(As told to Vidyartha)
I started my training in music rather late. Usually children are initiated at the age of seven or eight. I started at 14. That was simply because my father felt that if it is in me, if I want to do it, I should be the one to take the initiative, rather than it being imposed on me.
I took classes from my parents – they were both Hindustani vocalists. I started teaching too at the age of 16, by taking classes for beginners. I moved out of Mumbai at the age of 22, but I continued to go back for my training till my father passed away.
Though I did start late, I feel there were advantages. For one, there was a certain amount of maturity to understand what the art form requires, the kind of hours and rigour that needs to put in. But the disadvantage was that I lost out on that complete free time when there is no academic pressure. Again, though I started late, I grew up in a home with music all around. Without exposure to music, the progress of a student would be slow, even if he or she is very talented.
I learnt music because I was very fond of it. But six or seven years into my training, I realized that I do have the potential to take it ahead. My training was at home in the traditional gurukul system. I also graduated in music and having done that, I realized that music is a good career option for me.
In the past many years, music has seen a lot of commercialization. There are also several options available now in the field of music – from being a performer to composer to lyricist. But a solid foundation in classical music is very important no matter what route you pick later.
The commodification has also crept into the careers of those who perform at concerts. Many youngsters in the field now tend to look at how many concerts they gave in a year, not what kind of performances they gave. When you do that, you tend to lose quality. Hindustani music, and any other traditional art form of India, is an art form that requires certain age for one to become a good artiste. It is like a pickle that has stayed in brine for long. An artiste really matures around the age of 40 and it is difficult to wait that long.
If you are an aspiring musician, just follow your heart. Traditionally, this music is called ‘maargi sangeet’, ‘maarg’ meaning path. So this is a path, just keep walking and you will reach.
(Aditi Upadhya is a Hindustai vocalist based in Bangalore, who performs as well as teaches music.)