FRIDAY REVIEW

Classical in their own way

GARIMELLA SUBRAMANIAM

NEW DIMENSION: Disciples of M. S. Martin performing Carnatic melodies on the keyboard. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao

NEW DIMENSION: Disciples of M. S. Martin performing Carnatic melodies on the keyboard. Photo: R. Shivaji Rao  

It did not sound an exciting proposition — to cover a keyboard orchestra on Saturday last. Not when I knew that after the series of high-profile shows the week before and the media blitz surrounding celebrity artistes, this one at the Music Academy's mini hall was going to be a tame affair. But the two-hour performance by the students of M. S. Martin — the city's leading teacher of the instrument — provided enough food for thought on the purpose of learning Carnatic music on the keyboard. A reminder for many who are still unaccustomed to the sound of this relatively recent instrument on the Carnatic scene that the music is the same, no matter what the medium.

Anandi, Anirud, Gautam, Kartik, Priyanka, Ramasundaram, Siddhart and Sivashanmukham who were on the show are all in their teens. Their ability to coordinate with one another spoke for their immense enthusiasm and hard work.

But unmindful of the effort, my reaction was somewhat stiff on hearing `Nagumomu,' `Sadhinchene' and `Samajavaragamana.' Shanti, the otherwise fluent compere added to the sense of unease when she mixed up the opening line of the Tyagaraja song in Poornachandrika `Telisiramachintanato' (not `Telisiramachandra') and Abogi instead of Abheri for `Nagumomu.' But suddenly, there was this humbling experience when the boy seated to my right in the audience sang softly `Samajavaragamana' in bare notations, as fluently as you and I would call the lyrics. My instinctive reaction to this was that it was pointless to speculate whether the children grasped the deep philosophical themes of the kritis they played.

The next moment, I had a feeling that I could be missing the larger picture. For the real import of the performance lay in the fact that each of the children, without exception, had imbibed the abstract concept of raagaa and its defining contours. This is the culmination of Martin's painstaking efforts over the years. The distinguished maestro N. Sasikiran underscored precisely this dimension of the children's learning. Its immense value becomes obvious if you think of the innumerable music directors of Indian cinema and even playback singers. You can assert with confidence that almost all of them had mastered classical music. Their contribution to music speaks for itself. The fact that they did not leave a mark as classical musicians does not take away anything.