On the eve of World Music Day, experts tell us what it takes to be a good concert singer.
There’s nothing more joyful to the soul than attending a well formatted classical concert. Rasikas agree that one cannot put in words the ecstasy experienced while listening live to a classical singer effortlessly charting different items during a concert. While a good concert earns rave reviews, there are times when a singer is not able to make an impact as expected. On the eve of World Music Day, experts talk about what it takes to be a good concert singer.
Considered an illustrious duo, Hyderabad Brothers Raghavachari and Sheshachari’s contribution to the world of music is immense. “A classical concert is a three-hour melodious trip undertaken by the singer, along with accompanying artistes and the audience,” says Raghavachari and adds, “A concert is successful only when the singer is humble and wants to take the audience along with him with his music.” A singer needs to adhere to a kutcheri format, he explains. “He/she should begin the concert with a varnam. It is like a warm-up and to be followed by a small kirtana and swarakalpana. A sub-main item and then a main-item in big ragas like Todi, Kalyani or Sankarabharanam should be rendered. The mridangam artiste should also get opportunity to perform and then the singer can move on to javali, asthapadi amongst others,” he elaborates.
Another duo who have made a mark in concert singing is Lalitha and Haripriya of Hyderabad Sisters. Singer Haripriya says a concert’s success depends on a singer’s preparation. “It is imperative to have good aptitude in music. Like one readies different ingredients before making a dish, a singer needs to be equipped well and present the rendition. There are no short cuts, one has to work hard,” she asserts. While appreciating the present generation of singers, she cautions them to not get influenced by film music and change tracks.
Modern technology has changed the way we learn Carnatic music but what has remained constant is the pressure a singer and accompanying artistes experience before a concert. A singer generally practices a list of compositions to be sung on the day but sometimes depending on the feedback, the compositions have to be changed suddenly.
S. Venumadhav, who has created a niche with his style of rendition, recalls an experience where he changed his compositions on the stage. “I was singing at a temple so I had prepared to sing serious items. But when I started rendering, I realised the feedback was not good. I immediately started with a light composition, an Annamayya kirtana and the gathering enjoyed the rendition,” he smiles. While it is easy for solo singers to suddenly change songs, it becomes difficult when two singers are singing together.
“Singers also need to have a good command on the subject,” says Venumadhav. “In mathematics, one can just memorise a formula and repeat it but in music, theory and practice are interrelated and one needs to have a command over the subject. Singers also have to focus on their diction,” he adds. Talking about different kinds of audience, Venumadhav says, “When a singer is singing in sabhas amidst a gathering of connoisseurs, one can render manodharma and raga alapana; whereas the same rendition will not be appreciated if the gathering includes lay people.”
Reviewer Gudipoodi Srihari who has attended around 5000 concerts observes, “At some concerts, the compositions are sung mechanically. Nowadays a composition is rendered in high speed and in the process one cannot understand the sahitya.” While putting her best foot forward in concerts, young singer Karthika Alekhya says, every rendition is different. “Even if the singer is rendering the same songs in front of a same set of audience, the way it is being rendered will be different. Music is a creative art and there is always room for innovation.”