I continue to be a curious and eager student of music: Shubha Mudgal
MUMBAI: Maestro Shubha Mudgal is celebrated as one of the pioneering singers in India, in terms of Hindustani Classical, also India pop music. She is also among those rare and finest classical singers who understands the need to continuously adapt and use modern technology.
This notable singer is performing in Mumbai at ‘Udayswar’, an Indian classical music concert of morning ragas at Prithvi Theatre on Sunday, 16 April 2017. The performance will commence with a vocal performance by virtuoso Shubha Mudgal accompanied by Aneesh Pradhan on (Tabla) and Sudhir Nayak on (Harmonium).
Radioandmusic.com had the chance to discuss various aspects of music where the veteran singer shared the utilisation of modern technology in Hindustani Classical, her record label Underscore Records, the approach of Hindustani Classical music and the drastic drop in sales of physical copies of music.
She has always been fascinated by technology. She became an avid user of the internet from the time it became available for individual users in India. “I got a dial-up internet connection around 1996 or so. Excited by the ease of communication it offered I decided to use the net both to learn about musical systems in other parts of the world and to share information about Indian music with others who were interested,” stated the ace musician.
“I continue to use technology in a variety of ways to learn, teach, share, and communicate.”
While talking about the improvement, she stated that musicians have always adapted to changing and emerging technology. “I cannot take any credit for being the only one or one of the few to use technology. In the early part of the 20th century when recording technology came to India, the finest performers of Hindustani classical music adapted their music to comply with the demands of recording technology. That’s how we are able to hear the voices of great singers like Gauhar Jaan, Janaki Bai, Peara Saheb and others from the 78 RPM and other recordings they made. My husband Aneesh Pradhan and I set up Underscore Records, a distribution platform for Indian musicians in 2003, when e-commerce was not the rage as it is today. I continue to use technology in a variety of ways to learn, teach, share, and communicate.”
“I do not make any conscious effort to fuse styles or elements. I just continue to be a curious and eager student of music, and at times, I end up collaborating with musicians studying forms of music other than Hindustani classical.”
It has indeed been several decades since she started performing professionally. Not only Indian Classical, Shubha Mudgal is also eminent for her repertoire that includes genres of Khayal, Thumri and Dadra, also popular Indian pop music. While talking about fusing various elements and various styles in her singing, “I do not make any conscious effort to fuse styles or elements. I just continue to be a curious and eager student of music and at times, I end up collaborating with musicians studying forms of music other than Hindustani classical.”
On going into the matter where people these days are inclined to Hindustani Classical, she stated from her experience that, “Young students of Hindustani music flock to gurus from different parts of the country. They are eager, hard working, dedicated and often immensely talented. But at one point they face the challenge of either pursuing an uncertain future as exponents of Hindustani classical music or opting for more financial and professional security either by abandoning music altogether or choosing to work with popular music.”
“There has been a drastic drop in sales and even the most committed music lovers would prefer to listen to music free of cost on YouTube or other platforms rather than dip into their pockets to buy an album to support an emerging talent.”
In between the conversation, being a pioneer of Hindustani Classical Music, without wishing to sound ‘unduly pessimistic’ she stated that she doesn’t see any growth in classical music prospects, mostly. “Thanks to the internet, classical artistes too have started self-publishing and distributing. However, there is no reported boom in sales of classical music at least within the country. Quite to the contrary, there has been a drastic drop in sales and even the most committed music lovers would prefer to listen to music free of cost on YouTube or other platforms rather than dip into their pockets to buy an album to support an emerging talent. The prospects therefore are rather gloomy unless some miraculous change comes about,” she explained.
She has collaborated, worked with renowned different musicians from all over the world, talking about how challenging is it to collaborate with so many musicians, she shared that if there is willingness to listen to each other and a desire to enrich one’s study through collaborating with others, the prospects of a good and fruitful collaboration become far greater.
On the 16 April, she has have been invited to perform for the UdaySwar series, where she will present an early morning concert without amplification at Prithvi Theatre. “As is the tradition, I will perform morning raags as well as thumri-dadra compositions suitable for the time of day,” she signs off.