Indian Classical music you learn from a guru. Kees Van Boxtel has 3 very important Guru’s, what made him who he is right now. Himanshu Nanda, Pt. Hari Prasad Chaurasia and Pt. Alok Lahiri all from the Maihar-Senia Gharana.
the word Guru, meaning a leading light/ guide or an authority who is a sounding board and in no other sense.
a Guru teaches how to approach music: how to understand it, how to internalize it and how to enjoy it.
Why I love Indian classical music so much?
When one thinks deeply about the purpose of music and its impact, it certainly throws up myriad thoughts – what is music, what is it supposed to do, why different people react to different types of music in different ways, and so on. Last but not the least is how one learns music and how one expresses it. The question “what is music supposed to do” can perhaps offer some insights into the other questions that are raised about music.
What is music supposed to do?
It’s a question which may be answered differently by different people, but one thing which most people will agree on is that it acts as a trigger to your emotions – be it happiness, sadness, anger, calmness and so on. The flow of the river, chirping of birds, the rhythmic movement of deer or fish, the dancing peacock, a hunter stalking it’s prey – all have music built into them.
If this is the case, how do you approach music? How do you learn to express emotions through music and enjoy it? Is it through continuous learning, the techniques, the rigorous practice (sadhakam). What do you learn and how do you learn? – a realization of truth, about yourself – who/ what you are, for Indian classical music it is not just about external beauty but also inner realization and beauty.
Indian classical music is also not notation music and requires the understanding of ragas which are not mechanical note (swara) combinations. This requires a deep understanding of the movements within and in between the notes, and the experience of a raga, which a good Guru is able to comprehend and communicate.
I would like to share my experience as a student studying under a Guru (not necessarily staying with my Guru, but spending most of the time with him, when I started learning Indian classial music), and how it helped me to understand music.
I don’t remember having specified classes or timings in a week with my guru. It used to be a continuous four or five hours with him on weekdays and more on some weekends. The sessions were not just about music but about philosophy, spirituality, religion and so on. The learning came not from classes but from the general experience of listening to him talk, hearing him play with utter devotion and observation. He never used to impose ideas, though he had his own views of things; he would start off a thread and we students would take it from there; he would silently listen and nod his head when he agreed.
Kees with Shabbir Hussain