The Internet — will it ever ceases to amaze
The Internet has revolutionised the world today. After years of being oblivious to some information, I see videos of musical geniuses and get to know facets about them that I never knew till now. It must have been some crazy fan those days that happened to have an old 16mm film camera and converted it to be posted on YouTube. Recently, I saw my own video on YouTube when I was in the University of Washington in 1970! And I have no idea who even posted the video on the Internet.
It took me twenty years to become an apprentice to a teacher in India. And the teaching was not an everyday practice — it took place only when you inspired your teacher to come out of his room and tell you what to do while you were practicing. In India, back in those days, you didn’t have to pay a guru with money. You had to pay him with your service, kindness, respect, honour and love. And in turn, he cared for, and educated you. He was more than a guru — he was more like a parent.
In future, the guru-student relationship may not be possible. What took twenty years just to become an apprentice has now changed. With information available at your fingertips, there is obviously no need for all that. I am fine with today’s modern technology, but I believe that once you’ve got information, there has to be someone who can help you sift through it and analyse it. And you do need a guru to help you with that.
Young musicians today at the age of 18, have twice or thrice as much information as I did when I was 18. Back in those days, if you found a recording of a great master, it was like discovering the tomb of King Tut! All through the student community, the tape would circulate, and we’d be talking about it like people do on the Internet now. When I talk to somebody and say ‘Did you hear that 1962 recording of that great master, they would say, ‘yeah, I have it downloaded!’ And I am sure that a hundred years from now, the information will still be there on the Internet. But what I hope for is that there will still be a capable guru, helping the students understand what they have.
A routine to adhere to
My father tutored me from the age of two, until I was 11 years old. My ‘abhyas’ would begin at 3:30 in the morning and go on until 6:30 in the morning. Then, I’d go to school – and that was the routine. And it wasn’t drumming, but only a discussion about drumming and its origins. The discussions centered around the importance and sacredness of the knowledge. I put my theoritical knowledge into practice by playing the tabla once I came home from school.
The ideal guru
Many musicians who perform with me take a few students with them even when they travel. When they are at home, they come for lessons every day. They may not live with them like they did before, but they are still allowed to be with them through the day, and discuss music with them — I hope it remains that way.
The musicians of today continue to feel that this approach is important. What’s interesting is that musicians today still don’t take money from students. It’s always been the feeling in India that a guru doesn’t teach; the student inspires the lessons.
When I teach in California, there are no fees involved — the students come and they hang out. We do six hours of drumming a day, and then go home. Lessons, according to me, are best learnt this way.