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KUMARESH RAJAGOPALAN performed at the Global Spirituality Mahotsav, along with Shankar Mahadevan and Shashank Subramanyam, and here he speaks about music and how it unites us.


It is so important to show the world the beauty of being spiritual, and of our country being spiritual by nature. Being spiritual can take away the differences, take away the violence between people, and bring everyone together in this divided world.

And music is one element that brings all of us together. It is beyond meaning. It is beyond division. It is beyond race and religion. Just like you cannot see the Divine, you cannot see music. You can only perceive the Divine, and you can only perceive and experience music. You cannot grasp the Divine, and you cannot grasp music in your fingers. The Divine is beyond; it’s not the earth, nor the wind, nor the air, nor the fire. Music is also none of these. So it is good fortune that we have the ability to connect to that soundscape. And the Divine is using us as a channel to express that sound, which evokes a lot of different emotions in people. So we feel blessed, so honored to be part of this very unique spiritual program.

The source of sound, the source of music, is the aural and visual reflection of silence. Music is an aural medium, but when we sing a song, there are words. So the words bring out the visual element. If you take the melody without the words, it is just an aural experience. Beneath that, where does it come from? Silence. To be silent is very important, to be silent within, so that we can grasp the nuance of that sound.

Each swara (note) is connected to each chakra in our body. The seven notes, sa re ga ma pa dha ni, are connected with the seven chakras, from Muladhara to Sahastra Dal Kamal. So, it is a beautiful journey. We are so fortunate that we are able to embark on that journey to unravel the mysteries of sound, the mysteries of what is music. It's a kaleidoscopic reflection of Om. The seven swaras are the kaleidoscopic reflection of all. And we are able to connect to that and sit in silence and then let the music happen. It’s beautiful.

It is very important to be spiritual. I would say natural rather than spiritual, because that’s our natural state, to be musical; all of us are musical in our own way. The music has an impact on us. Some people are able to experience music, some are able to express music, some are able to find joy in music, some are able to create music. It’s all each person’s connection to that beautiful source. Like a Wi Fi connection, those who can access the network feel blessed.

I play my violin, and people say it is good. I don’t know. What makes it likeable? It is what is called the Divine, and a blessing. So I cannot thank my guru, my parents, my spiritual gurus enough for their guidance. I’m ever grateful.

Music is such an important part of my family. My brother and my wife are absolutely phenomenal musicians. The conversation helps us all a lot to give different perspectives. The beauty is this: when our father guided both my brother and me, he never wanted us to follow one path. He wanted us to find our own identity so that we could identify with our own sound, our own philosophy. “What do you want to convey through your music? There is a lot of information given by great saints, great spiritual gurus, great musicians, but what do you have to say? Each of you should have a story to tell, it should not be the same.” That is the guidance he gave us.

And my wife has a totally different thought process. So the conversation enhances my experience, my expression, my understanding. I love being a student of music, as it unravels so many beautiful things.

Each swara (note) is connected to each chakra in our body. 
The seven notes, sa re ga ma pa dha ni
are connected with the seven chakras, 
from Muladhara to Sahastra Dal Kamal.
So, it is a beautiful journey. 


While playing with other musicians, it’s just like having a conversation. We are talking; you ask me something, I tell you something, and we carry the conversation forward. So, for an ensemble to happen, it is very important to understand the personalities. When somebody sings, or somebody creates art (music is an art), it is their personality that is being expressed. When we understand the personalities, it becomes that much more comfortable to communicate through music. We seek to speak the same language, sapt swara, so it should work. As long as we complement each other, as long as there is no competition, it’s beautiful.

The beauty is the way our rishis have set it up to have a direct reflection on life. To understand something in life, you need discipline and freedom in your thought process. Similarly, in music, you need discipline and freedom, the freedom is a melody, the discipline is a thought. Only if you have freedom with discipline will you be able to express things in an expanded manner. With freedom in thought, then the discipline of the subject takes you deeper to get an expanded idea of what it is. What are the different things you understand from the depth of that subject? What is your inner impression? How can you say it better than previously, because music changes with each generation. What we play now is totally different from what was played forty to fifty years ago. Fifty years on, it will be a different sound altogether, because the impression of the social and economic goes in and comes out as sound. The more tapasya you do, the more disciplined you are, the better you will express.

For example, the South Indian Manodharma is an improvised form of Carnatic music that uses the discipline of the raga, the melodic composition, and the tala, the rhythmic composition, as a framework in which to allow freedom. The same principle applies in both Carnatic and Hindustani ragas. It’s a beautiful parallel between life and music.

You create within the freedom that is given to you. It is like creating your own identity, creating your own thoughts, your own way of life, which can be different from everybody else, while the social structure, the framework is the same. You have to work within that framework. Raga and tala is the same; the same Raga Bageshree is played differently by each musician, but the core structure of the raga cannot change.

And in this time of incredible change, music is always in safe hands. We are talking about the Divine. There’s always somebody who will take it up and bring about a larger picture for their generation to look up to. As long as humankind is there, music is there.

Experiencing music within is the best music you can ever hear. It’s like this: There are so many things you can think, but you can’t say everything when you start talking. The thought process changes completely. Similarly, when you listen to music in silence, unheard melodies are the best.



Kumaresh Rajagopalan

Kumaresh Rajagopalan

Kumaresh is widely regarded in Indian classical music for his collaborative project with his brother, Ganesh. They have captivated worldwide audiences for over four decades with their remarkable creativity and... Read More