|ARTS TRIBUNE||Friday, May 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Africa sings back
Punjabi music comes full circle
LIKE everything else in this universe, the Punjabi world of music also has come a full circle. After being dominated by the Western electronic instruments for about half a decade, music directors once again have opened up to the idea of using Indian traditional instruments to create the rhythm which is an essential part of Punjabi music.
During the past two decades, Punjabi music has travelled various phases starting from pure and simple melody to slow and sad songs to the much-hyped fusion dance music, say Santosh Kataria and Sanjeev Kapoor, music directors who have composed music for National Award-winning Punjabi films like "Main Ma Punjab Di" and "Door Nahi Nankana", besides working for more than a 1,000 music albums.
Talking about the shifting trend in Punjabi music Sanjeev, an M.Phil in music from Panjab University says the magic of fusion though continues to reign, a bright future for acoustic music is seen in the horizon. Acoustic music he says is the music having rhythms created by using ethnic Indian musical instruments like dhol, tabla, flute and sarangi.
Sanjeev and Santosh, who have been associated with the music world for the past 10 years in the professional capacity, say melody ruled the Punjabi music scenario during the early ’80s giving way to "besura" rap songs in the late ’80s. Sad love songs dominated a major half of the ’90s till fusion music appeared.
Acoustic instruments are certainly making a comeback as the electronic key board is no match for creating rhythms which is an essential part of Punjabi music, says Surinder Bachan, the music director who created waves with compositions like Nindra ni andiya..., Tu meri Miss India... and Amritsar de papad mainu khandiya....
The latest music uses dholak, tabla and flute as primary instruments, and electronic instruments like the keyboard and bass guitar as secondary instruments, Surinder says. "They feel that the traditional instruments impart can never be replaced by the electronic instruments", he adds.
Another music director, Vivek Sahney of "Heer Ranjha" fame, feels that the Punjabi folk music infused with heavy Western beat is here to stay. "Melody will remain an essential ingredient of the songs, while the beat is expected to become harder to satisfy the dance maniac youngsters," he explains. The Punjabi music, which is going through the transitional phase from the pure folk to the Western type, appeals to the all age-groups of people here", he adds.
Manual instruments like mandolin, flute, sarangi which were the hallmark of Punjabi songs were completely lost to the popularity of electronic instruments in the past couple of years, says Varinder Bachan, a music director who has worked for popular Punjabi films, including National Award-winning "Kachehari" and "Jat Punjab De." However, the trend has changed now with musicians using more and more Indian traditional instruments to create rhythm along with the Western instruments, he says.
On the lyrics front, Punjabi folk
will continue to reign as deep down inside Punjabis are simple people
with taste for the simple pleasures of life that the folk provides,
says Varinder. "Only meaningful and melodious lyrics are going to
appeal to the taste of people", echoes Surinder.
S. Africa sings back
AFRICAN music before apartheid had been kept under strict control. Today it is a rich mosaic of various classical styles, African as well as European rhythms that the artistes took inspiration from, when they fled the racist regime.
"Our works show the unity in diversity of our culture. We take classical songs from Italy to Germany, and a lot of African rhythms," says Linda Bukhosini, who recently led a classical group to India on the occasion of their Freedom Day on April 27.
"Apartheid divided the people into many compartments. But they united through cultural integration. No culture remains static. People find a way to intermingle," says Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s High Commissioner to India.
"After the uprooting of apartheid, South African culture witnessed a resurgence," says Bukhosini.
"We perform both Western and South African songs. We have songs by an Italian composer who speaks in the language of both Baach and the people of South Africa," she says.
Yet, South African singing is not similar to the music of Britain or Germany. "It is authentically South African in rhythm, texture, sounds, language and its unique ‘click’ sounds. It doesn’t borrow from any other culture."
"In our country, we sing a real lot, you know...," she says. Adds Nkoana-Mashabane: "In Africa, we have songs for all occasions. We have songs for mourning. We celebrate with songs."
"During aparthied, while many black artistes left country fleeing the troubles and tribulations, the regime encouraged a kind of music that was meaningless kids’ stuff, instead of promoting and supporting genuine artistes," says Mashabane.
"Cultural activities were suppressed by the apartheid regime, throughout South Africa." Yet the South Africans could not help singing and dancing," she notes.
TELEVISION, particularly in India, is supposed to cater to the lowest common denominator, an excuse which is always trotted out for sub-standard programmes. TV is constantly blamed as a debaser of tastes and, of course, the satellite invasion as the ultimate ruin of Indian culture and civilisation. On the other hand, the common man or woman also seems doomed to listen to the pearls of wisdom which day in and day out fall from the lips of self-righteous netas who have long ago lost public respect, lectures from analysts of all hues and beliefs and Big Brother (and now Sister) in the shape of the openly government-controlled Prasar Bharati, always watching everything, from skirts which fly in the breeze to the Tehelka tapes.
But in a quiet revolution, the ordinary viewer is slowly altering this pattern. Nowadays the city slickers and whiz kids quite often are overtaken by the small townies and, judging by the recent election coverage, the proverbial man or woman in small town bazaars and lanes, even the impoverished villager, have learnt to voice their views with scathing anger and very healthy cynicism. Add to this the student segment, which has been tearing politicians, politics and netas generally to bits in various audience participation programmes, and we have a quiet, small but significant revolution on the screen.
It reminded me of the very early days of DD, when Krishi Darshan brought in a pompous secretary from the Ministry of Agriculture who came in a garishly printed bush-shirt and sat on a chair as young villagers were asked to sit on a durrie. Only the farmers of the new type were educated, knew their crops and seasons and, believe me, they gave the secretary a very rough time. He left completely deflated.
Be that as it may, it gave one immense pleasure to see an ordinary middle-class couple, the husband a technical employee at the Rourkela steel plant in Orissa, and his wife, a smiling but well-informed housewife, the first couple to become crorepati-patni on KBC. And even more pleasurable when the husband, long before they had reached anywhere near even the half-way mark, asked Amitabh Bachchan to say hello to his fellow workers, which Bachchan did with instant grace. Of course now the whole steel town has been feting the couple, but one liked that early gesture from both the pati and Bachchan.
However, I would still advise KBC to keep away from too many questions on Hindu mythology. It once began the programme with an extremely difficult one which put even the Hindu participants, expected to know their epics, at a disadvantage. Some programmes have had as many as four questions about the Hindu mythology. Also, to ask all-India participants what is a ‘paranda’, was grossly unfair to people from outside North India. The South Indian participant was quite flummoxed. Would a North or West Indian know what is a ‘binuni’, which a Bengali certainly would? These strictly regional terms for trivia are best avoided, especially as those not knowing Hindi, which is the language of conversation, no matter the English translations on the computer screen, feel at a disadvantage to begin with.
I may be biased, but the election
specials by all channels have fascinated me the most when they dealt
with Assam. Star and Zee in particular with Manzar Alan have very good
and experienced correspondents based in Guwahati and Star’s Bano
Haralo and Sanjay Ahiwal braved some very dangerous trouble spots
extremely well, as did comparative newcomer Bhattacharya. I
particularly liked "24 Hours a Day in the Life of" and
similarly named programmes which showed leaders not personally well
known to viewers outside Assam, the way they live, talk and the
response they get. The women of Assam were particularly active on the
TV screen and spoke with strong views as well as confidence. Assamese
women are a very emancipated lot and the way even the poorest village
woman spoke out is a tribute to their political sense as well as their
ART & CULTURE
"FOR the past 30 odd years I have been in the medium of designing my interpretations and inspirations drawn essentially from nature as I am intrinsically a nature lover!" says Piara Singh, a sculptor of driftwood. He held an exhibition of his latest works, after almost a gap of 15 years, at the IndusInd Bank art gallery in Sector 8, Chandigarh, recently. Having been a ‘sarkari mulazim’ with the Government of Punjab, holding the post of a curator of the museum as well as Director, Public Relations, Piara Singh never let go off his passion for recreating and collecting relics from the past. He has set up a museum in Faridkot from a very large personal collection of historically identified objects such as coins, artefacts and other archeological findings. This museum is open to everyone with a keenness for history. Therefore, no entry fee is charged. A true contributor to the legacy of our rich past, wouldn’t you say?
Piara Singh’s skill with driftwood began only after he retired from service. As he says, "You see now that I have all the time in the world, I like to give vent to my creative instincts and aesthetic impulses."
What was particularly striking in his exhibition, besides some of the items of his work, were the captions he had given to each of the objects. It reflected the artist’s intellect and sensitivity in providing an appropriate title to his piece. Simple in language and easy to relate to, the captions left the onlooker in a pleasingly pensive mood.
How did he think of them?
"Actually I must confess, some were contributions from visitors. I was unable to find a suitable one, so I’d ask a visitor to suggest. If it appealed to me I’d caption the object with the same. Since I experiment a lot, consistently and constantly with my wood findings, it is just as well that their naming is also done in a similar manner so that what is befitting finds its own way."
From an artist’s perspective, does the medium of wood communicate what a sculptor desires?
"I feel that wood communicates more as it is natural in content. So its inherent value/character plays a dominantly decisive role in its shaping as an art image. Just to give a peep into my style of working, firstly I roam around — usually in the vicinity of Chandigarh and sometimes even in the hills of Shimla — collecting attractive and appealing pieces. Then let them lie around at my place for days, trying each day to view it from a different angle in order to get the image that I artistically perceive. Once that takes place, I begin to sculpt eventually letting the piece retain its natural shape because I dislike tampering with nature."
Piara Singh’s deities (his favourite being Ganesha), humans, birds and animals (lion, rhino etc) from a repertoire performing movements that get stilled in the frame of wood. The grains of the wood further substantiate the feelings and emotions breathing in wood.
To mention a few of the fine sculptures of Piara Singh are: "Dancing Girl," "Draconian Love," "Shiva-Parivar," "Madonna," "Tandava Nritya" and "Evolution." Punjab Lalit Kala Academy awarded Piara Singh Kissan in 1985. He has to his credit several solo exhibitions held in Chandigarh, Patiala, Faridkot and other places in and around in Punjab.
How has this exhibition fared?
Piara Singh’s satisfaction is gauged from his spontaneous response: "This show has provided me with a greater motivation and I hope to put up frequent shows in the near future."