Sonic Saturdays

On Guru Nanak Jayanti, listen to classical vocalists perform words from the Guru Granth Sahib

Surinder Singh and Tejpal Singh perform in raag Gurjari Todi while Rajan and Sajan Mishra sing raag Charukeshi.

Music has been intrinsically linked to religious and spiritual practice in the Indian subcontinent. Rituals and congregational activities in places of worship or elsewhere have seen the all-pervasive presence of music. It is not surprising, therefore, that musicians have often been invited to perform on such occasions, although the performance is in the nature of service to the Almighty instead of a professional assignment. At these times, vocalists choose to set to tune and present texts that may relate to a specific place of worship or to a particular sect. Of course, the inclusion of texts that are expressly related to worship has been a practice among musicians even otherwise, and similarly, their own compositions may reflect a devotional slant.

While some texts that are available in published form contain the names of raags that are prescribed for them, it is not always that musicians adhere to them. For one, the musical structure and the manner in which these raags were presented many centuries ago is not known today, and secondly, present-day musicians may be inspired to compose the texts in other raags.

Guru Nanak Jayanti or the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak (1469-1539), the founder of Sikhism and the first of the 10 gurus, is being celebrated on Saturday. On this occasion, we listen to tracks featuring shabad or texts from the Guru Granth Sahib, the principal religious scripture of the Sikhs, rendered by well-known vocalists from the Hindustani tradition.

The first track has a shabad sung in the raag Gurjari Todi, also known as Gujari Todi and prescribed for the morning. Set to Teentaal, a cycle of 16 matras or time-units, it is sung by the brothers Surinder Singh and Tejpal Singh, more popularly known as Singh Bandhu, important representatives of the Indore gharana. The structure of the composition and its elaboration resembles the exposition of a madhya laya or medium tempo khayal composition. After singing the text, the brothers introduce taans or swift melodic passages.

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The second track features popular Banaras gharana exponents Rajan and Sajan Mishra. They sing a shabad based on the raag Charukeshi, a raag that has found entry into the pantheon of Hindustani raags in the recent past via the Carnatic system. Sung to the eight-matra Bhajani theka, the presentation follows the conventional bhajan framework.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.