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Young musicians in India have never had it so good

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. – Plato

Rajeev Raja, flautist extraordinaire and former adman talks about how music is central to his life and why young musicians in India have never had it so good.

From time immemorial, as is evident from this quote by the Greek philosopher Plato, music has been intrinsic to human life and development. Music has the power to soothe, to excite, to entertain, and more importantly, to elevate our consciousness to a plane that we never could have reached without its intervention.

When I was a child I can still remember the curious joy that would fill my heart every time I heard a great piece of music. It would evoke in me a strange flutter of excitement, and a deep yearning to be able to express myself musically; something that I finally got around to doing when I discovered the flute at the age of 17.

I have been playing the flute for over 30 years now, not always as much as I wanted to, because I had a full fledged advertising career until recently. But through these 30 years, the joy that music has brought into my life, the wonderful musicians I’ve met and played with, the numerous people I’ve made friends with through my music, the sublime feeling that is unique to performing on a stage in front of a receptive audience, and the special stature that society accords to musicians, have all been immeasurable in terms of the value they have added to my intellectual and emotional growth.

So, if I were an 18 year old in the India of today, would I go in for a full time career in music, instead of looking at it as a part time passion? The answer is a most definite ‘yes, yes’ and a ‘yes’.

The musically talented younger generation never had it so good. The music scene in India is all set to explode. There are opportunities everywhere. Wanna form an Indie band? Wanna form a fusion band? Wanna form a death metal band? Wanna for an ‘any kind of music’ band? Just go for it.

There’re a billion people out there waiting to lap up what you have to offer.

For the first time in India, there are talent scouts on the look out for talent that has a different sound. There are big brands out there who want to ride the music bandwagon.

The worldwideweb has shrunk the world and a ‘kolaveri’ from Chennai becomes a global smash hit as does a ‘gangnam style’ from Korea. A home grown talent like Raghu Dixit is rumoured to play over 20 concerts in a month, not just in India but across the globe.

So with everything looking hunky dory for music and musicians, what’s the gap? One word: education. Except for our hallowed gharanas, there is no formal education available for contemporary Indian music which borrows a lot of its harmonic and melodic approaches from western music.

A musical education on the levels of Berklee College of Music, but catering to the Indian music situation is the need of the hour, and I welcome the advent of The True School of Music in Mumbai; a school that will offer international standards of music education, in terms of its curriculum, faculty and facilities.

Today, there is no dearth of talented musicians in India. But, we all know talent without technique is half baked. Proper technique, under expert guidance, allows talent to express itself effortlessly.

So to all the musicians and aspiring stars out there, I just have this to say: Learning by doing is great. But learning by learning can help you make that music you’re playing sound even greater. Play on.

Rajeev Raja is former National Creative Director of DDB Mudra. He is also one of India’s finest Jazz-fusion flautists and has his own band Rajeev Raja Combine. He is ‘Founder & Soundsmith’ of a one-of-a-kind sonic branding company called BrandMusiq. Rajeev lives in Bandra with his wife and two daughters.

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