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Posts Tagged ‘nagaswaram’

சென்ற ஆண்டு தொடங்கி, இரண்டு மாதங்களுக்கு ஒருமுறை நாத இன்பத்துடன் சேர்ந்து, நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரி ஒன்றை பரிவாதினி ஒருங்கிணைத்து வருகிறது.

அந்த வரிசையில் இந்த மாதம் 27-ம் தேதி, நெம்மாரா சகோதரர்களின் கச்சேரி ஏற்பாடாகியுள்ளது. கேரளத்தைச் செர்ந்த இந்த கலைஞர்கள் சமீப காலத்தில் சங்கீத உலகில் நல்லதொரு பெயரை ஈட்டி, அனைத்து பிரபல அரங்குகளிலும் வாசித்து வருகின்றனர். இவர்களுடன் தேர்ந்த தவில் கலைஞர்களான திருராமேஸ்வரம் ராதாகிருஷ்ணனும், தாராபுரம் கணேஷும் வாசிக்கவுள்ளனர்.

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வழக்கம் போல், கச்சேரியுடன் சேர்ந்து திறமையுள்ள ஆனால் நிதி நிலை ஸ்திரமாக இல்லாத இரு மாணவர்களுக்குத் தவிலும் நாகஸ்வரமும் வழங்கப்படவுள்ளது.

இம்முறை தவில் பெறும் மாணவர் பதினைந்து வயது நிரம்பிய மணிகண்டன். இவர் தென்திருப்பதி அரசு இசைப்பள்ளியில் பயின்று வருகிறார். நாகஸ்வரம் பெறும் மாணவர் சிவகுருகணேஷ். பதினேழு வயது நிரம்பிய இவர், திருவையாறு அரசு இசைப்பள்ளியில் பயின்று வருகிறார்.

கச்சேரிகளுக்கோ, வாத்தியம் வழங்குவதற்கோ நன்கொடை அளிக்க விரும்புவோர் இங்கு குறிப்பிட்டுள்ள வங்கிக் கணக்கில் நன்கொடை அளிக்கலாம்.

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

 

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Nagaswaram Not Allowed

I had written this on facebook a few years ago. Posting it here as well (for my reference).

இரண்டு நாட்களுக்கு முன் Ramkumar R ஒரு படத்தைப் பகிர்ந்திருந்தார். அதையொட்டி இந்தப் பதிவு:

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Live Nadaswaram not allowed-ஐ பார்த்ததும் ஒரு நிகழ்வு நினைவுக்கு வந்தது,

அது டிசம்பர் 2013.

பரிவாதினியைத் தொடங்கிய வருடம்.

வருடாந்திர கச்சேரிகள் நடத்த வேண்டும் என்றெல்லாம் சத்தியமாய் நினைக்கவில்லை.

டிசம்பரில் நடக்கவிருந்த கச்சேரிகளின் பட்டியலைப் பார்த்த போது, பல அற்புத கலைஞர்கள் ஒரு இடத்தில் கூட பாட/வாசிக்கவில்லை என்பதை உணர முடிந்தது. அவர்களுள் குறைந்த பட்சம் சிலருக்காவது மேடையளிக்க வேண்டும் என்று நினைத்து அசட்டு தைரியத்தில் எடுத்த முடிவுதான் பரிவாதினி இசை விழா.

ஒரு வாரம் நடக்கவிருந்த இசை விழாவுக்கு இடத்துக்கு எங்கு செல்ல?

ஒரு வாரம் முடியாது 3 நாள் வேண்டுமானால் எடுத்துக் கொள்ளுங்கள் என்றனர் தி.நகர் கிளப் நிர்வாகிகள்.

மற்ற நாட்களுக்கு?

தென் சென்னை முழுவதும் துழாவிய போதும் ஒரு மொட்டை மாடி கூட கிடைக்கவில்லை. கடைசியில் Venkataraghavan Srinivasan-ன் சித்தி குடியிருந்த அமைப்பின் கம்யுனிடி ஹாலைப் பிடித்தோம்.

அதிகம் அலைய வைக்காமல் ஆழ்வார்பேட்டையிலேயே இடம்.

முதல் கச்சேரி வியாசர்பாடி கோதண்டராமனின் நாகஸ்வரம்.

அவர் வாசிக்க ஆரம்பித்த பத்தாவது நிமிடத்தில் மேனேஜர் ஓடி வந்தார்.

”என்ன ஸார் நடக்குது இங்க?”

“ஏன் ஸார்?”

“கச்சேரிக்குத்தானே இடம் கேட்டீங்க?”

“ஆமாம்”
“அப்புறம் நாகஸ்வரம் வாசிக்கறாங்க?”

“நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரிங்க”

“இங்க நாகஸ்வரம் அலௌட் இல்ல”

“ஏங்க”

“அதாங்க ரூல்ஸ்”

“…”

“நிறுத்த சொல்லுங்க ஸார்”

“அய்யோ ஸார்”

“ரெஸிடெண்ட்ஸ் என்னை வேலையை விட்டே தூக்குடுவாங்க”

“கச்சேரி ஆரம்பிச்சாச்சு ஸார்”

“பத்து நிமிஷத்துல ஆயிடுமா?”

“இன்னும் ரெண்டு மணி நேரம்…”

“ரெண்டு மணி நேரமா? அதெல்லாம் முடியாது ஸார். அட்வான்ஸை வேணா வாங்கிக்கங்க”

“இன்னும் மூணு நாள் கச்சேரி இருக்கு. திடீர்-னு வேற எங்க போவோம்?”

“ஐயோ இன்னும் மூணு நாள் நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரியா?”

“இல்லை இல்லை! இது ஒண்ணுதான் நாகஸ்வரம். மத்ததெல்லாம் வேற வாத்தியம், இல்லைனா வாய்பாட்டு”

“ஹப்பாடி! இப்ப இதை மட்டும் நிறுத்திடுங்க. மத்ததெல்லாம் பிர்ச்னை இல்லை”

“கச்சேரியை எப்படி ஸார் பாதில நிறுத்த”

“ரூல்ஸ் அப்படி ஸார்”

நல்ல காலம் வெங்கட்-ன் சித்தியின் சொல்லுக்கு செல்வாக்கு இருந்தது.

அவர் வந்து சொன்னதும் கொஞ்சம் இறங்கி வந்தார்.

“உங்களுக்காக பெரிய ரிஸ்க் எடுக்கறேன் மேடம். யாராவது கேட்டா நீங்கதான் பதில் சொல்லணும். இது ஒண்ணுதானே நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரி?”
மீண்டுமொரு முறை உறுதி செய்து கொண்டார்.

“ம்..”

“வயலின், கீபோர்ட், டிரம்ஸ் எது வேணா ஓகே, நாகஸ்வரம் மட்டும் அலௌட் இல்லீங்க. அப்புறம் காது குத்து ஃபங்ஷன் வெக்கறவங்க கூட நாகஸ்வர பார்ட்டியை கூட்டிட்டு வந்துடுவாங்க.”

“வந்தா என்னங்க?”

“என்னவா? எவ்வளோ சவுண்ட் வரும்? எத்தனை பேருக்கு இடைஞ்சல்?”

பதில் சொல்ல வாயெடுத்தேன். அதற்குள் கோதண்டராமன் சாலகபைரவியை ஊதத் தொடங்கியிருந்தார்.

இந்த நாடும், நாட்டு மக்களும் நாசமாய் போகட்டும் என்று சபித்தபடி ஹாலுக்குள் ஓடினேன்.

 

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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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நாகஸ்வர கோயில் மரபப் பற்றி நண்பர் வித்வான் பிரகாஷ் இளையராஜாவுடன் இணைந்து ஆற்றிய உரையின் பகுதியை இங்கு காணலாம். டிசம்பரில் ஆர்.ஆர்.சபாவில் இந்த நிகழ்வு இடம்பெற்றது.

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டிசம்பர் சீஸனில் பல்லாயிரக்காண கச்சேரிகள் நடக்கின்றன. இருப்பினும் நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரிகள் பெரும்பாலும் தொடக்க விழா என்ற கேலிக்கூத்துக்கே ஒதுக்கப்படுகின்றன. மங்கல இசை என்ற பெயரில் பெரும் கலைஞர்களை அவமதிப்பதைப் பற்றி தனி பதிவு எழுதவேண்டும்.

நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரிகள் வைக்காததற்கு, சிறிய ஹாலில் அதிக சத்தம், கூட்டம் வராது என்று தொடங்கி பக்கத்துவீட்டுப் பாட்டிக்கு பல் விழுந்துவிட்டது வரை ஆயிரம் காரணங்கள்.

”அதுதான் பொங்கலில் நாகஸ்வர விழா இருக்கிறதே”, என்று எதிர் குரல் வேறு. “சீஸனின் போது நாகஸ்வரக் கலைஞர்கள் தீண்டத்தகாதவர்களா”, என்று சிலரைக் கேட்டு பகைத்துக் கொண்டதுதான் மிச்சம்.

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இந்த வருத்தங்கள் பல வருடங்களாய் இருந்தாலும் பெரியதாய் ஒன்றும் செய்யமுடியவில்லை. இந்த நிலையில் மூன்று வருடங்களுக்கு முன் வித்வான் டி.எம்.கிருஷ்ணாவின் தலைமையில் சுமனஸா அறக்கட்டளை ஓர் அரிய, மிகவும் தேவையான முயற்சியை முன்னெடுத்தது.

டிசம்பரில் கச்சேரி நடத்தும் சபைகளுடன் பேசி நாகஸ்வரத்துக்கென்று சில கச்சேரிகளை ஒதுக்கு வைத்திருக்கிறது. கச்சேரி தேதியையும் நேரத்தையும் மட்டும் சபை அளித்தால் போதும். மற்ற அனைத்தையும் சுமனஸா அறக்கட்டளையே பார்த்துக் கொள்கிறது. கச்சேரிகளுக்கு கலைஞர்களை முடிவு செய்வதிலிருந்து, கச்சேரி செலவுகளை ஏற்றுக்கொள்வது வரை அனைத்தையும் சுமனஸா அறக்கட்டளை பார்த்துக்கொள்கிறது.

இந்தப் பணியில் துறை சாதனையாளர் வியாசர்பாடி கோதண்டராமனும் இருப்பதால் பெரும்பாலும் அதிகம் அறியப்படாத கலைஞர்களுக்கு இந்த மேடை கிடைக்கிரது. இன்று நல்ல பெயருடன் விளங்கும் மயிலை கார்த்திகேயன் என்ற அற்புத ஈலம் கலைஞரை நான் முதன் முதலில் கேட்டது இந்த அறக்கட்டளை நாத இன்பத்தில் ஏற்பாடு செய்திருந்த டிசம்பர் கச்சேரியில்தான்.

இந்த சீஸனில் மட்டும் ஐந்து சபைகளில் பதினோரு கச்சேரிகள் ஏற்பாடாகி சிறப்பாக நடந்துள்ளன.

சென்ற வருடம், டிசம்பர் தவிர மற்ற மாதங்களிலும் நாகஸ்வர கச்சேரிகள் இந்த அறக்கட்டளையால் நடத்தப்பட்டுள்ளன.

தமிழ்நாடு மட்டுமின்றி மற்ற மாநிலங்களில் இருந்தும், நாகஸ்வரக் கலைஞர்கள் வரவழைக்கப்படுகின்றனர். அதிக விளம்பரம் இன்று சத்தமில்லாமல் இது ஒரு புரட்சி என்றுதான் சொல்லவேண்டும்.

மிக அவசியமான முயற்சியை முன்னோடியாய் முன்னெடுத்திருக்கும் சுமனஸா அறக்கட்டளைக்கும், வித்வான் டி.எம்.கிருஷ்ணாவுக்கும் சங்கீத உலகம் என்றென்றும் கடன்பட்டிருக்கும்.

வரும்காலங்களில் பதினொன்று பல நூறாகப் பெருகும் என்று நம்புவோம்.

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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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கர்நாடக இசையைப் பொருத்தமட்டில் வெளிநாட்டில் இருப்பவர்கள் இந்தியாவில் இருந்து இந்தக் கலைஞர் நம் நாட்டுக்கு வந்து கச்சேரி செய்யமாட்டாரா என்று ஏங்குவதுதான் வழக்கம். அதற்கு நேர்மாறாக, வெளிநாட்டு கலைஞர் நம் ஊரில் வந்து கர்நாடகயிசை இசைக்க மாட்டாரா என்று நினைப்பது அரிதினும் அரிது.

1960-கள்/70-களில் தவில் மேதை யாழ்ப்பாணம் தட்சிணாமூர்த்திக்கு இது நிகழ்ந்தது. அதன்பின் அதே மண்ணில் இருந்து உருவாகியிருக்கும் நாகஸ்வர கலைஞர் யாழ்ப்பாணம் பாலமுருகனின் மேல் அத்தகைய எதிர்பார்ப்புகள் உருவாகியுள்ளன.

கடந்த இரண்டு ஆண்டுகளில் எண்ணற்ற முறை ஃபேஸ்புக், ட்விட்டர் முதலான இணையவெளிகளில் பாலமுருகனின் இசைப்பதிவுகள் பலரால் பகிரப்பட்டுள்ளன. அவர் வாசித்த பல திரையிசைப் பாடல்கள் பெரும் வரவேற்பைப் பெற்றுள்ளன. கர்நாடக சங்கீத ரசிகர்களை அவர் நாகஸ்வரத்தின் இனிமையும், சுஸ்வரமான ராக வாசிப்பில் தென்படும் கற்பனை வளமும் அழகுணர்ச்சியும் , “யார் இந்தப் புதுக் காற்று?”, என்று திரும்பிப்பார்க்க வைத்துள்ளது.

யாழ்ப்பாணத்தில் நல்லூர் கந்தசாமி கோவிலின் ஆஸ்தான நாகஸ்வர வித்வானாய் இருக்கும் பாலமுருகன் தன் இசைப் பயணத்தைப் பற்றிக் கூறுகையில்,

“எங்கள் பூர்வீகம் புதுக்கோட்டை மாவட்டத்தில் உள்ள ஆவுடையார்கோயில். தாத்தா தவில் வித்வானாக இருந்தவர். அவர் காலத்தில் இலங்கைக்கு குடிபெயர்ந்தோம். அப்பா சுப்புசாமி பிள்ளை நாகஸ்வர வித்வான். அதைத் தவிர, தவில், வாய்ப்பாட்டு, மிருதங்கம், கடம், கஞ்சிரா ஆகியவற்றிலும் தேர்ச்சி பெற்றவர். என் எட்டாவது வயதில் அவரிடம் கற்றுக் கொள்ள ஆரம்பித்தேன்.”, என்கிறார்.

தன் இளமைக் காலங்களை இலங்கையில் நடந்த போருக்கிடையிலேயே கழித்த பாலமுருகன், தன் இருபதாவது வயது வரையில் வாழ்க்கையை பத்து கிலோமீட்டருக்குள்ளேயே கழித்ததாகக் கூறுகிறார்.

“தெரிந்தவர்கள் எல்லாம் போரில் மாண்டு விழுந்த போதும், அடுத்த நாள் பிழைத்திருப்போமா என்று அறியாத போதும் தொடர்ந்து சங்கீத சாதகம் செய்வதை என் தந்தையார் வலியுறுத்தி வந்தார். என் வீட்டில் திருவாவடுதுரை ராஜரத்தினம் பிள்ளை அவர்களின் கேசட்டுகளைத் தவிர வேறொரு நாகஸ்வர கேஸட்டுக்கு இடமில்லை. “அதைத் திரும்பித் திரும்பிக் கேளு. அதில் இருப்பவற்றை முழுவதும் வாசிக்க முடியாவிட்டாலும், அதிலிருந்து ஏதாவது சில விஷயங்கள் உனக்கும் ஒட்டிக் கொள்ளும். அப்படி ஒட்டிக் கொண்டாலே பெரிய விஷயம்தான்.”, என்று அப்பா சொல்வார். அந்த நெருக்கடி நிலையிலும் விடாது செய்த சாதகம்தான் என்னை இன்று ஒரே நாளில் மூன்று இடங்களில் வாசிக்க வேண்டும் என்றாலும் சமாளிக்க உதவுகின்றன.”, என்கிறார் 38 வயது பாலமுருகன்.

அளவெட்டி பத்மநாபனிடம் சிறப்புப் பயிற்சி பெற்றுள்ளார். வித்வான் பத்மநாபனுடனும் அதன்பின் இலங்கையில் பிரபலமாயிருந்த வித்வான் கானமூர்த்தியுடனும் துணை நாகஸ்வரமாக சில ஆண்டுகள் வாசித்த பின் , தனது 23-வது வயதில் இருந்து தனி ”செட்” அமைத்துக் கொண்டு வாசித்து வருகிறார். சிங்கப்பூர் செண்பக விநாயகர் கோயில் கும்பாபிஷேகத்துக்காக முதன் முதலாய் வெளிநாட்டுப் பயணம் சென்ற பாலமுருகனின் வாசிப்பு இன்று லண்டன், ஆஸ்திரேலியா, கனடா முதலான நாடுகளில் பெரும் வரவேற்பைப் பெற்றுள்ளது. தென்னிந்தியாவிலும், குறிப்பாக கர்நாடகத்திலும் கேரளத்திலும் எண்ணற்ற அழைப்புகளை ஏற்று நிறைய கோயில் கச்சேரிகள் செய்து வருகிறார்.

 

இவர் வாசிப்பைக் கேட்டு, ஹரித்வாரமங்கலம் பழனிவேல், டி.ஏ.கலியமூர்த்தி, தஞ்சாவூர் கோவிந்தராஜன், மன்னார்குடி வாசுதேவன் போன்ற பெரிய தவில் வித்வான்கள் மனமுவந்து இவருடன் வாசித்திருக்கின்றனர்.

“2006-ல் யாழ்பாணத்துக்கு ஒரு கச்சேரிக்காக சென்றிருந்த போது அங்கு பாலமுருகன் இரண்டாவது நாயனம் வாசித்தார். அவர் வாத்யத்தின் நாதமே இனிமையாகவும் தனித்துவமாகவும் இருந்தது. எது வாசித்தாலும் அதிலிருந்த குளிமை மனத்தை ஈர்த்தது. 2009-ல் ஒரு வாய்ப்பு கிடைத்த போது அவரி இந்தியாவுக்கு அழைத்து வாசிக்க வைக்க சிபாரிசு செய்தேன். அதன்பின் நிறைய கச்சேரிகளில் சேர்ந்து வாசித்துள்ளோம். அன்று நான் அவரை அழைத்தது போக இன்று அவர் என்னை இலங்கைக்கு அழைத்து பல கச்சேரிகளில் வாசிக்க வழியும் செய்யும் அளவிற்கு வளர்ந்துள்ளார். முன்னணி கலைஞர்கள் மன்னார்குடி வாசுதேவன், திருப்புங்கூர் முத்துகுமாரிசாமி போன்றோரும் அவர் அழைப்பின் பேரில் சென்று இலங்கையில் அடிக்கடி வாசித்து வருகின்றனர்.” என்கிறார் தவில் வித்வான் கோவிலூர் கே.ஜி. கல்யாணசுந்தரம்.

இந்தியாவில் வாசிப்பதைப் பற்றி பாலமுருகன், ”2013-ல் எங்கள் வாசிப்பைக் கேட்டுவிட்டு திரு. ஏ.கே.பழனிவேல் எங்களை பொங்கல் தினத்தன்று சன் டிவி-யில் வாசிக்க ஏற்பாடு செய்தார். இந்த வருடம் திருவையாறு தியாகராஜ உற்சவத்திலும் முதன் முறையாக வாசிக்கும் வாய்ப்பு கிடைத்தது.”. என்கிறார்.

கர்நாடக இசையோடு திரையிசையையும் வாசிப்பதைப் பற்றி பேசும் போது, “இன்றைய சூழலில், குறிப்பாக இலங்கையில் வாசிக்கும் போது, இளைஞர்கள் கவனத்தை தக்க வைக்க திரையிசைப் பாடல்களையும் வாசிக்க வேண்டிய கட்டாயம் உள்ளது. கச்சேரிக்கு அழைத்தவர்கள் விரும்பிக் கேட்கும் போது தட்ட முடிவதில்லை. ரசிகர்களுக்காக திரையிசையை வாசித்தாலும் என் மனது எப்போதும் கர்நாடக ராகங்களையும் கீர்ததனைகளையும்தான் பெரிதும் விரும்புகின்றது.”

தன்னை அதிகம் பாதித்த இசையைக் குறிப்பிடும் போது, “ஜி.என்.பி, மதுரை சோமு, சேஷகோபாலன் ஆகியோரின் ராக ஆலாபனைகள் என்னை பெரிதும் பாதித்துள்ளன. கீர்த்தனைகள் பாடுவதில் மகாராஜபுரம் சந்தானத்தின் வழியை பெரிதும் விரும்புவேன். அதே வழியில் வாசிக்கவும் முயன்று வருகிறேன்.”, என்கிறார்.

 

கோயில் கச்சேரிகளில் ஓய்வின்றி வாசித்துவரும் பாலமுருகன் விரைவில் இந்தியாவிலும், அமெரிக்கா முதலான நாடுகளிலும் கர்நாடக இசைக் கச்சேரிகள் நடத்தும் சபைகளிலும் வாசிப்பார் என்பதில் எந்த ஐயப்பாடும் இல்லை.

balamurugan

அதன் தொடக்கமாக வரும் நவம்பர் 3-ம் தேதி சென்னையில், மயிலாப்பூர் ராக ஸுதா அரங்கில் இவர் கச்சேரி நடைபெறுகிறது.

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