After Geddes, follow the raga

We still don’t know how many rags were created and by whom, but whoever created them we still call master.

In my house in Calcutta, there is a room where twenty-four hours a day music is going on. It is where I play, where my father played, where my sons play. And in my garden outside that room, all the trees lean in that direction. I think the plants are drawn toward music. Even the saru, which normally grows straight, is tilted toward my door. Crows come and sit on my window and caw and make pests of themselves. 

TAASEER: THE WORLD OF INDIAN CLASSICAL MUSIC by Ustad Imrat Khan with Sara Jenkins and Paul Guzzardo

***

In the 1920s Calcutta was becoming a center for the arts and culture. My father often performed at the house of Rabindranath Tagore, the great poet. Tagore had a great understanding and very beautiful philosophy about music. He and my father were great friends, and they worked side by side to bring art and culture to not only the noble families but also into the homes of the middle class people of Bengal and also to the girls in those families. Up until this time, respectable women were not allowed to learn music or to participate in theatre; for women, singing and dancing were associated with forms of entertainment considered less than respectable. My father and Tagore were the first to educate girls in the arts. In fact, one of my father’s students, Renuka Saha, was the first girl to play sitar on the stage. TAASEER:

The Algorithm that Ate the Street – A Manuscript

TROUBADOURS

In the early 1990’s I served as Imrat Khan’s business agent -manager, and with Sara Jenkins copyist-scribe of his promised, much awaited, but never to be published autobiography. Between Imrat Khan’s concert and international tours, Walk Over Shoe was a Khan sometime landing port, place for business, a storytelling, scribing, and occasional performance command post.

Ustad Imrat Khan appeared at Walk Over Shoe shortly before Ai machines were being schooled at the Googleplex. Khan brought a sitar and surbahar with him. He traveled with both. The string player was the younger brother of Vilayat Khan. Vilayat was a wonder star, bete noire of the Beatles beloved Ravi Shankar. Guru Shankar was Hindu, brothers Vilayat and Imrat Muslim. But it was the Muslim Vilayat that Jawaharlal Nehru’s secretary called to play sitar to soothe the ailing Prime Minister, Minster of the world’s largest democracy.

CYCLES and COLORS

The recordings were done in St. Louis, Calcutta, and Mumbai, sixty-five hours in all. The first of the audio cassette is dated August 25, 1993. It is labeled “discussion of book project”. Last one is Cassette 21, marked September 6, 1995. Imrat Khan Partition is written on the back. All the audio cassettes, and a few of the video tapes, were used to assemble the book. And for reasons still not fully understood Taaseer was never published. Now twenty-five years after we scribes, gamer-hackers, and Imrat met, two years after Ustad Imrat Khan’s death, it is apparent that there was something more in the Taaseer manuscript. More than a story about a clan of musicians tracing themselves to the Court of the Mogul Emperor Akbar, more than Imrat’s and Vilayet’s disdain for that boy band, or Imrat’s caprice in refusing to share a stage with George Harrison, while fondly recalling stringing up with Ray Charles as a fog machine spewed on. Something else was lurking in TAASEER. That something connects Marshall McLuhan’s posse and Jack Dorsey’s tweets. The something was in those colors and those cycles.

***

A Storyboard for Climate Resilience and Urban Sustainability

Patrick Geddes in his 1918 City Survey report to the Durbar of Indore quotes the poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher, and musician-the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature-Rabindranath Tagore. The west seems to take a pride in thinking that ‘ it is subduing nature ; as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement of things. Geddes tells the Durbar, Tagore’s criticism at the opening of his ‘Sadhana’ that Man and Nature in the west have come to be viewed apart is indeed unanswerable.

Ustad Imrat Khan Concert: 1993