Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Pallavi singing workshop by Alepey Venkatesan

Nadasangamam programme for August

By Samudri

Nadasangamam, the music wing of the Narada Gana Sabha Trust has been organising workshops with a  view to enriching the repertoire and knowledge of music students.

The next workshop will be held on between 10 am and 12:30 pm on Saturday  5th August 2017 at the Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall

Alepey Venkatesan, a  renowned disciple of Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, will talk about the art of pallavi singing and help students in understanding how to construct pallavis.  This interactive session will be open to students of music.

For registration please call 044-24993201

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Is violin accompaniment a nuisance?

Random Notes

By V Ramnarayan

"Give me an honest answer. Do you find the violin alapana response to the vocalist in a concert a nuisance?" a senior musician whispered into my ear during a recent concert. I could not give him a lucid answer as I was too close to the stage to carry on a conversation, something I have been criticising for years.  He was probably right when it came to indifferent or incompetent alapana essays by accompanists, but I have many times found the violin alapana an extremely fulfilling offering. Sometimes arriving just after the vocalist  has completed a raga alapana, I have been overwhelmed by the magic of the soulful, perfectly sruti-aligned music rendered by the violinist. On such occasions, I do not want the violin playing to end at all, until of course the artist moves into top speed, and the reverie ends. While in the past, such a divine atmosphere was created by such greats of the day as TN Krishnan, Lalgudi G Jayaraman, MS Gopalakrishnan and VV Subramanian, the tradition has been kept alive by the likes of S Varadarajan, RK Shriramkumar, Sriram Parasuram (he rarely 'accompanies' any more), Ranjani and Gayatri before they turned vocalists, Hemalatha and Akkarai Subhalakshmi. Most of these accomplished artists are perfectly capable of outshining the main artist, but restrain themselves following  the best practice of pakkavadya dharmam. Yes, I can say with confidence that I find raga alapana by the accompanying violin as fulfilling if not more so than that by the vocalist. That may be because I often choose the concerts I attend on the basis of the accompanists of the day as much as the main performer.

However the main thrust of the question the vidwan asked me was perhaps on the subordinate role allotted to the accompanist violin in concerts and the consequent fall in the standard of violin playing overall. One cannot argue with that viewpoint. There is much substandard violin playing, an alarming trend in the recent past.

The question also reminded me of an informal survey Sruti conducted among vocalists in the early 1980s. Many artists were then complaining of the damage violinists were doing to their manodharma by their lack of coordination and their creative excesses. We at Sruti then asked a few vocalists if they would be prepared to perform without violin accompaniment. Most of the interviewees said they were ready to do so, but refused to be quoted in print. One of them, however, agreed, and Sruti published a short interview with him, leading to widespread anger against the artist in the violin community. He apparently lost a few concert opportunities as a result of the interview.

Unfortunately I happened to be the author of the offending interview, though it could be said in my defence that I asked the musician to sleep over the matter and only then confirm to me that we could go ahead with publishing the interview. I did not know that it would appear in solitary splendour, as none of the other vidwans and vidushis, interviewed by other correspondents, gave their consent.

The vidwan confronted me at a wedding reception soon after, and gave me a dressing down in public view, accusing me of fabricating the interview. Displaying a measure of restraint I did not know I was capable of, I kept my cool and did not retaliate. Next morning, I went to the musician's home and played the recording of the interview for him and asked him if he still maintained his stand that I was a cheat.  He promptly apologised and made all the right noises. I was too young and inexperienced to insist on a public apology, but that is what he owed me, having shouted at me in the presence of many witnesses.­­­

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

When we speak Carnatic music

Random Notes

By V Ramnarayan

Some standard items occupy the bill of fare at Carnatic music-related events with depressing regularity. One of them is the strange practice of every speaker on the dais (or dias as most of the community refer to the stage) extolling the virtues of the other "dignitaries" on it. This is of course healthily supplemented by the encomiums showered on each of them by the master of ceremonies, so that by the end of the formalities, you willy nilly become an expert on the life stories of all these splendid worthies assembled to felicitate or honour an individual for his or her great contributions to the arts. This is invariably preceded, accompanied, or followed by the handing over of mementoes (pronounced momentoes) and/or the wrapping of each and every distinguished member on the dais with a shawl, each more hideous than the previous one. There is a strong rumour doing the rounds that the shawls are recycled via a thriving flea market; for all we know, the shawl that covers a lowly magazine editor may have once adorned a Natyamani or Sangita Kala Sagara.

The same is also said to be true of the speeches delivered on such occasions. Pet phrases or sentences include 'guru-sishya parampara', 'pathantara suddham', 'the divine origin of Carnatic music', 'concert paddhati', 'the blessings of my parents and my gurus,' 'the greatest, most sophisticated music system in the world,' and 'bhakti is the ultimate purpose of Carnatic music.'

Increasingly, speakers on such stages take potshots at a mysterious individual or individuals whom they charge with the blasphemous claim of atheism, when they are not targeting the same or other individuals who have the unfortunate habit of tinkering with the hoary old concert format we see on the stage today.

Another familiar refrain is one that rhapsodises the good old days, when the word of the guru was gospel, even a guru who seldom taught but sent the sishya out on tiresome errands, or made him press his legs or wash his clothes, or thrashed him when he failed to get a sangati right or worse still imitated a rival musician he must have heard surreptitiously despite the guru's blanket ban order. The only way to learn music was to sit behind the guru in concerts and pick up the gems he scattered on stage, and convert each slap or hook or square cut with the bow of the fiddle into a lesson never to be forgotten.

The crowning glory among such glittering jewels it has been my recent good fortune to experience is what one speaker followed his confession of musical ignorance with. "I know nothing about music," he said, "but its only purpose should be the attainment of jivan moksha, the kind the Trinity of Carnatic music attained through their bhakti. If we inculcate such values in our young, we can forget the Trinity, for we shall then be creating brand new trinities." Indeed "a consummation devoutly to be wished", in the sage words of PG Wodehouse. Or was it William Shakespeare?

Ravikiran selected for Sangita Kalanidhi award

By Samudri

Sruti congratulates all the artistes selected for the Music Academy's awards for the forthcoming annual conference to be held in December 2017. The jewel in the crown, the Sangita Kalanidhi title goes to the chitravina maestro N Ravikiran, a brilliant choice in our view, while a number of distinguished artists will be the worthy recipients of the other awards announced by the Academy. They are:

To be awarded on 1 January 2018

Sangita Kala Acharya

Mridanga vidwan V Kamalakar Rao, and vocalist and guru Radha Namboodiri      
TTK Awards

Ghatam vidushi Sukanya Ramgopal and Oduvar Muthu Kandasamy Desikar   

Musicologist Award

Vocalist Dr TS Sathyavathi                                                                                             

Papa Venkataramiah Award

Violinist Tiruvallur Parthasarathy                                                                          

To be awarded on 3 January 2018

Nritya Kalanidhi

Bharata natyam exponent Lakshmi Viswanathan                                                           

While we congratulate the Music Academy on replacing the title Natya Kala Acharya with the Nritya Kalanidhi award, a welcome paradigm shift towards a more comprehensive, more appropriate norm for the award, we urge the institution to find ways of recognising outstanding contributors to dance. The name of Vyjayantimala Bali comes to mind, but she is one of numerous such greats of the past. On the whole, a great job by the Music Academy.