Indian music represents a passionate, inspiring and eternal aural treat — a musical experience that differs among listeners and performers alike. Performance is the ultimate goal in any art and hence artistes assume importance and occupy the limelight.

Gurus, by sharing their knowledge and experience, serve to keep the arts tradition alive. Also beneficial are newspaper critics, who play a role in projecting artistes and provide analyses of performances.

Encouragement from listeners in the audience spurs artistes to lift their performance. A major parameter is how nuanced the listener/viewer’s appreciation of the art form is.

On the whole, the development of the performing arts rests on contributions from the artiste, gurus, musicologists, organisers and critics alike. Popularisation of classical music must go hand in hand with raising the standard of listeners.

Fusing innovation with tradition

The artistes, on their part, must constantly attempt to introduce novelty, vigour and emotional touches into their performance, in addition to focussing on areas they have a natural advantage in.

One such exemplary artiste was the sitar maestro Bharat Ratna Pandit Ravi Shankar, who sculpted a new dimension to musical expression, making it simultaneously commendable, appealing, attractive and enjoyable.

Modern-day concerts generally follow a two-three hour duration. The nagaswaram-enriched music, the bhakti-laden Tyagaraja kriti, the wonderful padam-s and javali-s highlighting the bhavam (emotion) and saukhyam (pleasantness) in these concerts point to the rich repertoire of the artiste, honed by their traditional background and ardent work on preparation and presentation.

Instrumentalists tend to choose songs that are well-known and those which have a racy tempo that may accentuate their control over the instrument.

We still hear people talking about Madurai Mani Iyer’s notes, MSG violin concerts and Bhimsen Joshi’s recordings of Puriya Dhanashri, Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi’s soul-stirring renderings of devotional and classical music and Veena Doraiswamy Iyer’s Khamas. It is a matter of debate as to how many such concerts have happened over the last few decades.

Control over swara (melody) and sahitya (lyrics) a wholesome musician makes.

Exposure to recordings of the greats

In pursuance with ensuring that my music fuses beauty and traditional tenets, my father, M.S. Gopalakrishnan, mother Meenakshi Gopalakrishnan and grandfather Parur Sundaram Iyer have always made me hear the music of Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar, Semmangudi Srinvasa Iyer, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Mogubai Kurdikar and several recordings of Ustad Vilayat Khan when I was just in Class Three. This exposure to eclectic music of Indian greats has blessed me, like my father, with equal command and mastery in both Carnatic and Hindustani styles alike.

Thanks to the pioneering vision and efforts of Parur Sundaram Iyer, Hindustani music was brought to south India in a period as early as the 1940s — a time when not many recordings were available.

All India Radio has been responsible for the survival of classical music and the priority accorded by them to the transmission and broadcast of the music of great Indian masters has led to the promotion of listener awareness.

The art, artistes and the listener are inseparable components of a single entity.

(M. Narmadha is a violinist accomplished in both Carnatic and Hindustani music.)