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Learn Carnatic music thro' CDs

Prasad Rao has taken adequate care to unfold the beauty of Carnatic music step by step without losing any bit of its mysticism in the long presentation.

Prasad Rao exhibiting the CDs.

Be it Sa Re Ga Ma or Do Re Me So, Hindustani classics or Carnatic ragas, Bhimsen Joshi's or Balamurali Krishna's, music transcends all boundaries. Music is the manifestation of the Divine that is enchanting and pristine in form. It moves with the wind touching every heart without discrimination and has the power to bind all under its spell. Its vastness is as deep as the ocean and its meaning can touch the inner reaches of the heart.

Inspired by the enormity of the subject and promptly motivated by his brother, Prasad Rao Gandlur has developed a product in multimedia titled `The Beauty of Karnatic Music' that enables one to learn Carnatic music.

By profession a medical doctor, Prasad Rao started his career as a scientist in the National Institute of Virology in Pune and then moved on to become the Assistant Director of the Central Viral Research Institute at Kasauli, where he was in-charge of polio vaccine. He later joined the Pasteur Institute of India, Coonoor, as Assistant Director and was responsible for developing the indigenous cell cultured vaccine for rabies. During his tenure at Coonoor he acquired his PhD from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and later retired as its Director.

"I was in a flux after taking my voluntary retirement. The very thought of what to do next sent my mind exploring various options. Finally I decided to set up a software company that would produce literature on bio- technology. It was during those days the seed of Carnatic music was sown in my mind by my brother Narayana Rao Gandlur. And what you see today is a product nourished and enriched by a dedicated team comprising my wife and two sons," says Dr. Prasad Rao.

After having started the Blue Lotus Informatics Private Limited at Hyderabad in 2000, he delivered the first version of his product in the form of two compact discs by that year-end.

Very soon he learnt the shortfalls in his first version and within a year he developed the second version. He claims to have encompassed the whole gamut of Carnatic music that is required to be learnt by one to become an accomplished singer.

Photos: C.V. Subrahmanyam

A multimedia demonstration in progress.

His claim holds water. The multimedia presentation is user-friendly and can be navigated easily even by a layman. The entire presentation is divided into six contents: About the CD; Introduction; Musicography; Science of Ragams; Rhythm and Music Teacher.

In the very first content he deals with the navigation, script and codes used for Indian words, about the team behind the project, bibliography and the company profile.

In the introduction part he starts off with a brief on the evolution of Carnatic and Hindustani music, a general comparative note on both the styles and an elaborate description with an analytical feedback on the Saptha Swaras (seven notes).

After browsing through the introduction part, one is drawn into the main course of learning with the beginning of the Musicography chapter. This is the area where one gets to learn the notations and symbols that are used in the music world. The chapter also deals with various swarams and sthayis (octaves) and they are denoted by the appropriate use of sound and colour.

Having gone through the maze of symbols and notations one is gently introduced to the science of ragas. Analysing the various ragas the tutorial explains the swara sthanas that form the saptha swaras and the formation of the 72 melakartha (parent) ragas. In this chapter a list of 2,500 ragas is embedded with search facility and a live musical keyboard on the screen displays the swara sthanas marked for each of the 72 melakarthas. The keyboard can be played by the mere click of the mouse. Each of the 72 is tagged with a list of derivatives showing the arohana and avarohana (ascending and descending scales).

After the ragas comes the talas or rhythm. The musical sequence that is associated with the ragas are dealt in this chapter. Laghu, Drutham, Anudrutham and seven other main talas are not only explained but demonstrated with the help of video pop-ups.

Prasad Rao has taken adequate care to unfold the beauty of Carnatic music step by step without losing any bit of its mysticism in the long presentation. To simplify the understanding without making a dent on its esoteric substance he has hyperlinked each and every text that needs to be further clarified.

After treading through the ragas and talas one will be taken to that part of the presentation that forms the life of the project, `Music Teacher'. It is from here that D.V. Mohanakrishna an A- grade AIR artiste and disciple of Balamurali Krishna, will take the aspirants to an interactive session where vocal lessons will be taught and practised. For the keen learners the entire 40 hours of this chapter is a crucial phase but for the listeners it will be an enchanting experience as Mohanakrishna takes you to a tranquil plane with his mellifluous voice.

In this chapter one will be taught to sing the various swaras, geethams, krithis and kirtanas. It is associated with the mridangam teacher that not only instructs the method of playing on the instrument but can also accompany the vocal singing process if one desires.

"We have heard of learning English and other languages through linguaphone and audio cassette but for the first time even a common man can take the audacious step to learn the complex form of Carnatic music. All one has to do is to buy or hire a PC having a basic configuration of a processor of at least 100 MHZ and 32 Mb RAM, a CD-ROM drive and a sound card with speakers. One need not have any computer skills to operate this product," explains Prasad Rao.

If not for learning to sing, the CDs can be bought at least to know about the rich heritage of Carnatic music and enjoy it in its most pristine form.

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