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Sargam Articles

These are articles written by Dr Ajai R. Singh, founder president of Swara Sampada published from April 2003 to Jan 2005 in Sargam, the official publication of Swara Sampada , later published in the Sawara Sampada Sourcebook of Music.


Vol.1   No.1                         APRIL 2003

The President Speaks his Mind :

The Oath of Swara-Samapadites

Mission Statement

To convert bathroom-singers into drawing room singers,
and drawing room singers into stage-singers.


1)    We are dedicated to understanding the Science of Music and the Art of Singing.

2)    Music is the common binding force amongst us all. It is the life line of our fraternity. We shall think ten times before trusting a man who has no music in him.

3)    We wish to encourage the dormant musical talents in ourselves, and in others. We want to see to it that it no longer remains dormant, that it grows and pervades our consciousness.

4)         We shall be very keen listeners of others. Careful listening is 60% of music’The  rest 40% is talent (10%) understanding  (10%), 4ind  royal, (20%)     .

5)    We shall be appreciators of other’s talent. We shall attempt to encourage the good in them always. For, in doing so, we encourage the good in ourselves.

6)    Any criticism maybe cautiously offered, if at all, and only if we are convinced it is helpful and constructive for the musical growth of the other. It shall never be to hurt, to settle scores, or to put down the other. It shah1 always be in private, and with consent.

7) At all times, we shall uphold the dignity of a musical performance. The performer deserves our respect and total concentration, for he is trying to give his best. Talking, eating, cracking jokes etc. during a performance is to be strictly avoided. Thereby, we shall only end up depriving ourselves of becoming careful listeners, which is 60% of music, remember.

8) We shall learn to have faith in the vision and planning of our founders, and our leaders. We shall learn to harmonize with long term goals, rather than seek short-term gains. We shall make every attempt to gel. If we feel we cannot, we shall seek clarification, guidance, even register protest, in that order. If we still find ourselves out of tune, we shall tune in, or tune off. We shall not attempt to convert the symphony itself into a noise, or stifle the rights of others to continue to enjoy the symphony.

9) We shall, above all, be good human beings. We shall utilize our musical quest towards that goal.

To achieve this objective, we shall see to it that all our actions are:

i.                     niskdma (self-less)

ii.                    nirabhimdna (not egoistic)

iii.                   lokasamgrahdrtha (for the benefit of getting people together)

iv.                 isvararpita (dedicated to the Almighty).

Present and future leaders will specially remember this.

10)  Wre wish to make music a source of joy in our lives. All of us are co- travellers on a musical odyssey. We shall sing along with each other, enjoy each other’s singing and each other’s company, till the end of our lives. We hope and pray that as and when the end comes, it comes with a song on our lips.shall seek clarification, guidance, even register protest, in that order. If we still find ourselves out of tune, we shall tune in, or tune off. We shall not attempt to convert the symphony itself into a noise, or stifle the rights of others to continue to enjoy the symphony.

11)  We wish to make music a source of joy in our lives. All of us are co-travellers on a musical odyssey. We shall sing along with each other, enjoy each other’s singing and each other’s company, till the end of our lives.

12)  We hope and pray that as and when the end comes, it comes with a song on our lips.


As President, I take this oath in all humility. I request all of you my co travellers, to study each item mentioned herein very care fully and take this  oath too.

It shall be a lovely journey together. I sincerely wish music becomes your life-long friend, to add to your moments of joy, and to substract from your moments of sorrow.       

                                                       - Dr. Ajai Singh

What Shakespeare said about Music

The man that hath no music in him

Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds If fit or treasons, strategems and spoils

The motions of his spirit are dull as night. And his affections dark as erebus.

Let no such man be trusted.

William Shakespeare

in The Merchant of Venice

V.i. 79, Lorenzo to Jessica


VVol.1, No.2 •May 2003

The President Speaks his Mind

Remove the Dam of Inhibition, Build the Dam of Practice


Whenever I meet people and ask them if they can sing, most of them smile and reply, ‘Yes, but only in the bathroom,’ The bathroom is a place where, removing our clothes also becomes equivalent to removing our inhibitions. If the joy with which a person hums in the bathroom is anything to go by, there is greater music produced in all the baths of the world than in the musical studios and programmes and rehearsals and practice sessions put together. And yet all this musical talent goes down the drain, like the water that pours over their bodies. Why?

The greatest inhibition that bathroom singers experience is what will others say when they hear them sing. Singing in public is like getting disrobed before people. (Therefore they disrobe in private, and can sing to their hearts content, then). If they are assured that they will not be criticized, not be ridiculed or laughed at, they are often amazed at their own voice as they sing in front of others. Since they have often sung in private, hummed to themselves, hummed along with others who have occupied the stage, music has already grown within them. But its growth is stunted, or is stifled by the inhibition and fear of reproach. Having once or twice sung before others, they find that they too have a voice which has its own tenor, its own melody.

Once this realization is achieved, it is almost like a dam of music bursting. It is like a person who is gifted with vision after a lifetime of blindness, or a person who has legs after acting as a cripple all through life. It becomes impossible to handle. ‘Ilie eagerness, the intensity, the joy of wanting to savour every aspect of music, can engulf their lives. Music has such an intoxicating influence on people.

When the dam of inhibition bursts, a second dam has to be built. This is the dam of practice, of riyaz, of careful listening and patient practice, of understanding and incorporating the subtle nuances of singing and rendition.

Swara-Sampadites, your first dam, that of inhibition, has already been burst, atleast for most of you who have been in  the group for an year. Now you have to build the second dam hurting build the dJ. a destruciivr. a musical growth. In second dam ol practice, of careful listening, and constant improvement is a constructive dam. This will channelise your strongly flowing musical energies in the right direction. The direction of becoming quality listeners and quality singers.

The direction of taking a major step forward in understanding the Science of music and the Art of singing,

- Dr. Ajai Singh


Vol.1, No.3

June 2003

The President Speaks his Mind.              

Three Steps and Three Rights for all Swara-Sampadites.

This month 1 wish to share a few more thoughts with you on singing and singers. 1 shall put them before you in the form of points for your consideration..

1.  Singing is not the sole preserve of singers ( by singers I mean professional singers.) It is too precious a thing to be left only to them.It’s a joy for everyone to experience.

2. Removal of inhibition is the first step in becoming a good singer.

3. The second step is enjoying singing for oneself and before others.

4. The third is learning some important steps involved in singing

5. Everyone can sing and/or enjoy singing, provided these steps are followed.

6. Other people discourage you from singing. This is because:

i) Either they are good singers themselves or consider themselves such, and want listeners, not singers,

ii) They have heard the best, their ears are trained to recognise them alone, and they judge others by those high standards. In so judging, they reject the rest. The problem in doing this is that only a few continue to sing while the rest are deprived of its joys. Unfortunately, most of those deprived may continue to feel that it is justified that they are so deprived.

7.  Your first right, therefore, is to recognize that you have a right to sing . It is also the first duty you must ’perform towards   yourself  and your own development.

8. The second right you must exercise is to enjoy your singing,

9. The last and final right is to sing well,

and that is possible by learning and riyaz.

10. Ail three rights are important, mind you. If you only know of your right to sing, and you don’t enjoy singing, or do UPl practise, it will not do. Similarly, if fmt sing and practise but do not enjoy the singing (you are always tense while singing), that will also not do. And if

you want to sing and enjoy singing, but do not practise, that will not do as«well.

All three rights are to be simultaneously exercised, if you want to be a good Swara Sampadite.

ll.Swara Sampada provides you a platform and a forum to develop such skills in you because we don’t want the converse of our statement to happen. We don’t want stage listeners to run away to drawing rooms, and drawing room listeners to run to their bathrooms, when a Swara Sampadite performs, do we?

12.Most Swara Sampadites have experienced its fruits and felt transformed. You can experience it when you talk to them.

The proof of the pudding, as is said, is in the eating.

-Dr.Ajai Singh



Vol.1, No.4  July 2003


The President Speaks his Mind.   
Silence, The Heart Of Musk


At the heart of music is silence. This may sound almost like a paradox. How can music, which involves sound, go with silence, which imolves the absence of sound? Let me explain. Have you seen a spinning wheel? Or a spinning top? The outer fringes of botl 1 are spinning like mad, aren’t they? You come nearer and nearer to the center. What is happening to the circles there? They are spinning with lesser and lesser speed, till you come to the center itself. And there ....What is happening there? It is absolutely still. No motion at all. But it is surrounded by all the movement around it. In fact, since the center is still, and steadfast, the rest of the top/ spinning wheel is fixated, while it spins about madly So is life. So is man. So is music. That life, which is serene and quiescent in its core, may be surrounded by all the din and commotion of living, but it shall remain unruffled and will radiate jov and peace to people around. Ti l le man who is fixated to some rules and principles may be ki locked around in life, but will weather every storm eventually. That music which is steadfast and serene, the product of a rippleless mind, the echo of an undisturbed soul, will spring from the depths and stir the hearts and minds of others, will make them laugh and enjoy and dance and sing, and reach, bliss. It will be surrounded by everything around, and yet remain deeply till silent in its core. Deeply quiet.

 Profoundly quiet.

Like the sublime sur ‘sa\ which is the start of all music, when prolonged and sung to perfection, the quietness and peace it gives to the singer and the audience, transforms all unease and restlessness with peace aid tranquiliry. Disturbances of the mind sink into oblivion. Ripples of restlessness quieten down on the psyche’s surface. And in its depths. Silence touches the core of the singer and the listener.

At the heart of music, my dear Swara Sampadites, is this silence that you should try to capture. 1 hope and pray, you achieve it sometime in your life. Then your singing wiii be sublime, a prayer of gratitude and benediction to the divine, That will be Naua Brahma,.... The primordial sound...the connection between manhood and divinity

The journey of Swara Sampada is in that direction.... that it may be your ultimate destination is my most sincere wish for you, and my prayer to the Lord above, on this auspicious day of Gura-Poomima.



Vol 2

August, 2003

The President Speaks His Mind

The 100 Times Test for 100% Success

When People come up to sing on stage or before others, they are very much concerned about two very valuable items. One is their music book and the other their spectacles. They wear the latter, dig their heads into the former and sing blissfully unaware of a wide appreciative audience waiting to establish eye-contact with them, to enjoy with them, to smile with and clap for them. After finishing, they close their book and remove their spectacles with a great sense of relief! Thank God, its over! That’s their feeling or something to that effect. And then the complaint is, the audience is not appreciative, today my voice is not upto its mark,  there is some difficulty with the sound system, the musicians did not play the  interludes well. That’s why the song fell flat, Although, mind you the voice may be good and everything else may be in order.

What was missing? A very significant factor, which is the essence of a live performance. The rapport of souls was missing. The symphony between the heart of the singer and that of the audience was not established. Because the singer was so busy looking into the book, he/she had no time, to look into the eyes of his/her audience. The heart strings could not be tugged at. How could they? If I speak them before you but looking down or the other way, you will obviously not believe they are all for you. You’d probably believe that they are for someone on the side, or down below and you cannot be blamed for it, can you?

The singer must look up at his audience. He must smile at them. He must look into their eyes. He must watch their faces as they feel happy, or sad or excited, or pensive. But for that he has to have his eyes away from his book. He must know the lyrics of the  song by heart.

How does one do so? The procedure is very simple, But the simplest of things are  often difficult to do for most people. Let this paradox not be applicable to you. The procedure is what I call the 100 times test.

1) First of all, the lyrics of the song must be perfectly written down with you. You need to hear a song at least 5 times for this. Then the song by the original singer must be heard at least 10 times before you start singing it, and then you sing it for 10 times before the words become fixed in your mind.

2) After these 25 times, you sing it before one person, may be your spouse/friend, whatsoever, or to yourself imaging that someone is listening.

3) Again listen to the original song for 5 times and sing it to yourself for another 20 times, before singing it before your family members.

4) Again listen to the original song for another 5 times, practice for 20 times before singing it before a small circle of 5-10 people, may be with musical accompaniment. (That’s is a total of 75 times)

5) Listen to the song again for 5 times before practising another 20 times before you are ready to sing before a larger audience, like a Swara-Sampada group, or on stage.

A song heard at least 25 times sung to oneself for before a small circle for 65 times is fit to be consumed by a larger group. You don’t eat raw wheat or rice. You  have to cook  it. Then its fit for consumption. When you come and say, I have not prepared but still will try, its like telling your guest, here is the wheat, I could not make chappatis, please excuse me and eat it. Does it make sense?

Be merciful to others. But before doing that, be merciful to yourself. Because it you follow this method, even if you are awakened in the dead of the night, even if you are on your death-bed. if you have the strength and your memory is intact, you do it. You want it to happen to you? To sing your singing? To look into their appreciative eyes while you sing?

Then just go ahead and do it. I hope you will, my dear Swara Sampadities.

- Dr. Ajai Singh


Vol.1, No. 6

 September 2003

The President Speaks his Mind


Let The Whole World Not Know!


All you swara-sampadites are sincerely devoted to music. I have no doubts on that score. You are all eager to learn and move ahead in your musical pursuits. You have developed an irresistable urge to have more and more of music in your life, and more so in your consciousness. I admire your devotion to music and dedication to furthering your interest in it.

How shall we further this interest? That is the key question. For this, I would like you to note the title of my communication this time: Let the whole world not know !

The whole world not know what, you will ask? The wrong deeds you have committed? You don’t need my advice on that, you have already ensured it. Thank you very much, you will say. The wealth you have? That again you are smart enough to conceal, while revealing as much as is appropriate, for society as well as the I.T. authorities! So, you don’t need my counsel on that too. Then what is this psychiatrist-president talking about? Hope he makes sense. You don’t  want reasons to suspect his sanity, 1 am sure.

Relax, my dear swara-sampadites. As long as there is music in me, and there is swara-sampada around me. I will continue to make sense! So here goes the main point I want to make with you this time:

i)   If you don’t practise for one day, you will know there in something wrong.

ii) If you don’t practise for two days, your guru will know something is wrong.

iii) If you don’t practise for three days, the whole world will know something is wrong!

Please note, 1 am talking of music practice alone here. Kindly don’t use my thoughts to suit you in other fields of your endeavour! And I know they are a plenty! I say this because my “100 times test for 100% success” communication last time has been used by my intelligent members for their other such pursuits!!

So, my dear Swara-Sampadites, ‘Let the whole world not know!’

Practise! Practise!! Practise!!!

Dr. Ajai Singh



Monthly Musical Meet Report - September, 200

The President Speaks hisMind

How to select a song

The major problem with most new (and even accomplished) singer is which song/ songs to select to present in a programme. It is not different from the difficulty many people experience in selecting a dress to suit an occasion. For example, which sari to wear for a marriage, or which suit for a conference. Or, even, which dress to wear for the next swara sampada programme, or when you become the star-singer. While the problem is similar, the way to resolve it, unfortunately, is somewhat different. Especially if you dress casually. For if you select your song casually, you can be sure of a less than favourable impression.

What, then, are the steps in song selection? They are seven, according to me. Let us go over them, one by one: 1. First and foremost, it must be a song which instantly appeals to you when you hear it. Its like a dress you buy because you instantly like it. This is a consideration you must never, never, neglect. Your song selection reflects your personality, your inner likings, and even your being. So, let it reflect the same in all sincerity.

2.   Second, the lyrics should be such as to touch your heart. If they do not touch your heart, rest assured they won’t touch your listeners”.

3.         Third, you should want to hear the song again and again, to sing it again and again. Because if is is such, your listeners are also likely to want to hear it again and again, to feel the same and be touched by it. 4. Fourth, the emotions a song expresses must be comfortable for you to feel. For example, many females are uncomfortable singing a Cabaret or seductive number and many men are equally uncomfortable singing a sorrowful tune. If you are not comfortable with the feel of a song, don’t sing it. First, mentally prepare yourself to accept the feeling, enjoy it, and then sing the song. For, a song sung without feeling is like a body without life.

5. Fifth, you must be comfortable with the diction of the song. You must be able to pronounce the syllables correctly, to understand the meaning well, and emote it while presenting your song. Of course, you must have the song by heart, and avoid the book/paper while singing.

6. Sixth, you must be comfortable with your own ability to sing the song. Don’t just select a song because you like it very much (refer point 1). Judge whether you can sing it fairly well, you can present its beauty before the audience, you can be fair to the song. For example, don’t sing a major raga based classical song unless you know something about this raga, have heard some masters sing it, and can understand its aroha-avaroha, and sing it, atleast to some extent. 7. Finally, get feed-back from those whose opinion you value, before you sing a song in a programme, and also after you have presented it. This feedback is from those whose opinion you value, whose criticism is constructive and whose praise is genuine.

Then, go ahead and sing. And win the audience over. They are waiting to become your admirers.

—Dr. Ajai Singh



The President Speaks his Mind

Lyricsthe soul of a song


We attribute certain qualities to a human being. If the body is the structure, the mind is its guiding force and the soul its essence. A song, similarly has certain attributes which 1 wish to share with you in this communication.

Like the human body has a structure, the song too has a structure. That is the notations, the rhythm, the raga on which it is based. All these are essential for a song to be manifest, jusi as the human body is essential for an individual to be manifest.

The music director then sets this structure to music. He uses his expertise and his imagination to make this structure vibrate with life. He designs its shape, its contours, softens its rough edges,chisels here and there till a finished product, the song,is ready. He has a talented sculptor’s mind and that’s what adds depth and beauty to the song. The musk director’s contribution to a song is like that of the

mind in our body. And he uses the services of a talented singer to make this song come to life, as though.

But a song, to touch you, has to have another elusive, somewhat ethereal quality. Its words should move you, should tug at your heart strings, should stir something deep within you. It should have the ability to touch your soul it is the lyrics and lyrics alone, which can have that quality. The words of a song, its beauty, its composition, the poet’s imagination which he pours into a song, is according to me, the soul of a song.

Unless you like, even love, the lyrics of a song, you can never love a song itself, You may like the beats, you may even admire the music, but if the words do not touch your heart, you will never be immersed in the song. And the listener will never be immersed in your song.

That’s the main reason why a number of new songs fail to move you. There is hardly any lyrics worth the name in them  those that do, will still make their mavk.

This is also the reason a number of angers fail to move you. They sing the song perfectly, in suk taal, laya, but the sr»ul is missing. It is because they do not .:mote the song. And that is because either they do not understand the lyrics, or are themselves not touched by it. The poetry in the song is under-developed, although the music or raga is presented perfectly. That’s incomplete music, according to me.

So, Swara Sampadites, let the words of a song move your soul And unless they do, do not sing a song. Concentrate on what the poet tries to tell you through the song. You will pour your heart out when you sing. And your song too will achieve the melody and pathos that we associate with a Talat Mehmood, or a Jagjit Singh. They sing with their hearts because they emote the lyrics of a song.

Let your soul experience the soul of music. Let it sing and dance with joy.

Let the lyrics of song, which is its soul, sing in rhythm to your own musical soul.

See the difference it will create in your singing. For the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

—Dr. Ajai Singh




Vol.1, No.l0

January 2004

This programme is dedicated in memory of Late Shri Nimesh Shah.



The President Speaks his Mind..

Who is a Guru?


English, for all its faults, is still a beautiful language. For, the four letters of the word GURU- G,U,R,U have given us the four essentials of this important concept.

We Indians love to exalt everything, to put it up on a pedestal, as though. And make it almost unreachable for ordinary mortals. So they worship it all right, but don’t themselves want to reach it. But the concept of a Guru, though exalted, is also reachable, atleast for a few.

A guru is a teacher, but he is not only that — He is an adviser, but not only that -He a guide, but not only that- He is a friend, 3ut not only that —He is a repository of knowledge, but not only that He is worthy of respect, even awe, but not only that.

What is a guru all about then ?

I said the four letters of the word Guru are important. And let me come to them. G-U-R-U.

1. 4G’ - stands for gives. A GURU gives. He does not take. He must necessarily give and keep on giving. He has so much to give, and he does not mind giving, that he does not have the need, or the inclination, to take, though disciples may be very eager and willing to give back. And to the extent and till the time he can give alone can he occupy the position of a gum.

2.4U’ - he gives you. U. His focus of attention is vow, your welfare, your upliftment. It  never his benefit, his ego, his prestige, his power, his name or fame. The moment the latter become important, he loses his status. The moment the focus shifts from vow to his own self, he cannot occupy that position, and must necessarily relinquish it, however great

his knowledge.

3.         ‘R’-stands for right. He  can never, never, impart that which is wrong. He can never manipulate, coerce, or use his position to extract something out of you. He must himself know what is right, follow the right path and never, never show you the wrong path for whatsoever gain of his. In a guru’s company, you must only see that which is the right way for you, and then develop the necessary strength and ability to folio wr it.  .

4 ‘U’   this last alphabet stands for understanding, It is not just information that a guru shares - that you can get from books. It is not just knowledge - that you can get from your own reflections. It is not just the power of expression, or eloquence - that you can get from attending some classes, workshops or seminars.  It   is understanding that he imparts. Understanding is the sum total of the knowledge he has gained from the masters of yore to which he has added the experiences of his own varied and rich life. It is the wisdom of the ages distilled into a life lived in. accordance with it, exemplifying it, and even at times transcending it. It is the sum total of the cosmos which you see in the pure, undefiled vision of the master And all that you feel like doing is looking up to him, thirsting for more, and sublimating yourself as you quench your thirst for the best and the most noble in life,

The Guru is an exalted concept, true, but very much applicable in the world of music, my friends. You cannot reach far in the field without one. And a time must come when you yourself, by careful sadhana and tapasya, must try to become one.

This is a relay race my friends. The baton of understanding must be passed over. But first learn to receive it, to recognize it as the true baton, and develop the ability to hold it. Then you too will be fit to pass it on to the next.

A pure, undefiled baton. Touched not only by your hand but by your heart and soul.

And, then, somewhere down the line, you will become your own guru. And a guru to someone else.

Then, and then alone, your musical journey, as your journey of life, will reach somewhere near fulfillment.

I wish you all the very best, for I am with you on this journey all through, my dear Swara-Sampadites.

A very happy and melodious New Years, friends.

-Dr. Ajai Singh







Vol.1, No. 12

February 2004

The President Speaks his Mind.,

If you turn your back to music -or look sideways


If you have had a chance to attend a dinner-cocktail where a live musical performance is on (and I’m sure you have) you must have observed a fairly common occurrence, and even sometimes been a part of it. At least two things happen which I have seen, and which I must share with you in this communication:

1)      As the singer/musician is busy singing/playing the people are busy drinking, eating and talking;

2)      As the music rises in tempo and volume, the talking in the so-called audience rises equally, to match the singers volume and tempo as though (It’s, really speaking, so as not to allow the conversation to be drowned in the singer’s voice or the accompanying music). As much so, that people get so preoccupied and intense talking, they often turn their back to the performer, and, glass or plate in their hand, are busy discussing some business deal to be clinched, some petty intrigue to be plotted, some delicious gossip to be shared. And, as the performer ends on stage, the volume of conversation also reduces, and a few in the audience may cry out ‘Hey..”, and a few polite hands may clap. And again the back is turned

And the talk... talk... talk... continues... No doubt these good people have their own reasons for doing what they do, their own commitments being elsewhere. And I guess they are good for them.. .So good luck to them. But if you are one of them, my dear Swara Sampadites, then hear this one thing from me:

If you turn your back when a musical performance is on ,whatever the quality or type of music that is on, you are not only turning your back to the performer, “you are turning your back to Music Herself..”

And take this further from me: If you turn your back to music, music will turn Her back to you. What do you mean by saying this?

At the most critical moment, when you have to perform at your best, you will forget some lines, add a unnecessary note, sing out of tune or rhythm and feel all at sea.

Because you turned your back to music, music will unwittingly turn Her back to you.

Similarly, I have seen a number of people talking, gossiping and whispering to each other as a musical performance is on. Then you not only break the performer’s concentration and you are rude to him. (That’s the reason why the lights are switched off in the audience when a good performance is on). You are not only rude to him my friends, you. are being rude to your own self. For, you are depriving yourself of afjgreat rapport you can develop with the Goddess of Music who is making Her presence felt through the voice/instrument

of some performer. And now let me tell you this other thought for this month:

If you look sideways when a music performance is on, music will look sideways and ignore you when you need Her blessings, when you are in the midst of an important performance.

If you are busy talking to someone on the side when a performance is on, Music will turn sideways and talk to someone else when you need Her the most that is, during a performance.

So, my dear Swara Sampadites I hope the message is clear. Take these two thoughts as your thumb role for this month, and for your musical upliftment. And make them your companions for a lifetime.

1)      If you turn your back to music, music will turn Her back to you,

2)      If you look sideways and talk when a musical performance is on, music will look sideways and ignore you when you need Her help the most”in a performance.

Now, tell me what you want. And you will get your own answer. If you remember these two lovely thoughts for this month.

I’m sure you will not disappoint me, my dear friends.

Dr. Ajai R. Singh


Vol.1, No.12
March 2004

The President Speaks his Mind..

Bahut Bhatke Yahan Wahan... Ab Ho Jaye Apna Ek Ghar Yahan

As I got up on Holi Day to attend to the colourful get-together we had at Swara Sampadite Ganesh Iyer’s place, I was struck with a thought which I want to share with you.

Its one year of Swara Sampada. A birthday celebration is due. And I know many of you are feeling the loss. But I want to celebrate Swara Sampada’s birthday in Swara Sampada’s own home.

We have enjoyed all the lovely programmes uptill now. At all the different venues where our needs have been quite well looked after. And I think our office bearers are doing a great job. Secretary, Swara Sampadite Dr. Milind Shejwal, h. Secretary, Swara Sampadite Subhash Nayak and Treasurer Swara Sampadite  Ashok Doshi, along with guidance from Vice President, Swara Sampadite Dr. Vijay Thakker, have arranged for various great venues. And we have indeed enjoyed the fare every time.

But its time to move in to our own place: Bahut bhatke yahan wahan Ab ho jaye apna ek ghar yahan Swara Sampada, the baby, one year old, is asking its guardians to give her a permanent home. Maybe a modest home, maybe a big one, that doesn’t matter. But her own home— where she can play at will and flourish, where she can invite her friends to play with her. As gypsies, we have moved about quite a lot. And enjoyed all the colour and fun involved in all this movement. But its now time to settle down to a house we can call our very own.

1 know there are various nitty gritties involved in making this dream come to reality. And its at present a dream. But nothing starts unless first a dream.

Who would have imagined that an organisation like Swara Sampada would ever be set up? And it turned into areality. My request to all you, my dear Swara Sampadites now is, don’t let this remain only a dream. Lets work to make this dream a reality.

And since the idea has started from me, let me follow it up by backing it with seed-money. I pledge Rs.50,000/— from my side to set the ball rolling. And 1 am not one to go back on my word.

Now the ball is in your court.

As I shared this thought after our Holi celebrations on the 6th of March, there was excitement in many members, cautious optimism in some. But that’s how it should be. We shall of course work out the details of how to go about it. But lets first decide we want a house. Then the rest follows. Like you first decided to start singing. The rest has followed.

Nothing begins unless its first a dream. Swara Sampada began that way. Nothing dies faster than a dream, unless it is shared by the rest, and followed up by concrete action. Will you, my dear Swara Sampadites, who have achieved your dream of singing, also fulfil Swara Sampadas’ dream of having a home ?

The child looks up to the parents with hope in her eyes fill her eyes with joy, not with tears. I urge you strongly to work towards making our own home. And the baby wiil celebrate her birthday only in the new home.

She is a rather stubborn baby.

She will wait for her birthday celebrations. And she would want her birthday to coincide with the griha pravesh ceremony.—Dr. Ajai R.Singh


Vol.1, No.13

April 2004

The President Speaks his Mind**

Keep on the Highway of Positivity

I am fascinated with a phenomenon I witness regularly in Swara Sampada and which I want to talk about here.

Chitra and Suresh, alongwith daughter Sweta, arrange for a Holi programme at their place. Sarla and A.B.Ramachandran call us all to their house- warming. Ruchi and Ram Arora have been arranging for the New Year Eve party for us for the last two years. Poornima and Ashok Doshi arrange for a lovely picnic to Mahabaleshwar where music bloomed for many. Charu and Dr. Vijay arrange for Sharad-Poomirna celebrations at their place. Surekha and Subhash Nayak organise the last session on Raga Yaman at their residence in which our Hon.Member Mangesh Gokarna holds a full four-hour session. Our other Hon. Member Raju Samapathy has been writing regularly for 'Sargam' sharing some pearls of wisdom with us.

So many of our enthusiastic members have arranged for music practice sessions at their place, something which starts in the late -afternoon and continues well into the night. Hina and Jatin, Kokila and Dr. Milind, Rekha and Capt. Ajay, Nirmala and Pradeep, Dr. Chitra and Chandrashekhar, Poornima and Ashok, Rita and Capt. Sudhir Chaudhary, Mr and Mrs Vazandar, Charu and Dr. Vijay. So many others are eagerly awaiting their chance.

Sarla, and her team, with enthusiastic guidance from Dr. Milind, have came out with 'Sargam' without a single miss, an achievement to applaud.

Hina and Jatin Shah, our new members, sponsored a full Swara Sampada programme in memory of Hina's brother who was a great music lover. Sarla and A.B. have offered to sponsor lunch for this programme, to celebrate theirs daughter's engagement, What wonderful gestures indeed!

Sanjeevani and Shyam Talawadekar are the first to pledge their contribution of Rs. 11,000/- towards the appeal I made in the last Sargam issue about having our own place. I am sure many more wil! follow when we get going with some concrete plans.

What makes Swara-Samapadites do this? To answer this, we must know what makes Swara-Sampada tick?

Lets try and answer, because we will than understand the core strength of Swara-Sampada. When Swara-Sampadites, meet, the joy of coming together is palpable. It is seen in their eyes as they look at each other, in their smiles as they greet each other, in their enthusiasm as they discuss each other's song selection, and as their joy at being members of such a lovely group. For many, it is like getting back friends and friendships, which they had lost in their childhood. For many again, its like an extended family, ever ready to respond to each other's call.

But that still doesn't answer the question: What makes Swara-Sampada tick?

One reason, of course, is that the soul of Swara Sampada is music. Music, which brings so much joy and peace to all those who practice it. And it can be a great binding force amongst people. But it can also cause quarrels, back biting, groupism, destructive criticism, all of which, touch-wood, Swara Sampada is miles away from all this. (And where these become the main activities of Swara Sampada, I will be the first to be miles away from it, let me assure you!)

So, that still don't answer the question. What makes Swara Sampada tick?

If the soul of Sawara Sampada is music, its driving force is Positivity. To the engine of Music, we have added die petrol of Love and Encouragement, and the additives of Happiness and Appreciation, We tune up the engine with Care and Compassion and weed out the sludge of hatred, bitterness, harshness, poisonous words and thoughts. For pollution-control is equally important, as much for engines as for people, and for organisations.

So, keep to the highway of positivity, my friends. With the street -car called Music, you will then drive very far. And if you don't keep to the highway, its very easy to lose your way in the lanes and by-lanes of negativity, which are in their hundreds. And, trust me, even this car called Music will stop flying on the road of negativity. Don't try to find out if it will, really. Take my word for it, for I have seen it happen with so many around me.

Its music coupled with positivity that makes Swara-Sampada tick. So, now you know what you got to do to keep the organisation healthy. And continue to bring loads of happiness to you all through your life.

-Dr. Ajai R. Singh


May 2004

The President Speaks his Mind..

Diction - the icing on the cake

Every language has its peculiar  mode of expression. It is the manner in which it is traditionally spoken by the people whose mother-tongue it is. When you listen to two Maharashtrians conversing in Marathi, you find an ease, a felicity of expression. You don't necessarily find it when a Gujrati speaks in Marathi with one of the Maharashtrians mentioned nkn Now, we do tolerate the mistakes of grammar and pronounciation, and ofcourse appreciate the fact thai someone is making an earnest attempt to speak another's tongue. But, if the diction is not proper, the grace and rich texture which epitomises that language is lost.

Why am I writing about it here? That's because the songs we sing can have a similar problem. Songs are not just notes sung in rhythm. They are words put to notes and suny in rhythm. So, its a three tier arrangemert. to say the least, and each  tier.-.-quaih important inapropei musienlexprc^sinr lorn singer. Which meai-v il \<;u smij-the notes properly, in w>. \on lh1' > V l! vou NJiig in rhyllun. nj loL \tni xc 3 V'f, And i! you pronounce properly, you get }?'.< i the l< ne\cf get by trying. Its bv di' available only to a tW mmi ispect. in only those -,'• i the c^'v. Let's ie-^e t present, beeauv f|;.i burden of wlui I . in I; \ m-sj ;-s;s) here.)

What doe\  ;!iJ-.  :: = ; -I1..

therefore ? It tiii s?-1. ■ \r:-, n you sing thecomv u«»!.«s. ;,. propei'rhythm, you ai■• onl\

v\hen vou pronnimc-* the correct I v thai you can be- ..-m>. mi'er. an excellent sing'1:


 consider t.hc !<>';■ >\« i jh time and''fit »ii i- ■ the nod's correct!} We spe^ii ■•> hnie an-! eifprt it* siu»j

rhythm. How much time and energy do we spend in pronouncing the words correctly ?

We know where is the difficulty. Its because we are singing Hindi songs and Hindi being a hybrid language, has had a great influence as much of Sanskrit, as of Persian and Arabic, especially in its Hindustani form. And Urdu, its sister-language, in which most quality Hindi film songs of yester-years were penned, has had a great influence of Persian and Arabic.

Now, it would be expecting a little too much for every singer to learn Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic (Although a quality singer should have some knowledge of these great languages.), but having a working knowledge of Urdu and, most important, pronouncing the Urdu words that come in a song correctly, is absolutely necessary to present a song in its true spirit.

Let's take an example. The beautiful song :

Shame-gham ki qasam / Aaj gham-gin hain hum....

Now, if we pronounce it.

Shame-gam ki kasam /Aaj gam-gin hai hum....

The whole charm and beauty of the composition can get lost. Its as though you have removed the Minar from Charminar, or the Gumbaz from Gol-Gumbaz, or the top dome from the Taj Mahal.

Or take the other popular song :

Ye nay an da-re da-re / Ye jaam bha-re bha-re / Zaraa peene do...

Now, if we say :

Ye nay an da-re da-re / Ye jaam bha-re bha-re / Jaraa peene do...

Well, again, the top dome of the Taj Mahal is removed.

Now, that's the problem. What's the solution ?

It's not very difficult. First of all, become aware of the fact that you must pronounce correctly. The original singer whose recording you listen to has already sung it correctly. His faults of diction have been corrected for you by the singer himself, or the music director, So you have a gold-standard by which to go. If you have any doubts about your diction, just go back to the original and listen very carefully. And keep listening till you get it right. Now pronounce it like-wise. And repeat the correct pronounciation till it becomes a part of your consciousness. Again the 100 times test I talked of earlier will help you here too. Pronounce it a 100 times correctly, and it will work. This method of improving your diction will never tail you.

You love a cake, true. But unless you are a diabetic or a weight-watcher, you love the icing on a cake too. Diction is like the icing on the cake, or the topping on your ice-cream. The cake is OK without the icing, but it is simply superb with it.

So, as you bake the cake the next time, get the icing on it right too.

Happy baking. Er, singing, friends.

-          Dr. Ajai Singh

Vol 2 No 3

June 2004


The President Speaks his Mind..

How  to Emote while Singing.

For a singer, emotions are like sugar in a tea. Essential,  but in the right proportion.

You can take your tea without sugar. But it will taste flat, and may no longer remain the cup that cheers. Similarly, if you sing without emotion, the song will fall flat, and may neither cheer you, nor your listeners.

You got to add sugar alright, but how much sugar to add to your tea? If you add too much, it becomes syrupy, if too little it tastes bland. Its the right proportion that makes it the cup that cheers. Similarly, if you add too much emotion to your song, it becomes mushy, too senstimental for comfort. And if too little, it hardly touches anyone’s heart, like a miser’s philanthropy.

So, the right proportion is important. But how do you get the right proportion? Lets come back to the cup of tea. Its the cup that cheers but does not inebriate (intoxicate). Similarly, you emote as much as to make you and you listener, feel the emotion without overwhelming both. The listener may enjoy, even cry, while you sing because of the emotions aroused in him/her. But the emotion should not overpower him, or drown him so that he feels choked or out of breath, for he may not want to ever experience it again, unless ofcourse he is a masochist. The emotion for the singer should not be so overwhelming that it supercedes the other essentials of good singing like sur, tala, laya and diction. Like the understated elegance that defines that elusive quality called grace, emotion should be understated, delicately, interwoven in the matrix of the song itself and never, never, allowed to become loud. Like loud colours in dress, they only jar the senses.

 Lets take an example. The song “O.... khilona... jankar tum to mera dil tode jaate ho...” express a lovely emotion. But the way the “O...” has been sung, makes the song too syrupy. You will hear it for a time or two, but may not like it as much later, unless ofcourse you love a lot of sugar in your tea. I have a sneaking suspicion, there was a reason why Mahendra Kapoor, a good singer really, did not last long. It was probably because of the extra emotion he added to his singing.

How to emote while singing then? Its best to know the meaning of the song first, its lyrics, because that tells you what the poetry is trying to convey. Then creatively visualise yourself in that situation, and without losing hold over the trimurty of sur, tala and laya, to go ahead and present the song. If your visualisation is creative enough, and you are an emotionally adequate person from within, you will, with practice, reach that optimal blend of emotion in singing which tugs at the heart strings but does not overwhelm. It takes time and effort, but I assure you it is worth the time and effort.

Second suggestion. Listen to singers who emote well. Talat Mehmood and Jagjit Singh are the masters, and Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh are no less. If you have to really emote while singing, I have one strong suggestion to make. Listen to, and sing, Talat Mehmood and Jagjit Singh for atleast six months. Listen to them very carefully, concentrate on their way of presentation and sing only them for six months at least, if possible. Then you see if you emote or not. I challenge you to do this, and you will surely develop that elusive quality that makes, or breaks, a song and a singer in the long run. And this suggestion is for you, irrespective of whether you are a male or a female singer.

Great emotions don’t come just like that. When was the last time you really laughed or cried. They require an event of that magnitude. Similarly, great emotions don’t enter singing that easily. They have to be cultivated, and honed to perfection, diligently, patiently, over a period of time.

But they do come if you try hard enough, I am sure you will.

And I’m equally sure you will succeed.

Dr. Ajai R. Singh



Vol2 – N04

July 2004


The President Speaks his Mind.....

Music and Nature

There is  music being created around us all the time. Not only by our voices, our musical instruments, or our electronic gadgets. Have you ever cared to stop and listen to this music around you, music which is created by nature herself?

Have you heard rain drops falling on the ground ? Or on a tin-roof ? Pitter-patter.... pitter-patter.... ? Or even on the top of your car while you are driving ? Or your wind-shield, as you frantically start your wiper to  brush them away ? Have you ? They all create  a certain pattern of distinct musical notes. Don’t miss listening to them in these rains, and spend a few minutes doing so, and you will experience what I am saying.

Have you heard the breeze passing through the trees ? The peculiar swish-swoosh, as the wind forces its way through the leaves ? And the leaves,  a flutter, respond with happy tremulous  notes to the breeze’s caresses ?

Have you heard the roar of the waves as they rise in the sea, and come with great  intensity and break on the shore ? Almost like the cascading electrifying taans of an accomplished singer  who, having demonstrated his virtuosity, comes back contented and rests on the ‘sam’ ?

Have you seen the Sun’s  rays playing hide and seek with the clouds, or piercing through the dense foliage of  a  tree, and spread patterns of  art on the ground, almost like the payal (trinklets) of a dancer, whose musical sound mesmerises you as much as her dance ?

Have you seen the full-moon waltzing through the sky, with the clouds trying to  engulf  her, one by one, as they pass by,  enticing  her by their rhythmic movements and weaving patterns,  coalescing and ethereal, almost like the sublime musical presentation of a maestro ?

And have you heard the birds and  animals, and the lovely music they produce ? One of our ancient texts identifies the shuddha swaras, or the pure unaltered notes of the saptak, with the cries of birds and animals in this  manner:

Shadja’ is the cry of the peacock, and rishabh of the bull, the bleating of the goat is gandhar and madhyam is the heron’s call, in spring the cuckoo sings pancham, during the rains, the frog croakes dhaivat, and nishad is trumpeted by the elephant.

Did you ever care to listen to the bleating of a goat ? Or the croaking of a frog, or the deep throated bellow of a bull ? Well, you may say we hardly find these here in the city any longer. But did you hear the cuckoo in spring, for we do hear that bird atleast in this city ? Did you care to just shut your mind off everything for a moment and listen to what the cuckoo sings ? For if you did, you would know that it sings to you of love, and sweetness, and longing, and seeks for the meeting of hearts, which is the essence of living.

Even the twitter of the sparrows, the cooing of pigeons, the busy chirping of assorted birds on a canopied tree early morning, if you ever had the privilege of stopping to hear them there (maybe you may stop your early morning hurried walk to listen to them the next time) - all these are creating a lovely musical symphony around you all the time.

Nature, and the cosmos around,  hums  a tune.  It speaks to you in rhythm, and creates harmony around you. Its symphony, which envelops you if you allow for it, is a call to you to achieve a similar symphony, and harmony, in your music and your life.

Take nature, which is all around you, in your embrace. Make her a part of your consciousness, and your being.

Music, and life itself, will bloom forever.

Dr. Ajai R. Singh


Vol2- No5

Aug 2004

The President Speaks his Mind.....

Develop a Classical Base

Even if you want to make a magnificiant mansion, the first pre requisite is a string base. Taht being ensured, the most opulent structure can be constructed, and becomes a source of great admiration to all. The Taj Mahal is a beautiful piece of architecture,  a source of eternal joy and symbol of great romance.  And everyone who has seen it is enthralled as much as awed by the magnificence of that masterpiece. But,  remember, TAJ could not have been made, and would not  have stood for centuries, if it did not have a strong foundation. And whenever you think of it the next time, do spare a thought for the unsung heroes who put in their sweat and blood to make the foundation what it is.

Similarly, you used a strong foundation for the Taj Mahal of music you wish to create in your singing. It may not be as magnificiant as somebody else’s , but its your Taj Mahal for sure. And for that you too need a strong foundation.

This foundation is Classical Music.

If you do not create this base, then your dream of constructing a magnificiant superstructure will only remain a dream. That’s because it will not be able to withstand critical scrutiny of connoisseurs. Moreover, your enthusiasm may tempt you to try difficult songs, but the necessary speed work not being done, the performance will not match upto  the expectation you have, or the effort you put in. That’s because the strong foundation,  the classical base, has not been laid in the first place.

An alaapi in a classical based song, or a taan for the matter, is not just some Surs thrown out of this throat at will. They are very precise, will modulated musical notes that require  great practice in themselves, and are often the heart and soul of a song. And may make or wear a performance. They will be rendered perfectly only if you have undergone since training in classical singing from a teacher.  He/She will perfect your Surs ,  temper the flights of your musical desires by serious riyaz of taans, teach you how to unfold in a slow, langorous manner, an alaapi, and thus get to the heart and thesoul of a raga.  The deep mystical quality that sound conveys when boomed in their matrix of a raga is learnt only at the feet of a master who himself has mariuated in it with rigorous training over decades.  And is the representation of centuries of tradition that is,  as though, crystallized in human form in such an examplar.(I was indeed fortunate to learn at the feet of such a Guru).

So, if you do not have a classical base, your serious singing will falter. But let me also warn you of something else, Light Music needs a classical base. True. But just because you have a classical base does not mean you will necessarily make a great singer of light music. It sounds Paraxodical, but its true. Let me explain. Just because you make a strong base, the structured constructed above it does not became a Taj Mahal. The base is a necessary but not sufficient condition for good singing in light music.  A number of great classical singers have not made a mark as good singers of light music, probably because of the misplaced confidence they had that classical background in all. It Isn’t.  And our ignorance of the subtelitites andof light music, which I have discussed at various stages in these columns.

So, beware of both traps. Don’t forget to develop a classical base as soon as possible. And don’t also  forget that the base is only a base and you need much more to make a good singer of light music. Just because its called light music, its not to be taken lightly.

Classical Music, ofcourse, is an ocean and even a lifetime is not enough to ever reach below the surface. But I could strongly recommend that two years for an average singer, five years for a good singer,and Ten years for a life-time for an excellent singer, are a must. And ragas like Yaman, Bilag, Bageshri, Kedar, Darbari, Sarang, Malkanns, Bhimpalas, Lalit and Bhairavi must be learnt. These ten are the essential pillars of good quality light music. Out of these, atleast one full year should be spent on Raga Yaman and Three-Six months on Raga Bhairavi. And the rest as per your inclination of wanting to be a good or excellent singer(3-6 months for a good singer, 6-12 months for an excellent one).

So, friends,  if you have set your goals high, first learn to look below your feet and make the ground on which you tread strong.

      And you can’t get something that is precious by paying a price that is inadequate.

      Go back to the roots.

      Develop a Classical base.

                                                                                     Dr. Ajai R. Singh


Vol 2 N0

Sept 2004

The President Speaks his Mind.....

If Music Is Like Prayer ….

m sure you have often heard it said that you must treat music like prayer. It’s a meditation, an ibadat. Well, if you don’t agree it’s like that, you may skip reading further. But if you do believe music is, or should be, like prayer, then I want to ask you a few questions:

1)   Why do you attend to phone calls in the midst of your musical practice? Or the cell phone for that matter? Do you do the same while you pray?

2)   Why do you stop your practice when the door-bell rings, and keep on chatting with the visitor for hours on end, and then complain you have no time for riyaz? Do you do the same when you pray?

3)   Why do you leave so many things undone, which you remember when it is time to sit for your practice, so that the practice time is spent in doing those things, and the riyaz again remains undone? Do you also do that to prayer?

4)   Why do you find time to practice only while you are having break-fast, or watching T.V., or perched on the toilet-seat? Are these the only times you pray too?

5)   Can you pray effectively when all the worries of what is happening around you are simultaneously going on in your mind? Whose phone-call has come, or not come? Why is the son/daughter chatting for so long on the phone? What is the son watching on the net? Is the wife exceeding the monthly budget every time? Is the colleague/partner in office becoming a thorn in the flesh? You temporarily blank them off when you pray, or at least should. Then why not do the same while you practice music?

Now, you might say, I have to attend to numerous things in life. Music is not the only thing to do. How can they be neglected? Well, the guests have to be taken care of, the phone calls attended, what the son/daughter does is my concern (before it becomes a headache), and so is the monthly budget, or the colleague’s/partner’s actions in office. Surely, I cannot neglect them for music?

Who is telling you to? At least not me.

What do you do when you pray? You temporarily blank them off, for the 15-30 mins that you pray, don’t you? If you don’t blank them off, your prayer is just a ritual, not a communion between the individual soul and the supreme soul (which it is supposed to be). All I ask is the same concentration for 15-30 mins everyday for music, if you want your musical soul to establish communion with the Goddess of Music. All this, of course, if you agree music is like prayer. Well, if it is only one of many activities like eating, digesting, evacuating, chatting, gossiping, scheming, plotting, losing your temper- then, well, maybe you should not pray to the Goddess of Music. Maybe the Goddess of Music should pray for your deliverance!

-          Dr Ajai R.Singh



October, 2004

The President Speaks his Mind.....

How a Singer protects his voice

Some time back, I had the opportunity to meet the great singer Jagjit Singhji at his residence, where we spent a good two hours discussing various issues in music. We will probably discuss that some other time. But what was very interesting for me was that while the whole conversation was on, an electronic ‘tanpura’ was constantly droning in the background the sur Kali ek or c#. And, believe it or not, the maestro continued to speak also  in the same scale. So Kali ek was his sur, both in music and his speech (ofcourse he does sing in other scales as well). What was important was the fact that the note served as the base as much for his singing as his conversation, and somewhere deep down also for his consciousness. Morever Kali ek is the sur in which most classical singing is done by males, as Kali char or Ab is the sur for most females. So, if the note is there in the background, the singer musician-composer can allow the notes of music to flow out of his mind and throat many many times during the day. And establish instant communion with his musical soul.

Secondly, if the note is well suited to your voice, and if you also speak with that as your base, you preserve and protect your voice from many distortions and unnecessary injury that our daily discourse may unwittingly launch us into. Good quality singers always speak in low volumes, its their singing that speaks loudly for them. Some singers almost whisper when they speak. There are some singers who avoid any but the bare minimum of speech before a programme. That is because they want to preserve their voice for singing and riyaz which itself can be quite strennous for the voice. So, even if you have to  shout at the kids, or quarrel with your spouse, do so in the same Kali ek(males) or Kali char(females). It will help protect your voice. It will also help protect your relationship. Double benefit, at half the cost.

When I brought it to his attention as to why he had the electronic tanpura on, the maestro smiled and nodded happily. Atleast someone understood what it was all about. Else there are cynics who might believe he did it just to create an impression before visitors, or sponsors(well, who knows, says the critic in you, tongue firmly in cheek ! I know, I know).

It’s a good idea for a singer to have Kali ek or c# (for males ; or Eb if your voice is thinner), and Kali char or Ab (for females ; or Bb if you sing at a higher pitch) in your house, atleast in the room where you practice music, or your bedroom, or study room, and practice speaking also in that sur. Only see to it that if both of you are singing, let c# and Ab not become excuses for another fight !

Another precaution to protect your voice. If you have to sing high pitch songs, or where the rhythm is fast and the notes are high, and you feel there is a definite strain on your throat, please practice in a scale half to one note below the one you wish to present in the programme. For example, the song ‘Tareef karun kya uski’ has the original scale F. But if you sing  that song in that scale for even half an hour every day for a week before the programme, take it from me, your voice will konk off on the day of the programme. Even Rafiji would agree it would even happen to him. Practice in E or even Eb most of the days, and in F once in a day perhaps, just to get a feel of what it sounds like, and whether your voice can reach the higher notes with ease. May we also note here that it’s great if you can sing in the original scale. But it’s greater if you can sing in the scale that best suits your voice. For in trying to sing in the original scale, be careful that neither melody nor sur gets compromised. Morever, singing in your own scale best protects your voice from damage.

Another contrivance to protect your voice is the mike. It’s a good idea to sing into the mike even during your regular riyaz. It avoids strain on your voice, and reveals any defects that your voice may have. If it’s disturbing to the others at home or the neighborhood, you may use the earphones while using the mike. And invite the neighbours home for tea if they start missing the sound of your regular riyaz which disturbed them.

Some people have a rather delicate throat and easily compromised vocal chords. For them it’s a good idea to avoid spicy or oily foods, as well as items consumed directly from the  fridge, atleast one week before a programme. It’s wonderful to have your ice-cream or chilled beer after the programme rather than before it. And to have luke warm salt-water gargles before the programme. Otherwise your performance will get a luke warm response from the audience, if at all ; and they will start coming after taking salt-water gargles to shout you down. And you may be forced to take salt-water gargles after the programme by the ENT specialist.

So take care, folks.

Dr. Ajai R. Singh


Vol No 2

November 2004

The President Speaks his Mind.....

Sing in your own voice….

The God Almighty, in His infinite wisdom, has given a peculiar quality to every human being. His voice. It’s the pecularity of a person’s voice which makes you recognize it when you hear it over the phone, or the television, or in a movie, even when you don’t see the person. And just as the face identifies a person, so does his voice.

Now, ofcourse, you can improve upon, embellish, and modify your voice, as you can your face, and make both presentable.And you should. But your face remains your face, not somebody else’s. And if you start trying to modify it too much, like Michael Jackson did, you may find it difficult to recognise your own self. May be the individual who stares at you out of the mirror in the morning may question who you are. Quite disconcerting, to say the least.

Well, if it’s so with your face, it’s as much so with your voice. We know of people who suddenly change their voice trying to ape a British or an American accent, and realise how artificial the whole thing appears. Some well-wisher points it out that, well, you can develop the whole accent and be true to it, or just stay away. Don’t be a clone, and a poor copier at that. As an ad says ‘Stay true. Don’t blend in’.

The same applies to a singer. When we sing Mukesh or Hemant Kumar or Kishore Kumar or Talat Mehmood or Saigal or Manna Dey, we are unconsciously tempted to ape their voice pecularities as well. Ofcourse the intention is not dishonest. We want to create as much of a resemblance to the original master as is possible. This makes us feel good, makes our audiences appreciate us, and everyone is quite pleased in the bargain.

But somewhere down the line, the singer must stop being  pleased with himself for being able to do only this. Ofcourse there is nothing wrong in starting this way and continuing thus for a while. But he must take the conscious decision of sometime or the other stepping out of this mould. Just as a butterfly cannot fly if it continues to remain a caterpillar inside a cocoon, a singer cannot make his mark if he does not come out of an earlier singer’s shadow. Because it’s a shelter, true, and a lovely one at that; but one you must move out of to create your own small niche in the world of music. It’s like you have to move out of a rented house, however  comfortable, to experience the agony and ecstasy of owning your own. (But if you prefer to remain in a rented house all through your life, well atleast don’t live in the mistaken notion it’s your own).

All the greats have done it before you. (I mean moving into their own ‘homes’.) Lataji sang a few numbers like the great Noor Jehan, Mukeshji sang like the immortal Saigal. They did it because Noor Jehan and Saigal were icons of their times and had a great hold over singers even as great as these. But they quickly moved away, and moved on to develop their own distinctive style. And the rest is history.

You have to do the same sometime or the other. While you may admire the original singer and absolutely worship his rendition, you will, sooner or later, have to develop your own style of presenting his song. But before you do so, it’s a very good idea to present the song as true to the original singer’s presentation as possible. Having done that, and as your confidence in your abilities grows, your voice develops its own distinctive character, and you know what that character is. Then you must sing the song in your own voice, and stop being a copy of someone, howsoever great.

A singer worth his name has to take both these steps. First, being true to a great master. Then, departing, and being true to himself.

Many of us take only the first step, and continue taking only that step all through a life-time. Nothing seriously wrong in that. It’s only that you carry on walking with a stick when you know you can walk without one. It’s like continuing to read your school books even when you enter college or like continuing to drink nutritious baby foods even when you become an adult.

Nothing wrong with that. Or everything wrong with it.

When will you moult? Come out of your cocoon? Sing in the voice uniquely yours, God’s special gift to you? When will you actualize yourself?

As the poet has said,

Pyaar ka pehla khat likhne mein, waqt to lagta hai

Naye parindon ko udne mein, waqt to lagta hai

Ok. I know you are a naya-parinda. But it’s still lovely to fly with your own wings.

The whole wide blue sky is ready, waiting to welcome you with open arms.

When will you flutter your eager wings? And take the first plunge?

Because that will be a plunge into the depths of your own being. And a realisation of your consciousness.

I am waiting to see how many of my dear Swara-Sampadities flutter their wings and fly. And when. Till then, good-luck.

And when you do,  I will rise in my seat and applaud you.

Please give me that chance. And soon, if possible.

Dr. Ajai Singh



December 2004


The President Speaks his Mind.....

Stage Presence

Some people  are blessed with that elusive quality called stage presence. It’s that quality  which makes you drop whatever you are doing and hang on to every word or gesture they make when they are around. It’s that quality which makes you single them out and look at them even in a crowd. It’s that quality that makes you seek them out on stage and remain rivetted even when a number of others are performing. It’s the hush that falls in the audience when they speak or sing. It’s the adoring looks they get from others the spark that lights up in their eyes, and their lives, having seen or met such a person.

That’s presence.

Dilip Kumar has it. So does Amitabh Bacchan, Govinda and to an extent Shahrukh Khan and Rekha. Sanjay Dutt and Nana Patekar have it too. Shammi Kapoor had lots of it, as did DevAnand and also Madhubala and of course, Meena Kumari.

What makes some people have stage presence?

It’s rather difficult to analyse and pinpoint. But let’s try.

All these have one special quality. They are all originals. But that’s not all. They are very very graceful in whatever they do. That too is not all. They are fully immersed in whatever they do, not at all stage conscious. That also is not all. They are highly talented. Even that is not all.  They never sell themselves short. That also is important, but not all. They never indulge in petty activities or play bit roles. Well, that too is not all. They have a great sense of their own importance, but have learnt  to be down to earth and underplay it so they never become, or appear, conceited. Even that is not all. They know their strengths and shortcomings and play the game on their strengths and improve upon their shortcoming, but never,  never play their game on it. Even that is important, but not all. They have  great control over their body movements, and facial expression, and the way they walk, talk smile and  sing. They make you want to worship them for their qualities. They play larger than life roles, not only on stage but also in their personal lives. They do extraordinary acts, do not crumble under pressure like ordinary mortals. They survive and grow strong  through personal tragedies. Even if they succumb they leave a twinge of compassion, they wring your heart inside out. Like lady Diana did, or Meena Kumari, or even Madhubala, Marilyn Monroe and Guru Dutt did, as they left us in their hey days. But even that is not all.

So what’s it then?

Well, let’s try and define it, although we may fall short of capturing its essence and leave much more to the imagination.

It’s all these qualities we mentioned earlier put together in the crucible of time and stirred by the handle of destiny.

That statement leaves you feeling stunned. Well, it stunned we when it came to my mind.

But let’s come to more practical consideration.

Can you have stage presence?

Yes, you can .

Can you cultivate it?

Yes, indeed.


Now that’s a million dollar question, but let me try and answer. Firstly you have to be yourself. Secondly you have  to be good in it. Thirdly you have to be way above others in it. Fourthly, you have to give up your complexes, your diffidence, your self-doubts.  Fifthly, you have to cultivate and nurture a positive self image in your mind before you can present it to others. Sixthly you must rise above petty bickering and small talk, stop bitching and poisonous gossiping. Finally you have to project and maintain a positive  self image in a group  which loves your image. Then you start developing a presence. When you come in  front of such a group on stage, you start developing that elusive quality called stage presence.

It’s not easy if you analyse it. But if you go ahead and strive for excellence in whatever you do, it comes. That’s it then. In three short words:

 Strive for excellence.

The presence, stage presence included, follows.

And if you desire a stage presence on the stage of life, well then the mantra is in the form of three short three letter sentences.

1)   Strive for excellence.

2)   Be a fighter.

3)   Be an original.

Take up as much as you can digest out of these.

But being a Swara Sampadite wanting to make his/her mark on stage, start with the first atleast.

Somewhere down the line, the strength and motivation to do the other two will follow

All the very best.

-          Dr. Ajai R. Singh



January, 2005

The President Speaks his Mind.....

-          Music. A Pastime or The Rhythm of Life


I know most of you are proud to say music is your favourite hobby. And I also know for some of you it has become the only hobby. I know it has added so much meaning to life, and to the joy of living itself. It has helped forge so many family friendships, become your favourite topic of conversation, made you aware what you missed out in life uptil now but won’t any longer. And a host of other such lovely realizations.

While all these are very important in themselves, I want to start with the very first, in which we found you proudly proclaim music as your favourite hobby, or pastime. Which is no doubt a great thing to happen. And let’s thank God it has. But, now ask yourself this question too: is it only a pastime, just a way to pass the time, to keep an idle mind occupied, to while away time? Or is it your means to find meaning and purpose to your very existence?

This is a crucial question to ask, and I am sure some day or the other you will, if you have not done so already. Music is not just fun. That it is, but much more. It is not just a means of relaxation for today’s stressed individuals. That too it is, but much more. It is not just a lovely means of self-expression, to make the whole wide world aware of your talent and nod in approval, if not sing and dance to it. That too it surely is, but much more. Let me say what it is in essence. It is the very foundation of good living, the very basis of a life led well. Let me explain.

What is a good life? It’s a life lived in harmony with others, in rhythm with your inner being, in tune with society, in tempo or laya with your goals. Harmony, rhythm, tune, laya are integral to good music. If, therefore, you understand and capture the essence of good music, you will some day also capture the essence of a good life, and hopefully, the very purpose of existence, at least in some measure, if not fully.

Such is my fervent wish and earnest desire for you. That when you sing, let your mind establish communion with your soul. That your voice, your sur, become the very expression of your inner being. That you some day transcend your technical concerns with sur, tala, laya, composition, metre, and get yourself tuned with the divinity waiting patiently within you to log in to you.

How long further will you make it wait?

How long will it take for the realization that music is not just to remain a pastime, but a means to establish such a rhythm in life as makes your mind and body, your whole outer being, establish communion with your inner being, your very soul.

 Let the New Year bring in this realization for you, friends.

Happy   2005.

Dr. Ajai Singh

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