Brindamma — Music Beyond Music

Swathi’s Sanskrithi Series

DVD, Rs. 150

For those of you who love the legendary Brindamma whose blending of Veena Dhanammal’s style and Naina Pillai’s fast-paced masculine music was iconic, this DVD should add up to some 100 minutes of superlative music.

Taking on the task of unravelling an incomparable style of classical Carnatic music is not easy. Only a duo like creative director S.B. Khanthan, with the kind of deep involvement he has in this genre, and producer R.K. Ramanathan, son of Brindamma’s disciple, the late Ramnad Krishnan, could have brought out something so nostalgic in its portrayal that it’s almost an appeal for the kind of uncompromising stuff that legends such as Brindamma are made of.

The DVD dwells to a great extent on her music, on what connoisseurs would term the ‘Brindamma Effect’, choosing to mention in passing Brindamma the human being, who was a fiery critic, and a true friend all those close to her.

That the music fraternity filled the hall that day is proof that this work was long overdue. Considering that the recordings are from a different era, they crafted the DVD’s audio deftly. One wished there could have been more visuals to work with. The visual of Brindamma playing the veena was certainly a rare treat. The DVD’s greatest strength is the nostalgic feeling it evokes; the viewer is transported to the 1960s and 1970s, listening to a full-fledged concert by Brindamma.

The DVD brings to life Brindamma or T. Brinda, through the eyes of those who had known her in whatever measure. Among them were musician T.R. Subramaniam, one of her earliest students at the Government College of Music; musicologist R. Venugopal, connoisseurs ‘Cleveland’ Sundaram and R.K. Ramanathan; musicians P.S. Narayanaswamy, N. Ramani, Neyveli Santhanagopalan, ‘Chitravina’ Ravikiran, Sowmya and T.M. Krishna; disciples Alamelu Mani, Aruna Sairam and Geetha Raja.

Rightly so, the DVD begins with T.M. Krishna, who despite never having met her, is touched to the core by her music. To those who do not know Brindamma, this DVD emphasises that her music was not just about padams and javalis – the two forms that she perfected from Veena Dhanammal. The speakers reveal how complete her music was, with her vast repertoire of Tyagaraja, Dikshitar, Syma Sastri, Patnam Subramania Iyer, Arunachala Kavi and others. Her raga singing, subtle gamaka-laden phrasing and voice modulation are legendary.

Brindamma — Music Beyond Music is indeed a great gift for every serious musician, music student, and a music library.

(The author, formerly a professor of Journalism at the California State University in Los Angeles, is a trained vocalist)

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