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Yesudas: absorbed classical riches from another faith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The songs here are what the ad blurbs would call "inspirational", and in this quality they resemble the Chicken Soup for the Soul fiction series, with clearly thought-out messages of optimism.
 

Review
 
Gandhi and pop peace

 

Ahimsa
Music Today
Rs 75

Ahimsa gives Yesudas no opportunity to sing what he is good at; rather, it prompts him to sing a bit of this and a bit of that, and you finally end up with a feast where you don't get enough of anything 

 

 

This album has novelty value. Yesudas sings in English, Sanskrit and Latin. In November 1999, he sang in Paris with the Pakistani rock band Junoon (you may remember that Junoon sang a number called Siyoni , which was seen on Indian television for some months sometime in 1998-99).  Ahimsa, which Yesudas sang with Junoon, is part of this album, and also lends the compilation its name.

Ahimsa takes inspiration from Gandhi. He taught non-violent action to the world in recent times, says the album's jacket. "We hope this musical collection may promote the diverse qualities inherent in a world of peace," prays Solarwind, the label that originally produced the album. Ahimsa is distributed in India under the Music Today label.

The songs here are what the ad blurbs would call "inspirational", and in this quality they resemble the Chicken Soup for the Soul fiction series, with clearly thought-out messages of optimism. Not a bad thing, of course, but this immediately puts the album in the "feel good" category rather than in the category of great art.

Ahimsa gives Yesudas no opportunity to sing what he is good at; rather, it prompts him to sing a bit of this and a bit of that, and you finally end up with a feast where you don't get enough of anything.

When the Taliban are busy vandalising the Bamiyan Buddhas, it may be difficult to dismiss something that talks of the unity of diverse peoples. (A related thought: Buddha was a guru acceptable to people of all religious persuasions -- which is why even atheists like Dr Ambedkar  embraced Buddhism.) But when I ask myself why I am still unhappy with Ahimsa, the answer is that such albums attempt, finally, a self-conscious mix of styles with the intention of pleasing an urban, and musically unevolved, audience. If this audience decides it can listen only to diluted versions of artists who are capable of great classical rigour and beauty, then this is what they'll get. What Indian film music does, with its routine mix and match of styles, is far less pretentious.

With titles like Gitanjali, Kisere Karuna, Hari, Beauty All Around and Nirahamkara, you can guess what this album is driving home. This is philosophy without tears, which is no philosophy at all! Many present-day gurus, with a huge following among affluent people, do not discuss any moral issues, such as the unjust distribution of wealth or the devastating effects of greed. They offer band-aid solutions to relationship problems, and don't talk of a society's basic flaws in defining man-woman and familial relationships. What use preachers who will not take on any real issues, like Gandhi did, and who just go on about the virtues of love and peace?

Yesudas has lived a life that's a lesson to many intolerant people. He was born in one faith, and absorbed the classical riches of another. He didn't allow the mean and the petty to quell his spirit. His life finally is a better way of teaching us tolerance and understanding than an album like this one!


K C Chandra Kumar


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