Music

Pages ago - Mali and his music

T. R. Mahalingam. (Flute Mali)  

Q: You have been credited with introducing gamaka nuances in the playing of flute. Could you tell us what was the playing technique of Saraba Sastri and Palladam Sanjeevi Rao?

A: I have heard the late Sanjeevi Rao but not his guru Saraba Sastri. Sanjeevi Rao's playing was mostly plain notes without much of gamaka nuances. The tonal quality was attractive. During a journey together I asked Sri Sanjeevi Rao about the playing style of his guru. He said: “I did gurukulavasa for more than nine years and I am only playing what I have inherited from him. His tonal quality was alluring. I am now playing on the same instrument and it still retains its tonal quality.”

Q: Do you think that flute playing at present is tending towards fingering acrobatics at the expense of deep-toned gamakas?

A: There cannot be anything like ‘fingering acrobatics' on the flute. Artists may do acrobatics on music itself. Acrobatics in music should have its place and proportion. If acrobatics are employed without proportion and in the proper place, the artist will be considered immature.

Q: Some music connoisseurs feel that blowing has become feeble and cite the way you used to impart depth, particularly in the mandara sthayi. Do you approve of the use of the long flute for exploring the mandara sthayi?

A: Feebleness or length of the instrument may have nothing to do with good or real music. If good music is played even feebly, it will be enjoyable. The longer flute is taken for lower srutis only. If one has a clear understanding of good music, all the fundamental aspects will automatically reveal themselves. Well, what is good or real music? To answer this I can only cite Tyagaraja's krithi ‘Sitavara, Sangeetha Gnanamu Dhata Vrayavalera'.

The sruti question on the flute requires a long discussion. In brief, ancient works do speak of longer instruments, but insist on five kattai sruthi only with good reason.

Q: Young flute vidwans try to emulate you, particularly the way you play the swaras. Of course, many of them are poor imitation. What is your advice to aspiring artistes?

A: Youngsters may imitate or indulge in swara prastaras (I believe, here you mean kalpana swaras). The only thing is that the manipulations should be within limits. Imitation may not be necessary if one has originality. Kalpana swaras should not be devoid of musical effects. I admit long back I had indulged in prolonged manipulations on rhythm during swaraprastaras. But, it was not well received by the audience; may be, the subject was not very familiar to them.

Q: We have read your views on new ragas through the letters to the Editor in The Hindu. Do you think that presentation of even familiar ragas has fallen into a set formula?

Q: You have heard towering musicians of the past, both vocal and instrumental. Could you tell us whether standards have been kept up now or have fallen from the aesthetic point of view.

A: I had no opportunity of hearing Vidwan Konerirajapuram Vaidyanatha Iyer and the like. I have heard musicians of the subsequent era. Even though, those that I heard lacked in certain aspects of music, they had the main objective, that is, the authentic Carnatic bani. Yes, I may join the purists who say Carnatic music has degenerated with its sturdy roots shaken by way of undue or unnecessary emphasis on rare ragas, improvisation of ragas and krithis just for the sake of the platform with no concrete purpose. Above all, degeneration is certainly due to the ‘shortcut-to-glory' methods — I mean here scheming for honours, even purchasing honours by adopting unethical methods. I believe these ‘shortcut-to-glory' artists will be disappointed a lot when they reflect on what is worthy music. God save Carnatic music.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 2:14:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/Pages-ago-Mali-and-his-music/article15605589.ece

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