May 17, 2012

Listening to Carnatic Music:

Some people are born lucky with an ear for Carnatic Music. Some others acquire the gift. Some are unfortunately not even aware of this form of Music, and the rest of them simply refuse to listen!!! That is why, I believe that, end of the day, one must be destined to listen to Carnatic Music.
 Having been brought up in a family, where Carnatic Music is played almost every part of the day, it might be difficult for you to believe that I started developing the taste probably in my early teens. Thanks to our parents, the routine was not compromised. Seldom was film music played in the house. But listening in the formative years leaves a huge impression.  Years later, a Shankarbharanam phrase flashes and you recollect that you have listened to this, even without your knowledge, when you were playing around as a kid.
As I have mentioned, the first category are just lucky. The second category always wonder, why this did not happen earlier, but thank God, better late than never!!! The third category is either not exposed to Carnatic music, or are misinformed or have strongly pre conceived notions about attending a Carnatic concert.
One of the frequent comments I have heard is this, “Oh, Carnatic Music, I am not even sure about Sa Re Ga Ma, and I cannot identify the Ragas. So what is the point?” Well, do you need to know the recipe of Pizza before you eat one? It is there for you to enjoy and why worry about the intricacies. It is a different thing, if you get interested and become passionate about the Ragas, and then learning becomes a natural process.  Going one step further, I would say, “Ignorance is Bliss”. When you come for a concert and listen with your heart, it works the best.  Therefore don’t entertain this idea that one can appreciate Carnatic Music, only if knowledgeable.
There are some, whose primary idea to attend a concert is to find mistakes. “The Saranga slightly inched into Hameer Kalyani”…or “Ragam lacked Azhutham”….or “Kalapramanam is too fast”…..etc etc.  Constructive criticisms definitely help, but when the sole idea is to find fault with the artiste on stage, it neither helps the listener nor the artiste. So please for heaven’s sake don’t come into a concert hall with such motives.
In one of our recent lecture demonstrations at IIT (Chennai), one student raised this query, “I love listening to Carnatic Music, but get a little tensed when people relate it to Spirituality”. The question did catch me off guard. I was thinking, “Of course, it is Spiritual”.  However, I expressed my view which seemed to satisfy him. I told him, that if one has a glass of water when he is thirsty , it will automatically quench his thirst, whether or not he wants to call it “Water” or H2O” or any other name he wants. Similarly with our Music, it touches the heart and does quench the thirst of the inner being. I call it Spirituality. You may call it whatever you want, but the effect is the same, you walk out of a Music session as a calmer and better human being. This is definitely experienced by millions of people across the globe.
One other comment that is fortunately getting totally obliterated is about the majority of senior citizens in a Carnatic Concert. Well, the scene has totally changed for sure. Today, you find a lot of youngsters attending concerts, and most of them are pretty knowledgeable too. There is definitely an increased awareness of our Art Form, and it is no longer restricted to India and the USA. Concerts happen all across the globe and Carnatic Music is definitely moving towards a wider International audience base.
Put in a nutshell, it’s a very simple exercise. All one has to do is to go to the concert hall, sit down, listen and enjoy. Well, if it is that simple then why is it that one has to be made aware of this art of listening. Like any other fine arts, most of them need to develop a taste before they become ardent fans. The first time I watched Cricket, I hardly understood anything. The more I watched I started getting familiar with terms like,” out swinger, Yorker, bodyline, LBW, Caught behind, mid off, mid on, outside the line etc etc”. Even watching a game requires a little effort from our end, then talk about Carnatic Music, which evolved from the Sama Vedas. See, this Music does put you in a meditative frame of mind, whether you like it or not, and therefore the mind revolts in the beginning. To sit through a half an hour exposition of the best Shankarabharanam is possible only for a seasoned listener, unless one belongs to the first category of being lucky to have this ear for Carnatic music. Therefore in my opinion, give yourself some time. At least ten concerts, before you decide (God forbid) and make that statement, “Sorry mate, Carnatic Music is not for me”. You don’t know what you are missing.
As I said earlier, come in with the pure intention of listening to good Music. Don’t worry about the Raga and Thala. Don’t worry if you don’t get interested in identifying a Raga, doesn’t mean you don’t belong, really does not matter as long as you are enjoying. The interest will naturally come through, the Music will gradually grip you and you are hooked to IT FOREVER!
Musically Yours,
Trichur Brothers.

Feb 9, 2012

Sahithya and Sangeetha

Jai SitaRama

Before we start discussing this topic, let us understand that Carnatic music has primarily evolved as an art form that sprang from the spiritual outbursts of Saints like Shri Purandara Dasar, the Thrimoorthigal and various other Mahathmas. Indeed each Raga is presided over by the Raga Devatha and obviously is charged with innate Divinity. Every Musician would have experienced the fact that the Raga controls his/her music and it is not the other way round. It is exactly when this happens that one could say he/she is immersed in the Raga. Therefore it is a given fact that the Raga by itself is Divine.
I think a comparison to the Vedas is warranted here to explain the thoughts. The Vedas are chanted with Swaras. Udhatham, Anudhatham and Swaritham, as they are classified. It is declared that the Vedas has to be chanted with the prescribed Swaras. If the Swaras go wrong, it would have a negative impact even though the Sahithya (using this term for the sake of convenience)is correct, and vice versa. Now both the components have to be addressed properly for it to be complete. Similarly with Carnatic music. Of course, there is a lot more of freedom to add one’s own Sangathis* within a given space. But the Sahithya is of paramount importance and adds to the ambience and majesty of the rendition. However scholarly you might be in your chosen language, can you ever replace “Entharo Mahanubhavulu“ , with any other Sahithya. Never!!!!!! Would it create the same impact? Never!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Numerous examples can be quoted which goes on to establish that Sahithya and Sangeetha are like two sides of the same coin. Take the example of Chakkani Raja Margamu, where Thyagaraja Swami explains, “why think about other narrow paths, when the path of Shri Rama Bhakthi, is there in front of you”. The Path is broad and royal. The number of Sangathis that adorn this Pallavi line are plenty, whereas there is just one Sangathi for the next line, “Santhula Dooranela”( which means, narrow paths ,that are longer). Obviously the Saint wanted to stress on the Royal Path. Again in the same line, the pause at Raja Margamu is noticeably long denoting the Royal Path, whereas at Santhula it is really short, and again “Doora” is long signifying distance. This is just one example. Our Music is so beautifully blended with Sahithya Rasa and it is indeed an inseparable aspect of our Music.
There is an incident reported by a person who had Darshan of Shri Ramana Maharshi, and asked the Maharshi, “Is it not true that Thyagaraja Swami, Deekshithar etc attained God by singing? Can I not do the same?” The Saint replied, “ What they attained came out as Krithis or Songs!!!!”. What a profound meaning this brings about. Our Music is supremely different in this respect, that it is definitely Spiritually oriented. The Saint composers, did not sit down with a notepad, think about the nuances of each Raga, and then come up with a composition. They were all Spiritually inspired, and the Music was an expression of their “Anubhoothi”. We are all aware of the Cause and Effect relationship. If a particular sound brings about a particular effect, then it is only fair to assume that as a corollary a specific effect will result in a specific sound. So with the Krithis, these Krithis have come out as an expression of “God Realization”, and we can have a glimpse of that experience, if we sing it in the right manner , with the right Bhavam and Bhakthi. Thus, it is definitely not advisable to take the Sahithya lightly.
Would just like to add, that, today with the amount of material that is available in books and the Internet, we must definitely make it a point to learn the Sahithya properly, and understand the meaning of each Krithi.

*Sahithya- Lyrics of the song
* Sangeetha-Tune of the song
*Sangathi-Embellishments on a particular line of the song.