Listening to Indian Classical Music Can Jump-start Your Career: Kartik Sharma, Wavemaker

Guest Column: The South Asia CEO of Wavemaker has a rather unique but pertinent point to make- the art of listening is the cornerstone of a great career

e4m by kartik Sharma
Updated: Aug 31, 2018 8:34 AM

One of the biggest challenges of modern-day working is that nobody has time and all around I see that people are always in a rush. This means that a lot of people are not fully listening or at best, listening is always a partial activity. While there are many good practices a manager or leader should follow, I feel that if people improve their listening skills, they will improve their managerial/leadership quotient.
While this sounds obvious and has been spoken by possibly every good literature on management, the practice of this skill is never easy. So, the real question is how can we improve our listening skills? This issue has been on my mind for a very long time and suddenly the answer just popped up when I was indulging in one of my favourite activities.
So, here’s the secret sauce to improve listening. Start listening to Indian classical music. You might wonder why music and that too Indian classical.
There are many reasons and let me begin by sharing a few.
Indian classical music is taught in the “Guru Shishya” tradition where the Guru imparts knowledge gained over years to his/her disciple. However, the mode of teaching is primarily by listening/observing and following the guru’s instructions. The learning style is designed in such a way that the disciple must listen carefully. When the disciple makes any mistake, the Guru corrects by either singing (in case of singers) or playing the instrument (in case one is learning to play an instrument) and trains the disciple to deliver the same through multiple rounds of practice. This is the foundation of learning Indian classical music.
It is critical to note that the Indian classical form is very fluid. While the lead performer will have a broad idea of what he/she is going to perform, the accompaniments whether the violinist (in Carnatic classical) or the harmonium player (in Hindustani classical) will not have any prior information about the lead performer’s choice. Similarly, the percussion player, be it the Mridangam or Tabla player, will have no prior knowledge.
So how do the accompanists, who have no prior information of what will be performed, perform their role?
This is where the art of listening comes into play. The early training of all these artistes from their Gurus come handy where the accompanists listen very carefully to the main performer and accompany them beautifully and create harmony. It’s magical. Every nuance from the main performer is given full attention. Even a slight slip in attention and not being in the moment will lead to disastrous results. The responsibility is even more if it’s a Live concert where there is no room for error. For the listener, unless trained in the nuances of music, they will not be able to find these dynamics.
The other beauty of Indian classical music is that the accompanists will always shadow the lead performer and will adapt themselves based on that. For example, if a lead performer is a singer and let’s say his/her style is towards singing slow songs while the accompanist, let’s say the violinist, is known to play fast songs in their solo performance. The violinist will dynamically adapt his playing style to give seamless support to the singer. It’s never about individual brilliance and it’s always about collaboration. Therein lies the beauty of Indian classical music.
My strong belief is that if you apply the principles followed by Indian classical musicians it will lead to a more meaningful career. Don’t forget it’s a life skill which you can apply anywhere. This is an opportunity for all corporates to include Indian classical music as part of their curriculum whenever they are training their teams on listening skills. This will significantly improve the quality of decisions and lead to improved business results.
(The author is CEO, Wavemaker, South Asia. This article first appeared on his LinkedIn profile and has been reprinted with his permission)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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