Though there are many books on Hindustani Music, Rajeev Nair’s “A Rasika’s Journey Through Hindustani Music” is one of the few I would highly recommend to all rasikas of Hindustani Music – from the uninitiated to the seasoned ones. Rajeev’s mastery over the English language is no surprise I guess, given that he is a teacher of English Literature at St. Stephens College, Delhi. The author’s literary prowess aside, what is really special about the book is that instead of dwelling a lot on technical details, Rajeev has chosen to elaborate his own musical experience, drawing from other writers on the subject, wherever required. He uses a lot of metaphors, especially while talking about the music the masters produced (sometimes at the risk of overdoing it).
The book starts by describing the different musical forms of Hindustani Music, their origins, their evolution and their decline (wherever applicable). It then goes on to describe the major vocal gharanas in Dhrupad and Khayal, their origins, their development, their characteristic features and the singers who contributed to their development. The raaga system and association of ragas with time are also touched upon. All this is completed within the first 80 pages of the book itself. The rest 300+ pages are devoted to description of music of the great masters and their contributions. Both vocalists and instrumentalists are covered in sufficient detail. Apart from biographical and other important details pertaining to their gharanas/ lineage, significant space is devoted to discussing the music they produced in live concerts as well as in their recordings. Every time I read about a song rendered by an artist that the author described about, I just felt the need to procure it to relish the music and the author’s portrayal of the same.