Monday, January 02, 2006

Indianness VI - Carnatic Music....

From the Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya archives, posted on May 02, 2005

I bow down in reverence to all the souls who are/were musicians in this demesne of music - Carnatic Sangeetham. I sincerely hope that they overlook the mistakes that might seep in; as this person writes about it. I might have partially written about this elsewhere; but this is the first time, I am writing about it in completeness(?).

Carnatic music - with its strong emphasis on rhythm, melody and feelings - provides the fundamental, essential and harmonic basis for India's rich cultural heritage. Hindustani music, its sister, on the other hand has nevertheless been influenced by West Asia. Essentially South Indian, with compositions predominantly in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit; this form of music has withstood the test of times and invasions. Despite the absence of unity among the people, this art was nevertheless heavily protected. The Guru-shishya parampara school of thought helped in more ways than one. It is a closed form in the sense that it would be very very difficult for an outsider to truly appreciate it; and most of the technicalities would be considered esoteric. Most compositions were part of the Bhakti movement - which believed in attaining salvation through the path of Bhakti yoga. Hence, they were related to the divine masculine and feminine faces of the Trinity.

Purandaradasa, the Father of Carnatic Music laid the foundation for a systematic approach to the impartment of this musical form. The Trinity of Music developed it based on the Melakartha system with divine mellifluous compositions. It provides no scope for improvisation (barring the alaapanas); infact the musicians do not want to improvise; and the rasikas do not want them to. It would be indeed blasphemous and amount to showing dis-respect to the composer. Each krithi is rendered only in that raaga, so desired by its composer. So many luminaries have helped sustain this form of music. The festive kacheri season sees many concerts during this time by musicians, both young and old; rising and established.

So, is this form limited to the few (sadly, yes) people who know it or appreciate it? I don't know why, but somehow it is the common opinion that this form is limited to Brahmans alone. I am not really sure about the element of truth in this opinion. Would it be difficult for non-Brahmans to appreciate it if they want to? Would it be difficult for people of other religions to appreciate it if they want to? And, do these "differences" exist in this era of nationalization and globalization?

It is our's, India's jewel on her crown. We are responsible for its sustenance and fortunately, we can do so in more ways than one (however small and insignificant).

1. Attending the kacheris. Nothing comes for free. A Rock/Pop concert by a famous star/group attracts people, who have no qualms whatsover in paying hefty amounts as entrance fees. The music is heavily commercialized and contemporary with its own appeal. Do we really understand the elements of music during these concerts? It is most often a time to be among the hep crowd. So, what's wrong in attending a carnatic music kacheri even if one doesn't truly understand its elements? In what way is it less fashionable?

2. The young, new, and rising musicans hold the key for the sustenance of this art form. Support them in every possible way. They need us and our encouragement. Remember that most of them, would have chosen this as a vocation. They are dependent on this for their living. Money shouldn't be a limiting factor for them which could possibly force them to seek alternative vistas. The music form needs them more than the musicians need it.

3. Purchase original CD's/cassettes. That is the least we can do. Say a complete NO to piracy.

4. Our not knowing the languages - Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Sanskrit, shouldn't deter us from trying out carnatic music with an open mind. When people consider it fashionable to learn French/German/Spanish, what stops them from learning a new language?

5. It is an Indian art form that has amazingly been protected. It is pure, virginal and blissful. We, as the responsible citizens of India, should do our best in ensuring that it remains that way.

Just like a flower has no religion, Music also has no religion. - Amjad Ali Khan

There can be no bigger folly than failing to appreciate what is ours.

6. Encourage children who are learning some form of Carnatic Music. They should know about the glory of this form. They should know that they are among the (fortunate few!) potential stones being polished to become diamonds. I do not imply vulgar glorification. In the present times, young children are more attracted to filmi/contemporary western music. They consider it hep to be among the crowd. I am not saying that they shouldn't be exposed to other forms of music. Too much of anything is madness. What I am really against is their lacking respect for any form.

7. Encourage organizations like SPIC-MACAY and others that help in promoting musical awareness among youth. The youth and children hold the key! They are the ones that need attention, encouragement and guidance.

.... and so on.

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