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Sargam Articles [Contd] 2006

This is the final collection in the series 'The President speaks his mind' published in Sargam, the official bulletin of Swara Sampada



Sargam Jan 2006

The President Speaks His Mind


26th February 2006 Beckons


Those of you who sang on the last Annual Day of Swara Sampada in February 2005 (remember?) would also recount the hard work and effort that had gone into staging the whole show. You will also recollect the grand manner all of you had risen to the occasion and given a rousing performance; and also helped each other in making the programme a huge success (never mind some flaws – tell me where there are none?).


The Annual Day is near. Sunday morning, 26th February 2006. That’s the day when you will perform on the Kalidas Stage once again. When your friends and relatives from near and far will come to cheer you and congratulate you. You must put your best foot forward. This one-year, 2005 to 2006, has seen a number of you mature and take important strides ahead in your musical odyssey. I have enjoyed being with you and seeing you blossom in your singing. It has all been worth the effort.


The big occasion calls for big efforts. Please note the following points:


  1. Select a song well within your capacity. Don’t experiment with things on the big stage. Play safe. The time to experiment will also come. But as of today, wait. Your song should be one, which you can sing if woken up even in the middle of the night, with scale etc by heart.
  2. Do not take your audience for granted. They will want the very best from you. Try to entertain without getting into any cheap tricks (I am sure you wont). Give off your very best. The practice 100 times test is invaluable in this connection.
  3. Get your friends and relatives for the show. Inform them well in advance so they make their arrangements. Ring them up to reconfirm. They will be your greatest admirers and cheerers in the programme. You need them, as much as they need the fun.
  4. Help each other in preparation. Most friendships are forged, and consolidated, during such joint efforts. Many may break down too because of ill feeling, narrow-mindedness and conceit. Please rise above your narrow self-interest and work for the group, and your fellow Swara-Sampadites.
  5. Be easy to manage, and fun to be with. Do not sulk and be grumpy over each and every thing. In a big programme not everyone can be satisfied. Provided the intention is not bad, learn to forgive and forget. Remember, we are on this journey together for a long long time. Maybe till we live. Why not smile and enjoy it, rather than sulk and complain all the time?
  6. Learn to be appreciative of others’ efforts, and singing. There is no better tonic than a genuine compliment or word of praise. There is no worse poison than a nasty remark carelessly thrown, which can smart today and keep hurting for years.
  7.  Get into group practice, where you can listed to each other, and make constructive suggestions for improvement. Remember, it’s your individual performance, but a joint show. A chain is actually as strong as its weakest link. We want even the weakest to become strong enough. So if you are strong, help the weak. But if you are weak, do not feel bad to take help from the strong.
  8. The fragrance of a joint effort like this should last long after the event is over. The fragrance is collective. We are a bouquet of flowers. Learn to add your own special fragrance to the bouquet, but do not try to become the only or overpowering fragrance. And always, always be very careful that your fragrance never becomes a stench because of self-interest, greed, backbiting and malice. The programme will end, but its flavour, sweet or sour, will remain. See that it is sweet always.
  9. On the day of the programme itself, be very alert but prayerful. Feel happy so many will come to listen to you and cheer you. Develop a rapport of hearts with them. They are not just people. They are your audience who have spared of their Sunday rest and other engagements to come and listen to you. Be genuinely thankful to them, from the depths of your heart. Sing the best for them. And after the whole thing is over, be prayerful to God Almighty for giving you this opportunity to once again have a communion of souls which music essentially is.
  10.  Practice. Practice. Practice. There is no short cut to success. And Success truly is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Success is not all about luck. For I have often seen that the harder one works, the luckier one gets.


All the very best. And God Bless. I am waiting to congratulate you after the show.


Ajai Singh

28 Jan 2006








Sargam May 2006

The President Speaks His Mind


What Music Means To Me



Well, one can go on and on about how music is divine, a means to tune in to the consciousness within or to establish communion with one’s inner being, to listen to the harmony of the spheres, to experience calm and bliss, to enjoy with like minded friends, to converse with the great masters of yore, to establish a rhythm of life, to express one’s creativity and give vent to one’s artistic urges. And one would not be far from some profound truths if one does.


My concerns are somewhat more mundane here.


For me, music arouses a myriad of memories. Some of the most tender, and most fulfilling. Besides being important landmarks in whatever little variety that adorns my musical life. I shall list here two formative, defining, influences. One is of my father, the second of my guru. To tune in to them, to actualize the nuances of their performance and reaffirm their ideas about music is the greatest activity that I can possibly perform. And the most fulfilling. That, in essence, is what music means to me.


Here, I shall talk of the first influence.


The First Influence, Father


My earliest memories of music are of my father’s singing. A maverick of sorts, a man of modest means, who would go out of his way to help others, who enjoyed the good life but had a peculiar contempt for the obsession with money and wealth he found around him. He would get into a mood and sing in his rich baritone voice for hours on end, to no one in particular. He was a great fan of the legendary K.L. Sehgal, and contemporaries Pankaj Mullick and K.C. Dey, and a great appreciator of Talat Mehmood, and later on of M. Rafi too. He was one who voiced his opinion in the 60s that he preferred Asha Bhonsale’s voice to Lataji’s because he found her more versatile. This, at a time when Lataji ruled the musical world, and the only person who ever gave a chance to Ashaji to sing was the great O.P.Nayyar. He enjoyed singing new numbers of Ashaji in his rich baritone, almost like Sehgal singing Ashaji’s songs. And while we smiled and felt embarrassed, he carried on regardless. The voice still rings in my ear, the song of a man who sang from the heart, whose voice emoted every word that escaped his lips.


He also had a great sense of poetry. He went to great lengths to explain the subtleties and nuances of the lyrics of a song, and got into the skin of the poet to understand what the poetry conveyed. The first poetry he taught me was a lovely poem by the great English poet Henry Longfellow, which I have by heart:


Lives of great men all remind us

We can make our lives sublime

And departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time.


Footprints that perhaps another

Sailing o’er life’s solemn main

A forlorn, or ship wrecked brother

Seeing, shall take heart again.


He explained the meaning of the lovely metaphor, ‘Footprints on the sands of time’. He explained what ‘o’er’ meant, that it was a poet’s license for the word ‘over’, so as to help in the recitation. What the word ‘main’ meant (it means the sea). How can life be a ‘solemn main’ for some. Why the ‘forlorn or ship wrecked brother’ sentence. How, when the footprints on the sands are seen, it gives courage to the despondent to take heart and carry on without losing hope. And how, finally, and this was the most important lesson he taught, we should all try to lead our life so that we leave our impress, howsoever small, ‘on the sands of time’.


To the tiny, impressionable mind, it was an ennobling experience to hear him expound so effortlessly on the meaning of the poetry. He did not have to persuade me very hard to learn it by heart. Having understood its profound meaning, I was myself motivated to learn it. The incident that follows is noteworthy. I must be in the VII or VIII standard. Once the teacher had not come for her class. One of the office staff, a learned senior who had a very good handwriting, came to engage the class. He asked the students to come to the black board and write anything, in the best hand possible. The usual hesitation amongst students was noticeable. Friends egged me on. I just went to the black board, took the chalk piece, and wrote out Longfellow’s poetry quoted above. Just like that. The class gaped in wonder, but what I still remember is the open mouthed look of wonder and awe on the wise man’s face. He was nonplussed. Gathering his wits, he asked almost in a whisper, ‘Who taught you this?’ And I was proud to say, ‘My father, sir.’ The look of admiration on his face for the man who could teach such a lovely poetry to his son at so tender an age, a poetry not in any syllabus and not for any exam but just for the love of poetry itself, that look is still etched in my mind as one of the fondest memories of my childhood.


What applied to English poetry was equally applicable to his music. He could never sing a song just for the music, or for cheap thrills. The meaning had to be heart touching. Then the music had to be soul stirring too. And, finally, the rendition by the singer had to convey the sense of the poetry and the mood of the music. Any disparity, and it would jar him, which he was quick to realize, and point out.


The First Song, of Childhood, and the Farewell Number


For me, the greatest moment in my life was the first Hindi song he taught me, which I, like so many youngsters, was so very reluctant to learn. When a tiny tot. He sat me one day and said, ‘I will teach you a song of childhood’. And proceeded to teach me:


O, bachpan ke din bhula na dena…’


 Just remembering him sing in his baritone gets the eyes to cloud over even today. In grateful thanks for the great childhood he gave me, and the immortal gift of aesthetics and music appreciation that has been an enduring aspect of my personality.


I had never seen him refer to any book for the words of a song. We did not even have a radio at home. I just wondered how he mastered the words so well. And then I knew. The true appreciator of poetry that he was, the words left an indelible impression on his heart. For it to flow from there to his tongue was, therefore, effortless.


I heard him sing for hours, into the wee hours of the morning at times, without any accompaniment, to no one, for no applause, simply because music welled up in him. He often urged me to sing with him but I was like any typical shy son, imbibing the music, but not adding my voice to his.


There was a traditional farewell function as we were to leave school. College beckoned, and all the excitement of being a young man, and being no longer treated as a mere kid. That was the time he suggested a song. He did not force it on me but said, see if you would like to sing this song. This was the second song he taught the shy reluctant teenager. It was a long forgotten melody even in his time, ‘Ruk na sako to jao, tum jao...’ It goes like this:


Ruk na sako to jaao, tum jaao (Repeat)

Ek magar hum sabki hai fariyaad

Kabhi hamari bhi kar lena yaad   (Repeat both lines)

Hum to tumhe na bhool sakenge (Repeat)

Tum chahe bisarao, tum jaao…

Ruk na sako to jao, tum jao….


Jane kab phir mile purana saathi

Jane kab phir mile prem ki paati (Repeat both lines)

Aj bichadne se pahele tum (Repeat)

Ek bar muskao, tum jao…

Ruk na sako to jao, tum jao…


He explained that ‘paati’ meant a letter; it was a poetic license for ‘patra’, and what poetic license meant. He also explained that the original singer said, ‘bichudne’ rather than ‘bichadne’. But the latter sounds better, so it should be pronounced that way, rather than like the original. Even when he sang the Sehgal numbers, he never copied his style and his intense nasal twang. His pronounciation of words was always impeccable. This was an important lesson to learn, for often later singers ape even the mistakes of the original singer, something he strongly disapproved of.


I remember the still silence in my class room in the 11th Standard when I sang this song during the farewell function. The class mates were stunned. After I finished, there was silence for a while, and then the applause of friends. I came to know later that our School Principal had tears in her eyes as I sang.


This was a number by K.C.Dey, the illustrious uncle of the great Manna Dey. It was not a very popular song, ever. But that was not important for him. His likes were never dictated by what was popular. It was solely by what appealed to his heart. And he justified singing as an art where, if the song does not tug at your heart, you have no business singing it.


He had a great fascination for melodious sad songs. He sang the beautiful Talat song to explain why he liked them:


Hain sabse madhur woh geet jinhe

Hum dard ke sur mein gaate hain (Repeat)

Jab had se ghuzar jaati hai khushi

Aansoo bhi chalak ke aate hain (Repeat)


And the Shelley poetry on the Skylark, which said something similar:


Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts.


For the young me that was an important lesson to learn. It helped shape my likes and dislikes at that impressionable age. At a time when the young were busy thinking of cheap thrills and seeking joy through singing only foot tapping numbers, I learnt that pain, separation, and unhappiness could be equally soothing if expressed in music and song. A conviction, which remains with me till date. Not that I abhor the joyous and mirthful, but the depth and intensity that pathos can convey cannot be ever matched by any mirth, howsoever lilting.



Urdu Diction, and Subtleties of the Language


The correct pronunciation of Urdu words, in which most filmi ghazals and other good songs of yester years were written, was a sine qua non of Hindi film singing for him. So that I could know the language, he requested a polished Muslim gentleman who used to visit our house almost every Sunday to teach me the language. This young man had been helped by my daddy to complete his education. He came from a very poor family but wanted to study further. Somehow my daddy came to know of him, and helped him all through so he settled down to a reasonable job. His logic was, well, we Hindus complain that Muslims are in general a violent lot; many are uneducated, and live in dirt and filth. But what do we do to uplift them? So he did his bit for this boy, who was ever grateful to him. The young man, after his marriage, came home one day and sought his blessings. He spoke impeccable Urdu. The Dilip Kumar and Naushad style of Urdu. My daddy welcomed him and invited him to come over whenever he desired. Sundays were the days this young man came, and we all ate special mutton dishes cooked exclusively by my daddy.


One day, the young man said, ‘ You have done so much for me. What can I do in return?’ My daddy was nonplussed. He was not used to taking any return of favours from anyone. He only knew how to give, not to take. He said something like that’s ok, I am so happy you thought of doing something, etc. But the young man was adamant. So he thought for some time and then said, ‘Ok, if you are so insistent, do this. My son is bright in studies. But I want him to sing too. And unless one knows good Urdu, one cannot sing. Will you teach him Urdu?’


He was more than willing. Books were bought and my first lessons in Urdu were started. The correct pronunciations of guttural words, which are a characteristic of the beautiful language, I learnt from this patient gentleman. How ‘saghar’ is not ‘sagar’, how ‘qayamat’ is not ‘kayamat’, how ‘gham’ is not ‘gum’, how ‘phool’ is not ‘fool’, when it is ‘afsana’ and when is it ‘phir’ and not ‘fir’, how it is ‘mujhe’ and never ‘muzhe’, how it is ‘nazaaqat’ and not ‘hajaakat’ – all these subtleties of the language I was fortunate to learn at an early age. And I owe a deep debt of gratitude to both these souls, my daddy for teaching me the nuances of singing, and his protégé for introducing me to the delicacies of the beautiful language that Urdu is.


(To be concluded)










Sargam June 2006

The President Speaks His Mind


The Mangeshkar Phenomenon


This month, as you are aware, all Swara Sampadites will be singing songs originally rendered by any one from the Mangeshkar family.


Talent is an understatement when we look at the music that has flown from this family. Whether it be the phenomenon called Lata, or the versatility of Asha, or even the occasional crooning of Usha and their brother Hridaynath, the space in the world of music that this family occupies is truly phenomenal. And justifiably so.


Their father, the late Dinanath Mangeshkar, was a great singer in his own right whom the world of music was unfortunate to lose rather early. His singing on the Marathi stage, as well as the few recordings still present, attest to the robust control he had over his voice, which has passed to his children, most notably Ashaji.


Some observations I would like to share about the two sisters here.


Lataji was blessed with a very fresh and tender voice. It enchanted the connoisseurs straight away. With the passage of time, the voice mellowed, became shriller later, and now it is slowly but surely losing it charm. I only hope she realizes it and stops professional singing before people stop listening to her new songs.


Ashaji, on the other hand, was blessed with a rather shrill voice, which mellowed and flowered dramatically with time and the influence of music directors like O.P. Nayyar and R.D.Burman. The great hold over sur that she exercises is a treat to listen to even today. It is not without reason that the great Ghulam Ali chose to sing with her rather than Lataji in Meraj-e-Ghazal. And she has matched his virtuosity at all levels. The same cannot be said about Lataji’s singing with Jagjit Singh in Sajda. I have no doubt that if and when a cassette of Jagjitji with Ashaji materializes, she will match him too. In fact she may even overshadow some of the greats.


Lataji was lucky right from the start. The best songs from the best music directors came her way. Ashaji, on the contrary, had a stormy personal life, and was typed as a sensuous singer, fit for kothewali type songs, or cabaret numbers, or the O.P.Nayyar type tunes. She struggled on gamely, and is today truly an icon of versatility and virtuosity.


Hridaynath, their brother, is extremely talented as a music composer, and also has a voice to reckon with.


As Swara Sampadites sing their numbers, let them also thank them for the great treasure of music they have gifted mankind, and pray to God to give them a long and peaceful life.


Ajai Singh

16 June 2006





Sargam Aug 2006

The President Speaks His Mind


What Music Means To Me- III (Guruji's Influence)


Readers may remember I wrote some time back that for me music means to articulate and present the essence of music and its nuances as I got it, and learnt it, from two important influences in my life. One, my father, who taught me, by example and precept, what emotive singing was. The second, my most revered Guruji, Shri Vinayak Kunte, at whose feet I imbibed whatever little I know of Hindustani classical singing.


Guruji from the quintessential teacher. Simple tastes, uncomplicated life style, no craving for fame or fortune. His greatest love was his tanpura. I remember the love with which he cradled the fortunate instrument to his heart as he tuned her, and then sang holding her so close to his self. And how the instrument responded to his gentle strumming. The sweet, melodious, well trained voice, and the well tuned tanpura. Just the two sounds in his simple abode filled my mind with the divinity which music can arouse in the earnest seeker.

I remember one early morning when Guruji was teaching me raga Lalit. It’s an early morning raga, just before sunrise, and the feeling is, it is meant to usher in the day, and the sunrise, whilst remembering how shallow are the mundane preoccupations that bog down the ordinary mortals that we are.

The tanpura held to his heart, he was teaching me the raga. I followed the intricacies of the swaras in the raga, the way the two madhyams were to be combined, and the way the komal rishab was to be touched while descending to the sa. Both of us were absolutely immersed in the intricacies of the raga as it unfolded around us, and engulfed us. The room was full of the divine sound that emanated from two mortals, divine not because of us, but because the raga was being rendered in its purest form by a guru, and a disciple who was trying his level best to just follow what his guruji taught. And as the two of us were immersed in the sublime sounds, I gently opened my eyes. I distinctly remember, the shining first rays of sunlight entered Guruji’s room and fell close to his feet. The rays were blessed to be welcomed in the house of such a noble soul, whose whole existence, whose very persona represented the purest from of music, classical music. Whose very raison de etre (purpose of existence), was to experience, and expound for the welfare of his students, the purest of music in its most sublime form.


Caring for Students


I started learning classical music from him during my medical internship. It was possible for me to visit his house then. Invariably, he was seated waiting for me, with the tanpura ready, before I arrived. In case I was delayed, I could hear guruji already expounding the raga, with eyes closed, the tanpura tugged close to his heart. It gets the eyes misty to just remember the pure soul singing. I would often just sit, listening in raptures, to the smooth and gentle expounding that he did. His languorous alapi flowed effortlessly, and the cascading taans later shook his nimble frame, but never a whisker of being out of tune. Ever.

Then came House Physician’s posts. I had to stay in the RMO quarters. At KEM Hospital . How was music to continue now? I told sir about the difficulty. He did not think even for a moment. My days were Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3.30 to 4.30 in the afternoons. He said, ‘Me yenar tumhala shikwaila.’ (I will come there to teach you.) I was dumbfounded. The reason he gave once, ‘Doctarancha chukla nai pahije’ (Doctor should not miss his music lessons.)

What was that unique bond of music that made him do it? He could see the sincerity of the student, perhaps. He could see that a doctor was trying to do music. There should be no obstacle of any type in his way. And for that, the great gentle soul traveled nearly an hour by train, and walked 15 mins by foot to reach my hostel. And I do not remember him being late even for a single day, or missing the day for any reason. I would get delayed at times, working in the Wards, or handling an emergency. But he was always there, on time, the tanpura tuned, hugged close to his heart, and already singing. I cannot help the misting of the eyes just thinking of what all he did for me. This was for one full year, at KEM, and it continued for two years and one month when I was at Sion Hospital .

And not once did guruji grumble, or talk of the hassle, or ever ask the fee be raised for all the efforts he was taking.

Where do we get divine souls like this any longer?

But I learnt. Two important things. One, the nuances of flawless rendition. Second, and more importantly, to go out of your way to help someone else actualize his musical quest. To never allow any obstacle to come in the way of the flowering of music in anyone who came in contact with one.

I was blessed to learn it first hand from my guruji.


Flawless Rendition


This is something I learnt the real painstaking way from him. There was to be no compromise on the perfect rendition of a raga. Not one blemish was tolerable. Even the alapi and taans had to be rendered the way he did. If an extra sur was added, and was part of the raga, he would say, ‘Tumcha chukla nahin. Pun me gheto tasa ghya.’ (It’s not that you have erred. But do it my way and see how it feels.) It was irritating at times, for the logical mind that I had, I thought why should he object to a variation which was true to the raga. But after I had, in fact, got rid of my resistance, and actually rendered it the way he taught, I could really find that it was a more melodious and better presentation.


His persistence was well worth it.


Secondly, and much more importantly, he could never tolerate any besur, singing out of tune. He would spend any amount of exasperating time to get the perfect sur. He would not proceed ahead unless it was mastered. If it took the whole session to get one to sing in tune, so be it. But in that, there was no compromise. And when the perfect sur was attained after the entire struggle, the tanpura’s sur vibrating in harmony with the vocal chords created a sublime atmosphere. Often, we only had sessions of alapi stretching for whole sessions. No taans, no taal, no nothing. Just the pristine sound. To realize that human sound, rendered as music, indeed was sublime.


A Final Word


Such, indeed, was the Presence I was blessed to learn at the feet of. For me, music has no meaning if it does not embody the essence of music as my guruji taught me. No compromise on hard work. No compromise on sur. Never to allow any other considerations except the pure pursuit of music to vitiate any relationship connected with music. To hug the sublime sounds that emanate from a gentle, simple soul, as also to hug the sublime sounds that emanate from a pure instrument like the tanpura, close very close to the heart. To live a simple uncomplicated life, immersed in music and the love and affection of like minded others.

That’s what music has come to mean to me. That’s what will always remain, whether we mortals remain or not.

My guruji’s music lives on, within me, and through me passes on to so many around me. His mortal presence may not be there around. But the immortal gift of music he so benevolently passed on to me, without holding back, ever, that is one of the fondest memories I shall carry till the very end of my existence.

To continue to live in, and through music, and to carry forward the selfless pursuit of music, and pass it on to others, this is what music means to me, now and always.


Dr. Ajai Singh

13 Aug 2006










Sargam July 2006

The President Speaks His Mind



How To Do Riyaz



  1. Prayer: Riyaz is like prayer. Switch yourself off all other activities. Don’t attend phones, guests, keep chatting on nonmusical matters at riyaz time. Do not practice when you really do not have the time, or inclination, for it. Those few moments are meant exclusively for music, and let them be so earmarked, preferably every day. How long, well, it is up to you. Just like prayer.
  2. Warm-up: Always allow some time for your voice to get warmed up for the practice. For that it’s a good idea to hum and hold on to lower notes for a few moments/minutes before going on to the real song/raga. Ideally, the Sa, and 2-3 notes around it are the best to warm up the voice. Sa-Re-Ga, and/or Sa-Ne-Dha combinations are good to start with, unless the raga doesn’t have them, in which case the appropriate 2-3 notes should be used for warming up. For males the Sa usually is Csharp, for females Aflat. A harmonium or any instrument by which you can get your Sa is useful here.
  3. Food: Never practice on a full or an empty stomach. The full stomach interferes with proper rendering and may cause burping while you practice at important notes. The empty stomach will deflect your attention to the food. Just enough to make you comfortable is the key. Avoid fried spicy foods and chilled drinks before practice. All irritants to the vocal cords are to be avoided before practice. Because practice perfects the voice but also irritates the vocal cords, even if it pleases the mind.
  4. Start: Always start with songs that have lower notes and then go on to high pitch ones. This is to prevent sudden strain on the vocal cords and prevent them from cracking in the long run.
  5. Humming: It is a very good way to start the riyaz of any song/raga with humming. It gets both the voice and the mind tuned to the task ahead.
  6. Accompaniments: It is a desirable to have a source of melody (e.g. harmonium) and if possible, rhythm (e.g. tabla/dholak) with you while practicing. Also, a recording device and earphones with a mike to listen to your own voice/singing are useful accompaniments. A recording of the original singer for version singing is equally useful.
  7. Listening to the original singer: After having practiced the song a couple of times, it is a useful to listen to the original singer to confirm you are not making any obvious mistakes. Mistakes, when practiced over and over again, become very difficult to erase later. They are better not allowed to creep in at the formative stage.
  8. Learning the song by heart: It is a very good idea to have the song written in your song book (You must have a special song book, not practice holding bits of paper you misplace and get frantic about later.). If you listen to the song a number of times, understand its meaning and not only its manner of singing, sing at least 15 times without looking at the book, and over three days (not just one day), you can have the song by heart.
  9. Practice earlier numbers: Always brush up on old songs at every riyaz. Suppose you have 30 mins with you for actual practice after the 5 min warm up. Practice 2-3 earlier songs for 8-10 mins, and devote the rest of the time for the new one.
  10. How long does it take to practice a new song: In general, you will take 20-30 mins to get the first real feel of a song. In that, half the time is spent in listening, and the rest in writing it down and singing. You will not get the feel of a song without singing it at least 3-4 times. Similarly, with another one. So, if you plan 1 song, spare 30 mins, if 2 songs spare 1 hour, and so on. This is an average figure. Difficult songs may need much more time.
  11. Repeat practice: Always repeat the practice of a new song once after 12 hours, second after 24 hours, and third after 7 days, to allow the song to be transferred from your short term memory to the long term one. It is only what is in your long-term memory that can be retrieved when you need it. And need it you will, when you get on stage with your heart in your voice, your eyes at the audience rather than dug into the paper or the music book.
  12. Suggestions from listeners: If possible, have someone with a good ear for music listen to you sing before you perform on stage. Listen to his/her suggestions carefully, and carry out improvements in your riyaz before coming on state. But do not get disheartened by comments. In any case, do not have negative and devastating commentators around. After a performance, do listen to constructive feedback, and be ready to work over it during riyaz.
  13. The 100 times test: Do not perform on stage unless you have performed the 100 times test I have outlined earlier.
  14. Pray: Finally, it is a very good idea to start your riyaz, and also end it, with a prayer, either sung or recited. If sung, the song will become perfect. If recited, it is a reminder to you that music is also one way to establish communion with the divinity around, and the soul within.


This is with my good wishes to you on the Guru Poornima celebrations of Swara Sampada for which we have assembled today.


Dr Ajai R. Singh

14 July 2006



Dr. Ajai Singh M.D.,







Sargam Sept 2006


Music As A Therapeutic Agent


I was asked to deliver a guest lecture at the Annual Conference of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Orissa State Branch, on Sunday, 10 Sept 2006, on the above-mentioned topic. Here are some excerpts from the talk.


The connection between active music making and the functioning of the brain and the body has been the subject of intense scientific investigation. Researchers have uncovered evidence that making music helps young people develop their brains, helps students perform better in a variety of academic areas and promotes wellness in older people. 

 Now, research adds the prospect of disease fighting to the mix.


Music Helps Young People Develop Their Brains


After nine months of weekly training in piano or voice, new research shows young students' IQs rose nearly three points more than their untrained peers.


The Canadian study lends support to the idea that musical training may do more for kids than simply teach them their scales--it exercises parts of the brain useful in mathematics, spatial intelligence and other intellectual pursuits. 

 “With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved--such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords--the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect," said study author E. Glenn Schellenberg, of the University of Toronto at Mississauga. Schellenberg offered 12 Toronto-area 6-year-olds free weekly voice or piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music, described by Schellenberg as Canada's "most prestigious music conservatory."

w   Building upon the pioneering work of Dr. Frances Rauscher, psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, a recent study at the University of Munster in Germany revealed that practicing the piano in early childhood expands the mind, literally altering the anatomy of the brain.


   In the study, conducted by Drs. Christo Pantev, Larry Roberts and Almut Engelien, researchers examined images of the auditory brain regions of 20 trained musicians and 13 non-musicians, all of whom were in their 20’s. The musicians had played instruments for 15 to 21 years and now practiced 10 to 40 hours a week. When piano notes were played to both groups, the response to the piano sounds was 25 percent higher in the musician group.


According to Dr. Rauscher, musical training, specifically piano instruction appears to dramatically enhance a child’s abstract thinking skills and spatial-temporal ability – skills necessary for mathematics and science – even more than computer instruction does. The combination of these scientific findings, plus ongoing research into the field, continues to point to one conclusion: music has an obvious impact on the brain and should be supported and encouraged in early childhood education.


What Parents Should Know:

1. Kids are ready to begin making music even earlier than you may think. Before then, there are benefits to just listening. Hearing music stimulates the mind, improves the mood and brings people together.


2. A study at the University of California at Irvine demonstrated that young kids who participated in music instruction showed dramatic enhancements in abstract reasoning skills. In fact, researchers have found neural firing patterns that suggest that music may hold the key to higher brain function.


3. Research at McGill University in Montreal, Canada showed that grade-school kids who took music lessons scored higher on tests of general and spatial cognitive development, the abilities that form the basis for performance in math and engineering.


4. Kids who make music have been shown to get along better with classmates and have fewer discipline problems. More of them get into their preferred colleges, too.


 5. Playing a musical instrument strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills, and kids who study an instrument learn a lot about discipline, dedication and the rewards of hard work.


6. Just listening to music can fill a home with joy and add an extra dimension to kids' lives. People who make their own music enjoy these benefits many times over.



What Parents Can Do

1. Make music a part of your home.


2. Expose your children to different types of music. Go to musical events, listen to the radio, enjoy musical performances on television, play CDs — there are lots of ways to explore the world of music.


3. Make music as a family. Maybe you're an accomplished musician with a gift to pass on to your kids; or maybe you can pass a rainy day making your own instruments out of coffee cans, broomsticks or water glasses. It's fun either way.


4. Encourage and support your children when they become interested in playing an instrument.


5. If you are a musician in your own right, be a model for your children. If you're not, you can learn together!



Promote Wellness In Older People

w    Scientific Study Indicates That Music Making Makes The Elderly Healthier. Significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and loneliness resulted following Keyboard lessons

w    A breakthrough study demonstrates that group keyboard lessons given to older Americans significantly improved anxiety, depression, and loneliness scores – three factors that are critical in coping with stress, stimulating the immune system, and improving health. (Dr. Frederick Tims, Ph.D., MT-BC, Chair of Music Therapy at Michigan State University assembled a highly respected multi-disciplinary team of researchers to conduct the project. Joining in the project were specialists from the Aging Institute at the University of South Florida; the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami School of Medicine; Karolinska Medical Institute, Stockholm, Sweden; University of Miami; and Western Michigan University).



Fighting Disease


w   Music Therapy Increases Serum Melatonin Levels In Patients With Alzheimer's Disease ( Published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Volume 5, Number 6, November 1999)


w    Melatonin concentration in serum increased significantly after music therapy and was found to increase further at 6 weeks follow-up. A significant increase was found between baseline values and data recorded after the music therapy sessions as well as at 6 weeks follow-up.


w    Increased levels of melatonin following music therapy may have contributed to patients' relaxed and calm mood.



Scientific Findings Show That Music Making Increases Human Growth Hormone Among Active Older Americans

w     A breakthrough study demonstrates that group keyboard lessons given to older Americans had a significant effect on increasing levels of human growth hormone (hGH). Human growth hormone is implicated in such aging phenomena as osteoporosis, energy levels, wrinkling, sexual function, muscle mass, and aches and pains. This announcement follows the release of findings from the same study of Tims et al that showed significant decreases in anxiety, depression and loneliness — three factors that are critical in coping with stress, stimulating the immune system, and improving health.



Music Therapy Helps In


 w    Alzheimer’s Disease

w    The Effect of Reminiscence Music Therapy Sessions on Changes in Depressive Symptoms in Elderly Persons with Dementia

w    The Effects of Music Therapy on the Quality and Length of Life of People Diagnosed with Terminal Cancer

w    Hospice

w    Autism

w    Pathological Grief

w    Relaxing Music Prevents Stress-Induced Increases in Subjective Anxiety, Systolic Blood Pressure, and Heart Rate in Healthy Males and Females

w    Background Music And Quality Of Sleep

w    The Impact of Group Singing on Mood, Coping, and Perceived Pain in Chronic Pain Patients Attending a Multidisciplinary Pain Clinic




What Happens


w     For people with Alzheimer's Disease and other Dementias music, especially familiar songs, unlocks memories; participation in music improves communication, overcomes withdrawal.

w     ˇ For people with Parkinson's Disease and other movement disorders, moving to music helps improve gait, balance and range of motion.

w     ˇ For people with Traumatic Injuries, music-assisted physical therapy improves gross and fine motor functioning, coordination, and visual and auditory perception.

w    For people who have had a Stroke, musically assisted speech is used to treat non-fluent aphasia, one of the most common speech disorders following stroke.

w    ˇ For people with Acute and Chronic Pain, music therapy provides relief, induces relaxation and eases anxiety.

w    For people with Depression, music is a powerful modality for connecting to feelings, expressing thoughts, and overcoming isolation.


Dr Ajai R. Singh













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