From Burdwan in Bengal to Sydney in Australia Srijani Dan had a constant companion, music.
The journey has been filled with learnings from multiple gurus, performing across the seas and now teaching.
“I feel that the journey has just started – there is so much more to learn. It is a process, a continual process I engage in with my gurus and my students. I label myself as a student in this beautiful journey,” feels Srijani.
Srijani was introduced to music by her mother, a disciple of Pandit Dhruvatara Joshi, when she was just 4 years old. She went on to learn music under the tutelage of Ustad Ghulam Imam of the Allahabad Gharana. She learnt the art of Thumris and Bhajans from Esha Bandopadhayay and undertook vocal training from Debasis Banerjee before migrating to Sydney for further studies. Currently she is training under Pandit Partha Sarathi Desikan of Patiyala Gharana and seeking vocal training from Shri Goutam Ghosal.
“I have been extremely fortunate to have wonderful Gurus, which allowed me to learn different gayakis. This has allowed me to learn the various ways of expressing emotions. Learning under them gave me a better understanding of notes, compositions, rhythms and moods. It helped me identify my limitations and figure out new ways to overcome the challenges,” asserted Srijani.
The different forms of gayakis
Indian classical music has various forms of gayakis or singing. Thumri, khayal, bhajan, ghazal etc. They are made of up structures such as a primary theme, a secondary theme and other elements. Dhrupad is one of the oldest in use today. The tarana; is based upon meaningless syllables. Thumris are very rich in expressions while and bhajans are devotional. Ghazals are known for their rich poetic and romantic content. They may be categorised into various genres but in reality it is like looking at the twelve notes through different windows.
“Classical helps me to understand the structure of music as a whole – it’s like learning grammar. You cannot really express yourself when you do not know the grammar, the expression and the content of a song. It makes more sense when you do your research, know the various aspects, experimental techniques and explanations,” said Srijani.
Music as an expression
We humans have diverse ways of expressing our emotions. Srijani uses music to express her moods and emotions. Having trained under several gurus has helped her explore different gayakis and express them in distinctive styles, specific to the gayaki or a unique combination. In commercial or contemporary singing, expressions play a vital role. When people relate to your music, they feel emotionally connected.
This was evident in her first album, Ichhe Rong, which released in 2018. Apart from singing and drinking cups of Darjeeling Tea, Srijani also teaches music at the Nataraj Academy in Sydney.
“I can say it’s teaching the traditional techniques in a modern way. But yes, I’m a student myself. Teaching to me is another way of learning,” smiled the dovey eyed singer.
“I have noticed a lot of westerners find Indian classical music very intriguing. Indian classical music is a huge ocean of musical knowledge, it should reach out to more people. When other cultures were finding feet, Indian music was a bold expression with plethora of ragas and styles. It is every musician and music lover’s responsibility to spread the magic of Indian classical music in foreign lands.”