It has been almost six years that I have been associated with Dainik Bartaman, the news paper, as a music critic. Initially, I used to critique all kinds of music, including Rabindra Sangeet, and even theater, which although not my subject, I was forced to do. For the last three or four years, I have been doing exclusively classical music critique. I do not take on projects from other genre or streams.
For the last three or four years, my publication only assigns me the biggest musical programs in all of Kolkata, which is a good thing indeed. However, along the way, I have realized something and discussed with others in the field, and all of us had come to the same conclusion. We suspect that publications like ours are not very sincere about projects like these. From my end, I simply write and review what has been given to me and send it back.
On the other hand, if you take the perspective of those responsible for running an entire news paper, it’s quite a different beast altogether. If I may take names, another famed publication, Ananda Bazaar, has almost given up on classical music review. Except from extremely high-profile exclusive programs like Dover Lane, they refuse to focus on other musical events. Our publication is not like that. Our publication reviews all kinds. However, I’ve been noticing that they are not as sincere as they used to be. I have learned from experience that the space we’re given for our reviews is far from adequate. Ultimately, what we end up doing is reporting, not review.
I have realized from experience that when I like an artist’s music, there is nothing for me to write. The fact that I liked it is the final criteria, and the several technicalities of music like raag and laya or the infusion of other kinds of tune – the entire presentation is our benchmark. We decide if we liked the techncialities, and if the entire presentation of an artist is worth it or not. However, when we do not like someone’s music, that is the meat of our review. We can’t simply dismiss an entire performance, because that generates negative publicity and would affect said artist’s reputation and future oportunities. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough space to elaborate on why we didn’t like what we didn’t like. So, our usual policy in cases like these is to simply mention the artist’s name and what they performed. We do not go into further details. Because if I say something negative in my article, I would have to justify it with logic and I simply wouldn’t be given the space required for that. In my experience, when I have written detailed analysis, the newspaper had edited it and the final result had turned out to be something nonsensical as they are not qualified to understand classical music. However, those edited articles are still going to be printed other my name and thus it becomes my responsibility to defend it when people call me up asking me why I have written what I have written. This is a big problem.
Nowadays I have noticed, at least for the past one year, that the space for our classical music discussion is slowly getting smaller and smaller. Those spaces are being taken up by television serials or cinama or reviews like that. Say, some famous actor from Bollywood has come to visit Kolkata and the newspaper focuses on their interview – trash like this is slowly eating into our space. I can’t lie, but I’ve heard that producers of television serials and movies donate money to the publication house in return for publicity. As a result, a lot of space is allotted for them. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have the resources or influence to donate. Thus, our space is slowly getting smaller.
Dover Lane music event, the biggest event in Kolkata ever, had taken place towards the end of January. However, the reviews of it were published just last week. That is how long it took. There were other events even before that, in December for example, but the reviews have still remained unpublished. It was a small event and they had sent me to cover it, so it is their responsibility to publish it. And although it has been ages since I had submitted my piece, it still remains to be put in print. I understand that there are problems regarding space allotment that they have to constantly face. But this space is slowly and gradually disappearing.
Translated by: Ankana Das
Edited & Designed: Dr. Suranjita Paul
Data processed at SAP-DRS Lab, Department of Instrumental Music, Rabindra Bharati University