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Beauty in laya

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Dr.B.M.Sundaram
Dr.B.M.Sundaram

LEC-DEM Dr. B.M.Sundaram explained the intricacies of rakti melam. S. SIVAKUMAR

Rakti Melam as a composition had held its prime position in Carnatic music, especially among nagaswara vidwans. It is as complex as the mallari or the pallavi. Known for its unconventional eduppu (beginnings) it would commence by default in misram (seven beats or its multiples) leading to labyrinthine laya structures. It is a laya manoeuvre of the highest order.

Many such aspects materialised as Dr.B.M.Sundaram dwelt upon the subject of Rakti Melam at the Gokhale Sastri Institute. He said that the word rakti means beauty (rakti ragam) and rakti melam though primarily laya-prone retains and maintains its element of beauty.

The difference

Rakti melam differs from the pallavi as it does not carry with it patterns such as the purvangam or the utharangam or the padha-garbam or even the sahityam.

Rakti may have been derived out of the words Ragam, Kandanam, and Thirmanam, he added. The champions of the genre were Rakthi Veerasami Pillai who handed it down through generations to vidwans such as Radhakrishna Pillai who was the guru of Chinnathambi Pillai.

Special mention was also made about the Sembonarkoil Brothers, masters of rakti melam. Sundaram cautioned that the rakti-melam would be another loss the music world would have to suffer, judging by the present state of affairs. He also made a passing, but serious, comment about the sad predicament of the nagaswaram today and said that this decline was owing to certain social factors, the submissive attitude of the vidwans, and some non-musical reasons too.

This oral presentation was followed by a nagaswaram concert by Aachalpuram ChinnaThambi Pillai who was accompanied by Aachalpuram Sankaran and Sembonarkoil Varadharajan on the thavil. Thiruvannamalai Gandhi provided nagaswaram support. Chinnathambi, a vidwan with practical abilities presented rakti melam in the ragas Khambodi, Shanmukhapriya and Huseni, truly embodying the principles involved.

This event was held on the inaugural day of the three-day function organized by Chennai Fine Arts, under the banner “Visesha Vadhyanubhava” and was dedicated to the mridangam maestro Palani Subramania Pillai. This festival had sessions on the veena and the mukha veena on subsequent days.


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