Music

For its own sake

Professor Amartya Sen releasing noted Carnatic singer T.M. Krishna's book "Southern Music: The Karnatik Story". Gopal Krishna Gandhi, Chairman, Kalakshetra is present. Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

Nobel laureate and Bharat Ratna Amartya Sen in the course of releasing musician T.M. Krishna’s book “A Southern Music — The Karnatik Story”, touching on the spirit of enquiry revealed in the book questioning entrenched notions on music and art, in a passing reference, wondered about the possibilities of art associated with religion involving persons outside the fold of the concerned faith.

That art in its abstraction is beyond any religious persuasion, and that spirituality transcends religious dogmatism, was understood by a great ustad like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan who constantly urged that every youngster in the country be put through classical music training, for that search for the ‘swara’ and ‘sur’ would instil in the youngster a feel for balance and harmony, preventing him from ever entering the unaesthetic and disharmonious spaces attracting terrorism. All our great Dhrupad Bandhu-s have come from the Muslim fold — their religion never standing in the way of their singing hymns dedicated to Hindu gods like Shiva and Parvati with deep passion. For them the divinity worshipped was music, without ever diluting their faith in Islam. In fact, to talk of Hindustani music without the great contribution of Muslim singers would be like “Hamlet” without the Prince of Denmark and this art form has been a great plank for forging unbreakable bonds between musicians from Islamic and Hindu faiths. Carnatic music, to a lesser degree has had the likes of Chinnamaulana and Yesudas.

Kathakali, an art form which was so connected with the kootambalam space in the temples of Kerala, had one of its finest singers in Hyder Ali. Religious strongholds cannot be wished away nor, one hopes, can the avid supporters of art for its own sake. Scholar K.K. Gopalakrishnan spoke of how since non-Hindus were not allowed to enter the temple premises, near Tripunithura in Ernakulamn district, a part of the temple wall was broken and designed in such a way as to accommodate Hyder Ali accompanying the Kathakali performances while viewers sat inside the temple compound. Even before death tragically snatched away Hyder Ali in an accident, his last act was composing the music for the pallavi of “Shalabhanjika” composition.

Amidst several others, classical dance has had Ramli Ibrahim, the Bharatanatyam/Odissi specialist running his institution Sutra in Kuala Lumpur and Delhi has scores of Bangladeshi students learning under the best available gurus of Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak. Says a dancer: “When we learn the Krishna items from Birju Maharaj, we perform them with no problems — though in our own country, we avoid presenting these items.” The Americans, the French, the Russians and others now having Bharatanatyam schools in their respective countries and presenting the margam repertoire would be too long to mention. Some of these dancers have been eyed with suspicion by the religious establishment, but have weathered storms, proving that their worship of dance or music in no way makes them lesser followers of the religions they are born to.

Bharatanatyam threesome

Usna Banu, trained in Mohiniattam and Bharatanatyam at Kerala Kalamandalam, started the Bharatanatyam story, with daughter Shabana who trained under her mother and had a stint at Kalakshetra following in her footsteps. And when her son-in-law Shaffique-ud-din (a long time disciple of the Dhananjayans, running his own very successful institution Nritya Kalanjali in Kerala) followed, the trio was complete.

With Usna Banu providing the nattuvangam lead, Shabana and Shaffique-ud-din presented a Bharatanatyam duet at the Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai. Excellently trained, Shaffique-ud-din presented his own composition of Nrityopaharam (even the teermanams were his creation), clearly revealing himself to be a faithful disciple of the guru’s approach. Woven round the Vishnu myth, just passing phrases of dance movement tellingly caught the ten avatars of the deity, without delving into episodic narratives. Round the refrain of “Venu gana lola Gopala Manmohana”, even solfa passages were visualised in furthering images from the Krishna story.

Shaffique-ud-din’s solo rendition of Tulsidas’ “Bhajamana Ramachandra Sukhadayi” set to music and dance by Guru V.P. Dhananjayan, was rendered with sensitivity. Again, the ashtapadi “Nindati chandana” in Darbari Kanada, a work earlier composed by Dhananjayan, as presented by Shabana, needed greater internalisation in portraying the intensity of Radha’s picture of desolation in separation from Krishna, as drawn by the sakhi pleading her case with Krishna. With Vanati Raghuraman’s singing and Ramesh Babu on mridangam, the concluding tillana in Natabhairavi established the Kalakshetra stamp.

One more instance proving that the muse in its abstraction has its own divinity, transcending religious boundaries.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:59:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/for-its-own-sake/article5504102.ece

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