SHAPING OF AN IDEAL CARNATIC MUSICIAN THROUGH SADHANA: Pantula Rama; Gyan Publishing House, 5, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 750.

For dedicated practitioners of Carnatic music, Pantula Rama’s book comes as a valuable practical guide to sadhana (achievement). Abhyasa (practice) is the process that leads to sadhana. Who better than a performing musician to throw light on the intricacies of goal-oriented sadhana? With the guidance of her guru Ivaturi Vijayeswara Rao and other stellar personalities her work is a comprehensive account of a committed musician’s striving for perfection. She brings her keen perception as a vocalist to bear upon this work.


The analysis of manodharma aspects is systematic and set out in great detail in the context of rasanubhava, aesthetics in musical expression and development of an individual style. The chapter on laya gnanam details helpful laya strengthening exercises and discusses apt kalapramana. Particularly well compiled is the study of dhatu and matu of compositions with emphasis on the Trinity’s oeuvres. The need for clear, accurate enunciation is constantly emphasised, coming as a timely reminder to the modern day musician. Although Carnatic instrumental music has vocal music as its ideal, practice techniques differ for voice and instruments, an interesting detail illustrated by specific examples. Under other heads, salient points are explained with apt illustrations sans verbosity.

The concluding section featuring interviews with eminent artistes is a source of inspiration. The senior musicians’ observations brim with the insight born of a lifetime’s experience — precious nuggets generously shared so that future generations may benefit from the fruit of their labour. Their expert opinions on varisais, alankaram and geetham, with specific importance accorded to the varnam and their views on manodharma and kalpita sangitam are especially significant in an age when the relevance of time-honoured values is in question, with scepticism eroding the very bedrock of classical art forms. The author’s firm statements expressed with the conviction born of personal experience come as a breath of fresh air.

Lifelong quest

Art is a lifelong quest. Students of music as well as professional musicians are often beset by doubts that form an inevitable part of the process of learning and enquiry. While e-learning is a much-hyped cyber-age tool, it can at best only supplement, never serve as a substitute for the experience of learning directly and receiving sustained guidance and individual attention from the guru. The author’s emphasis on the guru-sishya relationship speaks volumes for her priorities.

Today’s definition of a noteworthy musician refers to a popular artiste whose success is measured in terms of the ability to ensure a full house. Consequently, the demands of present day concert dynamics invariably trigger a conflict between artiste and performer psyches within the musician. To reconcile the two proclivities to achieve a golden mean without compromising on artistic integrity is no easy task. And that is precisely why the author’s focus on the making of an ideal musician and not merely a competent/successful musician is particularly relevant.