Few composers, perhaps, lend themselves for extensive research the way Saint Thyagaraja – of the celebrated Trinity of south Indian classical music – does. His compositions, indispensable at performances today, not only illustrate his devotion for Rama, but also offer rare insights to rather rich musical idioms.
Musicians, over the years, have engaged with his work at different levels – some notated his compositions, some interpreted the lyrics and others explored the musical attributes that were at the heart of his compositions.
In recent times, valuable contributions made by scholars such as T. S. Parthasarathy, T. K. Govinda Rao and S.V. Krishnamurthy have been popular among artistes as well as students.
G. Dwarakanath's work on select compositions of Thyagaraja is yet another addition to the available texts and research material. The author, in the book on Gana Raga Pancharatna Kritis — Nattai, Gowla, Aarabhi, Varaali, Sri Ragam, translates the text in Telugu and Sanskrit to English, trying to provide background and context where ever necessary.
He breaks the longer phrases into smaller units, explaining what each of the words mean, separately, and when strung into a sentence. Students may find the notations provided at the end of the book useful.
If anything fascinated Thyagaraja almost as much as Lord Rama did, it was music itself. He believed that music, in its highest form, was the ultimate medium to converse with the almighty. Many of his compositions reflect his take on music, with the composer making nuanced references to different aspects of melody and rhythm. In ‘Forgotten Chapters of Music’, the author presents an interesting compilation of such compositions of Thyagaraja which celebrate music. His views on certain important aspects of music and practice of music are worthy of attention.
The poetic and poignant lyrics in these compositions, all masterpieces, drenched in music that is suitably classical can provide the most beautiful listening experience. When the author highlights the profound meaning of each word and line, it only becomes more evident how important it is for those singing or playing these compositions to be sympathetic to the sound and spirit of lyrics. There could be no other way of doing justice to a composer who submitted himself to the power of music and of the Lord he loved.
To sum up, any responsible engagement with Thyagaraja's work can only be a welcome addition to the considerably huge body of work that exists. In being simple and accessible, these two books seek to reach out to students of music.
PANCHARATNA KRITIS — Meanings and Significance: Rs. 100.
FORGOTTEN CHAPTERS OF MUSIC — And 22 Krithis of Thyagaraja on the Science, Art and Beauty of Music: Rs. 150. Both the books by G. Dwarakanath; Vasantha Vallabha Music Academy, 803, 6th A Main Road, ISRO Layout, Bangalore-560078.