Understanding Indian Classical Music
serves as a primer to music in India, viewed through the lens of thousands of years of history. The book makes it very clear that "the goal set before them is to attain Nirvana... through Indian classical music" (Joshi 44), meaning that India's music is inseparable from its religious and spiritual foundations. Indeed, much of their classical music serves as a tribute to the gods, although other styles deal with more traditionally Western fare.
The book is somewhat puzzling thematically. Joshi strikes a very anti-colonial and anti-British tone within its pages; to some, it's apparent that the West's imposition of their way of life has negatively affected the state of Indian classical music. At other times, the book seems to quietly condescend Western music, going so far as to outright condemn electronic music as "not very pleasing and attractive" (Joshi 44) and certainly un-Indian. The irony here is that Western classical music, with its well-tempered scale and focus on virtuosity, seems at least to me more complex than its Indian counterpart. Then again, Joshi is quick to applaud other technological advances like radio, microphones and the cinema. Doesn't he realize that these are equally capable of destroying Indian classical music? For example, Joshi lauds the use of pseudo-Indian music in film and cinema (though the book was written before its release, Slumdog Millionaire
is a perfect example). He ignores the fact that this music is not authentically Indian, instead deciding that it's valuable because it teaches rhythm and tempo. Ah, but doesn't electronic music also do the same?
To say the least, I'm confused by Joshi's message in Understanding Indian Classical Music
. The sections on its history, rhythms and instruments are fine, but his overall themes and conclusions seem illogical. How can it be that electronic music is such a scourge to Indian music but the fake, adulterated 'Indian' music in so many films is perfectly fine? Granted, most of strange conclusions occur within the Epilogue, which only accounts for three of the book's pages. Nonetheless, it's interesting to consider Joshi's very different vantage point.Understanding Indian Classical Music
is published only in Bombay; you might be able to find a copy at a university library though.