It’s huge, and it’s growing at a phenomenal rate. To an extent, it’s true that that the trend among young Indians to learn western instruments and music is largely urban, but it is fast spreading to the interiors. Though music, either western or Indian, is not being taught in schools as a subject yet, a majority of the younger lot are getting attracted to learning western music in particular.
Even Bollywood, which to a great extent is considered to influence the masses in India, is influenced by western sounds today. A purely raga based composition is rarely heard, and even if it is, it’s customarily mixed with western beats or sounds in order to be accepted. The fact is – one doesn’t even need statistics to prove it – the mainstream media is buzzing with western sounds, and the younger generation is bound to get influenced, or attracted towards it. The number of western acts, bands, artistes, DJs that have started touring India has doubled. There is a sudden rise in the club culture – Hard Rock Cafes, Blue Frog, Jazz by the Bay are the places to be.
The growing interest in learning western music has given rise to a sea of Individual or private music institutes that offer hobby courses or professional courses in guitar, drums, violin, keyboards, DJing or sound engineering. For a long time this market was untapped, but of late,those in the business are realising the importance of having quality education in western music in India.
The growth of western music in India can also be attributed to the fact that musical instruments from the west were permitted for import only after 1994 – so one can say that people in India have had to wait for this for a long time.
Music retailers, who deal in western musical instruments, have seen a nearly 30 to 35 per cent growth in the last 15 years. The most sold instruments are guitars, drums, keyboards and pianos – in that order. However, we still have a long way to go, because western music instruments in India can also be very expensive because of the custom duty (32 per cent), octroi (5.5 percent) and value added tax (12.5 percent).
Furtados Music, one of the leading retailers and distributors of western instruments today, has several centres across India, and is not just restricted to metropolitan cities. It has state of the art showrooms showcasing a variety of musical instruments in Mangalore and Nagaland, apart from Gurgaon, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and Goa.
Interestingly, Furtados is starting the Furtados School of Music starting June 2011, which will be located at Mumbai’s tony Napean Sea Road. The music school is in affiliation with an international music curriculum provider. Innovative methods of teaching music, like the use of computer animation will be used as a part of the curriculum, and will be open to those above four years of age. The instruments taught will be piano, percussions and singing.
Tanuja Gomes, co-CEO of The Furtados School of Music says it’s the first time in the country, and that they have been very keen on doing something like this for the new generation. “It’s something that the western world is already evolved towards. In India, the standard way of learning music is going to a teacher one to one and learning music, but abroad music has now become fun.”
Speaking about the potential, Gomes says, “The opportunity is immense. In any industry people are sceptical at the nascent stage, but we are very keen on increasing the base of music lovers in the country – why should the children be exposed only when the parents are evolved? Hopefully, if one parent is evolved, and the others who are not may also send their child for a journey like this.” As far as the pricing goes, a month’s course could cost around three thousand rupees, but what’s unique about the course would be the experience it aims to provide to those who come to learn.
Teach us Do Re Me Fa So La …
So far, only a few international schools in India have incorporated music as a part of their curriculum. Prasanna Chitnis, a Pune-based music teacher,is someone who believes in making music fun. His youtube video, where he makes the school choir sing Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters is quite a hit, and one can clearly get an idea about what kind of music children in schools are enjoying.
A Guitar Institute of Technology alumnus, Chitnis has taught in Indian schools for over a decade. Speaking about what’s popular among students when it comes to learning music in schools, Chitnis says, “Western is the way to go – children enjoy it like anything!” Incidentally, he says that very often schools in India are reluctant to invest in the infrastructure and instruments, “Right now, things totally depend on the principal’s willingness.” As far as remuneration for music teachers go, good remuneration is only offered in international schools to music teachers.
One strong indication of the growing popularity of those learning western music is the fact that in the last year alone, around 30,000 students from India took the Trinity Guild Hall examinations. Probably, the starting of music schools like A R Rahman’s K M Conservatory, and more recently, the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, is likely to prove as a turning point.
Dr Jyoti Nair, K M Conservatory’s manager of preparatory programs and outreach, says, “At KM Conservatory, it’s a very specialised training that we are imparting. We have foreign faculty in great number, and whatever students are learning is at par with whatever students are taught in the west – be it opera or music theatre.” Started three years ago, K M offers programs at Preparatory, Foundation and Diploma level.
Principal of K M Conservatory, composer A R Rahman is known for his philanthropy. At K M, students of Chennai’s MGR school are provided free music education and are taught instruments like violin, viola and cello. Interestingly, Rahman is keen to make a symphony orchestra for India. He also plans to take those students who are very good to tour with him wherever he performs.
Guitar fever in India reaches new heights
Then guitar remains the most popular instrument to learn around the world, and India seems to be fast catching the bug. One of the most important reasons why people are drawn towards it, at least in India, is because it has a certain glamour attached to it – out of every five films, at least one film will have the actor singing with a guitar. Films like Rock On have taken rock music and the rock band culture to the interiors of the country, and one of the composers of the film, guitarist Ehsaan Noorani, has even been signed by world renowned guitar brand Fender for a signature series recently – a first for any Indian guitarist.
Secondly, when it comes to learning an instrument, the cost can be a major factor for many. Interestingly, the guitar is mostly preferred because it comes cheap. An acoustic guitar can be brought at about Rs 2000 as compared a drum set or a keyboard which can cost anywhere between Rs 7000 to Rs 13000. It’s also very easy to find guitar players who take home classes or run institutes across the country.
Take for example, the chain of guitar institutes like Guitar Hall which has been around for over a decade, operating from Mumbai. So far, Guitar Hall has 15 centres in Mumbai alone, including one each in B Towns like Satara and Baramati. What’s more, going by the demand, they have recently opened a centre in Andaman and Nicobar! There are many such institutes and individual musicians who are taking music workshops for corporate houses and packaging it for relaxation purpose or team building.
Interestingly, some of the world’s finest guitar players like Joe Satriani, Buddy Guy, Greg Howe, Frank Gambale, Scott Henderson have found overwhelming response in urban India. Besides, UK-based guitarist Guthrie Govan have been to India to promote international brands like Roto strings, while guitarist Chirstopher Laney was here to promote Laney Amps.
“A lot of youngsters are picking up the guitar as a career or as a hobby,” says owner Ashish Modasia of Mumbai-based S B Music which since 2003, specialises only in retailing guitars. “I tell my customers not to compromise on fees, and find a good tutor – because that makes a lot of difference,” he says. Looking at the increasing demand, S B Music has even started a dedicated service centre in Mumbai and offers warranty support for brands like Fender and Ibanez. Starting this year, S B Music also plans to retail some of the hi-end guitar brands.
Interestingly, more and more brands that manufacture western instruments want to come to India directly rather than have a subsidiary. It’s no more Yamaha ‘India’ or Casio ‘India’ now.
But for those taking music seriously…
So far, there have been many who have travelled to learn at the Trinity School of Music or the Berklee School or a Musicians Institute, from India. However, learning abroad can be an expensive choice for most. To add to the dilemma, banks are reluctant to offer education loans to those who want to pursue music.
Mumbai-based Jeremy Fonseca, who is studying Electronic Production and Design & Film Scoring at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston, had to face the same problem. “It’s a shame. No bank ever ended up giving me a loan despite my experience and knowledge, as according to one bank manager, ‘There is no sure way to prove that you will be able to recover the money, unlike other jobs like pilots, MBAs etc’. I was fortunate to be financed by my parents, because they believed in me,” he says.
It is true that, in India, opportunities for such students to make a living are considerably less – unless they work for Bollywood.
Interestingly, there are about 20-25 Indian students studying at Berklee College of Music with Fonseca, and he says each one of them is super talented: “I hope they all go home at some point and together change the music scene for the good through education and putting out fresh music for India, because one person cannot make a change, but many experienced people, all with the same passion for music and the intention can bring about change.”
Interestingly, international music schools like Musicians Institute have started to look towards India. In June 2010, for the first time, the Outreach Manager of Musicians Institute visited India.
Abe Thomas, Musicians Institute India representative, says, “For the current youth, what matters is the opportunity to excel in their craft, and MI facilitates this for their students. While no school, including Musicians Institute can provide any guarantee that employment will result from attending or completing any program offered by the institution, what MI provides is the unparalleled opportunities in the heart of the entertainment industry.”
Indian students studying at MI from India have already started playing with various bands in the US. The band Fractalline, which recently toured India, consisted of an American singer and drummer from Mexico and included two former band members of Bengaluru based Myndsnare group Sandesh Nagaraj and KP Krishnamoorthy. Another example is of the band Polarization, where Indian origin Prashanth Mathias plays the eight string guitar with two American musicians Tom (Drums) and Sebastian (Bass).
Looking at the evolving music scene in India, the opportunities for those who know western music are likely to grow to a great extent– there are clubs that are coming up, the live music and event industry is catching up, and there are the broadcast and gaming industries which also require musicians and music producers.
Allied education in music
It’s a known fact that the music industry is not just about singers or celebrity musicians – there are many who are needed behind the scenes to work as a cog in the wheel – artist managers, the music publicists, music lawyers, publishers, event managers, sound engineers or record producers – but formal education on these subjects is yet to be formulated in India. However, there are institutes started by professionals in the field which are slowly filling the gap.
For example: Traditionally, if one had to learn sound engineering in India, they would have to go to Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India to learn the art, but the screening process is extremely tough and seats are limited.
Well-known sound engineer Pramod Chandorrkar who started his own institute forsound engineering called SoundIdeaz six months ago says, “When I wanted to learn, I had no place to learn. There was only FTII, but getting admission there can be very complicated because of the various pre-requisites. I had to learn it on the job, but if I would have got formal education, I would have definitely been five years ahead.” At SoundIdeaz, his focus is mainly to make students understand the artistic aspect of sound and not just the technicalities.
Interestingly, Oscar winning sound designer Resul Pookutty, who is also a FTII alumnus, is also contemplating starting his own school for sound engineering.
More and more professionals in the industry are identifying the gaps, and filling it themselves. Take for instance, DJ Suketu who has started a three month course in Music Production at what he calls – School of Spin – an academy he started three years ago mainly to train DJs. Incidentally, Suketu was asked by his followers and music enthusiasts on Twitter and Facebook to start the music production course.
DJ Suketu says, “There is so much talent over here, but why are just a coupleof arrangers or music producers getting all the work? So we thought why not take out the talent and put them in the market and there will be much better music created also.”
When it comes to music business management or for those who want to learn about the various facets of music industry – there is no option as yet. In fact, for long, musicians in India have accused the music label heads as being the Aurangzebs of music – the emperors who are MBA graduates, but know very little about music.
The interest, in the last decade or so is definitely growing when it comes to music education. But to some extent, certain trends also give out a warning about our negligence to our own musical traditions. However, if Ram has decided to shred on his guitar, and Ryan wants to harp Raag Bhairavi on his harmonium, one should see no problem in this at all – as long as good music, better opportunities, and skilled music professionals are in the making.
It is said that in India, one can find music for all occasions – there are songs after a child is born, there are songs specially for marriage, and there are also songs after one finally departs. For all the other tricky situations, there’s Bollywood.