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Educational CD-Rom

India Musica (Interactive Guide to Hindustani Music)   Magic Software pvt ltd

(India Musica website Email: )


  This educational CD-Rom can be considered in conjunction with Nimbus's The Raga Guide (reviewed in S&H, September 1999, Immersion in Indian Music). It is a multi-media guide to styles, instruments, personality and the philosophy of Hindustani music.

There are introductory sections covering its religious aims and the role of the guru. The names of notes and scales are translated, with brief sound illustrations. Ragas are described and particular moods attributed to them and to individual notes. The importance of performing at the right time of day is stressed.

There is a vast compendium of illustrated biographies of popular performers, vocal and instrumental, present and past, which provides easy enjoyment and a good impression of the variety of styles, and this is perhaps the most valuable part of the enterprise. Some of these are sound only, others with video, both of variable quality. They will be invaluable to prospective purchasers bemused by the vast numbers of CDs of Indian music now available.

The indexing and cross referencing is impressive. There are numerous cross-links to pursue between the main categories Forms, Instruments, Personalities, Ragas & Talas. (There are 37 entries under the letter A alone!). Sometimes these links will lead to a specific article, in others to just a passing reference in another text.

It is full of assertions to be accepted as given, never convincingly described for the uninitiated. All aspects are named and defined. There is however sometimes a frustrating gap for Western listeners between the plethora of names and the lack of really meaningful illustrations. This limits the possibility to transfer theoretical information into better understanding and appreciation of what is happening in actual concert situations. Many of the brief sound illustrations do not give more than a snapshot impression, and are not capable of being extended into real understanding.

For interested European listeners it is easy to become overwhelmed by a multitude of technical terms. The real problem remains the oral teaching tradition in India, so that with all its classified information, and computer links around the contents, India Musica often leaves us without being able to make real sense of what one reads and hears.

This is an attractive CD-Rom to sample and explore, but the final acquisition of insight and knowledge available from it is limited. Perhaps the only solution, for the few sufficiently committed, is to undergo the traditional training under a guru?

Meanwhile, there is scope for another CD-Rom, which might combine the best of the ideas in this one with the detailed exposition of Ragas in Nimbus's The Raga Book, with its four CDs. I applauded the core of that enterprise, a four minute version of the raga Alhaiya bilavi, fully transcribed in its entirety, but wished that others of the miniature performances had been transcribed similarly.

What is especially lacking in both productions is a visual demonstration in real time of the rhythmic cycles of the talas. This is essential for beginners who hope to learn to keep track of what is happening and, in particular, to be able to appreciate those flights of fancy which singers, instrumentalists and percussionists indulge in before returning eventually to the beginning of a cycle, to the evident delight of knowledgeable listeners.

It would help immeasurably to have had, made visible, the hand-clapping routines, and also to see the melodic line passing before one on screen, as is achieved with notable success in one of the earliest classical CD-Roms (Beethoven Sonatas Op. 22, 26 & 53, Pollini - the score passes in front of your eyes as Pollini plays, a yellow cursor keeping your place, and you can even edit and print it out, adding your own fingerings!) [review Deutsche Grammophon 435 472-2].

However, as of now both India Musica and The Raga Book are educational aids which can be welcomed and recommended as worth while purchases.
(India Musica website Email: )


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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