Margazhi Festival


The Mathrubrundam group in class.

The Mathrubrundam group in class.  


Music and Grandma

Vatsala Jayaraman

I am a septuagenarian music lover. From childhood, I have been listening to concerts senior vidwans in our local temples. Each concert was mesmerising, unique in style. Private music classes were common those days. The plight of music teachers then was pitiable, to say the least. All girls were taught a few classical songs to sing during the ‘girl seeing’ ritual. Our neighbour, who ran an idli shop, sang some soul-stirring kritis while grinding the batter. That’s how life was in the late 1960s and 1970s!

Now, it is atechnology-driven world. The present day artists are the lucky to benefit from direct coaching as well as listening to recorded recitals of stalwarts, seniors.

Those days, concerts went on for hours, providing not only entertainment but also an opportunity to appreciate the subtle nuances of the music and the genius of the performers. It was a delight for the elite and the peasants alike.

Today, kutcheris last for less than two hours, with vidwans being unable to do full justice to the tradition and paddhati.

Amidst such tight schedules, how are artists going to pass on the rich legacy to the next generation? Also, while there are many talented performers, there are very few good teachers to train the younger generation. Merely stressing on hours of practice without focussing on vital issues may not help. With so many diversions today as video games, Internet and TV, too much stress may make music a drudgery rather than a joyful experience. It is the duty of music teachers to ensure that goals set are reasonable, relevant and just right to the student.

The concern today is that focus has shifted towards excelling in competitions, and winning prizes. Ambitious parents wish to see their children on the stage unconcerned of the skills or the . Why this ‘win’veri? My heart longs for the restoration of the original concert pattern. Yet practical wisdom proclaims “Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson. You find the present TENSE and the past PERFECT!” As long as “Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gaiety to life” (Plato), why worry about intricacies?



“We are a group of women sold on the dream of deconstructing Carnatic music - learning to appreciate a concert, understanding a raga, and learning to sing.

Our 45 member group has one mother with a tattoo and a slipped disc, another with a PhD. from IIT and chronic shyness, a young woman whose mother tongue is Polish, a dentist, two Chartered Accountants -- the youngest is 29 and the oldest is 60 -- and we are determined to learn Pure Carnatic Music.

We spent three months on Mohanam. Some were shaky on all five notes. Others could do three on five consistently. One couldn’t cure herself off her Mayamalavagowla hangover that came from a music lesson learnt when she was eight.

Our teacher is Guru Seetha Rajan. She named our group ‘Mathrubrundam’, organised lessons twice a week, said it was her tribute to mothers and refused to accept payment. These past months, she did a lot of spoon feeding – hard work because at least two of us are tone deaf!

First, she taught us to heighten our awareness of sound all around us -- the car and the crow, the squirrel and a plate clattered on a table. Next, she taught us that rhythm was not in the talam on your palm, it is in your entire body. And then, she taught us to hear every note a tambura makes, she taught us about swaras that move and the ones that don't; she taught us about melody in the softest of voices, and how a silent pause can be musical too. She taught us that we could identify a raga, sing a small song for a kolu, and be comfortable wearing a saree for many hours a day.

But most of all, she taught us to not be lost in the grandeur of a concert. She taught us to listen, hear, understand, appreciate and enjoy the music. “If you just do one of those things, you can do the rest....” She says.

If you see a batch of 45 sari-clad women in the last few rows of a sabha, whispering in muffled tones trying to deconstruct the kutcheri – you can be sure it is the Mathrubrundam group!

TVS in top form


For T.V. Sankaranarayanan’s concert for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the hall was full. TVS was ably supported by his son Mahadevan who is also fast blossoming with his brisk voice and fine singing. TVS opened Sachin Tendulkar-style with a song on Vinayaka and settled down well with the most popular kriti of Tyagraja ‘Enta Veduko’ in Saraswathi Manohari Raga! The best came in the form of the beautiful Bhairavi kriti ‘Koluvai.’

One was reminded of the Dhoni-Virat Kohli partnership watching the father and son perform in sync, and with so much melody. Truly, one of the most memorable concerts I’ve attended.

(Some readers share their thoughts on the Margazhi Music and Dance Festival)

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 10:39:24 AM |

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