Experts discussed the concept of manodharma sangita and its evolution.

If the jam-packed auditorium was an indication of the future of Carnatic music, one felt reassured and happy. Indian audiences are still showing avid interest in learning more about the theoretical aspects of the art; perhaps, a good sign.

The topic, ‘Manodharma Sangita’ is a perennial area of interest and importance to Indian classical, and more specifically, Carnatic music. The panellists were vidushi R. Vedavalli (convenor), Rama Ravi, Sriram Parasuram and K.N. Sasikiran.

Vedavalli initiated the discussion by stating the importance of the subject to elicit the views of the panellists first to define the concept of manodharma sangita. Sriram explained in a sophisticated and theoretical manner that it is what the mind perceives based on its understanding and how the music could be expanded with lot of imagination but within the grammar of Carnatic music. This, he reiterated, is related to the basic and acquired knowledge of the individual.

Rama Ravi emphasised that this knowledge demands a lot of practice and education to manifest in the form of a concert. Sasikiran also agreed upon the views expressed by the others but expressed the influence of changing times and how this concept also passing through certain changes.

On examining how to teach Manodharma Sangita to students, there were lot of views shared which almost covered the major part of the discussion. Vedavalli expressed that unlike other academic studies, this cannot be taught with any rule and for someone to achieve a strong hold, it demands hard work. Rama Ravi with her vast experience in teaching, felt that there were no short cuts since the levels of the students’ comprehension and absorbing concepts vary.

Are there any cut and paste methods in modern times? The answer was an emphatic ‘no’ from all the panellists. The main components of Manodharma Sangita involve alapana, niraval and swaras. While certain amount of swara singing and niraval can be taught, alapana definitely requires the students’ comprehension, imagination and delivery. All of them uniformly agreed upon revisiting the basics even after attaining that imaginative power as that would be the only way for an artist to keep evolving.

It was felt that a minimum of 15 years are needed to become a full fledged performer. Learning a lot of kritis in the same raga provides immense potential to understand how the ingenuity of different composers manifested in their kritis in different ways. To mature as an artist fully, all of them agreed that a lifetime is not just sufficient. This clearly indicated that Carnatic music is such an ocean that one has to always approach with the curiosity and humility.

On the modern method of teaching through Skype, Sasikiran, who is effectively employing the method to teach several students all over the world, said that this could be the best way of teaching one-on-one where a direct guru-sishya rapport is impossible because of distances today. Rama and Vedavalli demonstrated examples of how just the three swaras of Dhanyasi could be varied, how and where it should be used depends on the singer’s musical intelligence.

Expert committee members Seetha Rajan and Dr Ramanathan too shared their views. Seetha Rajan felt that even a mediocre student can be guided to the level of performing for half an hour or appearing for the exam, with certain amount of rigorous teaching and training but only with a limited ragas and kritis. Dr. Ramanathan expressed that cut and paste could be seen even in the popular musicians of yesteryear where they have imitated the best of some of the noted singers.

In summary, Manodharma Sangita could be achieved based on the learner’s inherent ability, knowledge, absorbing power, practice, the guru he/she follows, a lot of listening and above all, a receptive mind with immense creativity. Nevertheless, this is a continuous process, not a static one.