Discussions surrounding the therapeutic value of music and its immediate benefits in the field of medicine haven’t often traversed beyond the elitists in the health and music arenas. For a change, a lecture-demonstration on this topic was aimed at an average music connoisseur in the first of a series titled ‘Naadatanumanisam’ in Hyderabad recently. Commemorating the 85th birthday celebrations of lyricist, musician Ushakant, the event hosted by Mahati Music Academy elaborated on the specific medical benefits of music over a three-hour session.
Dr J Sreekanth (son of Ushakant) taking the event forward, talked of medical healing through music, its power to activate certain chakras in the body through his personal experiences while busting a few myths about the entire process as well. He insisted that no raga held special powers but it’s the stressing on a combination of notes that could make a difference to a person’s health. Alternating between theory and performance, the event had him and a group of singers pick select Carnatic compositions, private songs (composed by Ushakant) and a few film numbers to make their point clear.
Meanwhile, an invocatory dance number saw medico and Kuchipudi dancer Suseela Sreekanth gracefully performing to Dikshitar’s kriti Sri Maha Ganapathi . Later, different segments of the music event focused on the importance of various ragas in the field of medicine, namely Revati, Mohana, Khamas, Sindhu bhairavi, Keeravani and Amrutavarshini. While the academic side to the event was thoroughly enriching, the performances, that were to delineate more on appeal of the ragas, were far from appealing.
The Revati ragam was highlighted for its ability to cure pelvic inflammatory diseases when sung in perfect shruti and laya. A single Pranavaakaram , lyricised and composed by Ushakant, was presented by his son Sreekanth. Though the song had limited appeal in terms of composition, Sreekanth’s soulful rendition and strong orchestration helped its course. Probably to lend more familiarity about the use of the raga in an uplifting mood, he was joined by singer Radhika Laxman for the song Jhummandi Naadam (from the movie Siri Siri Muvva ), which didn’t quite leave a great after-taste.
A similar attempt tried to present the ‘mesmerising’ quality of the Mohana ragam, which was also discussed for its ability to cure irritable bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal disorders, and inflammatory bowel diseases. Following up a just-about-passable rendition of another song Jyotirmayi Vande dwelling upon the Goddess of Light, it was Sreenidhi Venkatesh’s Cheri Yashodhaku (Annamacharya kirtana composed by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy) that brought some respect to an event otherwise downsized by its mediocre singing.
Khamas ragam, known to relieve patients from issues of hypertension, was next in the line-up where the duo of Radhika Laxman and Sreekanth returned to perform Tere mere milan ki from Abhimaan (composed in the same raga). The number, known for its inherent melody was a welcome addition to the event. Some strokes of compassion were evoked through an emphasis on Sindhu Bhairavi, through another film song Oho Vibhaavari (by S Rajeswar Rao) and another independent song Nee guna ganame , sung by Sreekanth and Sreenidhi respectively.
There isn’t much to drive home about the later segments concerning the Keeravani, Thodi and Amrutavarshini ragams, but for Sreenidhi’s spectacular rendition of Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer’s Thaaye Yashoda (in Thodi ragam). A R Neeraj Kumar on the guitar, Rama Chandra Murthy on the flute, Guru Prasad with the percussion instruments provided reasonable support though.
At several instances, it was disappointing to notice the recorded versions of the song merely being lip-synced on stage. The blend of light music, film songs, and Carnatic compositions, though unique on paper, wasn’t quite captivating on the whole. The research that went behind the ‘healing through music’ idea certainly showed but more focus and quality in execution would have made a huge difference.