Karnatic Music, Tradition and Enlightenment
- Sandhyavandanam Madhva Muni Rao, Bangalore
email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
The main aim of this article is for removing the misconceptions on the much discussed topic of ‘Tradition” in Karnatic music and to bring clarity and define the tradition in Karnatic music, its goals and objectives, its practice and enlightenment.
Evolution of Classical Indian Music
The music is only of three categories-Good, Bad and Ugly. The need for identity and clear under standing resulted in the classification of folk, light and classical. Except by choice and intention, music in general, consists of all the three classifications, in different measure and intensity. Purpose of music and the three bench marks for excellence are:
1) Pandita ranjakatvam – Pleasing the learned.
2) Pamara ranjakatvam – Pleasing the lay listener/rasika.
3) Pandita-Pamara ranjakatvam – Pleasing both the learned and lay listener/rasika
The third category is the ideal and the test of quality in music. The listening, appreciation and support vastly varies for the kind of music-classical, light and folk. Appreciation and support to classical form of music is restricted and not popular, when compared with other forms of music.
The classical music has evolved from the creative thinking of the highest order, to improvise and attain perfection, to give the ultimate, intellectual satisfaction, from the tribal-folk-devotional (temple/church/worship) music. Theory and practices of classical music knowledge was created by the great masters for the learning, practicing, achieving excellence and giving opportunity to enrich the knowledge through the practitioner’s own creative out put. The performer’s offer of music of immense values, strictly adhering to the science and art of classical music, delivers total intellectual and emotional satisfaction to the listeners/rasikas.
In the Indian music context, there are Nibidha-restrictive, bound by the theory and grammar and Anibidha- not bound by the theory and grammar – tribal, folk, devotional and light ( sugama, lalitha, gamaka, vachanas, abhangs, keertans, gazals, film, etc) musical forms are anibidha. They have the unfretted freedom to imagine, create construct and offer music, which is having novelty, striking rhythm, raw emotions, sensual, easily appealing and pleasing, without or with the knowledge and practice of theory and grammar, unrestricted. With the freedom and no restrictions, compositions have been created with clever and cheerful play and medley on the note(s), ragas (melody) and talas (rhythm), in the anibidha music. In this vast body of knowledge and compositions in anibidha Indian Music, one can find the compositions having the distinct quality of jumping, shifting and keeping the base of the classical music on the ragas, talas and pitches. This anibidha Indian music has many common features of World-tribal, folk, worship, and devotional music. The authors and composers of Indian classical music, developed the nibidha classical music, with clear rules and do’s and don’ts (can and can not) and gave music parts, where the creativity is synonymous with the character of total understanding, deep appreciation, unalloyed joy, love, dedication and commitment to bring out the classical excellence of the original creator, uncompromisingly, with their flame burning and withthe passion of the original creative moments, in all its splendor and masterly compositions, every time. They have also created music parts, where the full scope of the performer’s own creative treatment and improvisations can be offered, with imagination and performing disability only, as limitations. The nibidha Indian classical music,( may be even, world classical music) by intent, choice, design and construction, avoided the unrestricted and unscientific musical forms to give distinct, clear, repeatable, reproducible, identifiable, ennobling and music with highest goals and values.
The nibidha Indian classical music should be correctly understood, as inclusive, not exclusive. We should not arrive at quick and uninformed conclusions that they are not yet fully developed, fully capable, fully accommodative, abhor innovations and needs updating! Thus, classical Indian music-both Hindustani and Karnatic-may appear to be highly conditioned to those who have not correctly and totally understood the theory and practices, but it is evolved to offer highest intellectual, ultimate satisfaction and bliss, with total freedom to enrich the knowledge.
Tradition in Indian Music and Karnatic Music
Tradition-with original (truly) contributions, is time tested and everlasting. Tradition demands creativity, innovativeness and rich additions to the wealth of experience and knowledge.
Tradition also demands absorption of the best of technological developments to meet the challenges. Tradition does not stand for and mean to shut out manodharma/creativity and is against change(s), for it connotes, freezing or fossilizing the stream of new ideas/thoughts. Tradition is truly, celebration of excellence (true, in the sense, factually new creative additions, not the modified/rearranged, with the cloak/appearance of new/fresh ideas, expressions and communications). Loyalty or strict adherence to tradition means not only concord with the past but also freedom from the past. The living past, serve as a great inspiration and support the present, ensure continuity in future. Tradition is not a rigid frame work, which cripples the life of spirit-constant inquiry, reflection, creative, contemplative and finally, unity. We are gravely misconceiving the spirit of tradition, if we are satisfied, unquestioningly with inadequacies in our tradition and fail to seek or gain for ourselves the gifts of new, excellence and enrichment to tradition. Tradition is time tested and ever fresh, lingering, with clear total recall experiences of ananda (bliss) and ever lasting. All original creative innovations/ideas, practices, meeting the goal, naturally become tradition. Classical excellence in tradition is determined by the achievement of cherished goals of Indian music
- Deha Sudhi – the beats/fast beats, with pulsating effects, creating interest, Arrests/rivets the listener’s attention, excites and is invigorating. The process activates, the body and the mind. The cleansing effects are through such activation.
- Karna Sudhi – when the pleasure is perceived and derived, essentially with the support of the sahithya/lyric and with simple tune/melody, but gives the satisfaction only during the listening process/times, gives the comfort and all pervading pleasantness, called as kana sudhi or pleasing the ears-frees from the blemishes of the loudness/high decibel and striking sound(s).
- Manas Sudhi – music, with the judicious combination and usage of melody and the sahithya/lyrics, creating bhavodrekam/high emotions, sway the heart, music becoming heartfelt. Such high degree of emotional feelings/experiences, bring in great warmth, tenderness and great happiness, with recall capabilities.
- Chitta Sudhi (the ultimate) – music, with the greatest power of nada/nadanubhavam-pure and noble sound, transports the listener and makes him/her to forget the self- thought less and silent for a /few moments, one with divinity. The blissful experience, realized, cleanses the intellect/chitta,
- With unalloyed joy/feelings, peace of mind and re-energizes. The rendering of true, powerful and pure note(s) or melody with powerful and pure note(s), which transports the listener to inner self, from outer self-soulful(forgetting for moments, the self ‘I’), giving blissful listening experience(atmartha sangitam), with or without the help of sahithyam/lyric-like alapana-berefit of sahithayam/lyric, are considered to have met the Chtta sudhi’s goal.
To classify and confirm, the chief goals of music are for all forms of music-tribal-folk-light and classical. Any kind of music achieves the goals, if it meets the characteristics/requirements. The greatness of Indian music is because of inherent goals. The practitioner and performer, with the total focus on the goals, derive the benefit from his own total satisfaction/up liftment, first and foremost. With achievement of perfection, he partakes the benefits to the listener/rasika. The listener/rasika, internalizing such perfect music, also gets and enjoys the fruits. The chief goals of music has been arrived and advocated taking the logic of religion-theological and philosophical – ideals and practices, in to music. Entertainment aspect and goal, is a benefit derived, as off shoot or by product. Vedanta gives the ultimate achievement or benefit, at the end of knowledge, is the attainment of state of SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, The true meaning of SAT-CHIT-ANANDA, is
- SAT – knowledge of Fact and crystal clear perception of reality.
- CHIT – state of being with unconditioned mind, ever new, ever fresh and ever free.
- ANANDA – blissful state, thought less state, in which you forget the outer self/outward consciousness and drawn in to inner self/sub-consciousness or supra-consciousness. Realizing the heightened pleasure or elation, ushering utter peace, the moments has bestowed, energizing you. Unity of Self with Universal self, cessation of selfishness.
This energizing experience(s) and unification are enlightenment- strengthened, to meet the challenges in life, with equanimity and truly enjoy the life.
To achieve the ultimate goal – Chitta sudhi- only classical music has proved as right means. The practitioner and performer, achieving perfection, offers ‘swara pushpam’- pure and powerful note(s), as flowers- just like ‘mantra pushpam’- pure and powerful hymns as flowers- in worship ritual. If the note(s) in the exposition delivers the enjoyment/bliss to the listeners, it meets the ultimate goal of chitta sudhi. This is the reason, classical music is given highest respect and reverence, by all. The classical music is considered ’heavy’ because, it makes higher demand on the listeners/rasika, at least, minimal knowledge of theory/grammar(lakshana gnanam) for the true and total enjoyment of music, apart from listening experience(Lakshya gnanam). Other forms of music-tibal, folk and light, do not make such higher demands on the lay listener for his/her enjoyment and satisfaction. Loosely these kinds of music are considered’ light’ due to the goals for these forms of music are- to excite, to kinder raw emotions, to keep it simple or less complicated, easy on ear and pleasing.
The ‘cutcheri’ format in Karnatic music, is a refined and judicious mixture of tribal-folk-light (devotional)-classical compositions of great merits, to met the demands of pandita-pamara ranjakatvam. Factually, the great maestros create great compositions, with the gift of lakshya and lakshana gnanam, in all the other forms of music also, ever green songs. Great maestro and legend, Shri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyyengar, created the present cutcheri format in Karantic music, consisting of four hours duration-keeping the manodharma, pata integrity, the ideals, the goals, uncompromisingly- to meet and serve the needs of the emerging life styles and time constraints. Prior to this ‘cutcheri’ format, there were not time constraints/limits. Limitations were only the vidwath, imagination and health of the performer or the chief patron.
Music of Sants/Harikatha/devotional, stand testimony to the pre-existence of music, essentially-devotional, religious hymns/nama sankirtanams, tribal and folk. Hence, the pre-Vedic times music underwent changes and identity. Karnatic music, developed from pre-Vedic times and modified, thus attained, eternity. Tradition is not restricted to times-like ‘age old’ and ‘modern ’etc. Thus, Karnatic music is one of the most important aspects of eternal music of the World!
Bani and Style in Karnatic music
Tradition-Bani-Style is distinct and are separate, if correctly understood and with clarity, enjoyment is un conditional, pure and total. Musical practices and performances, unique and distinctly identified with a great maestro/guru/a school of music (like Tiger, Ariyakudi, Musiri, GNB, Semmengudi etc), system or with a geographic region (like Thanjavur, Ramnad,
The style is distinct and unique expression/communication of musical phrase(s), interpretation and mannerisms of the performer(s). A style is also a statement, method of delivery and is always ‘identified’ with the originator(s). A Style copied and re-produced or re-presented, remains, style only. Styles, attaining popularity, are being imitated or followed with limited objective of rasika’s/listener’s appreciation, acceptance, enjoyment and patronage. While Bani is, serious pursuit of classical excellence, with distinct and rich contributions to the tradition. Style’s objective, with conscious, deliberate/intentional efforts and compromised, is to please the rasika-ranjakatvam, relatively easily and create the habit of getting pleased, with minimal efforts (on the part of rasika) and for expecting and demanding the excitement every time of listening to stylish renditions. Style is nature’s order. Maestros, with deep knowledge and practice, resort to style for establishing the identity, appreciation/adulation, with minimal erosion in values of classical music. Intention, comfort and convenience of the performer, takes a discernible pattern of rendition. With the support of listener/rasikas, the renditions become, style.
For the questions, ‘Is style is Tradition?’ and ‘Is style is Bani?’ the answer is, emphatically, no. Also, not to be mistaken with the opinions of ‘stylish traditions’ and ‘traditional styles’. As already noted above, while style is a method of delivery, Bani is a system of practice and performance, the tradition is the very substance! Style can be trivial, tradition, can not be trivial. But, trivialization takes place, when tradition is not fully understood, practiced, with lack of vision and deep commitment. Invariably and un fortunately, stylists largely contribute to trivialization. In the task of preserving and up holding the tradition-classical excellence, the stylists have not been helpful and successful. Due to their habitual compulsion for sensational and exciting musical phrases/statements, adopting the master pieces and great works to fit in with the very personal propensities and idiosyncrasies of their talents and capacity. This was/is an enterprise, in which, they freely tamper the great works, retaining only the skeleton and the broad sketch of the compositions and push their style in to the substance and improvisation (sangathi ornamentation) of the works. This practice of contemporizing and attempts to make it appealing to suit the present times and trends, is updating.
Only the quintessential creative works- both sangita and sahithya- of great vaggeyakaras, as bequeathed to us by the great maestros, un compromisingly and un conditionally, keeping it classical with the flame, passion and fragrance of the original creator burning in them, becomes, legacy.
With the growth of styles and personal interpretations, the ideal of pata integrity suffered, eclipse. This is the major factor, which has contributed to the decline in the excellence and quality of classicism in the cutcheri music of Karnatic music. Stylists declarations that the tradition is restrictive, with compulsions of being repetitive, does not give scope for imagination and creativity, that they have created their style as music and tradition, is reflection of their improper understanding and lack of clarity or at worst, escapist tendencies from very tough and arduous practice and continuous improvement called for, to adhere, to up hold and enrich the tradition. It is hurting to hear from stylists that they have moved away from tradition, to be part of contemporary music or simply, music in demand.
Mystic and enlightenment quality in Karnatic music
To the spiritual seeker, Karnataka music is good (San) and easy (Sulabha) path (marga) for the attainment of SAT-CHIT-ANANDA. Sadhaka/practitioner, with knowledge of fact and perception of reality, his state of being, with unconditioned mind, ever fresh and free, achieving thought less state (bliss-utter peace)- in which you forget outer self/outward consciousness, you realize the heightened pleasure that moment(s) has bestowed, is energized. The moment is being with divinity. The experience resulting in ushering, peace of mind. For the believers and worshippers, the feeling at the moment of the darshan of the idol/ishta devata and for the non-believer, the feeling when they have sight of the vision of exhilarating joy and the happiness, on realization, few moments after the actual vision of the happening, is energizing experience. This energizing experience is enlightenment. One gathers the momentum in life or living and gets strengthened, to meet the challenges in life, with equanimity and truly enjoy the life. Enlightened and energized self, with divine quality, seeks and becomes one with the universal self. The unification of self with universal self, the abedha bhava- non differenced –quality, leads to complete realization, pure love, compassion and finally, utter peace. This process is mystical. Pure and powerful nada/nadanubhavam of Indian music has this mystical quality, in abundance.
The three stages advised as preparation to Nada-Vision (Nada satchatkaram), Sravana or hearing, Manana or reflection and Nidhidhyasana or contemplation. Knowledge acquired through shradha, a faith, in teacher and other maestros, is sravana. But, it is not direct vision or experience. Manana with attempt to form clear ideas by the logical process of inference, analogy etc. is the second stage. Knowledge by hearing or hearsay, understanding is upto a point. But, with reflection on what is heard, one adds to faith knowledge, which increases faith, but still is not complete. Nidhidhyasana, the third and final stage, is the process by which we give up the self pride (cessation or death of Ego) and mastery and concentrate, totally on real and true. The whole energy of the mind is centered and rests on real, to the exclusion of all else, like prayer. One must dismiss all distracting ideas, disturbing influences and retire within one self. When the awakening takes place, knowledge acquired through sravana and manana, ceases to be authoritative.
The highest stage, Nada-Vision is attained when the five senses, mind and intellect are at rest. Total devotion, with dedication, concentration and commitment, is recommended for attaining enlightenment, Nada-Vision/Sakchatkaram and Nadanubhavam. True and powerful and energetic Nadothpathi thus attained, is all permeating and pervasive.
The practitioner/performer and the rasikas partaking the ecstatic experiences and attaining it’s benefits for a moment or few moments, if the realized qualities are put in to practice, with detachment, the liberation is fully achieved. The liberated person(s) lead the rest of the humanity to co-existence, happiness and peace.
Eternity in Tradition, beliefs shaken?
In Literature and in discussions on IM-both HM and CM, there is strong current of insecurity, fear, pain, anguish and anxiety, about the future. The thought stream goes like - Previous times are Golden period-present is full of chaos and decadence-future is uncertain and doomsday, certain! But, are they factual? Vehemently, I say, NO. Nature's order is-shristi (creation/creativity)-sthithi (managing efficiently the present)-pralaya (end or cessation of all that is created and being maintained. Good-Badly-Ugly are features of any times, immemorial. Our sense of insecurity, fears for changes, threat of our comfort zone/pleasure memories, with inherent weakness for affirmative actions, make us bemoan the era/legacy passed away, as escapist wonderful tool.
Fact is that the creative inputs of excellence, in any form, by the great Vaggeyakaras and maestros, becomes tradition and is cherished for ever, with few exceptions. Changes are welcomed and the part becomes the whole. It is also fact that Great Maestros, inspire and act as role models. Vidwans/Vidushis/Maestros, imbibing the greatness of their works, adding their own creative inputs, continue the tradition and become themselves Great Maestros. Undeniable fact is that enrichment and destruction happen, continuously and in perpetuity. The enriched knowledge, becoming the tradition, discards the destructive knowledge. Such immortal music has stood the test of times. Like fresh springs, continue to satisfy the thirsty. Thus it gains immortality. The contemplative quality in music of the maestros, results in cessation of Ego and the Self transcends in to Universal Self, with divine qualities-peace and bliss, to all. Thus it is eternal.
Doyen of Karnatic Music, late DR.Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao, in one of his Lec-Demos, stated that " can we say for sure and confidently that from Shankara/Sarawathi - Narada-Nandi-Matanaga- Music trinity/Kshetragana/others-Tiger/Ariyakkudi/Maharajapuram/Musiri/Alatthur Bros/Madurai Mani Iyer/GNB/DKP/MS/MLV/many others-present Great Maestros/Maestros/Vidwans & Vidushis, the IM has been in decadence ? No. There were, there are and there will be, birth of Geniuses/Great Maestros-with immense contributions enriching the Classical Excellence in Tradition and death for the works/contributions of dubious values-leaving only their stain/stench, at times. If the artist, uncompromisingly, keeps his music, simply classical, he/she serves the cause. Rasikas, becoming knowledgeable on Classical values and 'ruchi' and 'suchi' aspects in Indian Music, completely enjoying , constantly demanding , offering unstinted support and resources, serve the cause. If Indian Music becomes, music for the masses, all agencies-Govt/Private/Media will join the bandwagon, for their own vested interests. Our present challenge is to take Classical Indian Music-both Hindustani and Karnatic to the masses".
Factually, with more than average intelligence, good education, making the better use of technological advancements, power of wealth creation, the reach going beyond geographical limitations, the present generation of artists and rasikas have immense power and demonstrated potential to enrich the Classical Excellence in tradition of Indian Music, with clarity on Goals and Values of our rich Indian Music heritage.
As Vedanta urges, ARISE and AWAKE, rest will be done!
Also, disgustingly, declarations that a particular artist is ’one and one only’, ‘not existed earlier and not going to be born in future’. The evolution of Classical Music, growth and development, in perpetual continuity, stands testimony to the fact, that there will be no
dearth of Great Maestros. Constant comparisons, relation, fortified thought of unsurpassable (which leads to the statements -'One and one only' 'Not born before and not going to be borne, herein after-Na Bhooto, Na Bhavishyati), are the results of weakness of the mind-sense of insecurity or fear for the change (loss of memorable experiences,
immensely satisfactory).Vidwan/Vidushi-Maestro become Great Maestro, when they achieve and deliver the ultimate goal in music-Chitta Sudhi-striking and intellectually satisfying. Competencies levels of others will be on deliverance of satisfaction of excitement, pleasing, stimulating, scintillating and admirable qualities of music. Great Maestros music will also have most of these qualities, with good sense of proportion. Maestros also become Great Maestros, with the quality of setting the trend, proving to be inspirational and role models.
The attempts for new experience out of experiments are always done, at all times. statements out of dismay, anxiety and disgust about the new trend are always made, deprecatingly. Quality improvements are acknowledged, grudgingly. Quality deteriorations always counted and highlighted. I have many times heard the Great Maestros expressing happiness, at times wonderment, about the knowledge and skills of the younger vidwans/vidushis/maestros and declaring that rich legacy of music is assured of continuity and longevity. With out hype or nostalgia (for its own sake), if we examine and analyze, truly, Great Geniuses and Great Maestros continue to come, ensuring enrichment. New experience/knowledge, arising out of creative thinking, can be with aim of - attempt at the critical analysis and negation of the existing and giving new thought, in it's place, attempt at using the existing, modify, refine, renew with added new thought, attempt at bringing new thought, not in existence. There is no necessity or compulsion for the destruction of the existing for creating the new thought. The new experience/knowledge, with fresh and creative thought, adds and delivers higher value over the existing or independent of the existing, it is enrichment. Transformation is,only with shift in values or its emphasis, with the new thought. over the existing. The advancements in instinct and intuition faculties of intelligent beings and the evolution history is full of proof of constant creative process and creation and the existence of created things. One can definitely accept new, without any need for the rejection of the old. One can continue to enjoy the existing, while accepting and enjoying the new. The need for the discard of the old comes only with total dissatisfaction of the old and compelling need for the new. If the new delivers, total satisfaction with compulsion for the discard of the old andfor the acceptance of the new, the old is discarded. I have experienced, knowledge, whichwas considered impossible or exclusive preserve of few in the older generation, becoming with relative ease, knowledge of the many.
I am confident that with focus on 'ruchi' ,'suchi', 'hitam' and 'mitam' by the present,immensely talented and successful practitioners and performers, we will have problem of plenty.
It is now the times for performance of duties of rasika- by rasika, becoming more knowledgeable, attending, appreciating, supporting the truly meritorious, to ensure enrichment.
Statements of 'Karnatic music is stagnant/static' and the present status is’ pathetic' are made in haste and out of the artists frustration either with their own progress in creativity or tardy progress in achieving higher recognition and rewards or their first love with chosen other genre of music. They must be actually saying that having not received due
recognition and rewards as a practitioner and performer of merit in Karnatic music, frustrated with stagnation of the career/progress as performer in Karnatic music, they are trying cross over or joining those popular artists who are reveling in inter-cultural music genre, now evolving fast and gaining popularity.
I recall Gita sloka" Akasas patitam toyam, yatha gatchati sagaram, sarva deva namaskaraha, Kesavam pratigachati' and to be interpreted in the context of Karnatic music as " All individual creative input droplets, by their natural flow and strength, join the ocean of music, whatever genre of music you worship/love, leads to ultimate realization of Karnatic music".
With vast majority of us, unwilling to think independently and unconditionally, inquire, to seek, determine, being decisive and own it, we take the escapist route or easy route of accepting the popular choice. We support the choice with full strength, to make the choice unique, one's own and even glorify to overcome the guilt of our inaction or limitations. Only few dare to be different. They guarantee and ensure the continuity of real and proven excellence.
With the help and strength of Science and Art of Karnatic Music, Tradition, Sadhana (aiming the perfection), truly imbibing the Ideals of Karnatic Music and performing-uncompromisingly keeping it Classical, Karnatic Music Musicians have immense potential to reach High peaks of Global Acceptance, Appreciation, support and patronage. The challenges of 'linguistics, geography’, non-existence of "ambassadors" to achieve the goal is real and is to be over come with dedicated, committed actions.
My point is that, as good/excellent practitioner of Karnatic Music, you are better equipped to Excel and go after the infinite possibilities of attainment, globally. Seriously, critically view and understand the Gayaka Doshas. Get rid of them, totally. Use the technological advancement/knowledge and tools, effectively in bringing the improvements, with open mind. You are destined to achieve the much elusive success and your own total satisfaction.
We should not fall in to the trap of acceptance of the popular streams/forms of Music, just because they have Global reach or contemporary, blindly/easily. Study, learn and adopt best techniques and practices of other forms of Musicin to Karnatic Music, sticking to Tradition of Classical Excellence .Successful Global reach can also serve the cause of Eternity in Tradition in Karnatic Music.
Listening and appreciation of Karnatic Music
The rasikas/listeners, with yearning for classical music, crave for blissful moments or recall experiences, to relive the joy and to derive total satisfaction. Such rasikas/listerns give time, take efforts and committed for music appreciation. Any listener first’ likes’ to hear and appreciate music, which is he/she is familiar or the same resembles the familiar and excites. If listeners take efforts to understand the basics, if not intricacies, they can
well appreciate, any kind of and form of classical music. Success of Great Maestros of music in popularizing the music, all over the Globe, is sufficient proof. Other category of listener/rasika, who proclaim fans of ‘are you being served? look for excitement, instant gratification, momentary happiness, derived with least or minimal efforts and go by the dictum, ‘all that is good, if it is popular’. The listening, appreciation and support vastly varies, from the kind of music-classical and other forms. Appreciation, good support to classical form of music, is restricted and not very popular, in comparison with other forms of music, un fortunately, because of elitist leanings.
The appreciation of music and its enjoyment, as it is happening in case of live concert, requires rasikas open and free mind. The problem with listening experience is, the rasika, having memorized the most satisfactory experience and satisfaction, constantly yearns for recall experiences of such of those moments. Mind is pre occupied with constant comparisons and judgment. The likes and dislikes filters. The rasika must give full attention, with no bias or distractions of any kind, to receive the music and for true experience. Discipline of rasika, does not exclude the performing artists, who are also rasikas themselves, first and foremost. As Rasikas, we must know the structure and strengths of CM. If we expect the musical experiences arising out of other forms of World Music, based on different structure, which are not part of the CM system are prohibited part of CM, we , as rasikas are at fault but, not the musicians.
We are very fortunate to have immensely talented and profound Maestros, who offer very high quality of manodharma, in particularly on raga alapana/vistara-both Ghana and Vivadi- both the Maestros and Vidwans/Vidushis. Giving allowance to their not so good voice quality and strict adherence to the shruthi, if you carefully listen, you will find that many Vidwans/Vidushis offer immense satisfaction. We, rasikas, should be clear, before making final judgment on the merits/demerits. If your goal is for seeking spiritual progress, encourage and totally support such of that practitioner/performer, whose goals are for their own spiritual progress and attainment, through music. If you want music for physical pleasures-stress management, excitement, easy on appreciation and pleasing etc, you have to make choice on such of that practitioner/performer, who has mastered the technique and achieved popularity. Please do not mix up, be clear, seek, achieve and enjoy what you want/desire.
For best listening pleasure, the distortions, anguish, pain of emoting with the help of body language should be totally avoided on the stage by the performers, by rigorous practice of music lessons to perfection. With perfection or near perfection, the need for the body language becomes minimal, if not total absence. Teachers and students should take this important performance criterion, in their teaching and studies.
I desire that with agreement on the theme of 'Celebration of Classical Excellence in Indian Music-KM and HM', well debated, clarity on Classical Excellence-with primacy only for merit, understanding at the starting point and firmly sticking to the ideal and objective, bold action for weeding away the bad elements/influences/actions during the process of achieving the success, professional excellence in total management of the event, the results can be achieved, to the total satisfaction of all the stakeholders.
Conflicting views on theory and practice in Karnatic Music
Why do we always commit the mistake of treating the 'theory' and 'practical' asdifferent, independent and are divergent? Fact is, in the music context, the theory (lakshana)-science-mostly evolved out of the practical-lakshya-art. With the original thnking and innovation, theory also developed independent of the practical aspect. The development accepted and put in to practice, becomes lakshya gnanam, in due course of time. Both are integral part and complementary. I am deeply concened with the general and free opinion that, aspects of theory are not for enjoyment. It is also vital part of the enjoyment because, with the knowledge, finer aspects of lakshya music is really understood and appreciated. But the fact is primacy is for lakshya gnanam.
Unfortunately, with this strong opinion ingrained, many of the lakshana & Lakshya artists of eminence are identified as only 'theorists'-musicologists and do not get the recognition and opportunities to perform. I know many Great Maestros/Maestros lamenting that when we want to sing, they invite us only for talking (about music)-in telugu language 'pata cutcheriki pilavaka, mata cutcheriki pilustaru'.
I wish that there will be change in thinking and actions, soon.
Voice Culture in Karnatic Music
I am also one rasika, among many, who is terribly disappointed with the lackadaisical approach to the one of the most important aspects of learning and practicing- Voice Culture in CM and total negligence, male Vidwans/maestros, with very few exceptions. Due to the permissiveness or tolerance by the rasika, Vocalists in CM do not care for this very vital requirement. Saint Thyagaraja has called for the production of Nada/Sound, through energetic exercise of pressure / blowing air to the vocals, inside, and it's harnessing in the vocal chords - Nabhi - Hrit - Kanta - Nasadula endu. It is very demanding. Inspite of the help of Science and Art of Voice Culture in CM, being available, scant respect is paid to this vital requirement of Sadhana - both in the past and the present. Remedy is with Rasika, not accommodating/tolerating but, demanding from the Vocalists. In Indian Music, HM training continues to lay the emphasis on this vital aspect of the learning and practice.
The distortions and unsatisfactory factors and trends in Karnatic Music of the present times (restricted to ‘cutcheri music’)
1) Lack of clarity, understanding and agreement on Tradition in Karnatic music.
2) Lack of deep commitment and sincerity in training, continuously, in general and voice culture, in particular.
3) Premium not on vidwath but, for star value.
4) Defective performances with problems, of sruthi alignment, preferring to offer light classical, gimmicks in the name of syle(s), apa shabda (unpardonable mistakes in the sahithya/lyrics), prematurely commencing the career with anxiety to be known as’ prodigy’, quick and easily compromising ( including the fees), lack of pata integrity and taking recourse to indirect learning ( from notations and recorded music), not taking correct and full training, having not good attitude and behavior, adopting ‘smart’ techniques, practices and tools for achieving easy and quick success, in plenty.
5) Lack of Institutions of excellence, professionally managed with highest efficiency, quality and continuous improvement- with premium only for the merits/meritorious. Too many, poorly managed, with no/meager resources, individuals or small group of members, struggling to keep the organizations, afloat. Barring few exceptions, institutions are with extremely/very/poor infra structure-accoustics facilities. Attitude of caring, only for the star performers-crowd pullers. Offering/not even offering, decent fees to the artists.
6) Un professional attitude and actions by the media- both visual and print on the events coverage, publicity and publishing/telecasting, with very few exceptions of adequate, right and correct actions.
7) Sponsors-both individual and corporate-imposing their views, choices, preferences and conditions on the event managers.
8) Lack of real support of the rasikas, to all those artists, who are offering uncompromisingly, CM sticking to the ideals and swimming against the current.
Youth participation in learning, performing and enjoyment of Karnatic music
For the very survival of the art form and its progress and continued growth, with vitality, only youth taking to the art form in greater numbers will ensure the success in achieving the goal and objectives. The developments in the recent past, confirms that. When GreatMaestros/Maestros/Vidwans and Vidushis were either lost or past their prime of creative performances or age and when young musicians were not coming up with serious commitment and dedication, there was genuine anxiety about the progress of Karnatic music art form. Thanks to youth taking up the music with great commitment and dedication, we have now young and not so young maestros, enthralling the Karnatic music rasikas. These young maestros have proven the fact that Karnatic music art form will continue to progress and grow and is, immortal. All the rasikas who want youth, who 'shun' the Karnatic music are to be given genuine opportunity to experience and later enjoy the Karnatic music, want more of this recent success, continue to happen,
uninterruptedly. No intention or designs to 'force feed', but to give real time opportunities and exposure, to create the interest, taste, experiences, total enjoyment and satisfaction to the youth, in greater numbers.
Youth have taken to Classical Music in large numbers, learning, practicing and performing, when compared to earlier generations, even with all the un certainties of attainment of high quality vidwath or success. The confidence gained through the real time opportunities to make a good living out of income from practice of Classical Music, will pave the way for continued and increased participation and roles by the youth, in serving the cause of Classical Music and Karnatic music. Youth of the present generation are attractedmainly by the hype generated by the media-both visual and print, high visibility, National/International Success, high profile celebrity’s endorsements, successful event management, scope for their own participation, scope for unconditioned and uncritical listening and enjoyment.
The rasika is attracted to listen Classical Music , primarily for tasting the sacredness or taking the sacredness message, as part of their own religious progress or as a process of self realization or for pure and simple entertainment value offering excitement and energetic feel.
Irrespective of the age, the need for the listening pleasure and objective drives the listener to take appropriate steps in securing the fulfillment. It is undeniable fact that Karnatic music with the primary goal of religious gratification, never attracted youth-not well informed about Karnatic music or initiated. Youth listen to Karnatic music with intentions to partake the pleasure of experience with others, either inspired or influenced by a celebrity's success and fame or curiosity value or part of their educative values. They are of small per cent age, at any given point of time. The confidence gained through the real time opportunities to make a good living out of income from practice of Classical music, will pave the way for continued and increased participation and roles by the youth, in serving the cause of Classical music and Karnatic music.
To make Karnatic music appeal to the youth, specific Karnatic music concerts/programs should imbibe the core values of other genre, successfully attracting and delivering the satisfaction to the youth/masses-energetic, vigorous, striking, shaking and easy to relate and pleasing to the ears and the event well managed.
Karnatic music should focus on both the primary goals – Bhakthi/religious and Entertainment, and offer listening opportunities, exclusively with one of the goals and separately to achieve the goal of taking the Karnatic music to youth. All of those who are genuinely concerned and deeply committed should support genuinely with all the means and resources. Can we all take simple steps and immediate action? All the youth members of music colleges and schools attend live concerts religiously. Take along friends,max.no of not initiated, but having curiosity in CM. Try to rope in/drag (intimate friends) few friends, who hate/exclusive rasikas of other genre. Ensure that, their time is well spent, first and they had good listening experiences. Take them to only popular artist’s concerts, who strike good rapport with the listeners, youth, specifically. Select concerts venues with either good canteen facility or in the neighborhood. Enjoy the food, gently veering to the topic/review of the concert attended and about the listening experience. Ensure that they sound like experts and not novices, in your subtly encouraging talk/chat. Encourage them to buy at least one CD/DVD, to create the habit of repeat listening experiences. Through these small and effective steps, surprise the artists, event organizers, indirectly media and the sponsors, with ever growing participation of the youth. As all of us have realized, once ruchi for Karnatic music is developed, we are hooked for life. Nothing else is needed.
What we are seriously discussing and ideating is about the youth-both interested and disinterested. Initiated and not initiated. Most importantly, who 'shun' Karnatic music.
Chintan Bhaitak is urgently required. All the stake holders of CM - Musicians, teachers, musicologists, critics, rasikas, event managers, media and sponsors- highly meritorious representatives- have to sit down and brainstorm and come to decision(s) and action plans and careful monitoring for the success of this crucial and critical development in the larger interest of Karnatic music becoming popular music for the youth-Nationally and Internationally.
What attracts crowds and how to make Karnatic music popular?
- Above average talent, practice, presentation and performing skills.
- Popularity of the Guru andwell published blessings of the religious head(s).
- Attractive voice, spontaneity, ability to excite and good net working ability.
- Hitting the platform, young and early.
- Publicizing the success and endorsements from successful persons in the society.
- Uncanny ability to understand the expectations and demands of the rasikas and finetuning their performances to meet the same. Effective communication with rasikas to arouse arrest and keep their riveting attention on them and their music.
- High profile and show of wealth.
- Above all, damn smile of lady of luck !
I do not know whether any body has done MR/Doctoral thesis. A serious and superb study and publishing the paper on this would be helping all the Artistes, Organizers/event managers, opinion makers and rasikas. A well educated and dedicated professional/professional organizations has to do the study for meaningful results and actions.
At all the times-whether earlier two or three generations or the present two generations or in future- the fact will remain same. The fact is only immensely popular artistes, whether they are vocalists or instrumentalists, draw crowds- consisting of all categories of rasikas. With abundant luck/yogam-right place-right time, artiste gains popularity. In general, it's futile to find the right formula for success. It just happens. The reasons are known by analyzing that particular happening, but sadly can not be replicated or applied for and by every body. Only scientific study can give empirical and objective factors for the success and can become effective practicing tools. Success still can not be guaranteed.
Behind every successful/popular artist, there were/are hundreds of artistes of exemplary or equal calibre/vidwat and sadhana/practice to have missed the patronage of rasikas and success, becoming elusive for them.
I strongly feel that if meritocracy - consisting of both Vidwat , art and craft of performing(delivering total satisfaction to the rasikas)- is given prime or the only consideration by all the concerned - Artistes, Organizers, sponsors, opinion makers and rasikas, we can see the change and change for the better. To determine the merit, a selection/ranking committee, consisting of Great Maestro-Vidwan/Vidushi-respectedmusic critic (with both lakshya and lakshana gnanam,) well respected representative of Organizers-dedicated sponsor (individual/Corporate/NRI)-representative(s) from opinion makers (Individual, print and visual media, music recording co's)-Govt bodies (AIR/State or Central/Sangeeth Natak Acadamy)-representative rasikas, both knowledgeable and lay- to be formed, with a tenure of two years. The committee to evolve transparent methods of selection/ranking of both the current performing artistes and potential/up coming artistes. The artistes should apply for consideration, irrespective of their present status. The results of selection/ranking to be made public. The opportunities to be given to the ranked artistes. If the committee can also recommend min.remuneration/fees, it will be better.
Urging all the stake holders in Karnatic Music-Organizers/Sponsors, performing artists, media and the rasikas make dedicated and committed efforts to make it a Global success.
(Article added to the site in September 2011)
S.Madhva Muni Rao,
Son& Disciple of Sandhyavandanam Srinivasa Rao,
Bangalaore , PIN 560079