Monday, November 28, 2005

Pilgrim of the swara

Remembering Dr Raghava Menon
RENUKA NARAYANAN Friday, The Indian Express October 19, 2001
Dr Raghava Menon, one of India’s best-known music critics, died last Tuesday in New Delhi. We younger ones in the field of art have good reason to remember him with affection. His manner was always affable and he gave gladly of his knowledge of Indian and Western classical music to anyone who asked. At many concerts and musical gatherings, Dr Raghava Menon would always share little gems of insight and information. We often got into a little huddle and had marvelous chats about music. When I began to write on religion and spirituality, he said several kind things, especially how quirky it was that a ‘party girl’ in jeans kept finding God in music and dance. He was amused that my audio and visual did not tally.
It was he who first told me that Indian classical music was believed to be the surest pathway to God, for it compounded the Ashta Seva or Eight Services that a true devotee must perform. We reveled in the thought that Guru Nanak, a musician, founded a religion in which music is the medium of worship. Dr Menon preferred Hindustani to Carnatic music, which fact I lamented because each had such eloquent charms and we had such splendid access to both as our birthright. But we were agreed on South India’s preference for the strongly ‘mathematical’ triad of European composers, Bach Senior, Beethoven and Mozart in preference to Romantics like Debussy. As far as I know, Dr Raghava Menon wrote at least five books on his subject, including the Penguin Dictionary of Indian Classical Music. My favourite, however, was ‘Pilgrim of the Swara’, a bio of Kundan Lal Saigal.

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