Saturday, August 27, 2011

Book Review: The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

There are certain books that you want to pick up right when they’re available in hardcover, and you are already through with it by the time the book climbs up on the bookstore’s bestseller list. And then there are other kinds of books that your friends have been suggesting but you’d rather wait till the paperback edition is on the shelf. Suggesting a good read to your dear ones always gives you that rousing feeling but in the case of The Music Room by Namita Devidayal, it was none of the above. Part due to my resistance to read about my favorite topic in prose and part due to my inability to give it enough time to digest a book-full-of trivia on Hindustani Classical Music with some of the best known personalities it has given birth to.

It would be quite uncanny of me to say this but with all my efforts to avoid reading The Music Room, the book finally found its way into my bookshelf one day. And to my surprise, it was not one but two copies of it that I received as a gift in the same month; one from Nandita and the other from my friend, Zui. Although I tried keeping a slow pace to imbibe all that has been written, I started reading it with such voracity that I reached the last page in less than three days.

Branched in 5 chapters, the book starts with the narrator’s reluctance in her early teens to learn Indian Classical Music from a teacher who boasted of one of the most envious musical lineages in this art form. But as the book unwinds, the narrator describes her growing years under the tutelage of her teacher, Dhondutai Kulkarni, her sound understanding of the art, heightened inquisitiveness about this music, its form, the analogies it draws and its resemblance to very life.

The Music Room takes us exhaustively through the life and times of musical geniuses like Ustad Alladiya Khansahab, the founder of Jaipur Atrauli Gharana, his sons Ustad Manji Khansahab and Ustad Bhurji Khansahab, and of course his prodigal student Kesarbai Kerkar; who also happens to be the Guru of the narrator’s teacher. Interwoven in the historical events dating way back to the 1930s, the narrator also speaks of several anecdotes about famous musical personalities making this book a ready catalogue for Hindustani Classical Music trivia.

As a music fan if you’re looking for technical comprehension about classical music, this is not the book that you should be picking up. Rather I would say, disclosing a bundle of rarely-heard-before events of this art form makes the book more approachable, interesting; inviting those readers as well who regard this music with utmost respect but have not attended more than 5 concerts or own more than 2 cds of a classical musician. My suggestion: go grab a read; it makes for a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon read.