I was recently watching a video of a live concert performed by Zakir Hussain (highly-respected Indian tabla player) and Rakesh Chaurasia (respected Indian flutist) and took the time to listen to the individual sounds of the instruments. In every trill and tap, I heard a different sound of nature and movement just from the one song that I heard. It was in this performance from these two amazing Indian classical forces that I hear the storytelling of classical music that kids like myself are told about since we were young.
In the performance that I watched, I saw the stamina and acrobats of both musicians. They both are part of a generation that comes from decorated, revered musicians playing the same instruments, and their love for the music is clear. I have a long-standing love and nostalgic connection with Indian classical music as it has been just as played in our home as any other for my entire life. I've listened to the CDs and cassettes of Zakir Hussain and Hari Prasad Chaurasia (highly-decorated flutist and uncle of aforementioned Rakesh Chaurasia) for what seems like forever. The music externally influences my internal environment to change; the music causes me to tear up or even to go into somewhat of a trance especially as the drumming pattern or flute notes getting more and more complicated.
Hearing even that first bol (drum syllable) and following flute note helps to rush in images of nature, with birds flying and shots of flowers gently moving. Really, what I mostly remember is every classic Bollywood movie that I love that has that same tabla and flute in it.
Besides the nostalgia that I personally feel from the music, the instruments narrate stories that careful listening can translate. Listening to the trilling and breathing from the flutist carries the image of hummingbirds and bees flitting about flowers. The alternating hollowness and sharpness of every blow to the tabla emulate water moving and life flourishing. The imitation of nature and natural movements is so clear in every note and beat produced from Indian classical music.
The skill and passion that is developed from the practice and performance of this style of music are palpable. Here's the video that I watched that helped inspire me for this article. If you have not yet gotten the chance to listen to Indian classical music, you need to get on it right now.