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Celebrating the guru-shishya tradition

Ranjani Govind
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Balakrishna Doreswamy Iyengar
Balakrishna Doreswamy Iyengar

The ‘guru-shishya parampara’ denotes a succession of teachers and disciples in traditional Indian culture. The student eventually masters the knowledge that the guru embodies. And with respect to music, the school, and the style or ‘baani’ as it is referred to, is passed on through generations.

If you want to understand the distinct features of different schools of music, head to the Bharatiya Saamagaana Sabha’s annual music festival (February 13 to 17, Chowdiah Memorial Hall) on the theme ‘Guru-shishya parampara’ offering 15 concerts in five days. “The programme features devoted disciples of maestros known for their signature styles. It’s like bringing alive the immortal gurus of India through their students for a guru vandana,” says R.R. Ravishankar, managing trustee of the sabha.

“It’s from a guru that we get the broad framework of play, but with each generation, the style evolves,” explains vainika Balakrishna Doreswamy Iyengar, who will lead a 10-veena ensemble (February 17, 10 a.m.) for the Tyagaraja Aradhana special.

“My Mysore baani can be traced to Veene Seshanna and Venkatagiriappa, who had then based their rendering on intricate rhythmic patterns and straight swaras with rare talas such as ‘Sankirna Triputa’ or ‘Khanda Mathya’. Venkatagiriappa had a 20-volume compilation of classical compositions using the western music notation. My father, Doreswamy Iyengar, although entrenched in the Mysore school, was significantly influenced by yesteryear greats such as Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi and Tiger Varadachar, and his raga elaborations and other descriptive features of a kriti underwent stylistic changes with vocalised (gayaki) formatting. Under the same umbrella, I have switched to using a contact mike so that the undercurrent of mathematics involved in the layakaari that I use in my swara renditions get clearly amplified,” he says.

Bhaskar Nath (shehnai) & Akash (flute); Sikkil Gurucharan; Prasanna Gudi (Hindustani); Sreeranjini Santhanagopalan; T.N.S. Krishnan; Maharajapuram Ganesh Viswanathan; Ramakrishnan Murthy; Nisha Ramgopal; violin by Vittal Rangan; Tanmayee Krishnamurthy; Saketharaman Kasaravalli sisters (Purandhara Aradhana-Devaranamas); Omkar Havaldar (Hindustani); and Abhishek Raghuram are amongst those who will reflect the styles of their renowned gurus.

The Saamagaana Mathanga National Award will be presented to one of the greatest Hindustani gurus, Pt. Jasraj on February 17 at 5 p.m.

Call 98458 33033.

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