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The Music Room: A Memoir

The Music Room: A Memoir - Namita Devidayal I just finished The Music Room: A Memoir by Namita Devidayal, a book I recommend to all with any interest in music. Devidayal is trained as a classical singer in India but now works as a journalist. Her memoir takes us inside the culture surrounding classical music in India (not the same "classical music" usually thought of in Western culture) and focuses in particular on her teacher, Dhondutai.The strength of the book lies in the first part where we not only learn about her reluctant training (born in 1968, Devidayal experienced the pull of modernity while also training), but a great deal about Indian classical music and the history of the music. She explains why such teaching cannot be done by books, and thus the lineage of teachers is important. If you are not familiar with the music be sure to search (where else) YouTube for some examples. We learn about ragas and the importance of what is not heard as well as what is heard. It also shows the sacrifices artists make in order to pursue their art.The book gets lost a bit when it moves from memoir to history as she explores her teacher's guru, Kesarbai Kerkar. Music historians will be interested in the behind-the-scenes stories, but I was anxious to get back to Devidayal and how she continues to incorporate music into her life. But the book succeeds on several fronts: exposing people to the world of Indian classical music, showing the dedication required for mastering an art, revealing daily life for a range of Indian people, and teaching a bit of music theory and music history.