Dismissal, in fact, is the default response to khayal (the preeminent genre of North Indian classical music), well before we get to know what khayal is, and vaguely term its strangeness “classical music”. Those who later become acquainted with its extraordinary melodiousness forget that on the initial encounter it had sounded unmelodious.
These words are part of the introduction to Amit Chaudhuri’s latest book Finding the Raga: An Improvisation on Indian Music. The book is part guide to Indian music, part memoir of Chaudhuri’s life, part examination of modern culture.
In this interview, I ask Amit to explain what makes Indian music special, both in general and to his life. We explore how Indian music influenced the writing of this most recent book, and how his musical experiences in India and abroad have affected how he sees the world.
Amit Chaudhuri is the author of seven novels, several collections of short stories, poetry and essays, one nonfiction work, and a critical study of DH Lawrence’s poetry. He has received the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Betty Trask Award, the Encore Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Sahitya Akademi Award, among other accolades. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and holds the titles of Professor of Contemporary Literature at the University of East Anglia in England and Professor of Creative Writing at Ashoka University in India.
In addition to his writing, he is also a singer in the North Indian classical tradition and a composer and performer in a project that brings together the raga, blues, and jazz with a variety of other musical traditions.