The real challenge classical music faces today is to preserve its traditional value, yet create a new focus of expression. There is no doubt that experiments in music show a bold attempt to explore new horizons in Indian music. But the problem, by and large, involves the stupendous task of making classical music dynamic to meet the exigencies of modern times. While doing so, we need to prove to the world that our classical music is not an attenuated relic, but a living influence. Only then will a true synthesis of the music of the past with that of the present be possible, and that too with a proper appreciation of its past achievements and an equally dispassionate assessment of future possibilities.
The conflicting trends are, nevertheless, very evident. We have music sabhas that find it difficult to draw listeners in sufficient numbers for classical music concerts, thereby slowly turning to dance, drama and light music to keep themselves afloat. The tradition of royal patronage for artists has gone, and now, state awards, government scholarships, radio and television have taken over.
But the problem is more of a burgeoning range of alternative diversions rather than declining interest in classical music, A couple of generations ago when there were no televisions (not on the current scale), the only diversion was to listen to music or perhaps visit temples.
Now, we have so many distractions. That classical music is unable to withstand competition is partly incorrect. The fact is that the proportionate increase in the number of people drawn in by classical music has been overtaken by the increase in the number of those performing lighter varieties. However, in absolute numbers, there are far more people listening to classical music today than in earlier years.