Music

Village comes alive with music

RAPT ATTENTION: View of one section of the student audience. Photo: Rupa Gopal

RAPT ATTENTION: View of one section of the student audience. Photo: Rupa Gopal   | Photo Credit: email

Laid back Nidle in Karnataka becomes a beehive of activity.

Music is truly wonderful - it exists in improbable nooks and crannies, hills and vales. Nidle, in interior Karnataka, is one such place - a laidback tiny village on the slopes of the verdant Western Ghats, cool and fresh. Carnatic music is receiving rejuvenating ‘kashayams’ as tonics here, strengthening its base.

Vittal Ramamurthy, one of Lalgudi Jayaraman’s senior disciples, is the prime mover behind the spread of Carnatic music here, his hometown. Vittal recalls going to the small village school, walking across the valleys, fording the river in low season, and crossing it on a boat when the river would be in full flow. No one in the village understood his passion for music, and the urge to learn it. His maternal grandfather, a violinist, was a Sangita Bhushanam, and Vittal’s mother was keen that her only son and four daughters should all take to music.

Lalgudi Jayaraman had visited Nidle, even before Vittal became his student, in Madras. Vittal’s sister Rajarajeswari ran a music school called Krishna Gana Sabha, and a few students used to assemble at the Nidle home, to learn from her. Slowly, outside artists were invited to sing, and teach, for the benefit of the students, and it became a small annual event - a ‘shivira,’ or camp, for a week, with now about 150 students coming from all surrounding villages and towns, and a few even from across the shores.

This year was the tenth year of this noble venture, and it was celebrated between May 17 and 23. Top artists such as Vijay Siva, T.M. Krishna and others are regulars here, and Kalyani Sarma, senior vocalist from Mumbai, was here last year. This year the celebrations were flagged off by Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, who conducted the workshop on May 17 and 18. The star couple of Krishna and Sangita Sivakumar followed on May 22 and 23.

The atmosphere was simply unique - boys and girls of all ages, ranging from 6 to 20’s, and adults of all ages, sat together to learn, listen, and sing. The children would practise late into the night, and be ready with the latest song next morning.

Lalgudi’s Bowli offering Arunodayam set the pace on the sun shining beatifically on the camp. They went on to sing the Maund tillana, and then GJR started his lesson - Andolika varnam. Fine teaching by him saw the students grasp all nuances, and by evening the varnam was on the lips of all present. Classes were wound up at lunch, and evening saw a grand violin concert by GJR, with Vittal handling the second violin. Iswara Bhatt ably accompanied on the mridangam, and the hills echoed with the Lalgudi bani. Hemavathi was the main raga, and the concert ended with the the Mohanakalyani tillana, a familiar one for the students.

Next morning saw GJR teach the Vaasanthi tillana. Short offerings by the students formed the evening’s agenda - a young duo from Sringeri were particularly impressive with Mayamalavagowla. Young Atul Nayak sang a competent Bhairavi, and Paavani from Sringeri sang a very confident Simhendra Madhyamam.

Last came the star of the show - Chinmay, Vittal’s niece from Bombay, student of Kalyani Sarma. Sahana varnam was followed by a very good alapana of Varali, and the rare Dasar kriti ‘Ille Vaikunta.’

The children have a wonderful time here, becoming part of the extended Ramamurthy family. Cooks are engaged, and huge amounts of food , Karnataka style, is prepared three times a day, for all. The fertile lands provide the vegetables and fruit, coconuts and plantain leaves, and the entire event is a feast of melody, and homely cuisine. Kashayam is popular in these areas, and brewed and served daily, as a mid-morning break, with biscuits, to soothe the singing throats.

Funding for this annual event is somehow managed by the family themselves, with a little help from some music-loving parents. The students themselves help a lot, with the many tasks involved during the week, and even with serving the food. A spirit of cooperation prevails, making friends of all strangers.

The camp is not just for future performers; simple music lovers too are part of it. Dr Arathi Hebbar from Udipi considers this her annual holiday, and enjoys learning the new songs, for her own musical pleasure. Musically inclined housewives such as Veena from near Sringeri come to help Vittal’s family with the domestic side of the arrangements, listening and learning at the same time.

Some promising students are now being taken to Madras, for proper training of about two years. Krishna’s Sumanasa Foundation is bearing the students’ expenses, for the entire period.

A dedicated music-loving family is doing wonders, simply for the love of music, untainted by the garish glitter of money.

Vittal is making his home Karumbithil at Nidle a strong musical fount, doing his job with simple unassuming excellence, ably supported by all his sisters , and their families. Certainly we shall see a few star performers from Nidle soon, arriving in a steady stream.

Now in its decade, Nidle shows the path in an era of decadence, cultivating listening, and nurturing music in a most enjoyable way. ‘Ille Vaikunta’— this is heaven, indeed.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 10:54:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/Village-comes-alive-with-music/article16240943.ece

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