Count your blessings, they say! Good health, loving family and friends, a sound upbringing and education, a happy mind, a promising career. The list is endless.
We often tend to undervalue what is our own or what we are entitled to, without having to work too hard to achieve it. It took me a considerable amount of time to realise the value of the musical environment I was born into. My parents told me that one day I would appreciate it and to stick to what I was doing. I paid heed to their advice. I was 10 years old when I realised what an amazing art form I had taken to, and ever since I have found that the expanse and depth of Indian Classical Music, seemed to be wider than the sky and deeper than the ocean. There is always something new to learn, some innovation to know of, something to get amazed with or curious about. That was when my true journey had begun. That was my blessing!
A major benefit of starting out young, I could say, is the development of a keen sense of tonal qualities. In simpler words, our ears and brain become sensitive to the quality of voices, pitch and musical sounds. It's easier to pick out the off-key notes / Swars. Other than having it as an innate ability; it also becomes possible, when one is formally trained in Classical music. The emphasis laid on singing only with the support of a Drone or Tanpura (musical instrument), enhances the natural understanding of the Swars for a singer. This is called "Swargyaan" in Indian Classical terminology.For anyone who wishes to pursue music, either as a hobby or career, it becomes increasingly important to first tune the ears to tone qualities.
I pursued German and Spanish while in college. As enamored as I was with the “coolness” of these languages, I had to master the basics first. Having rapid conversations in a foreign tongue is possible only when I have perfected the alphabets, spellings, grammar and a decent level of vocabulary. The same logic applies to learning Indian Classical Music. If you have Swargyaan, you can experiment with any genre of music and instrument. It widens your understanding and knowledge of Indian Classical Music and it helps you to appreciate other kinds of music as well. If you can figure out notes / Swars, it's a great help in remembering or reproducing the tune. The best part about Indian Classical Music, is its dynamicity and the immense degrees of freedom. I certainly enjoy playing the guitar and am more receptive towards the nuances of western music because of my Classical background.
Keeping aside the musically related benefits of Indian Classical Music, let me take you through some of the other advantages of learning it.
To all you Science and Maths wizards, these will appeal the most. Spatial-temporal reasoning is an intricate function of our brain. It is the cognitive ability to picture a spatial pattern and understand how items or pieces can fit into that space. Maths, Science, Physics, chess, and music, all involve this type of reasoning. Classical music is not just any type of ordinary structured music. The harmonically related Swars and beats have maths in it! Listening to Classical music stimulates the pathways of our brain that process spatial reasoning. The simplest example is of a musician composing the songs / Bandishes of a Raag. He/She can picture notes on a page and visualize how the different swars will fit in together while adhering to the rules of the Raag. Individuals who write music, often visualize notes as a large puzzle, fitting different fractions of Swars and pauses together to create a whole piece of music.
The brain has a special dedicated area for music. While conducting a functional MRI, one can actually identify the area of the brain that gets stimulated if the person is made to sing a song. Additionally, the part that processes memory is situated near the part that processes music. We all know that the music you listen to, definitely affects your mind. Right from the initiation into Indian Classical Music, various 'Alankars' (patterns or designs) are taught to the students. Comprehending and reproducing these patterns either by singing or playing it on one's instrument, surely requires memory power as well as concentration.
Keeping it to the point, or else I could go on endlessly, learning and listening to Indian Classical Music has a number of physiological and psychological benefits. Besides the two major ones mentioned above, Indian Classical music is also known to help reduce stress and anxiety, increase coordination between the left and right sides of the brain (stimulates analytical as well as emotional responses) and regulate the heartbeats.
Hence, why don't you'll make some time and give learning Indian Classical Music a shot, it could be vocals or an instrument that appeals to you. It does not have any tangible gains and takes some time to enjoy it fully, but when you do, it is worth every single second you spent learning about it. Music gives back to us what we give to it.
By Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath
Ashwini Narayangaonkar-Kamath is the eleventh generation of her family to be dedicated to the ancient art form of Indian classical music. As a singer she has performed in India and abroad, has music albums to her credit and successfully runs her classical music academy - Deepak Music Academy all over Mumbai.
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