By Sonya Rehman
What really makes a ‘good’ musician or singer? Is it the ability to hit higher octaves? To perhaps play an instrument with such fluid vigour that it leaves audiences enthralled? Or is it the knack of ‘performing’ to captivate?
See, the terms ‘good’ or ‘bad’ are highly subjective – as both are slightly tainted and perhaps just too ‘black and white’ for comfort. And in the real world, wholesome shades of black and white simply do not exist (the assumption would be far too utopian and naïve) – as each nook, corner and alcove makes way for ‘grayer areas’.
But being a ‘good’ (in every sense of the word) musician or singer requires the gift as well as the passion for the art. Without each, the artiste is sure to face uncomfortable pitfalls and jolts in frequent succession throughout his/her career.
Which brings us to another vital question: does professional training in the arts (in this case, music), aid in honing and ‘fine-tuning’ the artiste?
While some may state that it does and others, that it doesn’t…allow the question to dangle in mid-air for a while – because it solely depends from musician to musician, singer to singer. Answering the question in an affirmative (or negative), would again mean being utterly subjective – just as you’d juxtapose ‘bad’ with ‘black’ and ‘good’ with ‘white’ (what a riot).
Regarding Pakistan, a majority of its musicians and singers are purely self-taught. In the mid-90s for example, Lahore’s ‘underground’ acts learnt guitar tabs, notes, riffs from one another as the ‘scene’ at the time was small – where each musician not only knew one another, but also played and jammed with each other at gigs and concerts. And today, while some musicians and singers still undergo training (or have been under the tutelage of an ustaad or teacher), a preponderance remains self-taught…constantly bettering and reforming their productions via self-instruction.
In the present day, with the ever-so-rapid technological advancements – playing, producing and modifying songs/albums is not as ‘start from scratch’ as it used to be (welcome to the digital world). The assortment of software/mixers available to musicians is limitless in addition to being constantly upgraded and advanced.
However, mind you, doing everything on your own from start to finish gives the final product so much more depth rather than snaking through the short-cuts!
The options for professional training in the art and delivery of music within Pakistan are vast – as in and around each city, sit pockets of little art and music schools to aid amateurs (and even the skilled). For example in Lahore, Alhamra for years on end has offered a variety of music classes (each summer) along with Lahore Chitrkar which provides singing, dance and music lessons. In Karachi too, the ‘National Academy of Performing Arts’ (NAPA), stands as the chief nucleus for the arts in the country. Therefore, it would be safe to state that the training options for aspiring musicians and singers are not few and far between.
So the question here really is not how imperative being a trained musician/singer is – rather, how genuine, creative and original the individual as an artiste is…as one can remain run-of-the-mill even under professional tutelage.
Being original, with a flair for playing a particular instrument or singing a song (for that matter) in a certain way is inherently ‘in-built’ – nestled within the core of the artiste. And that is what is crucial, tweaking the talent comes later. Much later.
Encore, The News