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Veteran Mridanga Vidwan Madras A Kannan passed away earlier today. Here is my interview of his from 2010.

Interview with Madras A Kannan

I met Madras Kannan in January 2010. In the internet age when locating an artiste is just a Google search away,  I managed to get his phone number with great difficulty. Ever eschewing the limelight, Kannan was reluctant to meet me when I called. Upon repeated pestering, he finally yielded.

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When I walked into his apartment at the V.M.Street, he greeted me at the door.  Neatly clad in a Silk kurta and a spotless white dhoti , Kannan looked like a man leaving for a concert. My doubts were reinforced when I saw the grand angavastram on his shoulders and several chains, including a Navaratna haram with a Tiger claw pendant, adorning his chest. I had  started cursing my luck as I didn’t believe the interview would last for more than ten minutes.

Before I could ask him anything, Kannan with a child like astonishment said, “Thambi!, I’m watching interviews in television. The interviewee recounts even the minutest details of the past, as if he is watching his life on a video tape. I’ve always wondered how they are able to do that. I will never be able to do that. It may take several hours for me to recollect incidents in my life. I hope you are in no hurry”.

I was relieved to know he was not going anywhere and when I mentioned what went through my mind when he opened the door, he just smiled and said, “I am always dressed like this. My father brought me up this way”.

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I started the interview with the customary question on his year of birth, he thought for a second and went on a tangential note, “Semmangudi and I were living in the same street at Lloyd’s road. Once I told him that I’ve listened to his concert with Dakshinamurthi Pillai as an accompaniment. He was surprised and asked my age. I replied, “I reveal my age only to my doctor”. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you my age”, he said with a twinkle in his eyes. For a man who was born in 1920, Madras Kannan is supremely young.  “Age has caught up with me. I have some difficulty in carrying out some the activities that were easier to do a few years back. But, thanks to the grace of my father and Guru, even today if I sit with Mridangam, my fingers can play what my mind says.”   It is indeed not difficult to believe that this man can still maintain his trademark  erect back posture while caressing the mridangam, as I’ve seen him do in the YouTube video of T.M.Thiagarajan.

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While most of the musicians of his generation hailed from the Kaveri belt, Kannan was born in Royapetah. Although not hailing from a traditional musical family, His father, Aadhimoolam, was a businessman with deep interest in music and spirituality.  When asked about his father’s business, Kannan thinks hard and says, “Actually I don’t remember. I started playing in concerts from a very young age and from that time my father had given up his business and concentrated on building my career.”

Kannan’s initiation into music happened thanks to the recommendation of his headmaster of the Primary School. “He noticed me drumming on the table and suggested to my father to initiate formal musical training. On an auspicious day, I started learning Vocal and Veena from Krishnasami Naidu and Mridangam from Pitambara Desai. These days one person is an expert on many fields. Those days we believed if you want to become an expert in one you have to give up others. So I gave up Veena and Vocal for Mridangam.’

Pitambara Desai was a popular guru with expertise in Violin, Veena, Thavil and Nadaswaram, apart from Mridangam. Madras Venu Naicker and Govindasami Naicker, are some of his star disciples. He too was spiritually oriented. He frequently visited Thiruvannamalai and closely interacted with Ramana Maharishi. When Kannan was 8, Pitambara Desai took him to Ramana Maharishi to seek his blessings before arranging for a formal Arangetram.

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“Tiger Varadachariar sang for my debut. Parur Sundaram Iyer was on the violin and my guru accompanied me on the Mridangam. Immediately after my debut, my guru took sanyasa.” recalls Madras Kannan.

Kannan’s father was worried as he had dreamt of a career in music for his son. Like many connoisseurs of his generation, he too literally worshipped Ariyakudi and Dakshinamurthi Pillai and would meet them whenever they came to Chennai for a performance. After Pitambara Desai’s renouncement, Adhimoolam approached Dakshinamurthi Pillai and sought his guidance. Dakshinamurthi Pillai promised to take care of Kannan’s future and within a few months arranged for Kannan’s learning under Thanjavur Ramadas Rao.

“After my debut, I had played for Chitoor Subramania Pillai and Ramadas Rao had come for the concert. So he had no issues in accepting me as his student. But, I was the only child for my father and my mother had passed away when I was very young. Those days, a career in music was not something that was looked upon with respect. There was fierce resistance from family for  me doing a Gurukulavasam with my guru in Thanjavur.”, Kannan pauses his reminiscences and starts off on a different note, ” Even today, if somebody raises an objection, I just stop what I was planning to do. I try to avoid contradictions. But, my father was a very determined man. He will do what he set out to, no matter what. If not for his firm stand, I would not have taken music as a profession.”

Kannan quit his school education during the years of his Gurukulavasam in Thanjavur. Later, upon coming back to Chennai, he joined the Hindu high School, Triplicane.

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Our conversation slowly drifted towards his guru’s playing style, ‘He hails from the famous Thanjavur Percussion School and had learnt the art from Narayanasami Appa. His specialty was his fingering and the naadham he produced. If you watch him play the Mridangam, it will be impossible to make out that he is actually playing the Mridangam. Not even his hands would move. It was just the gentle movement of fingers that would create magic. Till today I’ve not seen anyone achieve the balance my guru achieved between his left and right side.  I’ve seen both Palghat Mani Iyer and Pazani Subramania Pillai attentively listening to my guru’s playing on several occasions. The beauty of his playing was, it will sound so simple while listening. But, you will realize how deceptive it was only when you try to play it. To decipher the right combination of sollu he had used to create such mesmerizing naadham is a difficult task. For all his greatness he remained a simple man.’

Dakshinamurthi Pillai had a special liking for Kannan and would visit Ramadas Rao’s place whenever he visited Thanjavur and check on Kannan’s progress. “Many artists have achieved very high levels of scholarship in Mridangam. But Dakshinamurthi Pillai was not the just an artist. He had reached spiritual heights attained by siddars through his Mridangam and Kanjira playing. Have you heard the Devaram, “Kaadhalaagi kasindurugi’? It is an emotional outpouring that can move anyone who reads it. Pillai was able to create the same effect just by his playing.”

Kannan suddenly remembers a concert while we are discussing on Dakshinamurthi Pillai, “I don’t remember if I have shared this with anyone before. It happened in 1935 during the Congress Exhibition. Parur Sundaram Iyer and Dakshinamuthi Pillai were supposed to play for Tiger. Unfortunately, Dakshinamurthi Pillai’s train got delayed. They had to find a replacement immediately. Tiger had suggested my name as I had already played for him. The concert had started and after an hour or so Tiger gave me a chance to play a thani. Just as I completed my thani, Dakshinamuthi Pillai entered the hall. I started to raise and make way for him. He came on stage and sat next to me and asked me to continue playing. After Tiger finished the next song, Dakshinamurthi Pillai continued maintaining the tala and asked me to play a thani. I was very embarrassed as I had just played one. Tiger too egged me to play one more thani. I played a short one. After my thani, Dakshinamurthi Pillai raised and said, “idhu maadhiri (pointing to himself) adhuvum varaNum (pointing to me). It was only after that concert the name ‘Master Kannan’ became a popular one.”

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In the same year, Kannan accompanied Dwaram Venkatasami Naidu at Allahabad in the All India Music Conference. Dwaram presented him with a gold medal as a token of appreciation. Master Kannan had finally arrived. Earlier, in 1932, Kannan was invited to Mysore to perform at the Dussera festival. He had accompanied hHrikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, Gottuvadyam Narayana iyengar and Veena Subbanna in Mysore. Maharaja of Mysore honored him with a shawl and continued to invite him in the following years too.

Even as a teenager he had accompanied the likes of Naina Pillai and was a regular accompaniment of Chitoor Subramania Pillai. “Those who understand the laya intricacies should be able to follow Chitoor’s singing. But Naina Pillai’s Kanakku can baffle even the well-informed. His complexities were not explicit. Even a person with no knowledge in laya will be able to appreciate his music just for the Raga bhava.” says Kannan. Needless to say that Naina Pillai’s style left a deep impact on Kannan’s playing. Experts opine that the very attribute that Kannan described beautifully about Naina Pillai has been  his hallmark too.

Even before the arrival of Arrival of All India radio, Madras Kannan had provided several performances for the Madras Corporation Radio. in 1943, Madras Kannan joined All India radio as Staff Artist, upon insistence of the then Station Director and grandson of legendary Veena Dhanammal, Vijikrishnan. “When they introduced Ragam Tanam Pallavi concerts in the AIR, I was the first one to play in it for Mazavarayanendal Subbarama Bhavathar”, says Kannan. He also has the honor of being the first staff artist of AIR to reach Top Most Grade in AIR. He feels AIR never hindered his career. “I always had enough time to play for my concerts. AIR facilitated interaction with several musicians and resulted in a lot of learning. AIR gave me the opportunity to conceive and produce several programs. I’ve composed many Pallavis for RTP programs”, says Kannan.

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By the time he was in his twenties he had performed with all the leading artistes including Ariyakudi, Chembai, GNB, Semmangudi, Maharajapruam Viswanatha Iyer.  “You can hardly find a concert of Dandapani Desikar without my accompaniment”, says Kannan. Kannan also shared a special relationship with Mali. “Some may feel Mali would get into laya exercises to put the accompanist in a spot. While playing for Mali I have never felt he did anything deliberately to trouble me. He was playing according to his creativity. I had accompanied him from a very young age, so it was never difficult to play with him.”, recalls Kannan.

When I asked who were the major influences on his playing style, Kannan paused for while and said  ” I’ve played for a long time now. But till date I’m not able to reproduce the ‘chaapu’ played by my Guru. Dakshinamurthi Pillai and Tavil maestro Needamangalam Meenakshisundaram Pillai have left nothing to be explored in the field of laya. I don’t know if they have all influenced my playing. I can only say, I’ve tried for lifetime in trying to reproduce what they have done. If I continue trying, may be in my next birth, I will get there.”

As we speak on Kannan’s career, he talks about his illustrious senior contemporaries. “There were two people who were just born for Mridangam and nothing else. one was palghat mani iyer and the other was Pazani Subramania Pillai. They gave ‘gauravam’ to this art.”

In a Career spanning well over 80 years, several honors have adorned Madras Kannan. In 1955, the then Tamilnadu Chief Minister awarded him the title ‘Laya Ratnakara’. in 1959, Swami Sivananda Saraswati conferred the title ‘Mridanga Samrat’. He nominated by the Government of India to be a part of cultural delegation for a three month long Concert tour of Africa. Emperor of Ethiopia and the president of Liberia honored the team with gold medals.

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In 1974, the legendary violinist and the then President of the International Music Council had invited Emani Sankara Sastri and Madras Kannan to perform at the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the council.  Their performance was voted as “The Concert of the Century”. 1978, the council voted Kannan for the ‘Asian Music Rostrum Award’ at the international selection committee held at Alma-Ata U.S.S.R.

“Palghat Mani Iyer had read about this award in the newspaper. He immediately paid a visit to my house and congratulated me. I consider this as the greatest honor bestowed upon me.”, says Kannan.

Grand receptions and felicitation functions were held in Chennai upon Kanann’s arrival after receiving the award. The station director of All India Radio made a special request to conduct an ensemble. Kannan conceived an ensemble, ‘Bhu Kailasa Vadya Sangamam”, depicting the dance of Shiva Parvati. The ensemble consisted of several instruments including some of the western instruments. This program was a big hit and is being telecast on several occasions over the years.

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While he has won several awards, there have some notable omissions too. The Sangeet Natak Academy Award eventually reached him only in 2004. When asked if it had to do anything with his Non-Brahmin roots, Kannan vehemently refuses. “Dakshinamurthi Pillai was not a Brahmin. But he has won the greatest of honor that any human being can achieve. His disciples have built a samadhi temple for him in Pudukottai and he is being worshipped as God. Can any award equal this honor?”, asks Kannan. By nature, Kannan is not the one to project himself and is happy just take what comes along his way.

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When asked whether he will be a satisfied man when he looks back at his life, he says, “I  have got much more than what I deserve. Whatever I have today, is only because of my father and my Guru. Without their blessings I would be nothing”.

In 2002, he completed 75 years in the music field. Sruti Foundation honored him with the Vellore Gopalachariar Award. Several other felicitations followed. Nalli oganized a grand function at the New Woodlands hotel. Karnataka Government honored him for this achievement and awarded him with the title ‘Pancha Nada Kalaratna’.

Over the years, Kannan has produced several students who are now spreading his fame all around the globe. Some of the notable ones are Ramakrishnan, Rajan, Srinath, Suresh and Deenadayalan.

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As we speak, Madras Kannan inadvertently looks at the clock, “oh! I’ve spoken for more than four hours. You must be tired listening to ramblings. Thambi! If you spend even an year with Palghat Mani Iyer he would not spoken this much. Here I am blowing my own trumpet for several hours.”, says Kannan with a blush in his face.

As I bid good bye and walked out into reality after a trip down the memory lane, the wonderful fragrance of attar and javvadhu kept following my trail.

 

 

 

 

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Several weeks back, I was contacted by Vid. Vrinda Acharya to be a part of a panel in the Swadeshi Indology Conference on Carnatic music. While the topic was not crystallized, from our lengthy discussion (mostly on cultural appropriation of carnatic music), I felt we tended to have more disagreements than agreements. When I expressed that, she said the conference welcomes counter views and they do want to feature all view points.  After some deliberation and discussions with some friends, I felt my apprehensions were baseless. After all, I am open for discussion with anyone, doesn’t matter what his/her ideologies are.

The conference took place yesterday and here I attempt to record what I heard and add my views on the same.

By the time I could finish up my Saturday chores and leave for the conference,  I had missed the inauguration and the first few speakers.  It was a bad miss for me to miss out on the Nagaswaram recital, which I heard was great. My friends later told me that Mr. Mohandas Pai “roared” and Dr. Sumathi Krishnan from the music academy made a very poignant speech.

When I entered the hall, I could only catch the end portions of Mr. Rajiv Malhotra. He mentioned that temples that are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, there was no place “to do bhakthi”. He quoted the example of Mamallapuram and further went onto explain how the schemes of “breaking forces” function. In my experience, I have been to several temples maintained by the ASI (examples Thanjavur, Kanchi, Uttaramerur, Darasuram, Gangaikondacholapuram) and these are (in Mr. Rajiv’s definition) living temples. I have no doubt in my mind that but for ASI, the state of these temples would be pathetic.

He also mentioned that several of the invitations to be a part of this conference was turned down and congratulated the ones that accepted boldly to participate and complemented them as “Intellectual Kshatriyas”, which brought a smile in my face.

This was followed by the keynote address by Dr. Nagaswami. He attempted to trace the history of carnatic music from the vedas till date. The chronology was pretty much in line with what is mentioned in Rangaramanuja Iyengar’s book, History of South Indian Music.

He made a very interesting remark on the name “Carnatic”. Since Venkatamakhin’s roots are in Karnataka (Govinda Dikshitar  – father of Venkatamakhin – moved from Northern Karnataka to join the Nayaks that ruled Thanjavur). Since the 72 melakartha scheme deviced by Venkatamakhin forms the rockbed of the music system, the system was named as “Karnatak” music to acknowledge his roots in Karnataka. It is widely acknowledged by many that the history of Carnatic music can be viewed as “Music before Sangita Ratnakara” and “music after Sangita Ratnakara”. A similar sentiment was expressed by Dr.Nagaswami as well. In such case, I wonder why we don’t acknowledge the Kashmiri roots of Sarangadeva. I have no expertise to comment on this etymology. I look forward for expert comments on this theory.

Finally, Dr. Nagaswamy complemented the bhava rich singing of Vid. T.M.Krishna and appealed that he should be given complete freedom for experimenting.

This was followed by the first session of paper presentations.

The first paper was by Dr. Korada Subramaniam on “Tyagaraja’s Philosophy and
Rebuttal of Allegations” The presentation showcased that the speaker was well versed in Sanskrit. However, there wasn’t enough time on either of the topic that he set out to explain. I felt some of his remarks such as “it is TM Krishna’s horoscope that makes him do what he does” could have been avoided and the speaker might have found more time for the topic on hand.

The rebuttal was for this article by T.M.Krishna: http://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/tyagarajas-musical-span-and-insight-reiterates-his-genius/article18384186.ece

He says,

Unlike Syama Sastri, whose conversations with the Goddess were inter-personal or Dikshitar who surrendered as a pandita, Tyagaraja was a social commentator. He saw his life as a part of the smarta network. To his credit, by and large, he has stayed away from what we would find today disturbing, but there are compositions in which misogyny is quite obvious. We could cleanse the meanings, justify them or you could accuse me of imposing post-modern values on to him. But if we, in the 21st century continue to seek cultural validation through his words, we should question them.

In compositions like ‘Menu Joochi Mosa Bokave,’ ‘Dudukugala,’ ‘Enta muddo’ and ‘Entha nerchina,’ he follows the classical norm of objectifying women, implying the sexual vulnerability of men. She is always the vice, the seductress who will enslave the man, therefore he needs to be ever watchful. Women and their own self-worth, rarely of any consequence. In ‘Dudukugala,’ it is interesting that the woman is placed below the sudra! And in the same composition, you also find the following casteist reference — “ Despite being born a Brahmin (“Modati Kulam,” first caste), I was behaving like a sudra. Much like Tulsidas, Tyagaraja’s position on women and caste was undoubtedly shaped by his times, his social mores but one wishes that a mind as creative as his had gone beyond or risen above those.

TMK says Tyagaraja was misogynist and smartly takes care of the rebuttal by adding that “he was undoubtedly shaped by his times”. It is not just Tyagaraja’s works, there many many works starting from Thirukkural that echo the sentiments expressed by the songs quoted by TMK on women. To expect  Tyagaraja to meet TMK’s expectations that are built on values of present times is, to put it mildly, naive. One wishes that a mind as intellectual as TMK’s  had gone beyond or risen above this.

 

 

It is also interesting to not the hashtags Krishna chooses to use for posting this article. His target audiences are clearly not the ones that enamored by the glide towards the thodi gandharam I guess.

That being said, Dr. Subramaniam’s rebuttal that Tyagaraja held women in high esteem based on songs that praise Goddess Sita  lacks logic. Tyagaraja’s veneration to Sita Devi says nothing about his thoughts on the other ‘vanithulu’ he mentions in his songs. The other contest that Tyagaraja’s lyrics must not been seen with ‘Vakya Artha’ (direct meaning) but with ‘Lakshya Artha’ is nothing but white washing facts to suit one’s own ‘Lakshya’.

This was followed by a presentation on Muttuswami Dikshitar by Vidushi Gayatri Girish. She opened the talk warning about the rampant conversion attempts and said it is only through the deep understanding of the culture and tradition one can counter it. She spoke on the composer’ss musical highlights, structure of his compositions, content, unique themes and his open mindedness to appreciate and draw from other systems. She remarked that nottuswara sahithyams show his open mindedness and count for only a very small number of his compositions.

The abstract published in the conference website says

He didn’t have any need to “copy” a Western tune, as we have
seen in a few recent allegations of plagiarism against him.

She didn’t mention about any “allegations” in her talk. However, she was asked to respond to the “allegations” during the question answer session. To which she said, “This shows Dikshitar’s openness but these compositions were not done with any ulterior motives.”

First of all, are there any allegations?

Please watch this video below:

 

 

 

 

Some time after the 17th minute, TMK talks about Dikshitar. If my hearing is right, he doesn’t allege anything against Dikshitar. He actually says, making such an allegation would be ridiculous (as ridiculous as the statement made by Mr. Vijay Krishnan). If there is another source that can corroborate to this “allegation” on Dikshitar, I would like to be educated.

I asked a question, “Like Dikshitar, if a Christian is only “inspired” and with no ulterior motives composes songs on his Gods; does she approve of it or would she also recommend a blanket ban on such attempts like some people demand.”

Vid. Girish said, “Music is universal and she thinks an attempt  without any ulterior motive should not be banned.”

This was followed by a talk by Vid, Vrinda Acharya on “Non Translatables in Indian Music.” She lucidly explained how the English equivalents for word such as Nada, Raga, Laya etc are inadequate in explaining the concepts in totality. While I completely understand the challenge in using English equivalents, I struggle to understand how that can lead to cultural appropriation and digestion. I wish she had explained this in detail rather than declared it.

The second session started with a paper presentation by Dr. Radha Baskar focusing on Experimentation in carnatic music and tried to analyse ‘how far is too far’.

She mentioned that experimentation is important. But it should lead to progression and should not disturb the fundamental ethos.

She described the Ariyakudi bhani and asserted that it has stood the test of time. She also mentioned about attempts that deviated from that bani (e.g Vidwan TRS starting with a thillana and ending with a varnam).

She explained elaborately on how Tyagaraja’s experimentation lead to progression.

She explained the importance of Sahithya and how it forms an important part of our culture. She finally said “Music without words has never been in our culture.” I would like to point out that ‘non sahithya’ music is as much a part of sahithya music in our culture.  Especially in the temple nagaswara tradition, where it is mainly raga alapana, mallaris, rakthis and thathakaara pallavi that are played all throughout. To discount the non sahithya elements from the tradition would be denying a rightful place to a rich tradition.

This was followed by a very interesting presentation on Role of Patronage by Arvind Brahmakal. I liked his idea that the 10% of the CSR appeals should be dedicated to fostering arts. It was well structured presentation with a clear delineation of the problem and with some recommendations to rasikas, artists, corporate and the government.

This was followed by a Panel discussion, which I was part of.

I couldn’t take notes as I was in the panel. I write about this from my memory.

We were to discuss, “Recent trends in Carnatic Music – Is there anything wrong? If
yes, what needs to be done?”

Dr. Radha Baskar was the moderator. Her first question was directed to Shri. NS Krishnamurthi, a veteran rasika and the ex-director of AIR. It was related to which changes that he perceived were good and which aren’t. His response was mostly around TMK’s attempts to break away from the Ariyakudi format. He remarked that such attempts have not influenced many and there are hardly any takers for it. He opined that the Ariyakudi format was deviced based on logic and had balance in it.

The second question was to Dr. T.S.Sathyavathi. She was asked which aspects she held precious in the tradition (there was also some reference to jugalbandi and carnatic rock in the question). She answered it in an interesting way by listing what she found disturbing in the current music scene. She mentioned that the current focus is on high volume, high speed and high pitched singing. She said more things that I don’t readily recall. She concluded, whatever she didn’t list is the precious part of the tradition.

Next question was directed to Vid. Melakaveri Balaji. He was once regularly performing with TMK and had gone on record that he wouldn’t perform with him as he doesn’t subscribe to TMK’s ways. It is not clear (to me) if that was related to TMK’s musical experimentation or non music pursuits. He was asked to comment upon this.

For which, he said he didn’t feel he had done something great by refusing to perform wth TMK. He felt he just did his duty. As a full time artist, it is not easy to  refuse to perform concerts. But he felt his ideals did not match with TMK’s. To be true to his lineage, he felt he should not perform with this artist. His remarks were matter of fact and did not hold any grudge or bitterness.

Fourth question was directed to me. It was related to challenges faced by the nagaswaram today and what is the impact of instruments such as saxophone and mandolin coming in.

A lot of what I had said can be read here: https://carnaticmusicreview.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/nagaswaram-the-distressing-present-and-a-bleak-future/

One thing I touched upon that is not part of the article is, how established nagaswaram and thavil artists are treated today.

While we say, Nagaswara is a mangala vadhyam and is part of all auspicious occasions, do we know how many times the artists are asked rudely to stop abruptly?  The nagaswaram artist also has a paddathi to be followed during a wedding and the reality is they are often hindered to execute it. I witnessed it as recent as a few weeks ago.

In the sabha concerts, mostly nagaswaram recitals are restricted to opening ceremonies. Last December, I attended a concert at Sri Parthasarathi Swami Sabha that featured the legendary Mannargudi Vasudevan. The concert was scheduled for two hours. Every ten minutes saw a dignitary arrive and was followed by a rush of a team representing the Sabha to receive the dignitary and make sure he felt comfortable. In the process, they kept blocking the view to the stage and were often found speaking loudly and disturbing the concert. At one of point of time, the stage was completely invisible and there was an extended selfie session right in front of the stage. Would the people involved behave this way if it were not a nagaswaram concert?

Another incident from last December hurt me deeply when the nagaswaram artist involved mentioned it to me.

During the Music academy concerts, before the inauguration  and the sadas, a one hour slot is given to nagaswaram. If you had attended concerts at the academy you would notice that there is a small pedestal over the stage on which the artists sit and perform. This is the case of all concerts except for the two I mentioned above.

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The above picture clearly shows that the artists do not sit on the pedestal but on the floor. one might argue that it was just a question of convenience. It can save a few minutes by not having to remove the pedestal before the inauguration function. There are no casteist intentions behind this. While I agree that this may have just a matter of logistic convenience, one would expect that we are sensitive to what the artists involved think about. Before you ask me, why am I making an issue out of this when the artists themselves have no problem in performing this way, please be assured that I spoke to the artists about this and they are indeed hurt. It is just not in their nature to protest. That doesn’t give us the license to treat them the way we want.

There was a comment in the panel that it is the advent of Saxophone that has caused the downfall of nagaswaram. I refuted it immediately. It is not as if hundreds of Saxophone artists have come into the field. Just one popular artist cannot displace hundreds of traditional players.

I was mostly a silent observer for the reminder of the panel discussion. A lot of emphasis was done on the importance of sahithyam and how sahithyam is not just a  placeholder. My views are completely in agreement with what the panel said.

There is no need to feel ashamed that the roots of the carnatic music are steeped in bhakthi. To say sahithya’s are replaceable with any words and it is only the music that matters is definitely in my view a flawed perspective with an urge to replace the idealogy of the composer with one’s own idealogy. In some some ways, that can be called as misappropriation as well.

In the same vein, any attempt to distort the intention of the composer must be censured as well. The outrage cannot be selective.

If i had the time, I would have asked the panel what they thought of this:

 

 

The above video is a live streaming of an event on World Music Day in 2014. This was after our PM Shri. Narendra Modi came to power. Some portions of the program was on a special “theme”. The theme was “Modi”. The compositions that had the word “modi” were rendered as part of the theme. The divine compositions of saintly composers like Tyagaraja was force fit  to fit this theme. I would have loved to know if the panel things if this is misappropriation as well.

No points for guessing who protested and wrote about this incident.

https://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/mag-columns/a-politic-lyric/article6228199.ece.

TMK carefully doesn’t take any names and thereby doesn’t bring out the fact that it was two of his students who rendered the third song (The article says first song is by  a prominent music, the second by “another musican” and no mention of musicians in the third song) in this “theme”. For each their own politics I guess!

The panel discussion was followed by three more presentations.

First one was by Jatayu on the Christian Appropriation of Carnatic Kritis. He spoke elaborately quoting examples from Vedanayaka Sastriar’s compositions on how he uses kritis to demean Hindu religious practices and how he uses Hindu divine terms such as “Om” in a Christian context. The presentation was focused and data driven. He also talked about how in “Karnamrutha Sagaram” Abhraham Pandithar talks extensively about the origin of music from a Christian context elaborately (running over several hundred pages) and underplays the Hindu roots (Sama Veda, natya Sastra etc get a passing mention).

He also refuted the recent claim on Tyagaraja’s Sujana Jeevana could have been inspired by Sastriyar’s Parama Pavana. (The biographer of Sastriar clearly says that he didn’t have  ability to compose music but was able to write for an existing tune. It is quite obvious whose work was original and who followed it).

Another article in that context worth pondering here: https://medium.com/@sabdavidya/a-response-41a28e4b8efe

I wish he had also appealed to the community that they stick to the facts and do not resort to protests based on false propaganda as it happened in the recent case, where no Tyagaraja kriti was appropriated but several artists were threatened and abused for singing a carnatic (original) composition on Jesus.

The next presentation was by Dr. Arathi on “Is Carnatic Music a bastion
of Brahminical patriarchy?”. I felt most part of her presentation was explaining what was original definition of “Brahmin”. I wonder what that meant in the context of the present day. She listed a bunch of non brahmin artists who made it big in carnatic music. She mentioned that it was with great difficulty she found the caste of the artists listed. It was only the music that mattered and it was only due to the topic of this paper she had to dig into this detail. My suggestion to her is, she should just talk to an average rasika in Mylapore and she can get the details instantly. I’m not trying to suggest that the average rasika is biased and casteist. But to say, that average rasika wouldn’t know of the caste of an artist who had made it big is a little bit too naive.

The last presentation was a by Dr. V.Ramanathan. It was a critique on the acclaimed book of TMK ‘A Southern Music – The Karnatic Story’

I have not read the book. So I cannot comment on the book or the critique. But I found his presentation structured and fact based. There was no high pitched frenzy or call of boycotting or shutting down TMK. He presented several Illustrations of fallacies and circular logic in the book. He also mentioned that some portions are also directly lifted. I would read this paper when the proceedings are published with interest.

Overall, it was an interesting day. As promised, I was allowed to make my points freely. While the focus for most part was on the external threats, there could have been a little bit more focus on introspection as well.

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Today I present a wrapper from Vanoli depicting Tyagaraja. Apart from water colours, Rajam sir’s was known for his portrayal through line drawings. This a good example for his steady yet graceful lines.

#Rajam100

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Rajam sir was always looking to learn new compositions. It didn’t matter if it was a composition of old masters or his contemporaries or even his juniors. Here we present a composition of his slightly senior contemporary artist, G.N.Balasubramaniam in raga Sarangatarangini. A fairly detailed presentation with a short introduction.

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Starting Today, I plan to publish a painting and a song of S.Rajam, as a tribute to the great man on his centenary. Keep following this space daily.

The first painting we share on the legend’s birthday is the painting of Swaminatha. The choice is inspired from the pallavi of the song that I would share later today, Muruganukkoru Seedan.

It is well known that S.Rajam’s work were published in many Tamil magazines and art magazines such Sruti and journals such as Bhavan’s journal. Not many know that his works adorned the cover of Kannada magazine Sudha on several occasions.

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Here is a rare work that beautifully depicts Pranava mantra tatvopadesa by Murugan to Shiva. This picture, of course a print, and hence lacks the depth of the original painting. However, one can still appreciate the famous multi-layered coloring, the attention to details and those intricate lines.

I scanned this from the personal collection of Rajam sir when I made the documentary on Rajam sir. Do not forget to notice the background design on the page of the album. Every page in his album would have a unique design , augmenting the pasted picture that he meticulously maintained in his archive.

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The first song that we share is “Muruganukkoru Seedan”.

A composition of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar in Kalyani. S.Rajam had the fortune of learning from many greats. The list also includes the great Muthiah Bhagavathar. Apart from learning carnatic compositions, Rajam considered it a blessing that HMB was the music director to the movie “Radha Kalyanam”, in which Rajam played the lead role.

This recording is from an AIR concert. Interestingly a concert that was telecast on the day of the Kumbabishekam of Myplaore Kapaliswarar Temple. On this occasion he rendered songs on every deity in that temple complex.

 

The sure footing on Shudhdha Swarams, cascading sangatis and that ‘Bigu” sangatis in the pallavi, the smallest of pauses between words that immensely enhance the enunciation and brisk/crisp nereval swarams makes one to keep getting back to this rendition.

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அன்புள்ள ஜானித் தாத்தா,

உங்களைப் பற்றி கடந்த சில நாட்களில் நிறைய கட்டுரைகள், இணையப் பதிவுகள், நினைவலைகள் வெளிவந்துள்ளன. ஒவ்வொன்றும் நீங்கள் இல்லாததன் வெறுமையை ஒருபக்கம் அதிகரித்தாலும் இன்னொரு பக்கம் இத்தகைய மனிதரிடம் நெருங்கிப் பழக முடிந்ததே என்ற உவகையும் பெருகியது.

iravatham 1

உங்களை முதன் முதலில் உங்கள் வீட்டில் 2005-ல் நண்பர்கள் சிலருடன் சந்தித்தது இன்னும் பசுமையாய் நினைவில் இருக்கிறது. உண்மையை அறிதலின் பேரில் இருந்த காதலும், அயராத உழைப்பும், சிரிக்கும் கண்களும், நமுட்டுச் சிரிப்பும் நன்றாய் நினைவில் இருக்கிறது. கூடத்திலிருந்த புத்தக அலமாரியில் இருந்த கிருதிமணிமாலையின் முதல்பதிப்பை நான் பார்க்க விரும்பினேன். அதனை எடுத்து முதல் பக்கத்தை நீவியபடி “கௌரி அம்மாவின் புத்தகம்”, என்று நீங்கள் சொன்னபோது வழிந்தோடிய காதலில் நானல்லவா கரைந்து போனேன்.

கௌரி அம்மாவை சந்திக்கும் பேறை நான் பெறவில்லை. ஆனால் உங்கள் வீட்டுக்கு வந்த போதெல்லாம் அவரைப் பற்றிய நினைவலைகளில் நீங்கள் மூழ்குவீர்கள். காலப்போக்கில் எனக்கென்னவோ அவர் நன்கு பரிச்சயமானவர் என்ற மாயத்தோற்றம் ஏற்பட்டுவிட்டது.

பின்னாளில் ஐராவதிக்காக உங்களை நேர்காணல் எடுத்தபோதும் கௌரியம்மாவைப் பற்றி எவ்வளவு உணர்ச்சிபூர்வமாய் பேசினீர்கள். நான் எழுதிய அந்தப் பகுதிகளை நீக்கச் சொன்னதில் எனக்கு இன்றுவரை உங்கள் மேல் கோபம்தான். உங்கள் காதல் ஊருக்குத் தெரிய வேண்டிய காதலில்லையா?  எனக்குத் தெரிந்த அத்தனையும் சொல்லாவிட்டாலும் சிலவற்றையாவது சொல்லத்தான் போகிறேன். உங்கள் பேரனாக எனக்கு அந்த உரிமையுண்டு – உங்களுக்கு சம்மதமில்லாத போதும்.

ஐ.ஏ.எஸ்-ஐ குறி வைத்துதான் சட்டம் பயின்றீர்களா என்று நான் கேட்டதற்கு, சிரித்தபடி இல்லையென்றீர்கள்.

“வாயிருந்தா வக்கீலா பொழச்சுக்கலாம்-னுதான் சட்டம் படிச்சேன். பார்-க்கு போனாதான் வக்கீலா முன்னுக்கு வர எவ்வளவு வருடங்கள் ஆகும்-னு புரிஞ்சுது. அப்போ எனக்கு 23 வயசு. என் உறவுக்காரப் பெண் – கௌரி – அவளோட காதல். எங்க வீட்டுல எங்க கல்யாணத்தை யாரும் ஒத்துக்கல. எதிர்த்துக் கல்யாணம் பண்ணிண்டோம். வீட்டை விட்டு வெளிய வந்தாச்சு. வக்கீல் தொழிலை நம்பி குடும்பம் நடத்தற நிலைமையில்லை.”

“அதனால ஐ.ஏ.எஸ் பரிட்சை எழுதினீங்களா?”

“ஆமாம். அப்பல்லாம் 23 வயசு வரைக்கும்தான் ஐ.ஏ.எஸ் பரிட்சை எழுத முடியும். எனக்கு இருந்த கடைசி வாய்ப்பு அதுதான். அந்தப் பரிட்சையில முதல் ஆளா தேறினேன்.”, என்று சொன்ன போது கொஞ்சம் வெட்கத்தோடு வார்த்தைகளை நிறுத்திக்கொண்டீர்களே.

காமராஜர் ஆட்சியில் அமராவதி அணை திறப்பில் டி.டி.கிருஷ்ணமாச்சாரி வந்து உங்களை தில்லிக்கு அழைத்துச் சென்றதால் வரலாற்றின் பக்கம் சென்றேன் என்றீர்கள். உண்மையில் திருப்புமுனை அதுவல்ல. உங்கள் காதல்தான்!

கௌரி அம்மாவின் காதல் இல்லையென்றால் நீங்கள் ஐ.ஏ.எஸ் இல்லை! உங்கள் வாழ்க்கை இந்தப் பாதையில் போயிருக்காதுதானே?

உங்கள் வீட்டில் மட்டுமே கிடைக்கக்கூடிய, கௌரி அம்மா வைத்த அந்த ஆரஞ்சு மரத்தில் வந்த பழங்களிலிருந்து சாறை நீங்கள் ஒவ்வொரு முறை அளிக்கும் போது உங்கள் முகம் மலர்ந்து ஜொலிக்கும். உங்களை எதுவெதற்கெல்லாமோ அறிஞர்கள் நினைவில்வைத்துக் கொள்வார்கள் தாத்தா. எனக்கு உங்களைப்பற்றி முதலில் நினைவுக்கு வருவது உங்கள் காதல்தான்.

உங்கள் இருவரின் விளையாட்டில் நீங்கள் இருவருமாய் சேர்ந்து நாட்டுக்கு அள்ளிக் கொடுத்ததைச் சொன்னீர்களே. அந்த நிகழ்வு அலையடிக்கிறது.

1965-ல் பாகிஸ்தானுடன் போர் நடந்து கொண்டிருந்த போது லால் பகதூர் சாஸ்திரி கேட்டுக் கொண்டதன் பேரில் வீட்டிலிருந்த தங்கத்தையெல்லாம் நிதியாய் கொடுக்க நீங்கள் முடிவெடுத்தீர்கள். கௌரி அம்மா தன் நகையையெல்லாம் கொண்டுவந்து உங்களிடம் கொடுத்த போது, “எல்லாம் குடுத்தியே, உன் தாலியில் இருக்கும் தங்கத்தைக் கொடுப்பியா”, என்று சீண்டியதை என் முன் வாழ்ந்து காண்பித்தீர்கள்.

gowri amma

கௌரி அம்மாவும் லேசில்விடுவாரா என்ன?, “இத்தனை வருஷங்களா ஆயிரக்கணக்கில் நாணயங்கள் சேர்த்துவெச்சு இருக்கீங்களே. அதுல எவ்வளவோ தங்க நாணயங்கள் இருக்கும். அதையெல்லாம் நீங்க நாட்டுக்கு கொடுப்பீங்கன்னா நான் தாலியில் இருக்கும் தங்கத்தைக் கொடுப்பேன்”, என்றார்.

அடுத்த நாளே, தேசிய அருங்காட்சியகத்தில் தங்க நாணயங்களை ஒப்படைத்து அதன் மதிப்புக்கு தங்கக் கட்டிகளைப் பெற்று, மற்ற நகைகள் – தாலித் தங்கமும் சேர்த்துத்தான் – பிரதமரிடம் தம்பதியாய் சென்று ஒப்படைத்தீர்கள். நல்லகாலம் அன்று பிரதமருடன் கௌரி அம்மா இருக்கும் படத்தை பத்திரப்படுத்தி வைத்திருந்தீர்கள். ஐராவதியில் வெளியிட்டு நாங்கள் மகிழ்ந்தோம்.

நான் நீங்கள் சாதித்த துறைகளில் மாணவன் கூட இல்லை. உங்களைச் சந்தித்த காலங்களில் ஆர்வலனாக இருந்தேன் என்று வேண்டுமானால் சொல்லலாம். இருந்தாலும் ஏன் என் மேல் உங்களுக்கு இத்தனை பிரியம்? ஒருவரை மதிக்க வேண்டுமானால் அதற்கு புலமைத் தேவைப்படலாம். அன்பிற்கு எதற்கு அளவுகோல்? என் பேறு நீங்கள் என்னைச் சந்திக்கும் போதெல்லாம் பேரன் என்று வாயார அழைத்துக் கட்டிக்கொண்டீர்கள்.

உங்களைச் சந்தித்த சில நாட்களில் உங்களுக்கு ஒரு கடிதமெழுதினேன். சிந்து சமவெளி முருகன் பேயுருவானவன் என்ற கருத்து அவ்வளவு ஏற்புடையதாக என் சிற்றறிவுக்குப்படாததைப் பற்றி பல சங்கப்பாடல்களைக் குறிப்பிட்டு உங்களுக்கு ஒரு நெடிய கடிதம் எழுதினேன். அதற்கு பொறுமையாய் பதிலளித்திருந்தீர்கள். பின்னாளில் உங்களைச் சந்தித்த போதும் என் ஆர்வத்தைப் பாராட்டினீர்களே தவிர நான் உங்கள் முடிவுகளைப் பற்றி கேள்வியெழுப்பியதைப் பொருட்படுத்தவேயில்லை.

2003-ல் இருந்து 2010- வரை வாராவாரம் ஒரு குழுவாக ஏதோவொரு இடத்துக்குச் சென்று வரலாறைக் கற்றுக் கொண்டிருந்தோம். அபப்டியொரு பயணத்தில்தான் டாக்டர் கலைக்கோவன் உங்களுக்குவொரு பணிப்பாராட்டு மலரைக் கொண்டு வரவேண்டும் என்று சொன்னார். வேறு துறையில் நல்ல வேலையில் இருந்த எங்களால் ஆளுக்குக் கொஞ்சம் பணம் ஒதுக்க முடிந்தது. அந்தப் பணமே இந்தத் தொகுதிக்கு போதுமானதாய் இருந்தது.

பணம் கொடுத்துவிடலாம். நூலை யார் தொகுப்பது.

கலைக்கோவன் சொன்னார், ”எனக்கு அவருடன் நல்ல பழக்கம் உண்டே தவிர, இந்தத் துறையில் அவருடன் சேர்ந்து பணியாற்றவர்கள் என்று பார்த்தால் அது தொல்லியல் கழகத்தில் உள்ள அறிஞர்கள்தான். அவர்கள் டாக்டர் சுப்பராயுலுவுக்கு செய்தது போல ஐராவதம் மகாதேவனுக்கும் செய்வதுதான் சரியாக இருக்கும்”.

அந்த சமயத்தில் தஞ்சாவூர் தமிழ்ப் பல்கலைகழகத்தில் ஒரு கருத்தரங்கம் நடந்தது. அதில் நீங்களும் பங்கேற்றீர்கல். அந்த சமயத்தில்தான் ஆதிச்சநல்லூர் அகழ்வாராய்ச்சி பற்றிய செய்திகள் வெளியாகி பெரும் பரபரப்பை ஏற்படுத்திக் கொண்டிருந்தன. ஒரு பானையின் உட்பறத்தில் தமிழ் பிராமி எழுத்துகள் இருப்பதாகவும். அந்தப் பானையின் காலம் கி.மி 5-ம் நூற்றாண்டு என்றும் அப்போது தொல்லியல் அளவீட்டுத் துறையில் தலைமைப் பொறுப்பில் இருந்த திரு. சத்தியமூர்த்தியின் பேட்டிகள் சில வெளிவந்திருந்தன.

அந்தப் பானையை ‘தமிழ் பிராமியின் தந்தை’ என விளங்கிய உங்களைப் பார்க்கவே விடவில்லை என்கிற செய்தி என் போன்ற ஆர்வலர்களை கொதிப்புறச் செய்தது.

தஞ்சாவூர் கருத்தரங்கம் நடந்த போது திருமதி.சத்யபாமா தொல்லியல் அளவீட்டுத் துறையின் தலைமைப் பொறுப்பை ஏற்றிருந்தார். அவரும் அந்தக் கருததரங்கிற்கு சிறப்பு விருந்தினராய் வந்திருந்தார். உங்கள் கட்டுரையை வாசித்த பிறகு மதிய உணவு வேளையில் உங்களைத் தொடர்ந்து வந்துகொண்டிருந்தேன், எதிரில் வந்த திருமதி.சத்தியபாமாவிடம் இருகரம் கூப்பி வணங்கியபடி, “எனக்கு அந்த பானையோட்டைக் காட்டக்கூடாதா?”, என்றீர்கள்.

“எப்ப வேணும்னாலும் வந்து பாருங்க. ஆனால் அதில் எந்த எழுத்தும் இல்லை”, என்றார்.

அசத்யத்தின் வலியுடன் கன்னத்தில் கையை வைத்தபடி சுற்றி ஒரு பார்வை பார்த்தீர்கள். அப்போதே இந்தத் துறையின் முடைநாற்றத்தை உணர்ந்திருக்க வேண்டும். உணராமல் உங்கள் பணிப்பாராட்டு மலருக்காக அறிஞர்களை அணுகினோம்.

”பணம் நாங்கள் தருகிறோம். எங்கள் பெயரே வரவேண்டாம். உங்கள் விருப்பம்போல் தொகுத்து வெளியுடுங்கள்”, என்றோம்.

அவர்கள் உற்சாகத்தில் துள்ளிக் குதிப்பார்கள் என்றெண்ணினோம். அவர்களோ சாதாரணமாய், “அப்புறம் பார்க்கலாம்”, என்றனர். அவர்கள் பரவாயில்லை, உங்களைக் நேரில் கண்டபோது குழைந்த அறிஞர்களில் சிலர் நாங்கள் அணுகிய போது வெறுப்பைக் கக்கினர். சரி போகட்டும் பொறாமைபிடித்த ஜீவன்களையா உலகம் நினைவில் வைத்துக்கொள்ளப் போகிறது. உங்கள் பெயர் சொல்ல உங்கள் ஒரு புத்தகம் போதுமே. நாளாக நாளாகக் கிணற்றில் போட்ட கல்லாகவே அந்தப் பணிப்பாராட்டு மலர் இருந்து வந்தது.

2006-ல் இதை டாக்டர் கலைக்கோவனின் வழிகாட்டலிலேயே செய்துவிடுவது என்று முடிவெடுத்தோம். அதன்பின் சந்தித்த சிக்கல்களை எல்லாம் கமலக்கண்ணன் ஐராவதியின் வரலாறு என்று அப்போது விரிவாக பதிவு செய்துள்ளார்.

அந்த முடிவுதான், என்னை உங்களுக்கு நெருக்கமாக்கியது. ஐராவதி தயாரான போது பலமுறை உங்களை நறுமுகை அபார்ட்மெண்டில் சந்திக்க வைத்தது. அப்படிப்பட்ட ஒரு சந்திப்பில் அப்போது வெளியாகியிருந்த என் ஜி.என்.பி புத்தகத்தை உங்களுக்கு அளித்தேன்.

அடுத்த நாளே என்னையழைத்து வெகுநேரம் பேசினீர்கள். அது என் எழுத்தின் மேல் எழுந்த உவகையென்பதைவிட என் மேல் இருந்த பிரியத்தின் வெளிப்பாடு என்று நானறிவேன்.

அந்த நூலை உங்கள் நண்பரும் அப்போது ஸ்ருதி இதழின் ஆசிரியருமாக இருந்த கே.வி.ராமனாதனுக்கு பரிந்துரைந்ததாகவும், அவர் “வாட் நான்சென்ஸ்! ஜி.என்.பி-யைப் பார்க்காத ஒருத்தர் அவரைப் பற்றி எப்படி எழுதமுடியும்?”, என்று கேட்டதாகவும், அதற்கு நீங்கள், “உங்கப் பத்திரிக்கையில் தியாகராஜரைப் பற்றி எழுதறவங்க எல்லாம் அவரைப் பார்த்துப் பழகினவங்களா?”, என்று கேட்டதாகவும் கூறினீர்கள். உங்கள் பதிலை நினைத்தால் இப்போதுகூட அடக்கமுடியாமல் சிரிப்புவருகிறது.

உங்களை சந்தித்த நாட்களில் நீங்கள் சாதாரணமாய் சொல்வது என்னை புரண்டு புரண்டு சிரிக்க வைக்கும். உங்கள் வீட்டுக்கு மடல் கொண்டு வரும் தபால்காரர் ஆங்கிலத்தில் உள்ள பெயரை “ஈரவாதம்” என்று படிப்பதாகச் சொல்லிச் சிரித்தீர்கள். தினமணியில் வேலை நிறுத்தத்தில் அலுவலர்கள் ஈடுபட்ட போது ராம்நாத் கோயங்கா நான் வந்து சரிசெய்யவா என்று கேட்டதற்கு, ”You don’t need a watchdog if you are going to bark for it. Let me do my job”, என்று கூறியது பசுமையாய் நினைவிலிருக்கிறது.

உங்களுடன் கழித்த ஒவ்வொரு நாளும் தமிழில் ஏதோ ஒன்றை நான் கற்றுக் கொண்டிருக்கிறேன். பழனி சுப்ரமண்ய பிள்ளை பற்றிய என் புத்தகத்தில் அவர் மாணாக்கர்களைப் பற்றி ஒரு பகுதி உண்டு. அதில் அவர்களின் மறைவை  – மறைந்தார், மறைந்தார் என்று ஒரே வார்த்தையை மீண்டும் மீண்டும் உபயோகிக்க அலுத்துக் கொண்டு ஓரிடத்தில், “இயற்கை எய்தினார்”, என்று எழுதியிருந்தேன். கடவுள் நம்பிக்கை இல்லாதவர்கள் தங்கள் சித்தாந்ததுக்குப் பொருத்தமாய் “இயற்கை எய்துதல்” என்கிற பதத்தை வகுத்துக் கொண்டதை விளக்கினீர்கள். ஒவ்வொரு வார்த்தையையும் எப்படி யோசித்து யோசித்து உபயோகிக்க வேண்டியிருக்கிறது என்று மலைத்தேன். மாறினேன் என்று சொல்வதற்கில்லை.

உங்களை சந்தித்த நாட்களில் இருந்தே உங்கள் உடல்நிலை முன்னும் பின்னுமாய்தான் இருந்துவந்தது. வெய்யில் நாட்களில் வியர்க்காத உடம்பென்பதால் அதிகம் அயர்ந்து போய்விடுவீர்கள். அத்தனையும் மீறி நீங்கள் உழைப்பதை காணொளியில் பதிவு செய்து வைக்காமல் போனோமே என்று இப்போது தோன்றுகிறது.

உங்கள் துறையென்று இல்லை, எந்தக் காரியம் எடுத்தாலும் அதற்கான முழு உழைப்பை நீங்கள் அளிப்பதை, வருடாந்திர உதவித் தொகை அளிக்க நீங்கள் எடுத்துக் கொண்ட முயற்சியைக் கண்டவர்கள் அறிவார்கள்.

ஏழை மாணவர்களுக்கு ஐ.டி.ஐ-ல் படித்து தொழில் கற்கும் வகையில் உங்கள் டிரஸ்ட் மூலம் விண்ணப்பங்கள் கோரி, அதை ஒவ்வொன்றாய் பரிசீலித்து, மீண்டும் மீண்டும் சரிபார்த்து, சரியான ஆளுக்குப் போய் சேருமாறு பார்த்துக் கொள்ள உங்களையே கரைத்துக்கொள்வீர்கள். அதெல்லாம் உங்கள் தலைமுறைக்குத்தான் சரிவரும். இப்படியும் மனிதருண்டு என்று நான் பார்த்ததே என் அதிர்ஷ்டம்தான்.

என் ஆய்வுகளுக்காக ரோஜா முத்தையா நூலகத்தில் சில நாட்கள் கழித்ததுண்டு. அப்படியொரு நாளில் அங்கு நீங்கள் அமைத்த ‘இண்டஸ் ரிஸர்ச் செண்டர்’-க்கு வந்திருந்தீர்கள். நான் பழைய இதழ்களைப் புரட்டிக் கொண்டிருந்த போது நீங்கள் அறிஞர்களுடன் விவாதித்துக் கொண்டிருந்தீர்கள். நான் மதிய உணவை கையோடு எடுத்து வந்திருந்தேன். உங்களுக்கும் மற்ற அறிஞர்களுக்கும் மதிய உணவு வெளியில் இருந்து வரவழைக்கப்பட்டிருந்தது. நீங்கள் அவர்களையெல்லாம் உணவருந்தப் போகச் சொல்லிவிட்டு, உங்களுக்கு ஒரு அறையில் உணவை வரவழைத்து என்னை அந்த அறைக்குள் அழைத்தீர்கள். “வா சாப்பிடலாம்!”, என்றீர்கள்.

“உங்களுக்காக வந்தவர்களோடு சாப்பிடாமல் ஏன் இங்கு சாப்பிடுகிறீர்கள்?, என்றேன்.

“அவர்களோடுதான் காலையிலிருந்து இருக்கேன். சாய்ங்காலம்வரை இருக்கப் போகிறேன். உன் வேலையைக் கெடுக்காமல் உன்னோடு இப்போதுதான் இருக்க முடியும்.”, என்றீர்கள்

நான் கலங்கிப்போனேன் தாத்தா. உள்ளூரில் உங்களைத் தெரியுமோ தெரியாது. உலகத்துக்கு உங்களைத் தெரியும். நீங்கள் என் வேலை கெடாமல் என்னுடன் இருக்க வேண்டும் என்று நினைத்தீர்களா தாத்தா! இப்போது நினைத்தாலும் சிலிர்க்கிறது.

அன்றிலிருந்து நான் எப்போது அந்த நூலகத்துக்குச் சென்றாலும் தனி மரியாதைதான்.

உங்களை அடிக்கடிச் சந்தித்ததால் ‘சிந்து சமவெளி ஆய்வுகள்’ பற்றி தெரிந்துகொள்ள வேண்டும் என்ற ஆவல் எழுந்தது. அப்போது நீங்கள் 1970 வெளியிட்ட Concordance எங்கும் கிடைக்கவில்லை. உங்களிடமும் ஒரே பிரதிதான் இருந்தது. நான் கேட்டேன் என்பதற்காக எப்படியோ ஒரு பிரதியை எனக்காக வரவழைத்துக் கொடுத்தீர்கள். அது அறிமுக நூலன்று. அறிஞர்கள் உபயோகிக்க வேண்டிய தொகுப்பு நூல். அடுத்த முறை உங்களை சந்திக்கும் போது, “இதை நான் உபயோகிக்க பல வருடங்கள் ஆகும். அதுவரைக்கும் இந்தத் தடி புத்தகத்தை கொலுப்படியின் உச்சத்தில் கலசப்படியா வேணா வெக்கலாம்”, என்று விளையாட்டாகச் சொன்னேன்.

என் பாதை மாறிவிட்டது. அந்தப் புத்தகம் நிச்சயம் ஒரு நல்ல ஆராய்ச்சி மாணவனிடம் சென்று சேர ஆசிர்வதியுங்கள்.

செம்மொழி நிறுவனம் உங்கள் Early Tamil Epigraphy புத்தகத்தை மிக நேர்த்தியாய், ஒவ்வொரு கல்வெட்டையும் மிகத் துல்லியமாய் வண்ணப் பதிப்பில் பிரசுரித்தது. அந்தப் புத்தகம் வெளியாவதற்கு முன் நீங்கள் சரிபார்க்கும் போது பார்த்திருக்கிறேன். அது வெளியானதும் எனக்கொரு பிரதி தருவதாகச் சொன்னீர்கள். அது வெளியாகி எத்தனையோ நாட்கள் ஆகிவிட்டன. நீங்கள் நிச்சயம் எனக்கொரு படி எடுத்து வைத்திருப்பீர்கள். நான்தான் இன்னும் வாங்கிக் கொள்ளவில்லை.

என் குறைதான். நம் உறவு ஜென்மாதிஜென்மமாய்த் தொடர விட்ட குறை, தொட்ட குறையாய் ஏதேனும் இருக்க வேண்டுமல்லவா? அப்படி அந்தப் புத்தகம் இருந்துவிட்டுப் போகட்டும்.

போய் வாருங்கள் ஜானித் தாத்தா!

கௌரி அம்மாவைக் கேட்டதாகச் சொல்லுங்கள்.

உங்கள் அன்புப் பேரன்

லலிதாராம்

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Ever since the Parivadini series 2017, I have been talking to various people and have been contemplating Nagaswara artists, their current state in the Carnatic music field, and possible ways to elevate their status in the field.

Twin Worlds

Although we seem to consider Nagaswara music to be a part of Carnatic Music there seem to be many fundamental differences between the so called “Carnatic world” and the “Nagaswaram world”.

The Parivadini Pratibha Series got me thinking about this. The series was open for all. There was no restriction in terms of caste/gender/region or instrument. While we received entries from a diverse set of people, we did not receive a single entry from a Nagaswara artiste. If I were to identify the “next gen” Injikudi Subramaniam or Vyasarpadi Kothandaraman, how was I supposed to figure that out? On the one hand, there is a lot of pessimism about the state of Nagaswaram. On the other, here I am, a genuine well-wisher of Nagaswaram music eagerly wishing for its prosperity but struggling to identify young talents.

To me at first the Nagswara – Non Nagaswara divide appeared to be a consequence of the larger Brahmin – Non Brahmin divide in the Carnatic world at large. For sure carnatic music is restricted to a very small group of people, predominantly Brahmins. But for the moment, let us forget that problem and focus exclusively on Nagaswaram, for the simple reason that it might be better to first stem the rot locally with respect to a specific issue, before we dream of greener pastures. As it turns out, there are other important factors at play here besides caste.

Working The Way Up

Let us take the case of an individual who would like to work her/ his way up in the field as a non-Nagaswara artist. The paths are well defined here. Apart from undergoing training under a Guru, the student exposes her/himself to various concerts through various available avenues. When a child nears her/his teens, s/he starts participating in competitions all over South India. Most of the prominent sabhas conduct competitions on various themes and with demands of varying degrees of complexity. This forces the individual to learn many compositions to widen their repertoire and helps gauge her/himself within peer groups. Of course, there is a key role played by parents in creating avenues for learning, motivating the child to participate in events, etc. Once the parents and the child realize that the child is at least at the average performance level within the community they typically take the next leap. If the child isn’t already learning from one, they seek a Guru of higher reputation (there is a big element of branding that goes into the process of growth in the field). You will then invariably find parents taking a special interest in networking. The child first starts performing several low-profile concerts (ex: temple concerts). The advantages of such performances are many:

  1. These performances typically help the child break out of stage fear.
  2. Recordings of such performances are meticulously scrutinized by the Guru and helps the child assess her strengths and weaknesses.
  3. If the child doesn’t deliver at the expected level, little damage is done in terms of reputation since these concerts are low profile.

Upon gaining reasonable experience performing on stage, a biodata and recordings are floated around in various networks. The child’s talent (to a lesser degree) and the strength of parents’/guru’s network (to a higher degree) result in concert opportunities of more serious nature, at bigger venues.

Most concert opportunities even at this stage typically mean performing without an honorarium. Needless to say, parents are also happy to absorb the costs of preparation/travel etc. They invest a significant amount of their own time as well.

For instrumentalists, a grand arangetram (debut) concert is arranged where the young performer shares the stage with veterans. The hall typically overflows with friends, relatives, musicians and several individuals who are influential in this field.

The above-mentioned process approximately takes a decade.

Another point to remember is that all this while, the child does not compromise on academics. There is absolutely no pressure on the child to reach a level in music that should eventually win her/him their daily bread. The decision to take up music as a full-fledged career usually waits until one is in their late twenties.

At the end of this roughly decade long process, the child’s seriousness towards the art becomes clear and that defines the further course of action. The promising talents, upon doing enough PR exercises, can always land 2-6 afternoon concerts during the December Season (The probability of a concert opportunity in Chennai for a non-Chennai resident is a little low but not zero. Eventually parents figure out who likes “namma kuttan” or “mana vaadu” more than ‘namba paiyan’.) In case of accompanying artists, the opportunities can be even more.

Beyond this point, success in gaining concert opportunities becomes an increasingly complex process. While it is possible to break down someone’s success top-down to its various ingredients, it is difficult to prescribe a fool proof bottom-up formula that works for every promising aspirant.

In any case, there seem to be several promising artists at any given point at various career stages, and for an earnest rasika or an organizer, the talent pool is up to the brim. There is plenty to choose from.

There is enough evidence to suggest that the process detailed above can work as well for a Non Brahmin and Non Nagaswara artist as it does for a Brahmin and Non nagaswara artist.

Now if we look at the Nagaswara world, this well-crafted process of working one’s way up suddenly doesn’t exist anymore.

At a cursory glance, one might conclude that this is because of lack of patronage to Nagaswaram in sabhas. One might argue that the Nagaswaram is restricted to inauguration functions and is not featured in concerts. There is some degree of truth to this, especially if we consider the December Season concerts in Chennai. However, a closer look reveals deeper issues.

Let us look at the population that chooses to learn Nagaswaram and Thavil. Most of this population is in Government aided music schools and colleges that require the student to know how to read and write. There is a small population that learns in the Gurukula mode under some kin who is in the profession. This latter number is insignificant though, and hence I won’t get into it here.

What is the motivation for Nagaswaram students to join such institutions? Is it the love for the art or something else?

The startling answer to this question is that students join such institutes because of poverty. I was quite shaken when I first heard this from a great Nagaswaram artiste.

How does choosing to learn the Mangala Vadhyam help address issues related to poverty?

Here is a candid account from an artiste who worked in one such institution: “Most of the students are either school dropouts or do not have any skill to take up any other vocation. If you travel to interior villages, the Mangala Vadhyam is a part of not just big life events such as marriages but also a part of many smaller events. Hence, the nagaswaram/thavil artists will invariably find an opportunity to play. The key point to note is that although the presence of the artist is inevitable, the quality of music that needs to be presented almost doesn’t matter. All that matters is the ability to produce some kind of sound with the instrument. That is the reason you will find more students opting to learn thavil than Nagaswaram – for it is easier produce sound on Thavil when compared to Nagaswaram. Among the Nagswaram students you will invariably find many dropouts after the first year. This is because the moment the student realizes he can “manage” to play at events he is motivated to put it to use and address his financial woes.”

It is in such tragic conditions that artistes of promise emerge. Unfortunately the talented youngster in such a situation neither has the life skills to work his way up in the urban Carnatic world nor the financial freedom to pursue higher musical goals.

The fact that we have a number of high quality Nagaswaram artists today is nothing short of a glorious miracle. It is as though seeds have sprouted on concrete.

Sociologists unfortunately stop at viewing this issue as a “Brahmin vs. Non Brahmin” thing and think that their job is done if they write or talk about this. While they are angered that the Brahmin controlled sabhas do not host enough Nagswaram concerts and that when such concerts are hosted the audience turn out is distressingly low, they do not think it is necessary for them to turn up to such concerts themselves. (Let us not even get into organizing.) For non Nagaswaram concerts it would be a fair guess that about 75% of the audience that turn up are not really there to enjoy the music. They turn up to honor the request of the artist and genuinely feel that their presence (despite their musical ignorance) has a role to play in encouraging the artist. Unfortunately, this does not happen in the Nagaswaram Concerts.

What is the Solution?

I’ve only got to the tip of the iceberg here. It would be premature to propose a grand solution at this point. However, some preliminary thoughts come to mind:

  1. A scholarship can be initiated for a period of five years to be given to deserving students under a designated, well meaning Guru.  The scholarship should relieve the student of her/his financial woes and allow her/ him to focus on the music alone. This could start with 5 to 10 students and should be used as a motivation to students to take up music seriously and not be complacent merely with some sounds produces.
  2. While the student learns under the designated Guru, opportunities should be created for this student to travel to cities like Chennai and participate in various workshops conducted by musicians and attended by Non Nagaswaram students.
  3. Endowments could be started in Sabhas to conduct Nagaswaram Competitions.
  4. Talented young Nagaswaram artistes should be featured along with young and popular non Nagaswaram artistes so as to create visibility.
  5. Training should be provided on communication and life skills. If possible, we should also help them with some kind of an academic degree.
  6. We should consciously work on bringing more people to Nagaswaram concerts. We should actively spread the idea that attending such events helps a cause and inability to understand the music should not be a deterrent.
  7. DIY webcast kits can be provided to artists so that they can showcase their talent from wherever they are.

While I’m still mulling over these thoughts for several months now, a beginning is made this month.

Apart from the Bi Monthly Nagaswaram series that we started in June 2018, we are planning to give instruments to students that are talented and under financial distress. We gave away three nagaswarams and one thavil (costing a total of ninety thousand rupees) to four young deserving students on 03 Nov 2018.

This thought was initiated through Nagaswara Vidvan Idumbavanam Prakash Ilayaraja. When a student of Ilayaraja, who had graduated from his school, approached him to buy a new nagaswaram – only to realize it was too expensive and had to postpone the buying for another few months before he could save enough to buy a new one (costing INR 15000). This student is a typical case, where an artist all of 18, must depend on his music (having lost his father) to support is entire family and he doesn’t even possess a decent instrument to practice his art. Ilayaraja says, “Such students are there in hundreds and in every district of Tamilnadu”.

I can go on and on. But I will stop here.

I put this post out to create visibility on a grave issue and create an opportunity for discussion and hopefully pave the way for some concrete action.

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Details of the Beneficiaries of the first instrument donation event held on 03 Nov 2018

  1. Balaganesh (Age 16) learning under Prakash Ilayaraja at State run music school, Vizhuppuram.
  2. V.Gobeeswaram (Age 9) learning under Thirurameswaram Radhakrishnan, Thanjavur
  3. E.Chandrasekar (Age 18) learning under Prakash Ilayaraja
  4. G.Velmoorthy (age 17) learning under Chinnamanoor Vijaykarthikeyan

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சென்னை போன்ற நகரங்களில் கலைக்காக இசைப் பயிற்சி பெருபவர்கள் அதிகம். கிராமப்புரங்களில், குறிப்பாக நாகஸ்வரம்/தவில் பயில்பவர்களைக் காணும் போது கலைக்காக கற்பவர்களைவிட வறுமையினால் இசைப்பள்ளிக்கு வரும் மாணவர்கள் பலரைக் காணமுடியும்.

அத்தகைய மாணவர்களை ஊக்கிவிக்கும் வண்ணம், முடிந்த அளவில் பரிவாதினியின் மூலமாக உதவி செய்யவுள்ளோம். அதன் தொடக்கமாக வரும் நவம்பர் 3-ஆம் தேதி நான்கு மாணவர்களுக்கு (3 நாகஸ்வரம், 1 தவில்) இசைக்கருவிகளைத் வாங்கித் தரவுள்ளோம்.

பரிவாதினி ஒருங்கிணைத்திருக்கும் வித்வான் யாழ்பாணம் பாலமுருகன் அவர்களின் நாகஸ்வரக் கச்சேரிக்கு முன் இந்த நிகழ்வு இடம் பெரும்.

மாணவர்கள் விவரம்:

நாகஸ்வரம்: பாலகணேஷ் (16), சந்திரசேகர் (18), வேல்மூர்த்தி (17)

தவில்: கோபீஸ்வரன் (9)

இந்த முயற்சியில் பங்களிக்க விரும்புவோர் பரிவாதினிக்கு நன்கொடை செலுத்தலாம்.

For contributions:

Parivadini Charitable Trust,
Union Bank of India
Account Number: 579902120000916
branch: Kolathur, Chennai,
IFSC Code: UBIN0557994

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