Forgotten musical forms come alive with the works of famous poets

‘Kannada Kavya Kamanabillu’ by Krithika and Deepika Srinivasan covers Kannada literature lyrically and musically

In March this year, when Geetha Srinivasan announced that her daughters Krithika and Deepika were presenting their first episode of Kannada Kavya Kamanabillu online, there was curiosity in literary circles. “It seemed like collecting drops of water from a fathomless sea,” Geetha said. “It was a mammoth project to cover Kannada literature lyrically and musically.”

Geetha’s father, CN Ramachandran, professor and critic of Kannada literature, offered to choose the poems. The project has since used lyrics from classical poetry starting from Adikavi Pampa to modernist DV Gundappa’s and Pu Ti Narasimhachar.

There have been nearly two dozen metrical forms since the 10th century when Pampa, Ponna and Ranna wrote poetry. “Every week we feature 10 minutes of each form,” says Krithika. “Ramachandran explains the lyrics and we set it to music and perform.”

Each form has its own features and metre that distinguishes it from other forms. Krithika first understands the lyrics with Ramachandran’s explanation, she then gauges the mood and context of the composition then decides on the raga the lyrics would be set to. “The first one chosen by my grandfather from Adikavi Pampa’s Vrutta. Bharatha-Bahubali describes a war between the brothers, Bharatha and Bahubali,” says Krithika.

Pampa describes the extended war, which includes three kinds of competitions to find out who is the strongest. Bahubali’s strength after winning the war was to give up the kingdom to Bharatha and choose peace. “I saw a sense of sacrifice, withdrawal and liberality in Pampa’s verses. So I set the verses to the serene Sama raga.”

“The journey of poetry from the 10th century is interesting. Each poet has handled it differently. Each form gained an identity over the centuries and this is highlighted in our songs. This way the programme gets to highlight an era, a poet, the existing form and the descriptive features of the literary piece.”

Krithika, a Programme Executive at Indian Music Experience (IME) is a software engineer trained in Carnatic music. She quit her job in 2016 to pursue music. “I am grateful to my grandfather for helping me curate this programme where Pracheena Kavya (traditional poetry) and Shastriya Sangeeta (classical music) merge. I also have some scholarly suggestions from BA Viveka Rai.”

Krithika is accompanied on percussion by her sister, Deepika and on the flute by Deepak Hebbar. Kannada Kavya Kamanabillu is streamed every Thursday on at 9 am. The next episode, streaming on June 18 will cover lyrics from Pu Ti Na’s musical, Gokula Nirgamana.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 11:57:28 PM |

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