Vivek BG
MASTER OF THE 7 SWARS by Written and designed by Pratyush Gupta Swarpeti,, 2023, 44 pp., INR 1650.00
November 2023, volume 47, No 11

What could be more exciting than a book filled with vivid illustrations? A book where the pictures pop to life right from the pages! What if I tell you that there’s a pop-up book wherein you can incorporate both light and sound into your storytelling? The book published by Pratyush Gupta, an interactive pop-up book for children (and grown-ups alike), not only takes readers on a captivating adventure but also serves as a bridge to the enchanting world of Indian classical music.
Master of the 7 Swars is the first book in the ‘Swarpeti’ series. In the pages of this book, we find ourselves in the neighbourhood of the palace of Tansen, the legendary singer. From here, the protagonist Kaga embarks on a profound journey of self-discovery, a journey intricately linked to the Sapta-swaras, or the seven swars, of Indian classical music.
Maria Minsker in her article ‘How Pop-Up Books Can Boost Reading Skills’ recognizes three aspects that draw children to a pop-up book: they are interactive, they help build vocabulary by encouraging repetition, and they teach the value of visualization. This book hits a notch higher with its enchanting pop-ups that spring to life when you illuminate them with a flashlight, unveiling age-old secrets regarding the seven ‘swars’ or musical notes.
Books on music are, well, books on music—mostly text, maybe some illustrations. Seems unfair! Pratyush recognized this problem early in his journey. Speaking about the inspiration behind the book he says, ‘When I was just six years old I started to learn Indian classical music, and at first, it seemed very hard and not very interesting. It felt like something only adults could enjoy. […] I couldn’t find any books or things that made it easier for kids like me to learn about this genre of music.’ He found it unrelatable to the world around him. To bridge the gap and augment the storytelling experience, accompanying this extraordinary book is an online Swar-tarang that allows you to both play and hear the swars. It offers the opportunity to experiment with diverse musical combinations and partake in Kaga’s adventurous quests. Additionally, readers will find a delightful bonus in the form of stickers, which can be affixed to musical instruments at home or school, seamlessly integrating them into the story’s narrative.
The colours, sounds, and light aside, the the book isn’t just about Kaga’s journey. We accompanyKaga on his quests. Remember strumming on a rubber band as a child? If you are like me, you do this even now! The activities in the book encourage children to pay attention to the sounds around them, prompt them to notice the differences in pitch, play with each note first-hand, connect swars-to-alphabets, and see if there is an emotion that arises within, or smell, or maybe taste.
Master of the 7 Swars is not just a book; it’s an immersive learning adventure that ignites young minds with the magic of music. Swarpeti’s innovative approach to storytelling, combined with the book’s activities and Swar-tarang, makes it a must-have for every library or book collection. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Kings of the 6 Ragas.