Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Immortals

On Amit Chaudhuri's new novel, The Immortals:

The role of the musician in India, once central and revered, has changed much in the last century. In the wake of Indian independence and the disappearance of the old princely states, the traditional sources of patronage ceased to exist. The middle class stepped in to fill that role, fundamentally altering the relationship between patron and artist. “Suddenly”, Chaudhuri explains, “people from the middle class were themselves wanting to be musicians, wanting their moment in the musical world, and using their teacher as a facilitator.” The gurus’ position in society was fundamentally altered to one of necessary obeisance, undermining their status and artists and placing them in deference to commerce. “People like Mrs Sengupta were drawn to teachers like Shyam Lal because of their talent. They would give them the respect and reverence due to a teacher, but at the same time were really dominating them because they were in a position of power.” At one point in the book, Shyam Lal puts on a conference in memory to his father in which many of his students take part. The event becomes a kind of talent show; people are interested only in their own performance. His disciples – “from young struggling ghazal singers to businessmen’s wives, hot but bright in their saris, naked ears dressed provocatively in gold” - have paid him as a teacher for the right to perform in public.



chris mooney-singh said...

Hi Zafar,

Yes, this is true to my experience with mehfils and the amateur classical music scene in India and even here in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

he has written well abt the musicians since he is one himself but i guess the book is more abt the young nirmalaya