May 30, 2013
Music education can raise the bar of consciousness in India
Floyd Fernandes, emphasizes that for good education to succeed you need a supportive industry. He is a musician and regularly blogs on music. He lives in Mumbai.
The slew of musically oriented shows, the lucrative Bollywood, live scene and commercial market, irrevocably point us to believe that music is indeed a fantastic and viable career option. To cut to the chase, this art form has crossed over from just being esoteric entertainment to being a huge industry. That being said it has been the norm to have musicians with or without talent, interning and playing with more experienced ones and learning by osmosis. Our country, a frontrunner in musical education in the days gone by with the unique ‘Gurukul’ system has sadly not taken this ethos forward. The ‘scene’ is subsequently a dreary non-existent one.
Music is deep and constantly morphing. Our country has on one hand an obsession with music and on the other an intolerance of the arts when it is not essentially indigenous. This dichotomy is the reason why hordes of talented people have never reached a point where they fulfill their potential. I have over the years tried to do my bit, albeit, in a small way by engaging in community music sessions at clubs, music shops, even slums as nodal points to reach out to people and help provide some basic music education and exposure. This is a small effort by an individual who wants to facilitate change. This method is however, fraught with inconsistencies and can at best be a supplementary initiative of a ‘well wisher’. Ideally the future needs a clear blueprint in order to work as a more permanent solution.
Here is what I believe we should be doing.
Most of us are drawn to music by its beauty, feeling and depth and, we gravitate to it. We then start to ‘dabble’ in it. Not always coached but yes we spend inordinate amounts of time with what we perceive of as ‘music’. Magazines, peers, the Internet, visiting musicians all form a research library for learning on the fly as it were. Let’s face it, all of us never had the resources or the opportunity to learn music simply because we did not have a serious music school here in Mumbai or for that matter anywhere else in the country. The privileged could go to Berklee or Juillard in the USA.
But education alone is not enough.
A symbiotic support industry with high standards is critical to make this work. We need to evolve to a specialized school system that can take musically keen and talented kids of today and mold them into well-rounded, informed musicians. This has to be coupled with the right kind of venues, live shows and other events to enable them to showcase these talents. The listeners will correspondingly evolve and this will spur the evolution of a higher level of consciousness and standards for musicians and music. This cycle is a self-generating one, if initiated well. Mere diatribes and rhetoric about change are of little use. We need someone to step up and take solid initiatives to remedy this.
The road map for the future requires qualified instructors like any other vocation stream, with clear objectives and direction. Not everyone is ‘gifted’, so we need a complete overhaul of the way fundamentals are taught. If it is western harmony one has to learn, then you need a teacher who knows western harmony. Similarly for Indian music. It seems simple, but this has never been done in our country till date. Let’s ask ourselves why standards in the west are so high. Their syllabi and teachers are highly competent and foster growth and constant improvement. Each and every program is taught according to a student’s ability and propensity to learn. Our teachers and aspiring musicians need to understand and accept this imperative.
We need to imbibe their best practices and internalize it in to our system. This will lead to a large pool of well-informed, versatile musicians who will in turn inspire others. This should over time percolate down to our population resulting in a much improved indie music scene.
The positive fall out of this will be higher quality music on our airwaves, excellent live shows and far more competent scoring for our films and advertisements.
Consequently, a whole new breed of confident musicians can then start endeavors of their own based on a model free from just commercial considerations.
Why is it that we are so academic when it comes to economics and science but with music we depend only on our ‘ear’? Music is an art form that also employs a staggering amount of science. Why do we believe that it’s not necessary to study the language and grammar of music to truly comprehend its possibilities? Can we blame our parents for believing that music is a hobby and not at all serious, when we ourselves have never been serious about it? This has always been a hit and miss algorithm. Give the kid a certificate in Western harmony taught by the right teacher, put in a few years of hard work and suddenly it will begin to mean something. More importantly he would have learned about Western harmony.
Validation of a course is important to a parent and this will happen only when valid education is dispensed.
Imagine a jazz student who has access to one- on-one training from an actual jazz musician, a DJ who will learn the fundamentals of music before he uses a cd player or console, a programmer completely comfortable with different genres and therefore, a consummate musician, versus a robot with hard drives of pilfered work.
Can this actually happen here in India? Can it be made accessible, affordable and of a very high calibre? Yes, I seriously believe it can. Only then will we have the beginnings of a serious scene with quality musicians and professionals.