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SUFI AND CLASSICAL MUSIC

Music is the way to achieving inner silence with unbounded joy that comes from being thoughtless if only for the briefest of moments. Sufi and classical music, either Indian or Western, has the quality to lift us to another level where one feels connected with nature and divine and in complete rapture. No doubt then that music has such a vital role in all spiritual traditions and practices. The Wahabi strictures against music in all its forms is in itself to make it deeply suspect as a spiritual journey in my eyes.

With the practice of Sahaja meditation over the last three and half decades, my love for Sufi music has become even deeper as the two amazingly complement and accentuate each other. Thoughtlessness, so beautifully and simply explained by Shri Mataji, is so easily attained with listening to Bhajans by Kabirdas, Tulsidas, Surdas and Meera sung by maestros like Kumar Gandharva, Pushottam Jalota, Kishori Amonkar, the Mishra Bandhus, Madhup Mudgal and several others. Listening to Bulleh Shah rendered by maestros like Nusrat, Abida, Rahat Fateh Ali, or Warsi Brothers or to Bhimsen Joshi’s mellifluous rendering of Brahmanand’s compositions and Kishori Amonkar’s Mharo Pranam sends one into silent ecstasy and complete thoughtlessness from where there is no desire to step back into the mundane world. And these names only represent the proverbial tip of the iceberg of the vast pool of artists who have dedicated their lives to lifelong Sadhna or complete dedication to unceasing improvement of their arts. They render the most difficult compositions with such amazing, breathtaking and soul touching simplicity. My most humble thanks and Pranams to them for so enriching our lives.

It will be only honest on my part to admit that I have on many occasions and throughout my life much enjoyed Bollywood music, which brings together this incredible variety of talents of lyricists, music directors, composer and instrumentalists. Bollywood’s contribution to advancement to Hindustani classical music will one day be fully recognized. With celestial stars like Sahir, Shailendra, Hasrat, Roshan, Naushad and Rahman, Lata, Kishore, Rafi, Burmans, and so many others, Bollywood music is a mindboggling store of soul touching renderings. I hope we will one day see the revival of Amin Sayani’s, Binaca Geetmala on which I was brought up when even the radio set that could ‘catch’ Radio Ceylon on shortwave was found in every middle class household.

And last but not the least the the great instrumentalists like Vilayat Khan, Ravi Shankar, Sharan Rani, Bismillah Khan, Pandit Samta Prasad, Allah Rakha and his genius son Zakir Hussain, Amjad Ali Khan, Hariprasad Chaurisya. But it would be amiss for me to not include all those from Van Shipley on the electric guitar to Brian Silas on the piano who have mastered their instruments such that they can make them play notes that we did not imagine even existed.

Music in all its forms and traditions is a means to try and connect to the divine and dive deeper into one Self. I wish I had continued with my Tabla practice that lasted but two years!

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