Picture meticulously hand building a life-sized Taj Mahal from common playing cards with minute detail then carefully shaping your lips into a perfectly round O and releasing a soft, though exact breath into the foundations of the masterpiece causing the intricate structure to topple from slow to rapid procession. Imagine the feeling of euphoric oblivion that transcends. Thats what it feels like when you listen to Indian Classical. As I sat in the audience and watched the three musicians on stage, I closed my eyes and let the music draw images in my mind. The music inspired a journey both back into classical narratives and forward into personal thoughts. The complexity of the music resulted in a confusing, but ultimately extraordinary, experience away from the western tunes I had grown up with.
The musical conversation is riveting. The fast paced canter ranges from palpable excitement to feverous emotion. The constant back and forth quick wit between the artists becomes difficult to keep up with as it ranges in tempo and digression. To a foreigner, it was music, a magnificent song. There is the hard patter of the tabla like afternoon rain on a tin roof. The sound of a bottomless repertoire, the tanpura, as one imagines the Sirens sounded when they tempted Odysseus to the sea. And finally, a voice, sweeter than Juliets’ name when Romeo sighed it into her mouth with his last breath. The music drifts through the air being breathed in like the smoke of a cigarette. It seems the artists are in perfect sync, but that is only a well-crafted ploy. In reality, the swirl of sound was sanguine screams. Untrained canals could only decipher a harmonious melody while a well tuned ear would be able to distinguish who began the tempting of death, whether the tabla was responding to the vocals direction or spearheading the conversation. In this case, it was the former.
The clock claimed only a few hours had passed but the epic had been playing out for generations on storytellers tongues. The performance ends and the audience scatters. Yet the vibration continues to reverberate in the mind of the listener like the seashell singing the ocean’s whimper for anyone willing to hold it to their ear.
Check it out for yourself!