By Vijay Phanshikar :
“ I feel, I am a little unfit for the kind of music that is being made today. There is a big difference between what I sang earlier and what is being made now. I am not saying, this music is bad, but there are too many beats ...”
- Lata Mangeshkar
ONLY the ones steeped in real music can make such a fine distinction -- “too many beats”! In just those small words, Lata Mangeshkar packed the sense of wholeness of music. Without using so many words, she defined music’s core quality -- flow, seamlessness. In her opinion, beats rather obliterated the flow. In other words, Lata Mangeshkar has talked of music’s meditative nature, its romance with the inner flow of silence as a condition for the notes to float wordlessly -- and spread their sedate influence on the mind. In still other words, Lata Mangeshkar seems to insist that seamlessness is almost beatlessness (so to say) -- which is how potion -- nectar -- of life proceeds through its channel of vitality.
This flow has its own sound (of silence), or its own rhythm, its own hymn-like sensation that is felt deep within. This is how music is often experienced, sensed, and lived! True, beats are one of the ingredients of music -- for, those offer a sensation of procession. But those who cherish music as an experience also treat the beat only as an essential assistance to understanding the rhythm. But if beats start becoming overbearing -- with their numbers or their loudness -- the experience of music is quite likely to be sullied. For, in that case, the placidness that is so essential to capture the subtle rippling spread of the sound of music gets obliterated. When Lata Mangeshkar talks of “too many beats”, she is essentially suggesting that the musical experience gets invaded with a little harshness that is almost alien to its sensation. Of course, modern music is loud -- enhanced more by beats rather than by rhythm and natural and innate flow. And in a way made to chase, to attract attention, the music in modern films is all the more geared to create certain raucousness that Lata Mangeshkar detests.
There is no doubt that during her illustrious career, Lata Mangeshkar did sing some songs that were high on beat, and captured listeners’ attention and imagination. But those numbers are more to be treated as exceptions rather than as rules. For, personality-wise, Lata Mangeshkar -- and many in her category -- were the seekers of the musical experience that floated on the flow of the inner voice -- anahad naad (the eternal sound that is all the time there in every being -- the sound that does come from outside).
In other words, persons who are steeped in classicism of music are eager to have the musical experience of a spiritual nature. Let us not miss Lata Mangeshkar’s assertion that the modern music -- with too many beats -- is not bad. But given the choice, she would opt for that spiritual seamlessness that often characterises music in a true sense. This observation, per se, is not against percussion part of music -- which even a Zakir Hussain would agree. What Lata Mangeshkar sought to say was that she approached music differently -- away from its unessential loudness.