Art has never been at the top of the list for any government: Shubha Mudgal

The ace musician was speaking at the recently concluded Music Inc 2.0


Shubha Mudgal one of the foremost Indian Classical musicians of today, shares interesting facets of her early life, her grooming in music with a perspective towards facing challenges and the way ahead towards propagating the genre to the mainstream media in an interesting conversation with Priyaankaa Mathur.

Talking about the initial years of her journey, Mudgal said, “I don’t come from a family of musicians as my parents were teachers of English at Allahabad University, but at the same time they were very  passionate about Indian Classical Music and thus me and my sister got an extensive exposure to listen to the genre through their efforts. My taleem in music  started rather late  when I was 16-17 years old and I feel very blessed as I was accepted as a disciple Pt. Pandit Ramashrey Jha a scholarly figure in the world of Indian Classical music, who  taught me and really shaped by voice molding me from the very beginning,as I learnt from him althrough his life, until 2009, when he passed away."

Mudgal Added, " My guru had a very eclectric  approach to learning and had learnt from several gurus and would proudly say, “hamne bahattar guruon se sikha hai”, which doesn’t literally, mean that he learned from 72 gurus, but it means he was ready to imbibe from everybody and leaves behind a very strong message for all the students of Indian classical music who should be ready to seek knowledge, and because of that upbringing I was fortunate to learn  Hindustani classical  after him from eminent classical musicians like Pt. Vinay Chand Mudgal, Pt. Vasant Thakar, Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki and Pt. Kumar Gandharva  and I also learned Thumri and Dadra from Smt. Naina Devi, they all being legendary musicians of their times. I was also blessed that other than my guru's many other gurus offered me their compositions (bandishes) to sing, which is like a blessing. Off late, I sang 'Raga Shudha Kalyan' in a concert in Pune and Pt. Sharad Satheji was kind enough to give me a composition of his guru,Pandit Sharadchandra Arolkar Bua.

Giving an overview of today’s social milieu and how important is the propagation of the arts in the society and especially in children Mudgal said, “ In spite of people who are putting in the best of  efforts to spread the arts, we have still seen a very barbaric and a violent society which means that the arts are becoming distanced from our regular life, and that’s why there is all the more reason for us to engage with the arts in any way. So, the need of the hour is to sensitize our children in the schools by giving them a good understanding of the arts, so that they develop a sense of appreciation for the arts and invest their energy in creative pursuits.”

Mudgal talks about the audio OTT platforms, “ I think all these platforms are providing valuable services to the cause of music, but they are all afraid of touching Indian classical music and traditional music. I think that fear is something that we as musicians should help them to cope up since this is not going to help anyone. I think technology is enabling us in many ways.So if we learn a traditional bandish from our Ustads, we can record it and share it with the rest of the world with our phones to put it on millions of platforms, but the point is how does anybody make the discovery."

"So, the platforms available today gives us an opportunity to share content in myriad ways, but how do we discover musicians and the great pieces of music and what is the way ahead, as even those platforms which were once considered independent, have been taken over by the mainstream market. So today can we buy a banner on YouTube? No, we can’t?"adds Mudgal.

So the independence that these platforms were lauded for has been lost and since the questions arises that how can the platforms be customized to add value to traditional music?

"So for example, if we see that a track of 5 minutes which is sold for 99 paisa or cents, what about a track about 90 minutes long which is also sold at the same cost. So it’s the time to have a lobby and a collective voice to include the mainstream and the non-mainstream and ask for customization of these platforms and be helpful for our traditional music, without which we will only end up trying and doing forced fits which are not going to work," said Mudgal.

Talking about Music Inc. and being the part of the panel discussion on ‘the lost Genres in the Indian Music landscape' Mudgal said, “Many genres across the world are at the point of extinction and now in India and I think the fact that this conference includes the genres out of the mainstream is a very good idea since they exist in separate worlds isolated from each other. Perhaps it would have not been possible to have this kind of a frank discussion without getting bitter about many things. The panel was moderated by Atul Churamani who has seen the industry for many decades certainly made a lot of difference, as all the creative people meet to listen to each other. We all came to a consensus that the nation requires a cultural policy to define what kind of steps should be taken to further promote the arts in India, so I will urge the policymakers to really care for the restoration and propagation of the arts as many genres are already on the verge of extinction."

Talking about creating a cultural policy, “It is an open fact that Art has never been at the top of the list for any government so far, but without which we cannot do anything.So the need is to talk to the government to come up with a free and fair cultural policy. So when a government makes a certain policy it is for everybody. So we cannot promote one form of music at the risk of not promoting another kind of music. 

Putting her perspective on the policy,Mudgal says, "I think any government which is serious about the arts has to examine one thing that one policy decision must be made and that is Are you going to look at the arts as the goods or a service? So it doesn’t suit the basic nature of making art, and if it’s considered as a product or a service provider, so you cannot say that you will tax us like any other business, but when it comes to giving us funds then you want us to be not for profit. So if you want us to be a part of the mainstream industry and want to tax us like any other person, then you also need to give us the same perks, then don’t say we should not make profits and why should an artist not make profits. So when everyone is allowed to make a profit, no one will take us seriously if we don’t make a profit. So I want to get the government’s to get serious with the arts and want to get rid of those hypocritical statements. The reason why the mainstream film industry is taken seriously, because it brings in mega bucks to the government, and we are supposed to work not for profit, so there is a basic conflict here.”

 Talking about gen next, Mudgal says," I believe in the power of music and I think young people are brilliant and they are very sensitive, and we should respect what they are saying. So if they are saying they don’t like classical music then what is the need for  everyone to ?"

"It's time to have diversity and  some people may like classical music, some may not like it.We need not market it, as it itself is going to say that this is a form of music which will never have a stadium full of people, so how would you support it and what is the strategy to use it.I think only the music speaks for itself, so if you have good music, people would listen."

On a lighter note when asked so what are the favorite genres she listens to Mudgal Said, “I have studied Hindustani classical music for a very long time and obviously a familiarity of the genre really happens, to make it my favorite, although I am a very keen listener, so I listen to a lot of different kind of music. There are so many songs that are my favorites but some songs always travel with you for life, like the song ‘Piya tose naina lage re’ from the film guide I being a Lata Mangeshkar fan.”

Well on what’s coming up next, Mudgal said, “I have written a book on short stories, that should be releasing very shortly over the next few months."

 Mudgal concludes the conversation with a Message for her fans and music lovers, “I spend most of the time practicing music and music has really enriched my life and has been a wonderful companion. So any greetings I can give to my fans and music lovers are that may you live a life full of music!”

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Music Inc 2.0 Shubha Mudgal Classical music

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