Friday, 16 January 2015

Story of Raagist - aka How was I bitten by the music and entreprenuership bug

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. " - Aldous Huxley.

Jokes apart, I have always been drawn to music in one or other way.

Early years - the holy city, Varanasi

Growing up in Varanasi, I learnt primitives of Indian classical music from an esteemed teacher of Banaras Gharana. I'd wait patiently for summer vacations when my grandma used to take me for music lessons. Spending hours humming a new Bandish or repeating a taught phrase, I wonder, what used to attract my child mind, so much about classical music. Barely after 3 years of this infatuation though, I was forced to break up with classical in order to survive the usual academic pressure of Indian education system. 

The usual - I want to learn Guitar ! ( every 20 something teenager has done this at some point )

It was in Mumbai, that I tried to rekindle my love for music. While finishing college and later, my musical preferences started drifting towards western music. A close friend handed me a treasure of western hits comprising everything from early sixties to late nineties. I used to relish Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Madonna and many more singers, for countless hours. During this time, I dabbled with guitar for few years.

London and the perfect Guru

While playing guitar, I always had difficult time, decoding the notes behind a song. This thirst to understand musical notes, shifted my interest back in Indian classical music. After spending many futile years in search of good teacher, I finally met the perfect teacher in London.
So once again, my tryst with indian classical, started five years back, under guidance of: 
Smt. Chandrima Misra, a disciple of 'Ustad Munawar Ali Khan', son of "Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan", Patiala Gharana.

Frustation with Speed

Since, I was eager to hasten the "musical enlightenment" (decoding notes in a song ;)), I was very sad with my weak grip on notes for years. I constantly sought tools, which can guide me in understanding what I sing. To my disappointment, I couldn't find any interesting free tool for speeding the learning process. Hence, I set out to create.

Puzzles on notes

My primitive approaches were more towards building a software, which will generate puzzles for recognising different notes. I assumed, this puzzle solving process, will improve my understanding of notes. So, I created this app. It helped for a while, but soon I felt I am far from being confident with this approach.

More puzzles, now on patterns

Our mind is better at remembering patterned data than unstructured. Hence, recognising a pattern, is easier problem than recognising the precise ingredients of it.
On my second attempt, I approached the problem in a different way. I created an app which will play some phrases in simple pattern and ask me which pattern is played.
However, like the first approach, I felt erratic progress with comprehension of notes. But, in the process of creating these two apps, I realised, importance of "listening" while learning music.

Finally, the RaaGist !

God has given us two ears but only one mouth. We should spend double time listening than singing in order to train our brain musically. Gradually, an idea dawned upon me, to create a product which will assemble audios of top artists in Indian classical music.
This lead to birth of Raagista platform,where one can find the information about different topics(raags) in Indian classical music and listen to them by top artists. This by far, has helped me most. I am observing a steep progress in my original quest of "deciphering the notes".

Your turn :)

Hope you liked what you read so far and find it useful, if you are in similar phase of learning. I'd love to hear "your story of music" or "what did this article made you think" :)