This book has garnered a lot of praise, with Pandit Ravi Shankar calling it “A must for every musician and music lover!” It was a very soothing read, and gives a fascinating insight into Indian classical music.
When she was ten, Namita’s mother took her to Dhondutai, a respected singing teacher of the Jaipur Gharana, and the only remaining student of its illustrious founder Alladiya Khan. Dhondutai sees in her traces of the tempestuous Kesarbai Kelkar, the most famous student of the gharana. But will Namita have the dedication to give herself completely up to her music, or will there be too many things in the way?
The Music Room takes you into the world of ragas and alaps, and is a wonderful journey into the swirling depths of Indian classical music. I love listening to classical music, though I can’t distinguish one raga from another, and I really enjoyed reading this book. It looks at how great musicians are made, and how they dedicate themselves to their art, sometimes giving up their families and their personal lives for its sake. Namita speaks lovingly of her guru, Dhondutai, and how she inculcated in her a passion for music. The book talks a lot about the guru-shishya parampara that is the cornerstone of Indian classical music and how Indian music can never be learned from books and sheets, unlike Western music, but only through the teacher who imparts the many nuances of the musical legacy.
Indian music is rooted in a fundamentally different assumption- that there is a continuous, unseen, and constantly changing reality which is the backdrop for all human action and perception. It is what shapes our karma or destiny, and helps explain why seemingly inexplicable things happen to us. The notes in Indian music are thus not categorical, separate, self-contained entities, but are connected through a subtle elusive continuum of notes that can barely be identified by the human ear. They are, in the metaphysical sense, part of that reality which lies beyond perception. These in-between notes are called srutis, and they are the essence of Indian music.
In a very literal sense, these srutis are the half notes and quarter notes that fill the interval between two notes. But that would be a grossly incomplete description. There is much more to the sruti, for it can entirely change the reality of the notes. For instance, how you reach a particular note is as important as the note itself. It may be arrived from below, or above, after caressing that hidden note that hovers next to it, and it will evoke a completely different sensation than if the musician were to meet the note directly.
I would recommend this book to every music lover, whether or not you have any knowledge of Indian music.