LEC-DEM Sriram Parasuram emphasised the importance of gamakas. Prof. S. R. Janakiraman's talk was on the speciality of Madhyamavathi. G. SWAMINATHAN

“G amakas are an intrinsic facet of music and present in the all genres of the world. Probably, it gets more prominence with regard to Indian classical music because it is so intense,” said vocalist and musicologist Sriram Parasuram in his lec-dem on ‘Gamakas, Anuswaras - Oceans of Musical Possibilities' at Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha.

“There are many definitions on gamaka -- from Bharata to present day musicologists,” he said, quoting many. Pandit Ravi Shankar defined it as a ‘sound embellishment' that inspires the listener. Sriram's late guru T. Viswanathan considered the gamaka as a deflection with connection to successive notes and repeated notes via janda, ravai, briga, and jaru.

Sriram deliberated on these aspects by singing swaras and phrases of Sahana and Nattakurinji. He said it is not just the swara that makes the raga but the gamaka which leaves an impression and helps one identify a raga. “Gamakas are always a mixture and are dynamic,” he felt.

The inclusion of the gamaka is changing with time. “There is a vast difference between the Thodi sung before Rajaratnam Pillai and after him,” he felt.

Being a Hindustani vocalist, Sriram drew comparisons between the gamaka employed in Hindustani and Carnatic styles. He illustrated this by singing ragas such as Jaijaivanti and Dwijavanti, Darbar and Darbari, and Atana.

Erudite presentation

‘Madhyamavathi patterns' was the title of Prof S.R. Janakiraman's lec-dem.

Ragas which have ascending and descending notes such as Madhyamavathi ( srmpns, snpmrs) were taken up for deliberation by SRJ. Using various permutations and combinations, from rishabam to nishadam, the suddha and prati madyama ragas were presented by him. There are 18 ragas and most of them are not as popular as Madhyamavathi.

SRJ began by talking about the original name, Madhyamathi, which was later re-christened during Muthuswami Dikshitar's time as Madhyamavathi. The suddha madhyama ragas are Vamalochana, Revati, Visharatha, Haimavati, Brindavani, Lavanthika, Madhyamavathi and Shigarini. Their prati madhyma counterparts include Yakshapriya, Simhanadam, Yami, Syaama, Varata, Yogini and Vahitaranjani.

Except Madhyamavathi, Revathi and Brindavani, others are not that well known. The swaras like nishata and rishaba are couched in the neighbouring notes in certain melodies. These are termed as raga swara and sthanaswaram.

SRJ, in his booming voice, sang these ragas and independent notes with precision and emphasised their speciality and references in music literature. Ragas such as Brindavana Saranga, Udayaravichandrika and Hamsanadam are catchy with presumably slightly deviant or additional notes. He also demonstrated the range of these ragas and the subtle variations of the swaras. The roles of resonant and dissonant swaras were also discussed.