India has a unique cultural heritage of great antiquity. Over the centuries, waves of invasions by Mongols, Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Europeans have contributed to the bewildering diversity of Indian culture. One strand runs deep within the Indian psyche, however – the search for spiritual meaning and the purpose of life.
This spiritual aspect is also the most distinct characteristic of Indian music and dance. No wonder Ravi Shankar equates Indian classical music with sadhana, or ‘meditation’; flute maestro Hari Prasad Chaurasia draws his inspiration from the greatest flute player of all, Lord Krishna; and tabla wizard Zakir Hussain believes that the spirits of deities inhabit musical instruments.
Many such insights into the minds of the great maestros of Indian music and dance are revealed in this collection of interviews, in which they tell about their early life, pay tribute to their gurus, comment on their contemporaries and speak candidly on a wide range of themes – the role of artists in society, the significance of awards, the sometimes uneasy balance between the traditional and the new, collaboration with Western musicians and their role as cultural ambassadors. Find out also what some of them would do if they became prime minister of India!
Most agree, however, that it is the spiritual aspect that most clearly defines Indian music and dance and distinguishes it from its Western counterparts, drawing people of all nationalities to a deeper understanding of Indian culture. Stresses Amjad Ali Khan: “As music has no words but just sounds, there is less ground for argument and conflict; it cuts across all national, political, religious and linguistic boundaries.”
This book attempts to understand the minds of some of the greatest maestros of Indian music and dance and generate an interest in India’s rich cultural heritage. It also underlines that there is no better means than music and dance to build bridges of friendship and international understanding in today’s increasingly globalized but hugely diverse world.