“The term ‘Guru’ is being misused…”
“The term ‘Guru’ is being misused…”
For someone who has devoted his whole life to music, the present scenario of classical music in the state can be hurtful. And so it is for eminent Sitarist of Assam, Hem Hazarika. His is a name which needs no introduction in the state for he is the person responsible for giving the Sitar the very status, which it enjoys in the state today. He is known for his obsession with hard work and the urge to better his art. Not only in Sitar, Hazarika has spread his conceptual skills in other musical instruments too, like the Surbahar, Hawain Guitar and Santoor. Hem da, as his is lovingly called, has ensured that his musical genius passes over to his son Subhankar as well, who has turned out to be a very good fiddler. Subhankar is the first Assamese musician to be selected as a scholar of IT SRA, Calcutta and is very much on the way to replace his dad as the front runner of the Sitar in Assam. In a frank and candid discussion with The Sentinel, Hem Hazarika lambasted the present musical scenario and the intense lobbies at work which has been the main factor responsible for the dearth of new musical talents in the state. His son also offers his views at times.
• What, according to you, is the scenario of Classical music in the state?
Hem Hazarika: The Classical music scene has really improved a lot from the previous days. A lot of new people are playing though the whole meaning of music has got lost somewhere down the line. After Parveen (Sultana) left, no musician has come up who is even anywhere near her musical genius. The main problem is that there is no one to guide the upcoming musicians, to show them the road. The road which they are taking presently is way out of the track.
One can talk about the environment but ultimately, it depends upon the self. The armchair critics will and are blaming it on the lack of a proper musical environment but who makes the environment? Even in the sphere of studies, has the environment changed from where it was a few years back? Why is it improving then? The moot question remains where are we taking our instruments and sadly, no one is doing anything in this regard.
The society has such a big role to play to encourage the immense pool of young and talented artists. Who is harnessing these talents? They don’t even have a good teacher to guide them and the word ‘Guru’ is being misused.
• How is the term ‘Guru’, being misused? Please illustrate your statement a bit.
The road to learning an instrument is very difficult and as such, the Guru’s responsibilities are enormous. Just learning music from books and imparting them to youngsters doesn’t make one a teacher. ‘Guru’ is a big word and a Guru is responsible not only for making his disciples pass their examinations, but also pass on to them everything that he has learned. In the field of academics, a teacher cannot just teach the basics of a subject to someone who has reached his graduate level and then leave him to fend for himself. As a Guru, it is your duty to ensure that you teach him till his post-graduate levels so that he is at least equipped to fend for himself. After he has reached that level, nobody needs a Guru to show them the way, but just someone to guide him.
Again, the Guru should be a performing artist otherwise he’ll never be able to impart lessons on performing arts. If someone who has never played in a football match is made the coach of an International football team, you can imagine the condition of the players. Same is the case with Classical music. The experience of performing should be foremost for a proper and good Guru. After all, it’s the Guru who shows his disciple the immense expanse of the ocean of music through his renditions.
• What is your view of the new artists of the state?
Most of the artists here are nothing more than copy-paste artists. Reciting a poem doesn’t make one a poet and repeatedly playing the dhuns made famous by others, does not make one an artist. When you compose your own song and perform it – right or wrong does not matter – you are a true artist. Even if you were not correct while playing, you have the satisfaction that you at least tried. When we play a raag, it should have our own flavour though retaining the basics of the same. If you ask ten Sitarists to play their own version of the Emon raag, then you are bound to get ten different type of sounds. And if you ask the same thing to the present day musicians of the state, you are bound to get the same sound from each one of them. You can compare it with the essay writing competitions that are held in schools where everyone writes the same essay when they are cheating. Even for Television and radio shows, we (earlier artists) know where to cut the tune so that it meets the requirements of the director. I can’t say the same thing about today’s artists. When you are making a shirt, you should also know how to handle a scissor. Just cutting the cloth doesn’t make a shirt, you should know where and how to cut. It all comes down to the lack of a proper ‘Guru’ for these musicians.
Subhankar adds: Why is Calcutta so famous as far as classical music is concerned? Over there, the students are taught to build structures for building houses and buildings. But here, the students are taught just to build the houses. They end up building the same set of houses throughout their career and cannot even move out from their own houses. Isn’t it sad?
• You mean that the present state of classical music is due to the lack of proper guides?
What is the parameter of judging talent? We have hundreds of Visarats coming up every year but are they anywhere near the standards of the musical icons of the state, leave alone the country? Examinations are not and should never be a parameter for judging talent. You don’t need to be a musician to appreciate music. Every normal person in the world has the power to distinguish amongst the seven tunes. You do not need classical training to compose a Bihu song which is very much within the purview of the seven surs. You need a Guru to bring out the emotions of the instrument, give it life. Is that happening here?
Just knowing Badi-sambadi, Bibadi, That, Pakkar, Arohan-Aburhon does not make you know a raag. Its just an introduction to a raag like an address. Letters will go to the address but to know the person residing at the address, you have to develop cordial relationships with the person. To know a raag, you have to develop a relationship with it through your instrument. For that, you need Sadhana. Raags are very much similar and you should have a relationship with them, if you are to distinguish between them. The Guru does it who also teaches the disciple to learn to listen to songs and further expand his musical acumen. This Guru-sishya relationship and the said culture is missing here. The main drawback here is that students don’t even know their own levels and need some other person to judge their capabilities, on their behalf. This is not good.
• How is the present teaching method at fault?
Those who are pursuing music today are not going about in a systematic way. I have found it amongst my present students who were earlier learning under others. They have not even learnt the basics of ‘taal’ and ‘loy’ and still are so much obsessed with ‘taal’ and ‘loy’. We have so many fantastic Bihu, Lokgeet and Bogeet singers. Have they ever learnt about ‘taal’? In our present system, it is put into the mind of the student that ‘taal’ and ‘loy’ should be perfect. As a result, many people leave the art midway though the course. When a person comes to learn music out of interest, he will naturally stop learning when such rigorous strictures are imposed upon him. Many people sing popular sings without having any knowledge of ‘taal’. And as I said, ever normal person has ‘loy’ in his blood. And when ‘loy’ is present, ‘taal’ is bound to be there.