One more aid is now available for the musician.
Gamaka, the nuance that adds beauty to the rendition of Carnatic music, has been ‘boxed.’ Ramesh Vinayakam, music director of repute, has created a gamaka box. “Music should be a continuous process and there should always be an urge to create something new, which should beget newer things.” With these introductory remarks, Ramesh addressed a group of students from the Music Department of the University of Madras and explained his concept of visualising the gamakas adopting a simple language.
Ramesh took the aid of five symbols that had specific meanings - the first and second were for the fast glide up/down, the third and fourth for the slow glide up/down and the fifth “to sustain.” These symbols were drawn inside a parallelogram that had four sides and three lines in it. He commenced from the bare basics, the aadhara shadjama and depicted the plain notes (swarastanams) first and then took the audience through a guided tour that landed them at the actual swaras themselves. (The Begada “Ma” for instance could be drawn/notated to get at its particular unique hue with accuracy). He annotated all this declaring Sankarabharanam scale as his base but proved that this could be applied to the entire spectrum of known scales. What was remarkable was that the protagonist never once attempted to sing or even signalled anything, but the gamaka-box on its own was able to orient the students and teachers towards their goal of singing half-notes, understanding the kaarvai depiction, begin and end zaaru as desired and even contemplate brigas to a certain extent. There was no room for glitches and remember it was a musically well-informed audience.
Ramesh stated that the full stop meant a halt or could be construed as the terminating point and added: “It is seldom used when expressing gamakas.” He highlighted the universal application of this concept and accepted that willing and open-minded practitioners would definitely need more sessions and hands-on experience to enjoy and appreciate it in a better way. The audience was more than convinced by the explanation offered of this theory and responded instantly through their “chorus-singing” as the gamakas came up on the white board. The openness and camaraderie with which they united was heart-warming.
Edward Albee had said this while talking of the kind of theatre that is evolving in the youthful mind of the present day:
“A theatre which engages than disengages, that would shake up than placate, that would be tough intense and adventuresome, that would raise questions not merely answers.” Ramesh Vinayakam’s perception of the gamaka-box left such an impression in the minds of those that had gathered.
Dr. Prameela Gurumurthy, HOD, Music Department, University of Madras, introduced Ramesh Vinayakam and his assistant Thamizh, to the audience and said that Ramesh had scored music in Hollywood, his first film being in English – ‘A Common Man’ - starring Lord Ben Kingsley. The composer is known for the gentleness he imparts to film music, an outstanding example being his score for ‘Nala Damayanti.’