Western Musical Instruments Have No Place Here


India has imposed 28% GST on Western Musical Instruments. This will include the VIOLIN but NOT the HARMONIUM.

While the Harmonium is an 18th Century creation of Alexander Debain in France, and later imported to India. Also the Piano itself is a combination of various influences including that of the antique Dulcimer (the same parent as the Santoor), and the Harp (which is also an instrument that was common in the ancient trading world and found even in Southern India).

This idea of ‘Truly Indian’ and ‘Truly Western’ is brimming with doubtful origins and mixed histories in many cases. The correct approach is to look at the educational and holistic benefits of instrumental learning for children and adults and review the tax slabs rather than get into biases.

Today SOCIAL MEDIA platforms have unearthed a plethora of musical talent. YouTube sensations are now making it into mainstream festivals and events and new combinations of voices and instruments abound.  It is amusing to see some of the bizarre hashtags that accompany these videos (one read #CarnaticMadeCool while another read #StickItToTheMan #WhoCaresAboutSabhas) and for some reason also support anti-establishment views.

We should understand that there were always bilateral influences in classical music forms of the world and there is no such concept of TRULY INDIAN or WESTERN. Baluswami Dikshitar and the violin are famous examples of the Western influences on Indian music.

Also there were many examples in history where the influence of Indian classical music have be traced on Western composers. Gustav Holst (English composer, 1874-1934) was deeply influenced by Indian mythology, as is evident in the musical structure and compositional form of his 1911 Rig Veda Hymns, his operas ‘Sita’ and ‘Savitri’ and a host of other pieces; while Claude Debussy (1862-1918) uses Hindustani classical motifs after an encounter with Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927), a North Indian classical music scholar and Sufi mystic (apart from being the great-great grandson of Tipu Sultan).


Attempting to impose nationalistic discourse on art, artistes and instruments is loaded with dangers of misunderstanding and needless differentiation.

Further, the idea of synthesising different influences (musical or otherwise) is not new, and has been in vogue forever. Technology perhaps makes proliferation easier, but it does not wipe history away. Getting ourselves into knots over perceived cross cultural infiltration maybe a bad idea without assessing things in perspective, and perhaps delving a bit into history.



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