Glimpses : It will go downward

Before he journeyed to the west and began to teach the Message of Unity, Hazrat Inayat Khan wondered if it should be his life’s work to restore the true virtue of music in Indian culture. His telling of the following anecdote gives some insight into the subject.

To the court of the last emperor of India, Muhammad Shah,* a singer came who had invented a new way of composing.

When this man sang his new compositions, he won the admiration and praise of everyone at the court. The singers and musicians were simply amazed to think that there could be a new development in music.

But one of the old musicians who was present said, “If Your Majesty will pardon me I would like to say a word. There is no doubt that this is most beautiful music, and it has won the admiration of all those present and also my own.”

“But I must tell you that from this day the music of the country, instead of going upward, will downward. The music which was handed down to us has weight, it has substance, but now it seems that this has been lost and that the music has become lighter. Therefore from now onward it will go downward.”

And so it happened; step by step after that, music was brought downward.

*Muhammad Shah, (1702 – 1748 CE) was the thirteenth Mughal emperor, and strictly speaking, not the last of his line, but during his reign the empire suffered a drastic, irreversible decline which included an invasion by Nader Shah from Persia and the sacking of Delhi. Muhammad Shah gave great attention to the arts and culture – making Urdu the language of the court, for example, and changing court dress from the old Turkic style to the shervani – and it is likely that the musical innovation referred to in this story is the coming of the romantic khayal form, which largely eclipsed the meditative dhrupad form.

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