Centenary Music

‘Srikantan’s music is ageless’

R.K. Srikantan

R.K. Srikantan   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR

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Disciple Satyavathi recalls salient aspects, which have made him guru par excellence

The centenary celebration is an apt occasion to talk to T.S. Satyavathi, musician and musicologist. “Completeness marked every aspect of his music, which can also be termed shastra-bhaddha. As his disciple of nearly four decades, it was a pleasure to flag off the ‘R.K. Srikantan Centenary Celebrations’ by speaking about him at the Music Academy in Chennai recently,” said Satyavathi before settling down for this interview. She will be showcasing Srikantan on several platforms across the country during the year.

As a student of R.K. Srikantan if there is one aspect that you will always take along, what would that be?

To be a learner forever.

Among his personal traits, what made the most impact?

A strict disciplinarian, he would brook no laxity on the part of his students. He was working with All India Radio, where every second counted, and that was the kind of time-sense he dictated.

He was steeped in tradition but RKS welcomed new features. Did he not?

It was always creativity within the frame of tradition. His alapanas were firmly grounded in the compositions which were structured, ‘Nibaddha.’ One cannot take liberties with the Sangatis here. With due respect to the musical vision of the composer, one may improvise it with one or two judicious inclusions. To this extent, you may call him orthodox but when it comes to the elaboration of a raga, niraval, i.e. to say, ‘Anibaddha’ or non-structured, semi-structured aspects, creativity flowed, exuding a natural freshness.

His focus on sruti-bhaddhate while teaching...

He strongly believed in ‘Shruti Maata and Layaha Pita.’ This could very easily be felt when he held on to the aadhaara shadja, the basic Sa, before he began a concert. The entire hall would seem to resonate with it.

About his rich bank of kritis... was he possessive?

There is something that I can never forget in this regard. I had to change two buses to reach his home and that took me an hour in the late 1970s. On my request, he taught me a rare composition of Tyagaraja ‘Devi Shri Tulasamma’ in Mayamalavagowla before which he strictly instructed me to not share it with anyone. Observing my puzzled look he said, “Do you know, how much I laboured to get this lyric?” I made at least 50 bicycle trips to the vidwan, who was reluctant to part with it. Your efforts are no mean in coming all the way from Jayanagar and learning and practising. I don’t want it to fall into wrong hands who might insult the composition.” At that moment it appeared to be possessiveness but later on I realised that it was born out of his concern to preserve authenticity. On the other hand, there have been instances when he would teach me two compositions in a single session and ask me to pass them on to my students as well!

T.S. Satyavathi

T.S. Satyavathi  

What do you think RKS expected most from his students as a performer?

Attention to be paid to every aspect such as sruti alignment, appropriate use of gamakas in a raga, unwavering laya, clear diction — all of this wrapped in bhava. In a kutcheri, it was imperative to take note of the occasion, duration, the kind of audience and accompanists before finalising the fare. The list must have variety in raga, tala and composers. Of course, rigorous practice and internalisation.

He never believed that music was an intellectual exercise...

It was never an intellectual exercise, but an emotional one. Music should not incite, but invoke insights. Today’s music is about technique, intellect and loud volume. When Sastra is implicit, automatically your emotions will be explicit. Your singing should not expose your Sastra, believed my guru Srikantan. You must absorb the technique and allow it to be processed through your bhava. But today even the rasikas want the brain to rule as they seem to want loudness and display.

Many accompanying musicians talk of his stage simplicities and the 'connect' he brought about

Yes, that stemmed out of his thorough understanding of the various requirements on stage, including the kind of accompanying artistes. He would neither embarrass nor get embarrassed by anyone. It would be a joint celebration of music all through.

Do you think he lived at the right time to take his beliefs across?

RKS’ music is ‘ageless’ because it combines in itself all of which is appreciated by the young and the old, learner and the learned, Indian and alien listeners. There is always something for everyone to admire and emulate.

RKS continues to score thanks to his sishyas, a brand that he has developed. He got hundreds of them through his Ganavihara on Akashavani ...

My guru was extremely selective in picking his students. AIR did give wide publicity to his impeccable teaching skills through ‘Ganavihara.’ Thousands have benefited by this. It was a privilege to learn even if it was just one composition. He remains Guru par excellence to us and we surely miss his physical presence.

Centenary celebration

Vidwan R.K. Srikantan Trust in association with Academy of Music, Ministry of Culture, Government of India and department of Kannada and Culture, Government of Karnataka is celebrating the Trust’s 25th Sankaranti Music festival as a commemoration of the birth centenary of Srikantan and Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar. The 10-day event, a musical tribute by noted disciples of the late Srikantan, will be inaugurated by Tejasvi Surya, M.P. on January 14, 5 p.m., at the T. Chowdiah Memorial Hall. Sri Yadugiri Yathiraja Narayana Ramanuja Jeer will confer the R.K. Srikantan National Eminence Award on violin exponent M. Chandrasekaran and Sri Mullaivasal Krishnamurthy Sastrigal. The vocal concert of Ranjani-Gayathri will follow.

The festival shifts to Seva Sadan, Malleswaram, where concerts will be held, January 15-23, by a host of eminent vidwans, including T.S. Satyavathi, M.S. Sheela and K. Shanti Rao.

On January 20, the Rudrapatnam Brothers R.N. Tyagarajan and R.N. Taranathan will be felicitated and the duo will present a concert (7-9 p.m). Tumkur Mohankumar will present a four-hour Harikatha on Purandaradasa on January 22, 5 p.m.

The curtain comes down on January 23 with the concerts of Vijayalalitha Ramesh Vemuri and Vishnudev Namboodari.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 3:56:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/srikantans-music-is-ageless/article30522335.ece

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