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Sveta Kilpady

It all started when I heard “Mile Sur Mera Tumhara” on National Television as a child.

Wow! It was such a discovery for me back then! A simple tune in Raga Bhairavi, a Raga I was so familiar with as a student of Indian Classical music, could be so popular. It captivated one and all in India and the Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad had achieved what it had started out to.


That’s when the bells started to ring. There was “Babula Mora…”, the popular song sung by inimitable K. L. Saigal, which become synonymous with the ‘Bidayee of a Bride’ in Hindi films, while simultaneously was in demand at ghazal concerts, baithaks and sammelans. Incidentally, the raga in this case was also Bhairavi.

Several similar cases, with different ragas doing the honours, kept my mind busy on this line of thought for quite some time.          

As a young classical performer the next question to myself was…

‘Can the notes I sing have such a wide appeal?’

‘Can Indian classical music really create a mass following?’

Innumerable such queries crowded my young mind. The so-called ‘Aa…aa’ music (that friends had christened classical music back then) which I had started learning at a young age began to take shape in surprisingly new forms.

Can classical music be such a powerful tool when in the hands of experts?

Can classical music be used in different ways to achieve ends in various fields?

There were so many facets to classical music that were beginning to take shape. There were so many mysterious aspects to it.

That a simple appealing composition could give “Mile sur mera tumhara…” a near anthem status.

The title track of the then TV serial on screen, Malgudi Days, did the same. Use of a simple melody in Raga Bhoopali did the trick. It took everyone directly to the home town of the main character, Swami and his simple life in the village. And to this day we have people using it as a ringtone on their phones.

Curiosity then got the better of me. I would try and decode every popular jingle, tune just to see its connection to a subject so dear to me. Who would, in their wildest dreams believe, that the popular Hindi movie ‘Item song’… ‘Tu cheez badi hain mast mast’ is based on Raga Bhimpalasi? We simply tag it as an item song.

What we don’t realise is the power of simple raga-based tunes.

There is a power of a raga that has the potential to reach out far and wide. We are not aware of the tremendous amount of research and generations of thought processes that have gone into making a raga so perfect, that it reaches and touches the emotions of the listener. Yes, music does that.

If used sensibly and correctly, it can achieve powerful results.

Not only can it achieve reach and scale, a raga can also connect with human emotions.

Ragas help you reconnect with memories.

Music is a universal language.

It has the power, like sports or movies, to connect with reality and emotionally move people.

It’s a lot like marketing, which is about connecting corporates and brands to people.

For people to connect with a particular brand, companies want them to be emotional. To be touched. And that can come through music.

There is a power of classical Indian music that has not been fully unleashed. For many companies, classical music is still seen as a good-to-do social responsibility event.

Corporates and brands can make classical music a part of their marketing DNA.

Imagine the possibilities in India for any company that wants to own music as a passion point.

There is a lot more that Indian classical music can offer besides a performance or a concert. It can reach out, connect, engage and move people in ways never imagined.

The writer is a Hindustani classical vocalist. She is the winner of the All India Radio prize and conferred the title "Sur-Mani" by Sur Shringar Mumbai. She has featured in albums like The Lost Souls and Mud Doll by London-based composer Niraj Chag. Her album Sajanwa-Romantic Thumris was nominated for the Global Indian Music Awards 2011.

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