Recourse to technology does not distract Neyveli Santhanagopalan from his conviction that music is a never-ending process towards inner development.
The right bent of mind, apt attitude in keeping with his age and a relevant progressive outlook is what makes this musician, a cut above the rest. When all other seniors are fortifying their stage presence, here is this singularly unique persona who has established himself as a guru par excellence. “I would like to give as much as I can and see that music prospers and propagates through the younger generation. I’m not a professional musician but a musician who professes his art; it’s a passion with me. I always have something to seek, get and tell to others through the language of music,” says Neyveli Santhanagopalan.
To him, music is a never-ending process towards inner development. He is like the pilgrim on the path to realization. And definitely not one who is content with experiencing this bliss; he loves to touch the lives of all those who are musically inclined and create an urge in them to understand and ‘realise’ the ultimate truth through music alone! “I keep telling my pupils that music is a prayer and if all your energies are put into it, it will be realized. A guru should firstly be convinced of his goal in life, only then would he be able to take others along,” he pronounces with conviction. Forever into researching on what best to incorporate into the timeless traditional music handed over by our ancestors as a heritage, Santhanagopalan is not averse to modern technological methods of teaching nor innovating through other streams. “I constantly listen to different musical streams across the world, like for instance ancient Greek music. Somewhere down the line, this gives you a broader perspective towards your own music and also an open mind to appreciate, learn if possible and perform another genre without tampering with the classicality of either.”
But he still feels, Carnatic music is unique in the sense, it could amalgamate other styles into its boundless ocean and still flow smooth and steady. “Call it pop, jazz, rap, you just have to turn to Thyagaraja and it is all there. The Pancharatna kritis are enough to show you the beat, the toe-tapping rhythm and the intricacies of our own art. Our composers, especially the trinity, incorporated Western music way back in their compositions, as in Nottu swaram for instance. It is a reflection of creativity at its best. Carnatic music with a combination of the online teaching is actually imbibing technology while going global itself. Isn’t that something to be proud of?” he asks with a mischievous twinkle in his eye.
Ask him if virtual teaching of traditional music can actually churn out returns in the same manner as he learnt it from his guru and pat comes the answer, “It is the present day gurukul. I did gurukulavaasam with my guru Madurai TN Seshagopalan. True, the presence made a lot of difference to my life and music. But in today’s scenario, it is not possible and by the same token, it is not justified to deny music to all those who are abroad with a passion to learn music. I have a Brahmastra for online teaching- I will watch the progress of my pupil on the other side and if I find way too many mistakes, well, we go back to basics! There can be no compromises,” he fixes the problem.
To all those modern young Indian minds that tend to snigger at Carnatic music as a bundle of incomprehensible songs, he has a formula, “Music is like an intoxicant sans the ill-effects. Why does one take to an intoxicant? Because it relaxes his mind. Try learning classical music and experience the everlasting state of a relaxed mind.
Classical is that which is revisitable and nothing can replace its value and strength. Every note (swara) of music has its root in Nature, universe. A scientist can probe only a part of the universe; a genuine musician can probe the entire universe. Yaaga, yoga, thyaga, bhoga phalam osagey, ragasudha rasa paanamu jesi, says Thyagaraja, the authority on musical experience. We are but miniscule,” he concludes reverentially .