Friday Review » Music

Updated: January 8, 2011 13:47 IST

Managing time is prime

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Abhishek Raghuram
Abhishek Raghuram

Carnatic music lovers, watch out. There is another star in the making!

Abhishek Raghuram looks like a frail teenager, but he seems to have mesmerised a fairly large audience, and that too in the late evening slot. Two ragas (not the kritis) took up most of Abhishek’s concert time. ‘Deva Sri’ in Madhyamavati with a prelude of alapana was presented with a rather long swara spree. The streams went on and on unabatedly, from short to medium and long combinations till it touched a crescendo and, well, there was a thunderous applause.

Immediately after came the Thodi raga alapana. The opening phrases were excruciatingly slow and sedate, embellished with unexpected frills and twists but progressed extremely well. Raghuram elaborated Thodi in as many ways as possible. This exercise nearly went for about thirty minutes. But the response was amazing. He got a standing ovation. So any adverse remarks from this scribe will surely be termed blasphemy.

Now, it was time for the violinist, Mysore Srikanth, to respond. He summarized Thodi in about eleven minutes, in a traditional manner, touching all the segments. What was irking was the Tyagaraja kriti ‘Dasu Kovalana’ was restricted to just four to five minutes. Then, Abhishek switched to niraval and swaras on the charanam line ‘Sowmitri Tyagarajuni’ which dragged for 20 long minutes. This magnum opus was followed by a spirited thani avarthanam by Anantha R. Krishnan on the mridangam and K.V. Gopalakrishnan on the ganjira. By the time Abhishek settled for the Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Hamsavinodini, it was closer to 9.30 p.m.

Manodharma is a double edged sword; it can be used anyway for as long as one wants. That’s the speciality of Indian classical music. Yet, one has to follow certain ethics -- musical discipline, aesthetic proportion, logical distribution and time management -- when one performs on a prestigious platform. Even veterans try to sum up their music with their eyes on the clock, it is indeed surprising that this aspiring artist seemed to be completely oblivious to it.

Abhishek may be a prodigy and gifted with an extraordinary vision of music. But even outstanding talent demands a certain amount of discipline. Otherwise, it can impede musical progress.

I think it was a great review by Swaminathan. Abhishek did not stick to the time dharma which is an insult to his fellow artists. Surely they could say that if he can exceed, then why not us? And Chitra Gopal's statement that there was no concert thereafter is the most stupid one possible. Does it mean that all second slot concerts can become 'timeless ones'? Abhishek has talent and shows a lot of promise but he is not in the league of greats as yet. Let the boy develop, do not hinder him by making him complacent with this over praise. I congratulate G Swaminathan for a balanced review.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Jan 8, 2011 at 08:49 IST

A request to the fans of Abhishek. Do not heap sky high accolades at this young age. He is a great singer, cut above the rest definitely but not the greatest ever etc. Even the word prodigy is a cursed word. He has prodigious talent, let us leave it at that. The DC review is a joke and same is this Hindu review. The DC review reads more like a fan-boy blog than a review and the Hindu review unnecessarily spent too many words on the time management.

from:  Madya Sthayi
Posted on: Jan 8, 2011 at 03:06 IST

I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of this fabulous concert. I agree with everything that the previous readers, and CM fans have commented. Abhishek and Anand are the future of carnatic music. Too often we have the standard fare dished out in a concert which, when coupled with the proliferation of recordings of CM from yesteryear vidwans and current genre, there is less motivation for CM fans to attend live performances. But Musicians like Abhishek and Anand have the capacity to revitalize, invigorate and energize CM which otherwise is loosing its shine. I hope more sabhas will bring these artists to stage and showcase their God-given gift. These artists do not need PR or other promotions. Their talent and gift puts them at a different playing field which is difficult to enter.

from:  Radhakrishnan
Posted on: Jan 7, 2011 at 23:06 IST

The doctrine of creativity with respect to music can be as expansive and wide as possible. But as such, creativity of an artist, normally, in the context of world music in general and carnatic music in particular is judged keeping in mind, the music with respect to the established system and not the music in isolation. That is the reason, a person can enjoy Yaman of Hindustani and classical Kalyani of carnatic music at once. Your mind gets involuntarily tuned to the system presented on the stage. At the outset, it is only mind set. Nothing more, nothing less. Not only that the mind can act differently at different points of time. Recently, Rajkumar Bharathi presented a Lec Dem on the original tunes of Mahakavi Bharathi in the Music Academy. During the Lec Dem, he presented a tune in the raga Natakurinchi set by the Mahakavi himself. We are so engrossed in the song and the great personality Bharathi that we enjoyed the tune even though there was not a trace of established Natakurinchi. No complaints whatsoever. At the same time, I am sure, Rajkumar Bharathi would have been severely criticized had he sung the Natakurinchi of Bharathi on carnatic stage performance. I know people who do not like Balamurali earlier like Abhishek now. The same person who criticized Balamurali brutally for his innovative approach, lifts Abhishek to Himalayan heights. At least, now Abhishek has an idol Balamurali to emulate with his innovative and original ideas but there was nobody for Balamurali and he is an original musician in the true sense of the word. Why this hypocrisy? In my opinion, Abhishek is an outstanding musician with considerable influence of Balamurali, TNS and SKR. But I cannot rate Abhishek's concert in Music Academy as one of his greatest as he himself had sung better many a times. Though I am a rasika with an open mind, I feel, considering Abhishek lineage of Guru parampara, he should have presented classical and well established todi in the Music Academy. (I hear somebody whispering that it is my mindset on that particular day. Perhaps yes!!). If Abhishek continues to eschew the established classicism, he would be branded as musician without proper taste for classicism and it is not good for him in the long run unless the entire crowd is with him. It is better for Abhishek to strike a balance to satisfy both rasikas with a flair for classicism as well as innovation. I am convinced that Abhishek can do it effortlessly.

from:  Sampat
Posted on: Jan 7, 2011 at 16:14 IST

May be time has come to define the roles and responsibilities of critics as well. One must appreciate and understand that an artist is initially made out basis some reviews. Once the artist reaches a stage, he / she starts getting lots of rasikas and then they develop into senior artists. May be in the case of Abhishek, the Divine's will is something else - he will automatically grow in stature, basis his talent and not thro PROs ( as mentioned by some one earlier ). I was fortunate enough to be there to listen to the concert and it was 'Deva Gaanam' - surely, Lord was sitting and listening. Now it it time for all others to listen to Abhishek as well.

from:  Raman
Posted on: Jan 7, 2011 at 15:08 IST

Critics must be carefully before condemning an artist for something so trivial. I have noticed that Academy is especially fussy about timings as if that is more important than music itself. Now scribes have also started focusing on such silly matters. The reviews in other papers in general have been better. But Hindu being the leading newspaper and giving rightful importance to culture, must be more particular about its writing standards. Not only this review but even other critics are not of a good standard. I agree that DC review, although did not give all the details was very good. This was the same elation when TN Seshagopalan was discovered many years ago that I saw as a teenager. At that time, no one nitpicked like this. When a genius is discovered let us celebrate it instead of nitpicking.

from:  Deepak Raghavendra
Posted on: Jan 7, 2011 at 10:11 IST

'Managing time is prime'- one wonders whether Swaminathan is reviewing India's over rate in the Cape Town test match or the delicate beauty of musical expression, which at its best is profound and pathless in its orginality. It is precisely from such vanguardist tendencies that carnatic music and indeed all art needs to be rescued. The concert form, like most other 'establishment' modes of artistic expression, has for far too long been held hostage to such views that seek to privilege everything but creative individuality. Indeed, taking what some others have implied in their comments on this page a logical next step further, this most defintely begs the question as to whether The Hindu group and family is not actually using its influence on the Chennai music scene in a particularly problematic manner. Just for the record, I do not even live in India but I was fortunate enough to have access to a very good recording of the concert and it is really beautiful, so much so that i just could not stop listening to the concert even though i was in my office.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 18:29 IST

Actually, the review is pathetic. For example, his description of manodharma is the opposite of what manodharma actually is. In fact, a monodharma singer, mei-marandu paduvar! The reviewer's approach to music and concerts reflects how superficial our times are. I dont mind if a critic is not always praising a singer but this kind of review writing is incompetent. We must learn to cherish the magic a musician creates instead of criticising him for something so trivial.

from:  Vidyashree Purushottam
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 14:03 IST

Mr. Sriram, I agree with most of your comments which are well made. But just because of this comparison of two reviews all are talking about, I also read the other review in DC. I really feel that in Hindu, the point about the music was not made properly and the title of the review was very objectionable. As Sulochana says, it looks as if someone put pressure on him to write like that. DC review was really well written and made us feel how the concert was. I also heard Abhishek Raghuram in another venue and he was equally fantastic but it is great that he passed with flying colours in Academy which is a big stage. I think this is a good opportunity for a leading paper like Hindu to think about improving standards of their critics.

from:  Madhu Jayaram
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 12:20 IST

I was a part of this momentous concert that has made waves in the history of not just the Music Academy, but Carnatic Music. In a rasika's heart, there dwells the purity and sanctity of music, not time. I am sure that when Abhishek was captivating the audience with his stupendous rendition of Thodi, none in the spellbound audience (of course, under the assumption that all appreciate and understand Carnatic Classic) were looking at the clock ticking away. If it were in the hands of the audience, we would have loved the curtains to be open through the night, such was the magic that this artist created. Abhishek could have antogonised many a disciplinarian, but he has won the hearts of thousands of music lovers on that day. I fully agree with Sriram that there could be insecurities among the bigwigs.. and why not??? Abhishek deserves much more than the 2 historical standing ovations that he got that night.. Perhaps a few of the same bigwigs could take a page out of Abhishek's book in terms of his humility and devotion to the art form..

from:  Sailakshmi
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 11:35 IST

RASIKAS TO BECOME MEDITATIVE AND RESPONSIBLE: 'Timeless dimension of music not to be restricted by the constraints of time'. T.N.Rajarathnam Pillai and T.R Mahalingam, the moody geniuses whose essaying of any raga were slightly disproportionate, but intensely aesthetic. Ardent music lovers knew it actually. Most of the best of Seshagopalan came after 9.00 clock [ the 6.30 or 7.00 clock concerts]. That is to say that no extraordinary creative pursuit follows strict time discipline in the field of manodharma art in the history. While creative musicians like Abhishek try to travel on the unravelled contours of musical glory, the genuine rasikas should be prepared to wait more and taste the divine nectar. If one could travel along the dynamics of Abhishek [on 30th dec'10 at Music Academy] while navigating on the seas of Thodi and Hamsavinodhini to pick the rarest pearls, the rasika being true, would have definitely never felt the abnormal drag. The rasikas should become more meditative and responsible for being the synergical presense to the artist who is glued to the realms of intense musical awareness on the stage, then only one can start drinking the essense of highest aesthetics. Mediocre and non-attentive rasikas should not attend the concerts of extraordinary and creative musicians like Abhishek. Being seated on the grammar and he slowly tries to toss into the trans-grammar sphere where only lies the unalloyed happiness.. Transgrammar plane is not ungrammatical but more than the grammar. Grammatical music can flow within the timeframe but creative and transgrammatic music knows no bounds of time. When the audience are in tandem with the artist, then there is no complaint of boredom. It is hightime that the critics and rasikas should become more meditative and focussed to sail along the performing artist rather than dictating the creative spirit of him to deliver the known and dull terrains of music which is provided by the ordinary and mediocre musicians. Creative musicians who not only delivers the grammatical and also ushers the listeners to the unknown and hitherto uncharted territories of music and immerse them in the sea of music and the result is monumental. Abhishek Raghuram is a musician of such calibre and not be criticised for his nontime consciousness because what he delivers is timeless dimensions and no one can deny that and at the most respond with standing ovations only in the end. We certainly know that the reviewer would understand the views of the writer with the benign spirit and never fail to appreciate the unpredictable minds of true and intense musicians like our young creative star Abhishek Raghuram.

from:  Udbhav Mareechi
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 10:25 IST

In the end, people will not remember this landmark concert by this lopsided review or by the exceeded time limit. This concert is an all-time classic in the life of the Music Academy. History will remember it as such. There are already many recordings floating around on the internet. Abhishek is a star (not just in the making).

from:  Vilvadri Iyer
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 06:46 IST

As far as the review goes, I would have liked some more commentary about the supporting artists as well. Their spirited performances deserved more than one-two lines. This is one of the best concerts I have ever heard (and I have listened to a lot of concerts in my lifetime). I agree with everything you say, Sriram, very valid points there. Abhishek is so brilliant he becomes a threat to the big-wigs. They should welcome him and mentor him instead of fearing him. His Todi rendered the audience speechless because it was so original, raw, and exciting. I truly felt the singer had left the stage and gone to a different world because his raagam achieved such a higher level of bliss. One thing is sure: Abhishek and Anand are bright stars and ensure a great future. If they are barely in their primes now, I cannot wait to listen to them in the next few years as well!

from:  Shankar
Posted on: Jan 5, 2011 at 23:38 IST

First of all, it is nice that the scribe has accepted the fact there is a star in the making and his statement that whatever he attempts to say on the Todi would be blasphemous is another candid disagreement with the a portion or two of what Abhishek sang. The exceeding of time marginally is no crime and is not new to Music Academy as there were precedents in Maharajapuram Santhanam, T V Sankaranarayanan, T N Seshagopalan and many others. There were also instances of crowd imposing the reopening of a screen by the Academy authorities for extra time. This does not undermine the need to have adherence to time schedule. This young artiste has not been given his due by the media perhaps because of some vested interests indulging in wire-pulling fearing his emergence. There is definitely a sense of insecurity and fear he has created in the minds of the so-called bigwigs. The merits also suffer for want of PR these days and the average also gets undue recognition due to PR. Any way a star of the caliber of Abhishek will be beyond the designs and schemes from any quarters.

from:  Sriram
Posted on: Jan 5, 2011 at 12:25 IST

@Chitra. I fully agree. Did the 'academy masters' put pressure on the critic to write like this? I was also there for the fantastic concert and I read both reviews. The scribe from DC is a celebrity intellectual who is praising Abhishek in a well written review. Hindu really needs to change its stagnant reviewers. Also, it is not the critic's job to be the ringmaster. Such critics should retire!

from:  Sulochana
Posted on: Jan 5, 2011 at 11:22 IST

It is indeed surprising that the review was less in content about the concert and its quality and only on time management. It is fully understood and appreciated that time management needs improvement. But from a Rasika's perspective, we expect review on music and not on the command over English language. Generally, the list of songs is covered, with review on the quality of music delivered - this is completely missing. We are sure that this is not the first time that a senior musician has exceeded the allotted time. Let us be honest to appreciate and accept the good quality of music delivered and not harp on quantity ( time ).

from:  Deva
Posted on: Jan 4, 2011 at 17:50 IST

The scribe has subtly taken up the role of a ring master to pass undue judgement on time management by Abhishek. The fact that there was no concert to follow is also ignored so as not to dilute the time - crime. What was ultimately delivered by Abhishek will go down in the history of Music Academy as 'Abhishek created a timeless magic with his music as he combined the pureness of the past and the energy of the present' to quote another scribe!

from:  Chitra Gopal
Posted on: Jan 4, 2011 at 16:29 IST
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