Heyo. Sorry I'm a little late again I have been deep in the proverbial "shed." When I returned to Chennai I was unexpectedly asked to move from my old digs at the apartment to a stand-alone house (also Brhaddhvani property) that has only just been renovated from the December floods last year. It's a definite upgrade, I can practice whenever I want without the fear of bothering other students in lessons and Guru no longer hears every note I play... whew...
The flip side of this is that the mandated quiet time I had in the old place because of classes is no more and that means that I haven't remembered to post here until now. I hoped to share some insights because I had a lot of questions that I have been researching since I left Kolkata but I haven't done all the reading I would like to to make really good arguments. I don't have any firm thoughts and I am still struggling my way through this book by Dr. KSS called "text tone and tune" *yawn* *homework* so I haven't read as much as I'd like so I'll just offer the skeleton:
After going to Kolkata, hearing the music, eating food, and seeing people I just have a feeling that northeast india is a lot more "Asian" or "eastern" than the south. By this I mean that the people have generally lighter skin, the music has more of the lyrical, emotive quality I associate with Japanese, Chinese, and Indonesian music (the tiny bit I know about these musics). The food is more... I don't know... meat and rice based compared with vegetable and starch based--fun fact: Bengalis love to make fun of south indian food by saying it's boring, I had the same conversation a thousand times about how they can't stand the food in the south... When I come back to the south the Tamil sounds like it has more consonants and the speaking style is quieter and somehow more rhythmically agile and diverse. the people also have darker skin and more of what I think of as "African" features to use a totally blunt categorization. These are just feelings not based in facts really.
So this along with some wikipedia reading and some conversations I've had has led me to think more about what we call "black music." The following facts are not fully checked or even necessarily super accurate but... India was the richest region on earth both in prehistoric times when it was the first place human migrated from Africa. After this migration some of the population went up in the mountains, lost a lot of the pigment in their skin, came back and fought with some of the people who stayed in the lower lands. I haven't gotten confirmation but I suspect most of the people in Chennai are descendants of these people who stayed down. India also was the richest region in the world from 200-1100 AD. It was one of the richest all the way up until the British came and messed every thing up.
But here are the black music questions:
What do we really mean when we say african diaspora? Aren't we all children of that nation? Obviously thats too simplistic but what does it really mean? Are the people in South India more "black" than the North? I can make a somewhat informed argument about why I think the Carnatic rhythmic language bears more similarity to jazz than the Hindustani language but what does that really have to do with it?
If White people come into a nation and mess everything up how does that differ from when white people take enslaved humans from a nation and mess every thing up for them? Both are obviously atrocious. But what is the effect on the music? The concerts here are a whole 12 hours shorter than in Vedic times and Art Tatum is using Chopin's harmonies. I dunno...
Is some of the reason I am drawn to this music because it has some sort of distant relationship to African music? More so than other music from Asia at least. Do I feel like my own relationship to Africa is distant and does that make me seek out some other tradition that might give me clarity on what I should be playing?
Race is a social construct so does any of this matter anyway?
Generally I'm happy. I'm playing with more people. I've got some gigs that I'm excited about coming up. I have asked to focus less on Gamaka (indian phrasing) in favor of more compositions, history, and rhythm and I am loving my lessons. definitely more than before. The weather is getting nice here (less hoooooooot) and it is Diwali which is the hindu festival of light. It looks like christmas outside and there are fireworks going off as I write this. Much love to all.