Lec-dem On Subramania Bharati, a treatise and gharanas. Pappu Venugopala Rao

R ajkumar Bharati, great grandson of Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharati presented a lecture demonstration at the morning session of The Music Academy. The presentation carried the spirit and fervor intended by Bharati and the strength of an unbroken tradition of the rendition of the songs.

Rajkumar narrated how his great grandfather would keep singing and keeping the talam, which was a cue for the others in the family that a song was in the making.

Quoting extensively from the material written by Bharati's daughter Thangamma Bharati, Rajkumar explained how Bharati was very attached to his family and would sing every new song that he penned first to his family, even if it was midnight !

Bharati believed that tune and words should be in perfect sync with each other. Rajkumar also highlighted the fact that the political situation of the country at that time was such that Bharati's goal was to awaken the sleeping spirit of the people and make them demand their freedom. Hence the tunes composed by the poet for his songs were simple so that they attracted as many people as possible and could also be sung in chorus. The words were also simple but powerful.

Rajkumar demonstrated a few of the patriotic songs such as ‘Vande Mataram Enbom' and ‘Parukkulle Nalla Nadu' in the original tunes. Some of the tottira paadal songs (in praise of Gods) were also presented.

The presentation included a stirring rendition of ‘Nenjukku Neediyum' by Lalita Bharati (granddaughter of the poet) as requested by Dr. N. Ramanathan and was thoroughly appreciated by the rasikas.

A treatise

Renowned musicologist R. Sathyanarayana presented a scholarly lecture on ‘Sangitasamaysara,' a treatise on music and dance. It was a well-structured presentation dealing first with the source materials (manuscripts and edited publications), then the author, the contents of the text and finally, on future research possibilities based on this text.

The author of the book is Parsvadeva, a Jain, probably from the Digambara sect whose teacher was Mahadeva. It is inferred from his two references to ‘Jagadekamalla' as ‘prithvipati' that he must have been a protégé of the ninth Jagadekamalla of the Chalukya dynasty.

This also helps in deciding the upper limit of Parsvadeva's date as 11th century A.D and since the first reference to Sangitsamayasara is found in Simhabhupala's commentary to the Sangita Ratnakara, which is 1330 A.D, it may also be said that he lived not later than 13th A.D.

Parsvadeva held the titles of ‘Srutijnanachakrvarti' , ‘ Rasabhavabhedanipuna' and ‘Sangitakara' among others.

Speaking about the work, Dr. Sathyanarayana explained that it consisted of 10 chapters called ‘adhikaranas' that dealt with all topics of music and dance starting from the origin of sound: svara, sthana , alankaras , gamakas, ragas; the different types of prabandhas, tala, nritta and also prakirnaka or miscellaneous aspects such as composer, audience and auditorium.

The verses are mostly in the anushthup meter and the style of writing is such that each sentence or idea is completed in one verse. Some of the special features of this book are: the author is probably the first to deal with the desi tradition in such detail; he has given names for the 66 srutis that is, 22 for each of the three registers; he uses abbreviations for the names of the angas of prabandha; mentions four forms of nritta; he is the first to deal with prastara of tala.

Of skill and styles

The lecture demonstration of Aneesh Pradhan, well- known tabla player, on the different gharanas or styles of tabla playing was very informative and enjoyable. He first mentioned that the concept of gharanas in tabla was based on two aspects: content or repertoire and technique.

As far as technique is concerned, the gharanas employ the various sollus or syllables in different combinations. Aneesh also explained that the band baaj or playing technique uses a lot of the outer ring of the tabla and in the khula baaj, the inner ring is used frequently. The Delhi gharana is characterised by band baaj, while the Lucknow gharana employs khula baaj. He said that these gharanas mainly pertained to solo tabla playing. Aneesh made the presentation lively with beautiful and clear demonstrations of the different gharanas. He was accompanied by Sudhir Nayak on the harmonium. (pappuvenu@gmail.com)