Book: Hindustani Music – A Tradition in Transition

“Hindustani Music – A Tradition in Transition” (D.K.Printworld, 2005) is a collection of Deepak Raja’s writings on Hindustani Music.

The book is divided into 5 parts. Part 1 titled “Culture, Technology and Economics” discusses the changes that have happened in Hindustani Music and to its patronage over the years, the economics of Hindustani Music as a profession, the Hindustani Music market and how to make it more efficient, how musical achievement means different things to different performers/ listeners and the archival of music and its effects on the performers/ rasikas. Deepak discusses the problems he feels have led to the dilution of Hindustani Classical Music post its Golden Age.

Part 2 titled “Form, Idiom and Format” details the format of different forms of Hindustani Music, the way these forms have been handled by different performers, the increase in popularity of instrumental music, the ‘innovations’ made to make certain instruments suit Hindustani Music and presents a critical view on jugalbandis and tihayis. Part 3 titled “The World of Ragas” deals with the concept of ragas, their grammar, their transformations, their evolution and the time theory. It also has a chapter on how melody, poetry and rhythm have manifested themselves in the different forms of Hindustani Music and through the instruments – sitar, sarod, flute and santoor. Part 4 titled “The Major Genres” introduces the genres – Dhrupad, Khayal, Thumri and Tappa. Part 5 titled “The Major Instruments” discusses 8 instruments (Rudra Vina, Sitar, Surbahar, Sarod, Santoor, Shehnai, Sarangi and Indian Classical Guitar) – their construction, contribution to Hindustani music, musicians whose names are associated with them etc. The book ends with a bulky glossary that covers many terms one might come across while studying/ discussing Hindustani Music.

Deepak seems to have the ability to structure his thoughts very well and coin his own terms that aid in presenting the same to the reader. This along with his musical training and stints in journalism enables him to do justice to his analysis of topics related to music and mostly argue his points of view well.

A thought provoking book that I would highly recommend to performers, rasikas, music lovers and students of Indian Classical Music.