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Looking for Miss Sargam: Stories of Music and Misadventure

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‘Set in the heart of the world of Indian music, these are stories with a rhythm entirely their own. They speak of hope and disaster, genius and fakery in surprising ways. And they are wickedly funny.’—JERRY PINTO
After thousands of hours of training and practice, the gods of music smile upon the deserving few. Genius shines; melody and goodness reign supreme; and all is right with the world.
Or is it?
What happens, for instance, when a cunning PR brain brings together two star musicians from India and Pakistan in a concert for peace? Or when a Hindustani vocalist, long denied a foreign tour, flies from Pune to Philadelphia? Or when a small-town music teacher and a big-city businessman team up to plan a hunt for India’s best new classical talent—and make a few crores in the process?
How does it all end when a harmonium player desirous of a Padma Shri award comes to a powerful ustad for a recommendation? Or when a Bollywood director calls a classical singer, offering to make her a sensation, like the mysterious Miss Sargam whom no one hears anymore but everyone remembers?
And is it really a good idea for an old-world recording company to reinvent itself for the twenty-first century, or a devotee of a pious godwoman to compose songs for Hollywood?
In this, her debut work of fiction, one of India’s finest and most original musicians has produced a sparkling collection—utterly distinctive, hugely entertaining and mercilessly funny.

208 pages, Kindle Edition

Published July 10, 2019

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Shubha Mudgal

3 books2 followers

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5 stars
26 (26%)
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36 (37%)
3 stars
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8 (8%)
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Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Teenu Vijayan.
259 reviews16 followers
May 20, 2020
I first heard about the book at the Bangalore lit fest and I'm so happy I finally got around to reading this book.
Before I get into my review,let me share a small incident from my childhood. Being a South Indian, my mom wanted me to learn Carnatic music. But me being me started crying on the first day and refused to go for further classes. Much later I fell in love with the classical music when I learnt Bharatnatyam and I still have my cassettes safely with me. The 90s kid in me was into lot of Indi pop music and this book took me to that era.
Comprising of 7 short stories, this book is a delightful read. Each story takes you on a trip in itself, with strong reliance on music, the tempo of the narrative lies in the relatable situations encasing the glitter and glam of the music industry.
A musician going on her first abroad show, the penultimate Indian Pakistani milan shows, remix trends, duping people of their hardwork and many more scams keep you engaged with the characters. The elusive Miss Sargam fleetingly transpires between the pages as the reader strings one's thoughts along the writing. This book throws light on the reality of the industry where one is as relevant as their succesful music careers. I couldn't help but ponder over the dilapidated condition of bollywood music we have now a days (if one can call it music) and that's what made the stories more engaging for me.
I finished it in a single sitting and must say this is a stellar debut by the author. Do give it a read, perfect light read book.
Profile Image for Chitra Ahanthem.
395 reviews155 followers
August 19, 2019
What a debut! In this one, Shubha Mudgal who brought pop music and Indian classical music together sets 7 short stories in and around the music world drawing readers through an engaging narrative and a sparkling wit. Each story will take reader into a believable build of setting, characters and plot. The stories, the characters and the settings : the dilemmas they find themselves in regarding the world of music they dwell in are distinctly familiar yet shine with a distinct flavour and tune.

The stories look at the business intricacies of the operation of the music industry are a mix of stories highlighting exploitation, cheating, copyright issues, organizing music reality shows and the intricacies that go behind the scenes of accomplished but not so known names in the classical music genre when they try to go on small scale music tours abroad. My favourite of them all has to be ‘The Man Who Made Stars’ about a talented singer and music composer who has not got the ‘big ticket’ to fame and who is approached for a big film. His attempt to get credit for his musical creation, a hugely successful music piece becomes cause for major heart burn but becomes the reason for a near escape from certain unwanted circumstances. This story blends the reality about the music industry and the socio political pitfalls that surround artistes today.

I would definitely recommend this book: you would be missing out on a debut author who will take you on a delightful journey in case you do not read this one!
Profile Image for Nehal.
74 reviews6 followers
August 27, 2020
Fantastic read! Very well written. A collection of short stories that (each) showcase the multi-talented author’s insightful understanding of the music ‘sadhana’ and business, her wit and total comfort with English with spadeful of Indian-idiomatic prose.

Wonderfully readable, enjoyable and often evoking the blues!

Bravo, Shubhaji!!!
32 reviews
March 4, 2021
Fun little stories that provide an inside view of life in the music industry, particularly the world of Indian classical music. All short stories are wonderful evening coffee reads!
Profile Image for Anand Ganapathy.
191 reviews30 followers
January 4, 2021
Nice set of short stories by Hindustani classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal . These stories have music as the central running theme
Profile Image for Swathi.
87 reviews12 followers
March 17, 2020
Music has been an essential part of my life throughout just like reading. Though I couldn't pursue any training or classes I was very much interested to learn Carnatic music as a kid. Music and reading have been such an irreplaceable part of life. As a 90s kid I grew up listening to Indi pop music. Shubha Mudgal's music and name makes me very nostalgic reminiscing my childhood. I was extremely excited to see her book when it released and heard positive reviews regarding the same.

Looking for Miss Sargam is a delightful collection of  7 stories from the music world. The stories felt like everyday tale that you would hear while talking to your friends and neighbors.  In Aman Bol, we have popular singers from India and Pakistan pitted against each other for a concert or jugalbandi. The event organizer wants to keep the event neat but does she manage to is for you to read and find. In Foreign Returned, we see a Hindustani classical artist yearning to travel abroad for a concert but it turns into a harrowing experience. The grass is not always green and the corruption in music industry is explored in Taan Kaptaan. Then we have a tale on a music company reinventing itself with remixes which is not necessarily agreed upon by the older staff. The final stories deal with the lobby for awards, fame and music plagiarizing. Miss Sargam's character - a popular singer who has disappeared from the music scene flits in and out of the stories.

The book was very addictive and I finished it in 2 sittings on my way to work. Personally I felt there was a good takeaway from each of the stories. My favorite of the lot was 'A Farewell to Music'  - not for the take on remixing but for dealing with taking art as career vs the conventional option . It talked about the impact on the person and subtly on the parental pressure as well. Similarly with Foreign Returned, we see how things are not always rosy as they seem to be. I was pleasantly surprised by the stories and Mudgal's writing. Will definitely look forward to her works in future.
3 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2019
A breezy delightful read!

The author's writing voice is as authentic as her singing voice! I'm a big fan of her music and hope to meet her some day to tell her face-to-face what an impish journey it was, looking for Ms Sargam! I am not a big fan of Indian writers who peddle Indianness to non Indians, but every story in this book made me feel that the author perhaps had met these characters, or experienced these situations first hand. Loud and clear and authentic. Just like her singing voice.
Profile Image for Priya.
1,363 reviews30 followers
May 23, 2020
I love Shubha Mudgal's songs and her energy is very contagious.. so this collection of short stories naturally piqued my interest.

The stories are delightful in their simplicity. Music themed and highlighting the challenges and quirks of the music industry, particularly for a classically trained, traditional musician in these times of electronic music and Western beats.

What happens behind the scenes of a peace concert featuring artists from sparring countries? Is talent the deciding factor for prestigious awards? How is it for classical musicians touring foreign countries? Is credit given as deserved for that lovely classical note that elevates a film song from good to great?

Loved the use of Indian languages in the stories... And the humour.

Quick and enjoyable read! One to curl up with on a rainy afternoon!
Profile Image for Sudhir Dalal.
91 reviews
June 18, 2020
Coming from a top Indian Classical Singer, I was reluctant to pick up the book thinking literature may not be the forte of a musician but decided to read it nevertheless, more out of my respect of her music than anything else. I am glad I did. Shobhaji has a great command on the language. She excels at developing the characters in all her short stories. There is a humourous tone in all of them. Again, the stories relate to the Indian Classical music scene of which she has first hand knowledge. She develops plots well and the characters take up life of their own but after rousing so much interest, one is confronted with a sudden mild ending.
A very very readable book of stories. Looking forward to her next.
Profile Image for Pujitha Padmanabhan.
46 reviews1 follower
September 9, 2020
What happens behind the scenes in the music industry? What are the stories of struggling artists? What happens when there’s a growing body wanting to commercialise classical music to make it ‘cool’ and palatable for the new gen?

Looking for Miss Sargam by Shubha Mudgal is a collection of 7 short stories, each giving insights along these themes. This book was a relatively light, quick and entertaining read. It shouldn’t be considered a great literary masterpiece or something of that sort, but some portions of Shubha ji’s writing had me in chuckles. It would be good for someone looking for something fun to read in between two heavy-content books 😁
Profile Image for sonalidalal.
23 reviews
September 4, 2020
It came as a wonderful surprise to know that Shubha Mudgal , an eminent singer , is also a short story writer. All Stories have music world as a background as one can easily imagine. It can fit "easy reading" genre. Each story begins with a bang. One gets engrossed in the unfolding story. Glimpses in the world of music are quite interesting and revealing. Alas, it doesn't last till the end. All Stories end so suddenly that one feels cheated. Wish she could have used more finesse in ending the stories so well told.
Profile Image for Soumi Dutta.
Author 11 books1 follower
April 21, 2021

Most of it was a disappointment. Though the quality of writing was good, the stories (except maybe the last one) never went anywhere and there were loose ends all around which I did not know why the author has used in the first place. The Miss Sargam does not appear anywhere in the book really, except for being mentioned one or two times, albeit giving the reader hope that they will find out something about her, but nothing happens. Many questions arise in the mind of the reader, but then they wonder "why did the author even??"
Profile Image for Anuradha .
116 reviews
October 31, 2022
This is a charming collection of stories, each addressing a more-bitter-than-sweet reality of the Indian music world. It is as plain as day that the writer has drawn on her personal knowledge to craft each story. This book is a good example of art imitating life. The stories are gripping & well written and each hammered home the conclusion that rant & rave as we may, life is about surviving the jungle. One way or another.

I highly recommend reading it !
Profile Image for Ankita.
59 reviews53 followers
September 15, 2020
Music makes an integral part of our beings, for I have never come across a modern day 'Aurangzeb' who is miffed by the mention of it. My own tryst with music goes a long way back, and it took a serious turn for a brief span when I took up classical training; fast forward to several years later I am married to a part time musician and was introduced to the technicalities and life of people who take up music professionally. That being said, am no stranger to behind the scene goings of the industry and the book just cemented few of my notions.

These 7 beautifully crafted tales
taken straight out of the daily workings of the Indian music industry can be an eye opener for some of the readers. Laced with a bit of humour, we are shown this dark side of the glamour world.

From ego clashes to exploitation of the very talented yet naive people, the book manages to capture some heart breaking scenarios. The lobbying for awards, fake promises, copyright infringement, it seems just a tip of the iceberg. The sheer commercialization and corporate like structure to this art is an uncomfortable truth to be accepted.

I can't stop appreciating the quality of writing for a debut novel, Shubha Mudgal is an institution in herself and the prowess adds another dimesion to her existence.To take this novel idea of music and present to the readers in such an enthralling manner is worth applauding. As per Miss Sargam am still looking for her and so are many others like me!
Profile Image for Revanth Ukkalam.
Author 1 book24 followers
February 4, 2020
This is a lovely collection of seven "mercilessly funny" stories set in the world of Indian classical music by an insider. It is a sociology of art - if you will. Having read the book, I cannot avoid the natural smirk when I see a musical reality show on TV or when I hear the word 'merit'. The stories are very short and the book itself can be read away over a lunch but the stories will obviously not leave you. Just as the rest of the world, the arena of art is populated with avarice, jealousy, attachment, ignorance, and all the human passions. At an abstract plane, a synopsis of the book may suggest a black comedy but the book is everything but just dark. It has all the colours and thanks to the musician in the author Shubha Mudgal, it is wonderfully musical.
Profile Image for CA Bhushan.
16 reviews
August 19, 2022
We all know Shubha Mudgal as a versatile singer, who's singing ranges from pure classical format like Khayal, to indipop songs like Ab Ke Sawan. through her first book, Mudgal has shown us, how brilliantly she can right fiction as well. many people think of music/bollywood industry as an epitome of glitter and glamour, where everything is rosy, [at least for the established artists]. with her experience of many decades, and a rich understanding of music/bollywood industry, SMT Mudgal takes the readers into her own world, and shows him the dark side of the same. to my little knowledge, no musician has ever attempted to write fiction [let alone such brilliant one]. Shubha Mudgalji, Heartiest congratulations for attempting such a rare feet. just like you have handled many opposite genres of music with such ease, this is another important milestone in your already iconic journey, as a first generation musician. this book, which is a collection of short stories, covers a wide range of issues like exploitation of artists by movie directors [in the story: the man who made stars], popularizing bad artists through funding and marketing, fake camaraderie between popular artists, the obsession of both artists/audiences to sing/listen extremely loud music [story: Aman Bole], the battle between contemporary and traditional music [story: a farewell to music], exploitation of lesser known artists by the established ones [Manzoor Rehmati], an artist's obsession to perform abroad and the hardships she faces there [foreign return], how people commit fraud in the name of promoting music [Taan Kaptaan], politics surrounding use of literature [at the feet of his master], etc. the narrative goes at good pace, and both the situations/characters are extremely believable. all in all, its a wickedly funny book, which everyone should read, even if he/she does not belong to music industry.
Profile Image for Rosh.
1,296 reviews1,020 followers
July 22, 2020
Looking for Miss Sargam by Shubha Mudgal

No music lover would be unaware of Shubha Mudgal and her rich voice and impassioned singing. This same richness and passion is visible in her debut book, an anthology of stories from the Indian music world.

Each of the 7 stories in the book is written with brilliance. They are heartwarming and heartbreaking. The stories aren't set in the typical metropolises but in the heartland of Indian music. But what got my attention even more was the language. The words used are so conversational, and where needed, local languages such as Hindi or Marathi are used. This lends to the stories a greater realism. You don't feel like you're watching a movie with bombastic dialogues, but as if you are an onlooker to something unfolding in real life, in front of your eyes. To put it differently, this is the India viewed from the eyes of 1980s Doordarshan rather than 2010s Star Plus. The true India, the talented India, the gullible India, the scamming India,... All visible clearly in every story.

I have anyway loved short stories since decades, but I think this is the first anthology I've truly enjoyed since Interpreter of Maladies.
Pick up this book if you love short stories,
or if you love music,
or if you want stories about India in real life with no frills or embellishments,
or if you're simply looking for a good quick book. (It's just about 210 pages.)
It's a 5/5* from me.

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Profile Image for Pea.
7 reviews
August 5, 2019
Well written crisp stories decorated with situational humor. The author masterfully interweaves an Indian artists regrets, deep desires and silent sacrifices. The author being a musician herself gives us a blaring reality about the murky business aspects of the music Industry and makes us realize how talent alone is not enough to survive or even to break-in into the business. Each story is very different from others and showcases different aspects and journeys of classical musicians in India.

It is rather an easy read with only handful of rich stories. Perfect for travel.
Profile Image for Pankaj.
191 reviews3 followers
August 25, 2019
Shubha has used her knowledge of the "behind the scenes" maneuvering rampant in the film industry to create the delightful characters and their stories in this book. Most enjoyable.
A confession - I prefer Shubha's writing to her singing, possibly because unlike her, I am not a trained classical music listener!
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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