Lost ragas

Research output: Other contribution


In 1691, the Mughal biographer Sher Khan Lodi wrote that “it is impossible to capture the essence of music in pen and ink on the surface of a page.” This is true of all music: writing about music is famously like dancing about architecture. But the Hindustani classical tradition to which he was referring is, in addition, not based on fixed pieces of music written down on paper. In the performance of a Hindustani raga, music is only ever brought into being in the moment of its sounding, improvised by the creative artist in response to that particular audience. Once the last note has died away, the music is lost forever, taking the visceral, emotional, human experience of being there, listening, with it into silence. Leaving behind… what, exactly? What residue remains of the moment of musical experience, when everything else has gone? And why have so many writers across the ages tried so very hard to recapture those lost moments on paper, including myself, when we know it can’t be done?
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputMagazine
PublisherNewsweek Pakistan
Place of PublicationLahore
ISBN (Print)2226-7492
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2019


  • music
  • India & Pakistan
  • Mughal
  • Emotions
  • art


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