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Paper Presented at Music Symposium 2001 Sikhsha & Sangita-Nidhi at Shanmukhananda Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha
Adapting Gurukula to Academic Patterns in Percussion
The word Gurukula brings to one's mind the immortal episodes in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata where even Gods are shown as undergoing training in various faculties, be it the study of "Shastras" (Scriptures), "Shastr - Vidya" (Arms training) or "Kala" (Fine arts).We are told that the "Sishyas" had to stay with the family of the "Acharya" (Guru) - in fact be a part of it. Apart from imbibing the knowledge imparted by the Guru, he would also be expected to shoulder some of the household chores or responsibilities. The Guru, in turn, was not only responsible for teaching his students, but look after them and feed them, as he would his own children.Gurukulas flourished during the days when good teachers were ready and willing to impart knowledge to the genuine seekers, be they princes or paupers. Willingness to undergo the rigors of an ascetic life and dedication to one's Preceptors and Principles was the prime consideration in gaining the Guru's confidence and blessings. Even kings of yore used to send their prince lings to the "Ashram" of a "Reship" or a sage, for a lengthy period - away from the trappings of palatial grandeur and the perquisites attached to it. Every student was treated on par, irrespective of his social standing outside the Ashram. The Guru and his spouse "Guru-Maa" were the foster parents of these wards. The kings supported the Gurukula very liberally, both financially and in kind, looking after the needs of the Ashram and the preceptors attached to it. Of course, most of the time, the preceptors would be respected Sages who had renounced worldly pleasures to dedicate themselves to imparting knowledge of every kind to the seekers.Cut to today's environment, the word Gurukul to one of today's ultra-smart kids would only mean a Guru who is "Cool" - today's slang for something that is good! How in Heaven's name are we going to get Gurukula in the current scheme of things? In the first place, where is space for a sprawling Ashram? Where are the erudite scholars who have the capability of handling today's super brats, leave aside teaching them? Where are the patrons who are needed to support such worthy schemes? Most importantly, where are the dedicated students who would have to undergo the rigors of roughing it out at the Gurukula, forgetting their social standing? All that one can now think of is how to apply standards and principles of the Gurukula system in today's environment. If I may be pardoned for saying so, we rarely find an Ustad, Pandit or Vidwan who would dedicate his life to teaching without expecting too much in return. And, neither can one blame him for this. He has to fend for himself, look to the welfare of his family, manage to obtain adequate accommodation in highly congested cities and to top it all, be able to churn out good students - who again, are fickle-minded in their pursuit of real "Vidya". Today, the teachers have to depend on monthly fees from students. If they go on vacations or during examination times no classes - so, no fees! What
is the Guru expected to do? Unfortunately, commercialization is the order of the day and the narrow-minded attitude of students or their parents leads to avarice on the part of the Guru.
In such a none-too-happy scenario, how does one go about inculcating the best of the Gurukula system?As per the title of this discussion, let us devote our attention to Music in general and percussions in particular.
1.       Musical Institutions should be established with extensive Government support and the backing of munificent donors who have, today, taken the place of kings. These Institutions should have residential or hostel facilities for aspiring students to stay during the course of their instructions, for a minimum period of five years. 2.       The students have to be in constant touch with their Gurus / Ustads, not only imbibing knowledge, but, try to witness their "Riyaaz" or practice sessions and live recordings. These being performing arts, the student should also learn how to react to situation arising on the stage. 3.       Total dedication of students and of course, the co-operation of their parents is absolutely necessary. 4.       Handsome salaries should be paid to the teaching staff, to ensure their unswerving attention to the job they are expected to do, and that is to produce top-notch performers. They have to be provided with the best of' facilities so that they cannot be lured by others. Care should be taken to research their backgrounds to find their sincerity. 5.       A minimum standard of proficiency should be made a criterion for admissions to such Institutions as also age, whereby a student also gets the time to obtain a basic qualification such as B.A. / B.Com. / B.Sc. etc., and also attain the required level of proficiency in his chosen field. 6.       Every family must try to impart some sort of musical training to every child. 7.       Each student must be allowed to reside with the Guru and his family, on a rotational basis, for a period of a week or fortnight, so as to enable him to establish a personal rapport with the Guru and get to know him better. 8.       Each student must, in addition to his own field, be made to undergo basic training in other branches. In these days of specialization one often finds percussionists who know very little about vocal music and vice- versa. 9.       There should be close interaction between all the faculties, especially between Hindustani and Carnatic music students. 10.   Instructions should be so designed that the student imbibes the lessons in spirit rather than by rote. This will be the basis on which he will learn to improvise. 11.   Periodical performances of all students should be held and attendance of all students, junior and senior. must be made mandatory. It may surprise many of the seniors how much they can learn by listening to their juniors! 12.   For percussion students in particular, every student should be made to recite each and every composition before he masters it on his instrument. This will enable him to play the composition in the same spirit as the composer intended it to be. 13.   Every day should begin and end with soulful prayers to the Almighty. Every musical activity must be treated as an offering to God. Without sounding over-critical of today's standards and means of spreading cultural awareness, this has been an attempt to highlight the virtues of the Gurukula system.Pt. Sadanand Naimpalli.Pt. Sadanand Naimpalli is an engineer by training, a musician by choice. Gifted with an uncanny sense of rhythm, he found in Pt. Taranathji, a mentor who lent free rein to the shishya's talent. Thus nurtured in true 'Siksha', he has risen today to a top-level 'natural' Tabla player. An accompanist sought after by many renowned artistes and a soloist with imagination and punch Pt. Sadanand is a name to reckon with in the percussion art. His zest for new Talas has resulted in his composing Shani Tala of 7 1/2 beats, Nand Tala of 8 1/2 beats, Arpan Tala of 9 1/2 beats and Ada Shut Tala of 10 1/2 beats. Proof enough of his mastery over his medium.Wide traveled, he has won many accolades