Down memory lane

‘Beauing, belleing, dancing, drinking,/Breaking windows, cursing, sinking/Every raking, never thinking,/Live the Rakes of Mallow’. Replace these words with ‘Vande Meenakshim tvam Sarasijam/vaktre parne durge Natasura/Vrinde shakte guruguhapalini jala ruha charane’. The first is an Irish pub song and the second is one of Muthuswami Diskhitar’s nottuswara sahityas. What’s the connection, you ask? The answer is that the tunes of the two are identical.

Dikshitar, one of the famed trinity of Carnatic music, was struck by the music of the British military bands at Fort St. George, Chennai. And so, he replaced the English lyrics with Sanskrit ones and incorporated these tunes into the Carnatic fold. These nottuswara sahityas, as they are called, were composed sometime in the early 19th Century.

“The beauty of it,” says well-known Carnatic musician and researcher T.M. Krishna, “is the fact that the Sanskrit lyrics sync so beautifully with the melody that one would not believe that they were written for an already composed tune.” Krishna has done extensive research into the nottuswara sahitya and has compiled a CD with these songs as they were in Dikshitar’s time

On Sunday, November 22, Krishna — along with students of Vidya Vanam, a school for tribal and underprivileged children, Anaikatti, and Dr. Sudha Raja’s Sargam choir — will present a selection from these sahityas. The children, who are part of the programme, say they enjoyed learning these songs. “The tunes are such that we like to keep singing them,” says Divya, a student of Vidya Vanam. “All of us were humming the songs and tapping our feet long after we had finished,” says Sudarshan Balaji of the Sargam choir. Learning the Sanskrit lyrics was initially tough, says Vishnuprabhu of Vidya Vanam, but adds, “There were only four lines to a song so we did it.” Mridula Anand and Diksha Krishnan of Sargam choir talk about the fun of rehearsals and working with well-known musicians. “We learnt a lot about the history of Carnatic music too,” they said.

A final piece of info: One of the tunes in the nottuswarams is ‘God Save the Queen/King’.

The programme is on November 22, 6.30 p.m. at Dakshinamurthy Hall, P.S. High School, RK Mutt Road, Mylapore. Details: 09840132913

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 5:03:34 AM |

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