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FINDING OUR UNIQUE MELODY

Nithya Rajendran

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Recently I visited a relative for Dussera. More specifically, for Navratri ‘golu’, a colourful display of dolls was done during Navratri in the south Indian states. On the dinner menu, there was the quintessential Sambar, the spicy and tangy soupy curry that all of India is familiar with. When I tasted it, it was Sambar no doubt but it was infused with the flavours and spices so unique to my friends’ cooking that it made me blurt out ‘Wow this is your signature sambar!’

 What we all know as Sambar has two components, one which makes us easily identify it as sambar and nothing else. This easy identification is because of the standard ingredients used to make the dish, such as tamarind, turmeric and red chilli. The second component is that which makes the taste of Sambar so unique to a particular household or a particular cook.

 This comes from not only the spices unique to that city or state, but also from the temperament and nature of the person who cooks the dish.

 It is this very same thing that makes Raagas in classical music so identifiable and yet so unique to each artist. A Raaga is a predefined melodic scale consisting of a set pattern of flat and sharp notes. Every student is taught this basic framework so that whenever he decides to sing that particular Raag, say Raag Yaman he or she is unmistakably singing only that raag. But yet if you hear the Raag Yaman sung by Pandit Jasraj and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, you will see a unique ‘x-factor’ that makes the Raag Yaman carry the singer’s unique stamp. Like in the case of sambar, this comes from the personality and nature of the person that gets infused into the Raaga he or she is singing. Raagas are like shadows or impressions of the person who sings them. While they may have a basic framework that is identifiable, they also hold the essence of the musician creating the music.

We all create our own music. I mean this symbolically. We create our own songs and fill our lives with our unique melodies. While we may be handed, more or less, the same resources, we choose what lives we create with those resources. We choose to infuse our lives and that of others with our own unique stamp. 

This essence is what makes music alive and brings sentience into songs. Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro can never sound the same from anyone else. Even the greatest of great singers cannot reproduce the essence that makes the song so uniquely his. Raag Puriya sung by Pandit Bhinsen Joshi can never sound the same from someone else’s voice. The same is the case with many great musicians, dancers, chefs and leaders. 

Our essence is what people sense. Through our work, through our relationships and through our lives. If we can manage to create an essence that is infused with compassion, wisdom, understanding and love, the fragrance of that essence will fill not only our own lives but the lives of every person we touch through our work and relationships.

An interesting anecdote comes to mind. A friend of mine and I were one day, reading some forwarded jokes on WhatsApp. It is amazing how even jokes hold the essence of the person, and the sense of humour can help one identify the person who has forwarded the joke. As we both laughed in unison and identified the person who may have forwarded it, we saw the name pop up. It was her indeed! 

Essence is what makes us stand apart. It makes us unique and identifiable. In music, this essence comes from years of dedication to the pursuit of ‘Sur’ or the divine sound. In life, this can be done by practising deeper and deeper levels of self-awareness and understanding of who we really are and integrating our life, relationships and our work to what makes us unique.

Let us no longer just work; let our beings and our essence shine through our work. Let us not just relate; let us put ourselves into our relationships. Let us not just live, but be the lives we lead. Our own melody is the only one the world wants to hear. 

The writer is a vocalist of both Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music, with over three decades’ experience. She is also the founder of Music Vruksh, a venture to make classical accessible for its aesthetic and wellness benefits.

Recently I visited a relative for Dussera. More specifically, for Navratri ‘golu’, a colourful display of dolls was done during Navratri in the south Indian states. On the dinner menu, there was the quintessential Sambar, the spicy and tangy soupy curry that all of India is familiar with. When I tasted it, it was Sambar no doubt but it was infused with the flavours and spices so unique to my friends’ cooking that it made me blurt out ‘Wow this is your signature sambar!’

 What we all know as Sambar has two components, one which makes us easily identify it as sambar and nothing else. This easy identification is because of the standard ingredients used to make the dish, such as tamarind, turmeric and red chilli. The second component is that which makes the taste of Sambar so unique to a particular household or a particular cook.

 This comes from not only the spices unique to that city or state, but also from the temperament and nature of the person who cooks the dish.

 It is this very same thing that makes Raagas in classical music so identifiable and yet so unique to each artist. A Raaga is a predefined melodic scale consisting of a set pattern of flat and sharp notes. Every student is taught this basic framework so that whenever he decides to sing that particular Raag, say Raag Yaman he or she is unmistakably singing only that raag. But yet if you hear the Raag Yaman sung by Pandit Jasraj and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, you will see a unique ‘x-factor’ that makes the Raag Yaman carry the singer’s unique stamp. Like in the case of sambar, this comes from the personality and nature of the person that gets infused into the Raaga he or she is singing. Raagas are like shadows or impressions of the person who sings them. While they may have a basic framework that is identifiable, they also hold the essence of the musician creating the music.

We all create our own music. I mean this symbolically. We create our own songs and fill our lives with our unique melodies. While we may be handed, more or less, the same resources, we choose what lives we create with those resources. We choose to infuse our lives and that of others with our own unique stamp. 

This essence is what makes music alive and brings sentience into songs. Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro can never sound the same from anyone else. Even the greatest of great singers cannot reproduce the essence that makes the song so uniquely his. Raag Puriya sung by Pandit Bhinsen Joshi can never sound the same from someone else’s voice. The same is the case with many great musicians, dancers, chefs and leaders. 

Our essence is what people sense. Through our work, through our relationships and through our lives. If we can manage to create an essence that is infused with compassion, wisdom, understanding and love, the fragrance of that essence will fill not only our own lives but the lives of every person we touch through our work and relationships.

An interesting anecdote comes to mind. A friend of mine and I were one day, reading some forwarded jokes on WhatsApp. It is amazing how even jokes hold the essence of the person, and the sense of humour can help one identify the person who has forwarded the joke. As we both laughed in unison and identified the person who may have forwarded it, we saw the name pop up. It was her indeed! 

Essence is what makes us stand apart. It makes us unique and identifiable. In music, this essence comes from years of dedication to the pursuit of ‘Sur’ or the divine sound. In life, this can be done by practising deeper and deeper levels of self-awareness and understanding of who we really are and integrating our life, relationships and our work to what makes us unique.

Let us no longer just work; let our beings and our essence shine through our work. Let us not just relate; let us put ourselves into our relationships. Let us not just live, but be the lives we lead. Our own melody is the only one the world wants to hear. 

The writer is a vocalist of both Hindustani and Carnatic Classical music, with over three decades’ experience. She is also the founder of Music Vruksh, a venture to make classical accessible for its aesthetic and wellness benefits.

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