With rising interest and involvement in music, It’s a reminder for the future musicians to save the art keeping its tradition intact.
Never was Carnatic Music more popular and widespread than it is today. Its diaspora cuts a wide swathe across the USA and Europe and disparate countries across the globe where people from the South had migrated many centuries ago for various reasons. The call of our ancient music system binds them together as can be witnessed when they, like the annual migratory birds from Siberia seeking warmer climes in India, swoop down to Chennai during the ‘Season’ to savour the aural vibrations that offer a kind of spiritual catharsis.
It is well-known that Carnatic music, as it has evolved today, is the outcome of the rich legacy that was bestowed on it by the Sama Veda. The Trinity, all born and reared in Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, created the invaluable corpus of Music based primarily on their extempore spiritual outpourings. (Of course, by standing on the shoulders of giants before them they became an integral part of the evolutionary process of Carnatic music).
Strangely enough, during the same 17 /19 Century time-frame and, coincidentally, in one country – Germany – the three Big Bs of Western classical music – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms – mounted their spiritually-drenched Opus on the edifice of what one holds as the ultimate in Western classical music. Based on these universal observations, one may infer that our classical music stream is also essentially devotional in nature and can be optimally delivered and consumed if the extraordinary meanings, couched in the lyrics of the innumerable works, are comprehended and appreciated.
At a juncture when the future bank of Carnatic Music is being carefully groomed and moulded, it becomes necessary to do a bit of tweaking of the subject, which is not often looked into with equal concern on the part of the erudite pedagogy or with enthusiasm on the part of the neophytes.
The desire to strike it big on the stage and the thirst to earn plaudits is understandable. However, the fast-track approach to stardom is fraught with peril. That the sincere students pick up the rudiments well and the mode of delivery in terms of rendition with a firm grasp of ragam and talam, need to be highly appreciated. And yet, somewhere, from the deep recesses of the heart an inner voice whispers that not all is well with the system. Where is the lacuna?
Perhaps a lack of full knowledge and understanding of the lyrics robs the rendition of bhava. Even as the students are being taught, either personally or through Skype overseas, a concurrent session could be conducted delving deep into the import of the lyrics, the philosophy behind the composition, the spiritual proclivity of the vaggeyakara, the nature of the raga and how it had been paired to the theme of the kriti – all backed up by a working knowledge of Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. Random tips on the etymology of words used in these three languages and how they complement each other without prejudice could be provided as interesting sidelights to heighten the overall appreciation of the music churned out in the process.
Little wonder that the legendary violinists of our time, T.N. Krishnan and (late) Lalgudi Jayaraman are on record stating that before mastering the kritis on their violin, they had to first learn how to sing them and understand their theme and feel before they could do full justice to them.
A primer on Telugu and Sanskrit for Tamil-speaking students would do wonders to their style of kriti-rendition.
As the interest and involvement amongst the aficionados and the performers of the emerging generation is happily swelling in geometric progression, the onus is on the future musicians to nurture and preserve the rich tradition of Carnatic Music within its all-embracing sweep.