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The Global Impact of Indian Music

Perspectives from a student, performer, teacher and composer

The seminar entitled “Globalization and Indian Music,” which took place in Mumbai in January 2002, under the auspices of the Sangeet Research Academy, provided a forum for musicians, teachers, members of the music industry and representatives from government agencies to discuss the significant impact that Indian music has had around the world.

During the discussions there appeared to be some ambiguity as to the actual meaning of the word ‘globalization’, especially since one of its common uses today is associated with western economic expansion throughout the world at the expense of local economies and cultures. As a result, this article will use the phrase ‘global impact’ to describe the effect of Indian music on the lives and interests of music lovers around the world.

On this subject there is no ambiguity: Indian music has indeed had an extensive impact on music lovers all over the world. Having myself been deeply affected by this impact, I wish to describe the events and experiences during the last thirty years that have helped shape my musical life and career. By citing examples of my own experiences as a student, performer, teacher and composer, I hope to draw attention to several aspects of the global impact of Indian music.

There are four general areas on how this global impact affected my musical development:

I) As a curious music student in search of a style, who meets a master of an ancient musical tradition.

II) As a western performer of Indian music – both in and outside of India.

III) As a music teacher, integrating Indian music pedagogy into the western music classroom.

IV) As a composer exploring the contacts and contrasts between Indian, western, and other music traditions of the world.

I) A curious music student in search of a style meets a master of an ancient musical tradition.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a place and time, as well as in a family, that encouraged me to follow my curiosity and musical instincts in listening to and experimenting with a wide variety of styles. From pop and rock’n’roll, to jazz, folk, classical and early music, I was able to get a taste of many styles. These I explored both vocally as well as on instruments: piano, guitar, cello and lute. I also happened to be at the right place at the right time, in the late 60’s and 70’s, during the great heyday of Indian music’s popularity in the West. And in 1971, I was fortunate enough to meet the renowned performer and teacher, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. (more…)

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