On the meditative nature of music – The Hitavada
By Vijay Phanshikar:
“I feel a little unsuited to the kind of music that is made today. There is a big difference between what I sang earlier and what is being done now. I’m not saying, this music is bad, but there are too many rhythms…”
– Lata Mangeshkar
ONLY those steeped in real music can make such a fine distinction – “too many beats”! In these little words, Lata Mangeshkar has packaged the sense of fullness in music. Without using so many words, she defined the fundamental quality of music – fluidity, fluidity. In his opinion, the beats rather obliterated the flow. In other words, Lata Mangeshkar talked about the meditative nature of music, its romance with the inner flow of silence as the condition for the notes to float wordlessly – and spread their calming influence over the mind. In yet other words, Lata Mangeshkar seems to be insisting that continuity is nearly beatless (so to speak) – this is how the potion – the nectar – of life flows through her channel of vitality.
This flow has its own sound (of silence), or its own rhythm, its own hymn feeling that is felt deep within. This is how music is often experienced, felt and experienced! Certainly, the rhythms are one of the ingredients of the music, because these offer a feeling of procession. But those who cherish music as an experience also treat rhythm only as an essential aid to understanding rhythm. But if the beats start to get overwhelming – with their number or volume – the music experience is very likely to be tainted. Because, in this case, the serenity which is so essential to capture the subtle and undulating diffusion of the sound of the music is erased. When Lata Mangeshkar speaks of “too many beats”, she essentially suggests that the musical experience is invaded by a small harshness almost foreign to its feeling. Of course, modern music is strong – enhanced by beats rather than natural, innate rhythm and flow. And in a way made to hunt, to attract attention, the music of modern films is all the more intended to create a certain fuss that Lata Mangeshkar hates.
There is no doubt that during her illustrious career, Lata Mangeshkar has sung very upbeat songs and captured the attention and imagination of listeners. But these numbers should be treated as exceptions rather than rules. For, personality-wise, Lata Mangeshkar – and many in her category – were the seekers of the musical experience that floated on the flow of the inner voice – anahad naad (the eternal sound that is always there in each being — the sound that comes from outside).
In other words, people steeped in musical classicism are eager to have a musical experience that is spiritual in nature. Let’s not miss Lata Mangeshkar’s assertion that modern music – with too many beats – isn’t bad. But if she had the choice, she would opt for this spiritual continuity that often characterizes music in the literal sense. This observation, in itself, is not contrary to the percussion being part of the music – which even a Zakir Hussain would agree. What Lata Mangeshkar was trying to say was that she approached music differently – away from its non-essential loudness.