Time to turn attention to quality

THE MOTIVATION for music sabhas to encourage young artistes in the past few years has resulted in rewards more than expected. Today, the number of such young musicians has grown enormously to feel that the time has arrived for a self- examination by organisations and the artistes themselves as to the quality of the art of Carnatic music.

After witnessing many young vocalists and instrumentalists perform, one thing is evident - their courage to face an audience with very limited qualification and performing standards. Musical equipment amounts to the memorisation of a few songs, swaras and mechanical alapana techniques. Poorer the talent, the longer the vinyasa of ragas and swaraprastharas.

Elaboration of ragas can be according to the scales (arohana and avarohana) or concept, the underlying aesthetic that the scales conceal. For many youngsters music stops with the management and execution of the scales grammatically and the concept of raga is elusive. The ragabhava to be imbibed requires the learning of many kirtanas in a particular raga, practising them well to get at the sookshmas of the raga's beauty embodied in the works of great vaggeyakaras. In the absence of such learning exercise, the alapanas of ragas by many youngsters are first skeletons and not the flesh and blood and the healthy heartbeats of the ragas handled. This applies equally to vocalists and accompanying instrumentalists. The mridangist often mistakes incessant noisy beating for percussive support.

The tendency to get satisfied with a limited repertoire, but with an overvaulting ambition to get quick recognition arises from the fact that many young musicians have good voice which makes them feel that voice alone constitutes good music. It is the way the voice is cultured on the right lines that matters.

For many, crooning is the ultimate in voice culture. Without depth in musical interpretation through false voice, the performances of many are just a list of a varnam followed by a few songs, mere ascent and descent of the scales in some alapanas and completely memorised calculated swaraprastharas.

It is in this limited scope of musical training, the competition among them is intense and music organisations are partners in this wide spread of illequipped art of Carnatic music. Their exposure through the plethora of television channels, which at best are half-an-hour programmes, gives a helping hand in this process of encouragement of the up and coming. Serious efforts to improve the standards by the youngsters cannot be expected when the going is good as at present. Each generation in the past had set stamps of excellence. Such greats have almost disappeared and the few who are living are side- stepped. In such a situation there is every possibility that the standards the youngsters set today will be the measuring yardstick of excellence in Carnatic music in the future.

In the Yuva Sangeetha Mela series of Rasika Ranjani Sabha, the inaugural performance was by Sankari Krishnan accompanied on the violin by Padma Shankar, on the mridangam by Nellai Balaji and on the ghatam by Madipakkam Murali. The songs - ``Sivaloka Nadanai'' (Mayamalavagowla) ``Ini orukanam'' (Sriranjani) ``Anandamritakarshani'' (Amritavarshani) and ``Sri Raghuvaraaprameya'' (Kambhoji) - were rendered routinely with Sriranjani and Kambhoji selected for alapana status, theoretically faultless. There were few moments of subtle or suggestive art.

The violinist revealed more maturity in the build-up of the alapanas. Mridangam and ghatam almost drowned the vocalist's effort with amplification in their favour.

Convincing and sedate

In the mid-season music festival organised by Balaganamrutham and Karnataka College of Percussion (Bangalore) Shankar Srinivas wove his concert around the ragas Shanmukhapriya, Sahana and Saveri. The elaboration of these ragas was convincing and sedate. He was strong in rendering Kirtanas - ``Ganarasamudani'' (Begada), ``Marivere'' (Shanmukhapriya), ``Emanadichchevo'' (Sahana) and ``Anjaneya'' (Saveri). There were also the equal quota of neravals and swarams. Shankar Srinivas had the right support in the accompanists. V. Sanjeev (violin) Bangalore Manjunath (mridangam) Bangalore Prasanth (ghatam). The violinist tended to play the solo raga versions at a greater length than the vocalist. The brief tani by the percussionists was to the point instead of being garrulous.

In her high-pitched voice Bangalore Ramamani built her performance strictly on the present day format as could be sensed in the songs ``Gam Ganapathe'' (Hamsadwani) ``Dasaratha Nandana'' (Mayamalavagowla) ``Ananda Natara'' (Kedaram) ``Bharama'' (Hamsanadam) a composition of G.N. Balasubramaniam. Her music accommodated to the changing sensibilities of today's tastes. She was well supported by Narmada (violin) Bangalore Chandramouli (mridangam) and Sukanya Rajagopal (ghatam).