A minimum of 10 kritis in each raga would help you to gain a sound knowledge of the raga swaroopa.
(The second and last part of excerpts from ‘Samvada’ — the dialogue between R.K. Srikantan and N. Ravikiran that took place at the Music Academy facilitated by Sampradaya. The first part appeared last week.)
NRK: About the musicians you have listened to...
RKS: Who can forget Palghat Rama Bhagavathar’s ‘Rama nee samanamevaru and ‘Para mukham,’ ‘Rama katha rasa?’ Chowdaiah’s violin was just mesmerising. Listening to Chembai’s concert with Dakshinamurthy Pillai and Palghat Mani Iyer and his ‘Sri Balasubramanya’ with niraval in the anupallavi, his brother’s sonorous voice were all a great experience. No words have I, to express on Musiri’s ‘Seethapathe’ and his vinyasam in the charanam ‘Prema joochi napai’ and ‘Telisi Rama.’ I don’t find the same quality in today’s music. It is quite funny when you hear these days ‘O Ranga Sayee’ being complemented with a 43-suite ragamalika after a detailed niraval in the charanam. It is the height of lunacy. The kriti by itself is a grand one. Why all this unnecessary gimmicks?
Another sings ‘Pavamana’ with an alapana in the end. ‘Lambhodara’ is given a detailed treatment in the beginning of a concert. (Exclaims) “Krishna don’t mistake me.” Singing varnam in the middle of a concert is not in the grammar. Ata tala varnam has its place only in the beginning of a concert. Some sing chitta swaram for devarnamas which was never part of the original. We have no right to tamper with the rich legacy handed over to us by elders. Our objective should only be to foster it and hold it up for the future. Youngsters should take the right route by following what is sampradaya.
You might ask whether you do not have the swathanthram to innovate. You do have the liberty I admit but don’t take democracy into your hands as it is always dangerous for art. The Vedas for example have never undergone a change for over several thousand years. Not a single swara has been changed. Our music that has a strong link with the Vedas has to be fostered for posterity in the same fashion.
It has come through karna parampara. No sishya parampara is heard of. During Haridasa’s period only 32 ragas were in vogue while Purandaradasar used 80 ragas. We should not move away from these ragas. (Sings Vitalaiyya Vitalaiyya and few other devarnamas.) Sangathis and vinyasas are not permitted in devar namas. I too have tuned some devar namas but well within the parameters of the padhathi. Singing devarnamas in Hindustani ragas and cinema tunes is atrocious. Ariyakkudi’s ‘Enu dhanyalo lagumi Entha Manyalo’ still rings in my ears. You should be steadfast in protecting their pristine purity.
Veena as an accompaniment (question from the audience)
It was used during the Vedic period as an accompaniment. Akhanda nadham can never be achieved in the veena unlike the flute or the violin. According to the dharma of veena, it is not suited for fast paced kritis as an accompaniment while it will be very apt for vilamba kala kritis. All said and done, the violin is best accompaniment for a concert.
Your advice on manodharma while essaying ragas such as Sankarabharanam, etc…
A minimum of 10 kritis in each raga would help you to gain a sound knowledge of the raga swaroopa. When someone asked about the number of kritis Ariyakkudi knew in Thodi, he started dictating and the number soared up to 60.The person just looked up and Iyengar said, “Wait, there are still more to come.” Similarly learning padams and javalis in the same raga will only enhance your knowledge.
Do you practise every day, if so what (question from the audience)
Even now I practise regularly and also give lec-dems. I am still researching on how to keep the audience mesmerised by my music. I keep researching on composer’s bhavam, structural beauty and bhava shuddham of many kritis. You may have practised a particular raga for several hours at home, but in the concert you will find your imagination drying up even by the fifth minute and that is a curse. You should have a command over music and to achieve that you should practise regularly.V. BALASUBRAMANIAN