Time and Again, I keep growing old to a Mohammad Rafi on languid afternoons. People make
comment on how things aren’t the way they were before: that musical quality has changed. They opine that the era of great music has faded. It seems to be only realized in the times when you could
hear Tagore over Bangla radio and tune out of everything else in life. I see these people take leave
with an apologetic regret of having found that rare 20-something listening to Rafi. They think they
leave me with little to talk about, but I have a few things to say.
Today’s music is considerably different: the medium has changed. You do hear of digitized works
all the time. Before, electronica wasn’t even a word. And today, there are bands promoting them.
But the mood, the vigour, the tonality hasn’t. The message hasn’t. It is important to note new music
in terms of its additive quality: it does not replace old music; it only adds to the vast repository that
we have. And that is something to be lauded.
This is especially true for patriotic music. Patriotism is inspired by faith, by hope, by belief. And the
way we see that doesn’t change overnight. The flavours of patriotism might be different, but they
taste the same to the tongue. Even if they are expressed in totally new ways. We should never be
afraid of expressing creativity and bringing in new sounds to our music: because the scene in India
is dynamic. We have newer sounds in our cities: we have a new face. Our cities shed their skins and
are reborn with each day. And with each day, our cities develop a new mood. Patriotism should
know that. And patriotism should be like new love. Powerful. Definite. Defining. And it’s never too
wrong to express that love in any way that we know, in any music that we choose.
But some are affronted by this very idea—patriotic music before has stuck to a very traditional
form of expression. Slow, proud, uplifting. To have it expressed in this way is unheard of. What
will happen to the heritage of this tradition? It is important to understand though, that sometimes,
patriotism can be fierce, loyal and certain. It might even be humble, quiet or melodic. And
traditionalists do make patriotic music the old-fashioned way. Those people still exist and conserve
their art. But their zeal doesn’t suffer a separate lonely existence. It shares its spirit with our newest
At the end of the day, it is the same language all these different forms express. And that is
something that should awe you.
Now go pick up a guitar, a sitar, a flute, a harmonica or just your voice.
Sing my country. In any way you choose.
Author – Lakshmi Bharadwaj