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.


TTN said...

Good post, Krishna..I like the analogy with pizza..If I may add a point, the new listener could , perhaps try listening to instrumental music first (whichever instrument sounds pleasing to one's years)and then move on to vocal..

Balaji said...

u are right to the last word.. great article



Hemamalini Jayarajan said...

excellent words... i felt i was reading my thoughts in this article... great !!!

Anonymous said...

excellent article

Anonymous said...

I recently came to your concert with my husband in San Diego. You were awesome. Both of us know very little about the technicalities of Carnatic music. I have heard carnatic music growing up in my household and I learnt Bharata natyam dancing But I gave it all up when I began revolting about 'religious' practices. Bhakti and devotion were to my mind incongruous as a scientist. Fortunately I began a meditation practice and this practice has led me back to appreciating Chants and carnatic music. I discovered you just a month ago and had been playing your Kamalambike every day and singing my heart out in the shower.
Today we listened to you live in San Diego. I was planning a visit to India to coincide with one of your concerts. But lucky us, you happen to come right to our town. I feel so grateful to have found you and be able to enjoy your gift. I agree with you it's very meditative. There were moments in the concert it touched me so deeply I had tears rolling down my cheeks. That happens to me whenever I listen to you at home and at home I don't have to control my tears. It's part of this divine experience. I think your rendering of carnatic music is very unique even to my untrained ears. Your music is very special. My husband who is more musically oriented listens to a lot of variety of world music. He was in awe at your concert today.
I will look forward to purchasing some DVDs of your performances. Thank you once again for singing from your heart.
With much Love,

rads said...


Rajendra Tapadia said...

Excellent write up... I liked the analogy between music and spirituality.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article