Fortunately, I was born into a family where people were passionate about music. My mother’s side of the family has a lot of singers. My parents & their siblings, all had been initiated into classical singing training. I grew up in that environment, so it was all a natural process for me. Even in school I was sought after for my voice, since my teachers knew the family I came from. When I was 8-9 years old, my father put me into classical music training, which I continued regularly for 2 years. When not practicing, I would be glued to the radio at the particular time slots, since there was no internet available those days. Music was there in my life all throughout.
To me, music is for practice, not for performance. It’s for your own self. For example, Yoga – now you can make a living out of it if you become an instructor. But Yoga was not introduced for someone to take up as a profession. It was for one’s own growth & progress on the spiritual path. That is what you experience with music. When you sing without knowledge, it doesn’t take you anywhere. But when you start learning music, you start identifying the areas you need to improve on & start putting your 100% focus. Then the transformation happens. Your consciousness starts imbibing those qualities – especially when you’re in the vibrations of classical music from any part of the world. Your brain tunes into those frequencies. The cortices in the brain work together when you practice music. The energies get balanced. The practice of music is therefore an exercise for the whole nervous system. Your brain develops by practicing music. It’s similar to how meditation works.
The basic approach to learning music is not to become a performer at all. Performers are made in time. Don’t think that the best performers are the most talented people in the world. There are people who are born with better abilities than the top limelight stars we see. They’ve just not taken that direction. But ask them, and they’ll tell you that they still enjoy music. They’re the ones who’re getting the fullest benefit, which probably the performer is not getting. When one is performing, only with a certain level of expertise can they hook to that energy. But unfortunately, not everyone can do that. There are so many musicians today who are stressed because of the increasing competition, the need to establish one’s name, envy, running after fame etc. The audience may be enjoying a live performance, but the performer probably is not! Music is not serving its purpose there. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as one can manage their mind. But when you practice music, irrespective of the level you’re at, you benefit from it. There is music in everyone’s heart. But these days it has gone from the heart to the head. So the purpose of music, we have to redefine.
There is a principle in Ayurveda – if you want to become a very good Vaidya, you should also know the other shastras. If you know only Ayurveda, you won’t become the best doctor. This is because in Ayurveda, the principle of healing is Holistic – that means whatever helps you to heal, is all part of the treatment. So in the process, you cannot discard any aspect of healing – and music is a very important aspect. Different ragas are connected with different chakras, and these chakras are connected with our internal organs & our mind – everything is connected. Even if a person doesn’t know how to play music, they’ll definitely enjoy listening to music. There’s no need to explain what happens when a person enjoys music. For them there is something, some stabilizing point.
There’s an interesting observation I’ve made that most of the Vaidyas are either passionate about music or are musicians themselves. This is because they also tune in to those kind of vibrations. They start imbibing those qualities. Again, because Ayurveda promotes holistic healing, no Vaidya will say that music is not essential for health – that it’s a waste of time.
ALAP is the Art of Living Academy of Performing Arts, an initiative by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar. We are encouraging people to learn music & make it a part of their daily routine. The purpose is to help them realise their depth. There is some medium, some vehicle that is required to transport one from the outside world to the core of their being. That is what happens through the practice of music. That is what we’re promoting – to make it a part of your life. The choice of becoming a performer comes later on.
Music is a path of self-realisation; discovering one’s own nature. That is why according to different natures there are different genres. Nothing is better than the other, it’s just determined by your nature, the activities you do, the food you eat etc. that you hook to some particular genres – again, all this is connected.
Anybody, from the age of 3 to 80 can START learning music. Even if you are someone who is purely intellectual and have no affinity towards the arts, you must engage yourself in some form of art or the other for a balance in life, otherwise you will get exhausted. You’ll be draining your energy by not attending to the right side of your brain. That is why everyone should be learning music. Thus, our motto is “There is an artist in everyone.”
There’s a shloka in Sanskrit which goes:
“साहित्य संगीत कला विहीनः
It says, the difference between an animal and a human who is devoid of literature, music or art, is that one has horns & a tail while the other doesn’t. Do you see the comparison? Another way to look at it is that there is no human who doesn’t have even a little interest in the arts. There is a natural urge in you, you just haven’t given it the exposure it needs. Now by learning, you can attend to that aspect as well. Otherwise there is no completion in life. I have seen this in a lot of people – there’s always a little regret in those who have wanted to do something creative and didn’t get to do it. “I was good at Bharatanatyam,” or “I was very good at singing in my school days… Why did I leave it?” – THAT is the time to start over. Then you will see yourself attending to aspects of your life, of your consciousness that give you the feeling of completeness. This is the importance of learning music, or any art. And that’s what ALAP stands for – to bring people back to their nature, back to their own being.
Another aspect of ALAP is performance. To ignite interest in people. Some people believe that music, dance is not for them. It’s just because they weren’t given exposure to any of the art forms. The human body and our consciousness are very sensitive. You feel something on watching or listening to a beautiful performance. So the performances are to inspire people, help them identify some connection to art, and to bring about a culture and standard for art forms.
ALAP also aims to support the traditional artists and people from underprivileged sections of the society who do not have the resources to learn any art forms. We also want to contribute towards research in art. There are a lot of universities of Indian classical and Western classical music that are doing really well, but there is no network that links all of them, that combines all these efforts. We want to be that link. ALAP can act as a mediator and combine all this knowledge, preserve it and hand it over to the next generation.
For us, standard is the priority. We have a responsibility towards the society to bring quality education to the front. And step by step we’re moving towards these areas.