All major religions recognise music’s regenerative powers, writes KAPIL SRIVASTAVA
Being a performing artist, I have no hesitation in announcing that my music connects me to God. But it does so in subtle ways, and not in some sudden burst of imagination, as one might expect. I play the guitar and practice for me is religion.It is in the vigour and regularity with which I practise, or as we say in our Indic tradition, perform sadhana, come rain or sun, winter or summer, that I find my connect with God, my communion with Him.
The connection is also present in the way my music binds me with my students; by way of my mentoring them, their surprising me with their dedication, and sometimes by the virtuosity of their talent. Sometimes, it is the sheer power of music, with all its transformative properties. I was once caught in bumper to bumper traffic, on the way to the shopping mall in which I hold music classes, and was running quite late.
I had been busy recording a composition till late in the previous night and hadn’t had much sleep. I was very irritable. By the time I straggled into the atrium of the mall,I had half a mind to call off the classes for the evening.
All of a sudden,the mellifluous notes of ten guitarists strumming a tune wafted across to me almost magically from my training academy on the first floor. In that moment, I felt the closeness of God, and all my tiredness disappeared in a trice.
After I reached the classroom, I thanked my students for lifting me from the depths of moroseness and filling me with vigour.In fact,my advice to all my students is that whenever any of them is feeling low or is going through a bad patch, they should pick up a guitar and start strumming it. They are sure to feel peace course through their bodies.
In the traditional Indian milieu, the therapeutic and spiritual impact of music has been well documented through the various ragas, each of which has its own impact on how the listener feels.There are also prescribed timings for the rendition of these ragas. I have introduced the study of these Indian ragas in the curriculum for learning the guitar, even though it is a western musical instrument.
The adoption of music by the major religions of the world is recognition of their spiritual and regenerative powers.The great religious renaissance that India saw in the later medieval age in the shape of the Bhakti Movement, was powered by music to a large extent. Seers-poets like Mirabai, Kabir, and Janabai encouraged devotees to commune directly with God through the singing of bhajans. Similarly, Christians used choral music to feel the presence of God. Even the chanting of hymns across religions has a definite musical cadence to it.
For me, it is not a matter of conjecture if I can reach God through music or not.I feel his vivid presence in every aspect of my music-making and teaching experience.