Wednesday, December 12, 2012

From Raga to Riches

by Drew Martin
I do not know exactly when or how it began but I started listening to classical Indian music in my late teens. I did not have any ties to the music; I simply liked the structure of the raga, the complex and linguistic rhythm of the tabla and the sympathetic melodies of the sitar, which can dissolve an hour into a timeless feeling of bliss. It was other-worldly, but from a world I wanted to be part of so I literally started consuming Indian culture. I filled my belly with saag paneer and naan, read everything related to Gandhi, took anthropology classes at college about India, and studied Hindi. A great figure for me since this inception was Ravi Shankar, not only because he played so well but because he extended his talents to the world without inhibition, and released an artform from its trappings. Even though his music was distinctly regional, he helped make it universal. When a coworker and I started to share an office more than a year ago, I immediately confessed my love for the sitar. Thereafter, we enjoyed many afternoons listening to Indian music together, typically prompted by the question "Do you want to raga?" or simply the suggestion, "Let's raga." My fondness of the genre is so strong that the sitar became the center of my first ads for the Museum of Peripheral Art. The campaign is a series of images of someone with a sitar in a modern, public situation, with the tagline, "Do You Mind if I Sitar?" playing off the courteous question, "Do you mind if I sit here?" Rest in peace Ravi Shankar. Thank you for sharing your gift with us.