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We were a floundering, yet opinionated group of music-lovers who considered themselves more sensitive and more idealistic than most. It was taken for granted that we were in search of the highest and the best. Any music with ready appeal was regarded with suspicion. If it sounded pleasant, it was probably just a pretty trap that would hamper our quest. We were ashamed to be moved by music because that was something that happened to ordinary, sentimental, run-of-the-mill people, not to the chosen few like us. We were too sophisticated to be taken in by seductive voices and too intellectually demanding to accept any of the glib philosophies that our music world tended to dispense so freely. Though it didn’t occur to us at the time, the truth is that we had an unduly high opinion of ourselves.
Japp, vi har skrivit en bok, under pseudonymen Sheila Dhar. Here’s Someone I’d Like You to Meet heter den – köp den idag! – men den har två nackdelar: du har redan hört de bästa anekdoterna, eftersom alla spritt dem vidare ända sedan den kom ut; och den finns återutgiven som Raga’n Josh (2005) med 80–90 sidor extra.
For many years we functioned as a single collective mind, a single pair of ears, a single spiritual receiver that consolidated all our individual inputs into a single reaction. We could not savour a particular performance or recording fully until we had arrived at some sort of consensus. There was occasional straying from the party line but this was considered a betrayal by the others. Once Madhu went into a serious depression that lasted more than a week because Zainub and I had irresponsibly been swept off our feet by a popular, people-pleasing idol at a music conference. This could not be set right without atonement. It took many evenings of incense-burning to old recordings of unrelenting classicists like Krishnarao Shankar Pandit and Abdul Waheed Khan to bring Madhu round and persuade him that we had not really meant to stab him in the back and that life was worth living after all.
Nej, Sheila Dhar (1929–2001) var en riktigt bra Kiranasångerska med en humor lika torr som sångrösten. Istället för Kumarprasad Mukherjees anekdotpepprande i Lost World of Hindustani Music (som inte minst han friskt saxar Dhars bästa partier!), och istället för hans utläggningar om själva musiken, tecknar hon här långa, läsvärda porträtt av Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Bundu Khan, Siddheswari Devi, Begum Akhtar och Pran Nath, som sätts i sitt sammanhang, säkert nyttigt för amerikaner – äh, bara att få läsa om honom utan att han hela tiden kallas ”Pandit” som vore det ett förnamn är värt de 260 sidornas vikt i guld.
Som omslaget medger handlar det dock inte bara om musiker. Man kunde bli omskriven av Dhar genom att bara vara lite kul i största allmänhet. En redaktör på lunch kunde utbrista ”What is it that you’re putting in your mouth? Is it some animal? Tsk, tsk, tsk! I cannot believe. Such a nice lady!” och få ett eget kapitel.