we can understand what motivates them, and therefore know what to expect from them. A ruler like Aurangzeb, for example, who hated music, could be expected to be ruthless with his opponents. A ruler who enjoys cabarets numbers mainly is likely to make his subjects dance to his tune and strip them of their values. A ruler who listens to patriotic numbers mainly is likely to be devoted to his country but runs the risk of being fanatically devoted too. A ruler who loves soft numbers is likely to have a soft core, in spite of the hard image he may cultivate. And so on and so forth.

So you can get a reasonable idea of what to expect from a ruler if you know what sort of music moves him. Why is the man who understands music superior, and fit to govern? That’s because, music reveals the six emotions that are the basis of character: sorrow, satisfaction, joy, anger, piety and love. A person who has music in him has the chance of also having these emotions. And, having it himself, he has a greater chance of understanding what arouses these emotions in others. What makes others sad, what makes them satisfied, what brings about joy, what causes them to be angry, what makes them pious, and what motivates them to love. If a ruler, or leader, understands what arouses these emotions in his subjects, and what arouses them in himself too, he has indeed understood the essence of good governance. And music, properly understood, offers him the best chance of experiencing these emotions within himself, and understanding it in others.

Hence it makes sense to agree with Confucius when he says music and governance go together, and only such a person as has music in him is equipped to govern.

In this connection, let me remind you of a sentence in The Oath of Swara Sampadites :

Music is the common binding force amongst us all. It is the lifeline of our fraternity. We shall think ten times before trusting a man who has no music in him.

What applies to others applies equally to rulers, and leaders too. Be wary of those who have no music in them, or have an aversion for it, or have a fascination for the crass or vulgar kind. You will save yourself a lot of hassles in life.

 

Dr Ajai Singh

 

*The Art of Music, Macropaedia, Vol 2, p 492, The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edition, 1990.

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Sargam May 2005

Music, Artists and the Reckless Life

 

In the last issue of Sargam, I had mentioned one could get a reasonable idea of the type of person another is by knowing the type of music he/she likes. Those who like romantic music are likely to be romantic people, those who like sentimental music are likely to be sentimental guys, those who like light numbers are likely to be light-hearted individuals etc. What I mean here is their predisposition to certain types of music is a window to their personality. Of course there are moments when we all like only sad music, when the mood is such. Or we all want only happy fun filled songs, when we want the good cheer to prevail. I am not talking of situation based likes and dislikes. I am talking of predispositions. Left to ourselves, what sort of music we predominantly like. That can give a reasonable idea of what sort of persons we are. Hence I had suggested that we know the type of music our leaders like, for that gives us an idea what sort of people they are, and what to expect of them. I had also suggested we beware of those who have no music in them for they are unlikely to be friendly people, even if they profess to be so.

In this article, I wish to tackle another issue, something that comes to the notice of those who come in intimate contact with the creative in the field. A number of these lead erratic lives, are prone to emotional disturbances, enter into reckless relationships, are dependent on alcohol or drugs, and in general make a mess of their lives, and those of their near and dear ones. Why is it so? If music, indeed, is so ennobling, why does it lead to such behaviour in its adherents?

There can be multiple reasons for this. Some of them are:

1. Since they are genetically endowed with musical qualities, the other attributes may be lacking, and thus their ability to cope with life’s demands may be poor, thus forcing them into dependence on drugs, alcohol etc., or into reckless behaviour which is a manifestation of this same inability to cope with life.

2. Since they are exposed to music and arts alone, they do not have a chance to develop other abilities needed to take the rough and tumble of real life, and therefore succumb under pressures.

3. Since they are attractive individuals because of their art, a number of people are magnetically drawn to them, and thus the artistic are exposed to pulls and pressures that the ordinary are never exposed to. Such exposure may start very early in life, when most others are in school/college and under the constant supervision of their parents/guardians. Hence, they may tumble from one reckless relationship into another, even without knowing what the whole thing is supposed to mean. The romantic ideas that their art has exposed them to, the songs and lyrics, have all made them tuned to expect the beauty of romance and ecstasy without realizing that the other party is in it not for some idealised   romantic notion of a relationship, but to enjoy a good time with a celebrity.

4.They are exposed to others in the field who are already reckless, and may consider that to be the norm in their field, to be accepted and forwarded, rather than resisted or rejected. It’s something like the peer pressure or community attitude that influences so much of what we do.

5. They are exposed to strongly charismatic personalities all through life, and are therefore attracted to them. Thus they get exposed to individuals that ordinary individuals only dream of. Hence they are more prone to entering into multiple relationships, often recklessly so, and experience the ecstasy of union as much as the agony of parting, and deceit, and double-crossing, and that too very early in life. This can become the norm for them, and they hence continue to lead such lives themselves.

The analysis can continue, but we shall rest it at present here. What is the bottom line for you who are interested in music but not in leading a reckless life?

The bottom line is to take the art without taking the life style. Enjoy the product without  going into details of its manufacture. Like the musician not because of but in spite of his shortcomings. Be smart enough to separate the art from the artist, and take the former while ignoring the latter.

For those who are aspiring musicians, or artists, who have the extra ordinary ability bestowed on them by nature, you may do well to

 i)  develop the emotional maturity to face the rough and tumble that creative life involves by being first of all aware of the problems and developing a value system which helps you cope with it with the minimum of hassles;

ii) have some emotionally strong individuals as friends/guardians (who will not take advantage of you), and trust their counsel;

      iii) learn to separate their work/art from their life, like all professionals do.  Do not bring your profession into your life.

      iv) know the limits to which they will go, and no further, howsoever tempting the offer. In other words, have a firm value-system in place.

In the long run, it is these that will help sustain the storm and turbulence that a creative life necessarily involves. Those who have survived in the creative fields, music included, have some such coping mechanism put in place, either by themselves, or by guardian angels, or by circumstances themselves. The rest, well, they succumb to the wiles of a creative life, and become one more example to perpetuate our notion that the artistic are people who necessarily lead reckless lives. The examples of those who survive, and blossom, and should become exemplars to the rest need to be highlighted so that the connection many have considered invariable-between creativity and recklessness- can indeed be seriously challenged.

In any case, after all this serious discussion, please do not for a moment think of forsaking music. If anything, love it more so, for it is the product of creative minds, and that is a rare commodity indeed. And life, in any case, has taught you to be smart enough to know how much to take from where, and to hide your criticisms well enough to be able to praise the better to get the best for yourself!

 

Dr Ajai R. Singh

19 May 2005

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