Music

Paeans to the teacher

The guru-sishya bond is considered sacred in classical music; it is a relationship that goes far beyond the varnams and kritis.

In this day and age of lessons over Skype, there are many students who still vouch for personal, face-to-face interactions with their teacher.

We speak to a few popular youngsters on the relationship they share with their guru.

Name: Vidya Kalyanaraman

Guru: Suguna Varadachari

Learning for: 10 years

I trained under Padma Sandilyan for ten years; she was my neighbour and it was almost like a gurukulam; before she took me to my current guru. During those years, I kept asking her to teach me the Kamboji ragam and she often used to say, “You need to learn more before trying that.” As fate would have it, when she took me to my present teacher, Suguna, the first song I was taught was Lambodhara in that ragam. I was awestruck but also equally scared that day.

Today, I’m like a daughter in her house. Apart from music (I go for at least a couple of classes a week) we discuss various things. When she tours abroad, she gets us gifts. I also accompany her for concerts; during such times, I attend special classes to master the kritis scheduled to be performed.

Name: Deepika V

Guru: Sudha Ragunathan

Learning for: 18 years

My grandparents are huge fans of the MLV bani and my parents are ardent admirers of Sudha Ragunathan, and wanted me to train under her. It was the year 1997 and she was very busy with concerts. We approached her — my father was rather persistent — and she finally agreed to hear me sing. And then on Vijayadasami day, I officially became her student and learnt ‘Parvathi Putran’ in Naatai.

Classes were quite impromptu – she’d call my father at noon and inform him that she’d be free to teach me at four. Once she sat down to teach, there would never be no compromise with respect to music; she’d never cut down any sangathis and teach me the entire set. Initially, I was scared. When she taught me the nuances of a raga, I would be terrified to look at her and would generally look down and sing.

She is still my guru and I share everything with her. I talk to her about everything that happens in my life and she in turn shares a lot of things with me; from her days as a student to the interesting hobbies (collecting masks and key chains) that she has.

Name: Bharat Sundar

Guru: P.S. Narayanaswamy

Learning for: 7 years

It was on Vijayadasami Day in 2009 that I went for my first class under my present guru. My first song under him was in the Atana ragam.

His speciality is that he attends all his students’ concerts and gives them feedback. It was thanks to such feedback that I was able to sing niravals well and also provide variations. This an aspect he had spotted at one of my concerts that he attended.

Today, technology has made Carnatic music more accessible to people but a face-to-face interaction with a teacher helps you take the right path.

A guru, in my opinion, does not give you the solution but shows you the right way to do it. That’s what my guru does.



Name: Aswath Narayanan

Guru: Padma Narayanaswamy

Learning for: 12 years

I’ve been told that I used to sing just by listening to others.

My vidwan-uncle and aunt (K.V.Narayanaswamy and Padma) wanted to train me.

I was seven when they started teaching me; I began with a varnam in Sankarabharanam.

They had many other students and the system of training was much like a gurukulam; I used to stay with the others and learn. Though I was a family member, I was never given any special privileges.


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 6:13:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/gurushishya-parampara-paeans-to-the-teacher/article7933314.ece

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