INDIAN MUSIC FORUM ARCHIVES: Sitar Forum: OK, am I just a hack?


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OK, am I just a hack? Jun 24, 2003 04:16 p.m.

First of all, great website/forum! Now onto the fun stuff:

I've been playing sitar for 4 years and am "OK" at it. I recently moved to Miami and found a fantastic teacher and my interest in playing has shot waaaayy up!

Here's the deal: I know that to be a "true" ICM performer, one needs to spend years at riyaz and learning compositions. I've done my share of exercises, not nearly enough, but I try to do an hour or so a day....alankars, paltas, meend practice....etc.

What I'm confused about is the whole composition thing. I do a lot of improv work w/ my guitar playing, and I love to do this on sitar as well. I'll pick a raga, stay within the appropriate notes, try to place emphasis on the vadi/samvadi and try to reiterate the pakad (catchphrase). What I don't do though, is play compositions, mainly because I don't know any.

I had a two-year Sat. night gig in an Indian restaurant in Dallas playing with a tabla player.....I'd pick a raga structure, do a little "alap" and then he'd join in and we'd basically just jam awhile, building up to a gradual crescendo/peak, but I'd stay within the aforementioned boundaries of the raga.

Here's the wierd part: the crowd (incl. lots of Indian and Western folks who claimed to like ICM) loved it. Applauded. Wanted more.

And yet, I felt like a bit of a fraud, since I wasn't playing compositions! I really enjoyed playing, which is what counts I suppose, but I read a lot of Usenet posts that always mention that real ICM involves playing lots of compositions and their variants.

Well, I'm now not sure. Anyone else out there play like I did (improvising within the bounds of a raga), or am I just a pseudo-classical hack?? Surely I can't be the only one!

Re:OK, am I just a hack? Jun 24, 2003 07:55 p.m.

No, you're not the only one. I think you hit it right to call it pseudo-classical. Lots of music can be played in classical style, but not be strictly classical itself. I would recommend you pose this question to your teacher. Maybe play your improv version for him/her and directly ask why it would not be considered classical. I'd be interested to know that myself. I can play some gats, but there seems to be a great deal of improvisation even in those!
Dont be afraid, just do it! Jun 24, 2003 09:10 p.m.

To me its the most important parts of my sessions, combinations , different ways to express things. Imitate a melody, thematical variations, whatever, i dont study this instrument 15 hrs a day, but.
Sure! i will enjoy the ability to play many Ragas as complete as i can deliver it if i live to become an old man. Until then the important bit is to get confident with the instrument, be able to express yourself, know where and how to reach that note. Its all in the great gift of improvisation, that most ragas shuld contain at least 70% of, at any level...

with compositions i understand something more south Indian, karnataka style or something... and then you are more on thin ice if you want to improvise. Thats a little like freaking out and playing a long improvisated solo in a classical european traditional (Bach, grieg, Mozart), you get the picture, im sure.

I dont care what they say, im gonna pull these strings til the day i die!



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