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How Music Education is Still Evolving in India Music education should inculcate a deep awareness and understanding of musical diversity among students.

By Aditya Balani

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"Music is the universal language of mankind" – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There cannot be a truer statement than the one made by Mr. Longfellow. Music can cross barriers and permeate cultures. Many studies have indicated its positive effects on the mind, body, and soul, extolling its therapeutic benefits. India is uniquely blessed as a country with distinct musical styles that vary from region to region. We are also the land of the guru-shishya parampara, which provides a prime opportunity for the development of musical education and future artists.

Indian Music and The West:

Our country, a home to many renowned classical music maestros, is also the birthplace of two distinctly established styles of Indian classical music: Hindustani and Carnatic. We have various institutions offering instruction in Indian classical music. One of the top-ranking universities in the country, the Delhi University, even has degrees from pre-bachelor to doctoral in both Hindustani and Carnatic musical forms. Other reputed universities such as the Banaras Hindu University and the University of Madras also offer various programmes in these two genres. For years, a majority of Indian ears have been tuned to the sounds of the sitar or the beats of the tabla. Listeners and appreciators of contemporary music were few, and learners even fewer. However, today, contemporary, western music has made great strides, and cultural and artistic palates have developed a lot more. Contemporary music is slowly finding a place in the hearts of the new generation.

Contemporary Music Scene at Nascent Stage:

Western influences on media and culture have also resulted in an influx of renowned international artists making a beeline to perform in India from a variety of genres. There is a gradual increase in the number of youngsters wanting to make a career in contemporary music. While there was a time when parents insisted on their children learning music with a harmonium or a sitar, today they too have warmed up to the idea of them going to guitar or drum classes. Despite this, music education, especially contemporary music education, is still at a nascent stage in the country, in spite of the fact that few private institutions are leading the way in providing an able platform for those wanting to learn and understand various genres of western music.

Providing In-depth Knowledge And Exposure:

There is a need for an approach that addresses not just the basics of any musical genre but gives the students a more practical and holistic understanding of the art, encouraging them to explore beyond formal instruction in the classroom. Western music schools often lack faculty in the form of local musicians with formal qualifications in this genre. Currently, institutions providing such courses are affiliated to those abroad and fly western graduates out for one semester at a time, incurring travel and accommodation costs in addition to salaries. On the other hand, there are a number of local musicians who can cater to Indian classical courses.

Until there are more western music graduates and musicians in the country, there will be a need to bring in international faculty. A degree in formal western music education is yet to be formalized, with an academic structure and departments and schools apart from local musicians who have the right kind of skill and education. The foundation is being laid for Indian popular music education by these tertiary schools offering non-formally accredited certificate and diploma programmes.

Understanding Musical Diversity :

There needs to be more room for creativity rather than concentrating on completing a set curriculum and specified semesters. Music education should become an enabler for students to play and learn different forms together. For the surge in interest in western music to become a revolution, it should be made accessible and affordable. Another step in the right direction would be to integrate western classical music and other forms into the regular music syllabus in schools and colleges, which includes teaching about its history. Music education should inculcate a deep awareness and understanding of musical diversity among students. This will help in the creation of a body of knowledge that will sensitively represent the many positive effects of musical education and learning. The time is now.

Aditya Balani

Co-Founder and Director of Global Music Institute.

Aditya Balani, a multifaceted musician wears many hats as a composer, guitarist, singer-songwriter, music producer and educator. Always looking to break new ground he inevitably and frequently finds himself in uncharted waters, seeking to mould his creative expressions.


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