‘DAANEDAAR!’ boomed a voice from inside me during one of my Riyaaz sessions while I was practising ‘Taans’ (a form of improvisation in Indian classical music where many notes are arranged in fast patterns). Was this a voice possibly of one of my gurus from the past, or of my perfectionist alter ego, or of the Divine Spirit itself? There was no way for me to say. But it was a powerful voice with the conviction and knowledge of someone who knew something profound.
In Indian classical music, maintaining the perfect key in each note while singing a complex fast pattern of notes, is something all of us musicians aspire for. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi was known for his ‘Daanedar’ or granular Taans, and so were other greats like Pandit Jasraj and Vidhushi Kishori Amonkar. Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi, and Vidushi M.L.Vasanthakumari exemplified this through their flawless ‘Kalpana Swaras’ in Carnatic music. This heady mix of complex notes which still maintained perfect key and were clear and granular is a big part of what makes these musicians great.
I can’t help but see the analogy with so many other things. I had read an article about the celebrated work of the famous artist Leonardo Da Vinci Mona Lisa that talked about how each layer of the painting was made with total commitment to perfection. The same is true of filigree work and delicate embroidery. It is in the perfection of each carve or each stitch that the greatness and beauty of the artist comes forth.
They say that art reflects the life and vice versa. Many spiritual leaders stress upon the importance of the present or the ‘now’ in our lives. They speak of how, if each moment is lived to the fullest, you would have a life lived to the fullest. I read a quote by Sophie Bush, ‘You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously’. And then there is the famous saying ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’.
These sayings start to make so much sense when we see a sapling or a child, for example. There is beauty and a sense of fullness in an infant or a toddler. A child or a sapling has their own unique place of completion, and are no less relevant than a fully grown adult or tree.
When we commit to a moment or a task with an attitude of fullness and wholeness no matter how small the task may be, we are, in fact creating a microcosm of perfection, ‘Daana’, or a grain in what will become a grand larger whole. This attitude brings with it a lot of benefits. Firstly, one feels a sense of complete presence and a meditative awareness of the ‘now’ that has the ability to blur out all sorrow of the past and all worry about the future. Secondly, perfection and therefore ‘success’ are easy when they are broken into small goals or tasks. Thirdly, we feel a sense of gratitude for what we already have, irrespective of what we may or may not get in the future. Because the grain, or the ‘Daana’, is complete in itself, a microcosm of the experience of the whole. A small reflection of the ‘whole’ can be as profoundly satisfying as any other ‘grand’ big thing.
This is something I will continue to remember when I go back to my Riyaaz. I will choose to be present fully in the grain of notes that come together to create the beautiful ocean of music. It is in the perfection of each snowflake that the magic of winter is hidden. And it is from the beauty of each moment that the grand stories of our lives are weaved.
‘Daanedar!’ The voice was right!
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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