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MUNGAL: 'Music is akin to a Divine art.'

Image: Mungal Patasar

Photo Courtesy: Mungal Patasar

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©Joanne Haynes. All Rights Reserved.

People choose various pathways to find fulfillment in life; for me, fulfillment means becoming one with myself.

I believe every human has two personailities - the external personaility that the world sees and the internal personality that is connected with the Divine. I don’t look outside to connect with the Divine, I go inside.

Music is akin to a Divine art, it is one of the disciplines that provides a pathway to fulfillment. When I’m not performing or practising, I have a ten by ten room I sit in and play my sitar and during that time, the room and the space cease to exist - there’s nothing but the Universe and I am just a part of It.

Music is one language, understood regardless of place and time. When I play music, I am dealing with a sound that is in empathy with the Universe; everything has a soul and we are connected with a Universal soul, music is soul connection - I see no physical when I play music, there is only the beautiful spark of Divinity.

I started off as a professional mandolin player with Dil-E-Nadan in the 1960’s. I got my first sitar at 27 - people usually take 25 years to learn the sitar, yet within a year, I was able to play some songs on it.

I went abroad to study Classical Indian music and returned to Trinidad in 1983, excited to share my music at home. This is when I opened the Caribbean School of Indian Music (CSIM).

I returned to India in 1986 and came back home in 1990. One of the first perfomances upon my return was to play at Divali Nagar, I brought all I had learnt to my perfomance that day and quickly realised that the people did not connect with it.

Classical Indian music requires an involved audience who understands its launguage, it relies on the assumption that an audience will connect with it through knowing it. When I played at the Nagar, I could not feel the empathy of the music, I couldn’t feel the soul connection.

I realised that if I was to be true to myself my music would have to connect here with my people. So I decided to take my classical learning and my Trinidadian heritage and merge the music. The traditional Indians who expected to hear me play classical Indian music were not happy, the non-Indians and non-traditional Indians were.

The artist must first be true to himself; I could not please everybody, so I remained true to myself, true to my belief that music is soul connection.

People ask me about the fusion in my music, they ask about using the sitar - a classical Indian instrument - in non-classical music. I always get asked how I came about naming a piece of music ‘Dreadlocks’ - people wonder about the fusion of Rastafarianism with the classical Indian sitar.

The thing is, I don’t hear fusion, I hear an Universal sound, a sound that resonates with all, a sound that knows no race or people but knows all internal personalities; it is the sound of the Divine. Dreadlocks and that whole album really gained success first in Europe before being acknowledged here, but it is Trinidad that helped me understand the importance of merging the music with the people.

Through this whole journey, family has been my everything, I can travel all over the world, but home is where my family is, I will never leave my family to follow music. My wife has been my inspiration and support, she is that brilliant mix of woman, wife, mother and every other. Every day starts with my wife and I sharing chai tea and chatting - she is the physical representation of all my dreams and fulfillment. Now my most important focus is teaching my grandchildren music. My wife, my children and grandchildren are the extra sparks of the Divine I am blessed to have connected with.

I am humbled by the goodness of life and the priviledges with which I have been blessed.

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