From veena playing techniques to rare javalis to women legends of Carnatic music… many topics were elaborated upon at the lec-dems held at the Music Academy between December 27, 2009, and January 1, 2010. A wrap-up:
Styles of veena playing: Jayanthi Kumaresh began with a description of the Saraswathi veena, which has been in vogue for the past 300 years. She classified the basic styles based on the geographical regions -- Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Kerala. Interestingly for the other instruments, the styles are classified by the great masters rather than geographical regions.
The Karnataka style is also known as the Mysore style. She enlisted some great vidwans such as Veena Seshanna and Doraiswamy Iyengar who were associated with the royal court of the Wodayars. The salient features are elaborate right hand use, meetu oriented, use of nails instead of plectrums, split fingering technique and use of a sharper tone.
The Thanjavur style is classified as Gayaki, Karaikudi and the Balachander styles. Some of the clips shown were those of Brindamma, Sivanandam, Pichumani Iyer, Jayanthi’s guru, Padmavathi Ananthagopalan, Karakudi Sambasiva Iyer and clippings of Balachander playing.
Jayanthi described the Andhra bani as sweet and listed some greats vainikas -- Venkata Ramanyya, Emani and Chittibabu. It has an elaborate right hand technique. As for the Kerala style, she said vainikas from Kerala claim to follow the Gayaki style of Thanjavur.
She concluded by saying that the regional styles are not relevant these days with artists drawing the best from each bani and developing their own style. She mentioned the role of technology and the media and concluded with the statement, ‘Tradition is addition’.
Music of East Asia – China, Japan and Korea: S.A.K. Durga said music from the three East Asian Countries of China, Japan and Korea is melodic and quite similar to that of India. It is classified into classical music, devotional and folk styles.
Durga focussed on musical concepts of these traditions and brought out many commonalities with Indian music. It is interesting that while Western music has spread across the world she wondered how music from the Asian region is not so well known much even in neighboring countries.
She then spoke about the mythological origin, concepts, scales, tunes, rhythm, musical forms and instruments, and the history of performing tradition of the three East Asian nations. She stressed the importance of how voice culture varies in all these countries and explained how musical instruments are classified.
Ritigowla -Ananda Bhairavi, Narayana Gowla – Surati :
V. Subramaniam was assisted by Jyothi and Bhavana, spoke about Ananda Bhairavi, an ancient raga which has its roots in folk music. It was given a definite shape by the Trinity and the post-Trinity composers. This auspicious raga is said to cure hypertension. Of the Trinity, Syama Sastri’s compositions in the raga are more popular.
About Ritigowla, which shares the same swara sthanas with Anandabhairavi, Subramaniam highlighted the importance of nishada in the raga.
Moving on to Narayanagowla and Surati, Subramaniam said the former is not too popular though it is old, beautiful and sensitive, and classified under Harikhambodi. He demonstrated some prayogas and mentioned Veena Kuppiahar’s varnam as an encyclopedia of the raga. Surati and Kedaragowla are close to Narayanagowla. Surati is an ubhaya vakra shadava sampoorna raga. Subramaniam mentioned some important compositions in this raga.
Nazrul Giti: The lecture of Lipika Dasgupta, from Benaras Hindu University, was on the compositions of Kazi Nazrul Islam of Bangladesh. Nazrul was a dramatist, essayist, novelist, composer and music director. His first music teacher was his Uncle Bazle Kareem and later he learnt under Ustad Kadir Baksh, Ustad Manju Sahab, Ustad Zaminuddin Khan and others.
Nazrul wrote songs in 37 genres -- kavya sangeet, ritu sangeet, prem sangeet, raga pradhan Geet, patriotic, action, agricultural, devotional, folk and Islamic.
Lipika said Nazrul created 17 new ragas -- Arun Bhairav, Rudra Bhairav, Asha Bhairavi, Shivani Bhairavi, Raktahans Sarang, Sandhyamanasi, Vankuntala, Udasi Bhairav, Shankari, Yogini, Shivsarswati, Nirjhari, Roopmanjari, Arunmanjari, Devyani, Dolonchapa, Minakshi. Nazrul also created six talas.
Though it is said that Nazrul composed about 4,500 songs, only 900 songs with notation are available. Nazrul was an extraordinary music composer whose influence is felt all over Bangladesh even today, concluded Lipika.
Sama Veda – Sangita: Hema Ramadurai, a doctoral student, said of the four Vedas, Sama Veda has the distinction of recording the entire scale of seven notes. While the Rg, Yajur and Atharvana Vedas are chanted, Sama Veda is sung.
‘Samavedadidam Gitam Samjagraha Pitamahaha’, says Sarnga Deva in Sangita Ratnakara, which means Brahma perceived music from Sama Veda. The greatness of Samaveda is found mentioned in Puranas, while Lord Krishna says in the Gita, ‘Vedanam Samavedosmi’ (Of all the Vedas, I am Sama Veda).
The Sama Vedic scale is considered the primordial scale. The present day music is a result of improvisation over for centuries from the Vedic period.
Hema explained how the seven notes and even the 22 srutis have their origin in Sama Veda. She emphasised that the present-day musical concepts such as scale, raga, tala and gamaka have a parallel in Sama Veda.
The lecture suggested that Sama Veda forms the nucleus of the present day Indian music.
Agra-based Sudha Sahgal started her lecture by defining the terms ‘Sufi’ and ‘kalam’. A Sufi is one who does not separate himself from others by opinion or dogma; and who realises the heart as the Shrine of God. The word or ‘Qual’ announced by Sufi is called Sufiana kalam.
Sufi poetry has been written in many languages both for private and devotional reading and singing. Persian poetry did have an enormous influence on Sufi writing throughout the Islamic world.
Sudha named some great Sufi poets -- Farid-ud-Din Attar, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Sultan Bahu Shah, Baba Sheikh Farid, Ahmad Jami, Shah Hussain and Amir Khusro. Then she listed the four prominent styles -- Hamd, Naat, Sufiyana Kalaam and Rang and demonstrated kalams in each of them.
Sudha spoke of the kalams of three great Sufis, Baba Farid (Punjab), Baba Bulle Shah (Punjab) and Amir Khusro (Delhi). She spoke of the rich folk-based repertoire in the Sufiana Kalams and demonstrated a couple of them.
Special mention was made of Amir Khushro, an iconic figure in the Indian cultural history and a Sufi mystic.
Chatur-stree-ratna: The four women legends of Carnatic music -- Brinda-Muktha, M.S. Subbulakshmi, D. K. Pattammal and M.L. Vasanthakumari: Charumathi Ramachandran, a disciple of MLV, introduced the topic by playing an audio clip of each one of these women greats. She spoke of their lineages, early years, gurus, banis and special features of their music. Charumathi also touched upon their stint in movies. She analysed the salient features of their music and concluded by saying that each one of them is known to have popularised a composer or a type of compositions. Brinda- Mukta popularised the padams of Kshetrayya and javalis, Pattammal was known for her rendition of Dikshitar compositions, MLV for Puranadara Dasar and MS for Annamacharya.
Ādhyātma Rāmāyana Sankeertanas –influence on Tyāgarāja: The Malladi Brothers, Sriram Prasad and Ravi Kumar threw more light on Munipalle Subrahmanya Kavi (1730-1780), who composed Adhyatma Ramayana Samkeertanas, a forerunner to the lyrical beauty, rhythmic patterns, figures of speech and alliterations that we find in later composers.
Tyagaraja was obviously inspired by many of the Adhyatma Ramayana compositions, in content as well as musical structure, claimed the Brothers. To substantiate their argument, they demonstrated some keertanams and their seeming reflections in the repertoire of Tyagaraja’s compositions.
There are 104 compositions in Adhyatma Ramayana for which 58 ragas have been employed. Malladi brothers said that these were sung by Tyagaraja’s mother and hence Tyagaraja’s music could not have escaped their influence.
They demonstrated some compositions from the Adhyatma Ramayana.
Rare javalis in rare talas: Shreekantham Nagendra Shastry (he belongs to the Chintalapalli lineage which has 800 years of music history) in his introduction, said there are several classical compositions that depict God as the nayaka and the devotee as nayikaa. Such compositions are available as padams and javalis, which were popular in the olden days.
Sastry presented some javalis, many unfamiliar even to well known musicians. He said even one tenth of the existing javalis are not available in printed form.
Some composers of these javalis have used rare talas such as Kokilapriya tala and Leela tala, which find mention in treatises such as Sangita Ratnakara.
The javalis Sastry chose to demonstrate were those of composers Trunapurisha, Aliya Lingaraja of Mysore and Surapura Anandadaasa.
He demonstrated some hitherto unpublished javalis available in the manuscripts in the possession of the Chintalapalli Parampara.
The lecture provided a rare glimpse into a world of aesthetics. Sastry about 500 unpublished javalis in his possession, he concluded.
Easy, innovative and effective methods in teaching Carnatic Music with special reference to swara kalpana and raga alapana:
in his introduction, Prof. Akella Mallikarjuna Sarma said the teaching music has undergone several changes in the past few decades. Unfortunately there are not many methods to enable faster learning of music. Hence, the need of the hour is to facilitate a quicker process of learning which is in tandem with qualitative music. Several experiments have been conducted in this direction and in the process, novel, easy, innovative and effective methods have been evolved by him.
Sarma highlighted the importance of laya and sruti as the core components of sangita. He explained the methods devised to train and equip aspirants.
The student is first put through the laya test and if he qualifies, he will be the subjected to the sruti test. Jati alankaras have been formulated and are taught to students initially. Consequently, the aspirants sing the preliminary exercises as the simultaneously play on Casio MA-150 along with metronome beats. Later they are taught swara alankaras followed by the geethas. After this, Tala angas are introduced and the items learnt are sung accordingly in three speed. Subsequently, crucial laya exercises are taught on one hand while varnas are introduced on the other hand.
Unlike the conventional method of teaching, this method not only speeds up the learning process but also makes the student independent, and enables a student render swara kalpana and raga alapana within six months.
Sarma said though swara kalpana and raga alapana are the main features of manodharma sangeetha, raga alapana has remained an enigma for many students. Contrary to popular belief, raga alapana can be taught using notation. The use of electronic gadgets enables listening to sangatis repeatedly, and this helps the student render crucial/complex sangatis. This method, he claimed, is time-bound and result-oriented.
The lec-dem sessions concluded with an Open House chaired by Vidwan Valayapatti and attended by 15 members of the experts committee.