Manda Anantha Krishna wants to share his musical gift.
Flautist Manda Anantha Krishna, who received the Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar in the category of Carnatic Instrumental music, returned to Tirupati immediately after his concert at the Puraskar festival in New Delhi. Over the phone, he says he is eminently satisfied to live away from the hubbub of cities. With globalisation, connectivity is no longer a problem. Commercially, it might be a better proposition to live in a capital city, but — and the temple bells lend a pristine affirmation to his statement — “It’s a great blessing to get the prasad of Lord Tirupati every day. The food I eat, the salary I get (as a music lecturer at Sri Venkateswara Music and Dance College) — all of it is prasad.”
At his short concert at the award festival, Krishna made sure to give his audience snippets of information about the ragas he presented. This was not a mere concession for the Delhi crowd, proverbially less informed about Carnatic music. “Usually, whenever I perform, I brief the audience about the particular song, raga or tala,” he says. While music can be enjoyed even without understanding the intricacies, he feels it is better to create a deeper communication between the spectator and the performer. “I feel it is the responsibility of the performer to give some information to those who don’t know.”
Carnatic music is known for the peppy swara elaborations (swaraprastara) in which the vocalist or instrumentalist creates swara patterns that are matched by the percussionists. There are those who like to play with complex mathematical structures so that the swaraprastara becomes a test of mental agility. Such complex improvisations are not a risk, provided a performer has the “calibre to perform those calculations,” he says. “The performer should have a grip on laya.”
However, mathematics cannot be the final frontier. “Because Indian music is raga sampradaya sangeetam. The tradition says the raga is more important. I don’t deny that swaraprastara is important too,” he says, adding that permutations and combinations exist even in raga elaboration. In that case they are called oscillations, whereas in swaraprastara they are in terms of mathematics. “But in raga sampradaya sangeetam, we try to find the most melodious way of singing or playing, and we can get the picture of the raga devata. For example, that day (at his concert in Delhi) I played (raga) Nasika Bhooshani. What is that picture? It has chromatic notes. They influence the picture of the raga.”
Chromatic notes, he explains, is the term given to the vivadi swara — in this case, the two Gandharas of the raga which give it its unique quality. When these notes are vividly captured, the performer is able to create the image of the raga in the alapana. “Music has something beyond the method, that is called divine. If the listener forgets himself, or gets separated from the everyday world, that is the divine expression of music.”
Krishna’s great grandfather was a Vedic pandit who also played an uncommon variety of flute that is played through the nose. Krishna learnt music from his father, late Manda Balarama Sarma, a noted flute artist of All India Radio. “My father had three gurus — P.P. Somayajalu, T.R. Mahalingam (Mali), and M. Balamuralikrishna,” says Krishna, who, after training under his father, came under the tutelage of the veteran N. Ramani.
What would he like to contribute to the field? “There are two or three things. One is, I want to produce more students.” At present, he says, “We are only three graded artistes in Andhra Pradesh. And there is no post of flute lecturer in the State Government music colleges.” (The college he works at is run by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam.) But when this anomaly is rectified, “There should be enough students to fill the posts.”
He also aspires to “give good music which can be useful to the society.” People should feel relieved of stress when listening to his music. Also, he emphasises, “Artistes should not be bounded but versatile.” When he refers to music it is not only to Carnatic but to all good music, he notes. And good music is to be shared. “I should be able to give information to the common audience too. I want to share my music, which I get with the blessings of the Divine.”