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11 comments | Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hi all,

I know, Its been almost more a month or a bit more than that since I wrote my last blog. have been keeping myself really busy with getting used to my new workplace and getting started with my project assignments and stuff. Amidst all these came this opportunity to sing for AIR Thruvananthapuram (I am a B-High vocalist with AIR TVPM since 2000). The last time I gave a performance at AIR was in 2003. Its mainly due to the fact that I live in bangalore now, and also the address that the AIR folks have is mega outdated (My fault :)) . Okay, coming to the main reason why I wanted to write this blog.

I have been learning carnatic music vocal ever since I was 4. My family is deeply interested in the carnatic music flavour and my grandparents (especially my grandfather ) are very religious followers of the traditional or 'sampradayam' way of carnatic music rendition. My initial training days, I learnt the keerthanams, varnams, padams, jaavalis all in the fixed format that my teacher used to teach me and I also remember the 3 sangathis (some times 4) that I need to sing where each sangathi needs to be repeated twice and the pallavi to be ended in a pre planned fashion. same with anupallavi and charanam. I was told that this is the structure of this particular song. As time passed, I could give a few concerts, a few more, and a few more... I kept singing the keerthanams as taught to me by my master... I sounded good, dint sing too many apaswarams, and I had a fairly good command over my gamakas and sangathis too... so all's fine...

1998, I have to move to this obscure town called Pilani in the fringe border of Rajasthan and haryana to study engineering at this college BITS,Pilani.

All at home excepting my dad and my mom said "Its all over now... what carnatic music will Harish sing in Rajasthan... His music is over!!". I was confused, but determined on 2 facts - I will surely go to Pilani to study engineering. Secondly - I will continue to sing and try to enrich my musical knowledge in whatever way possible. Let me not elaborate on what I did in Pilani, but the bottom line is my exposure to hindustani music, Sufiyana, Khayals and Ghazal mode of singing went exponentially up.

I was swept off my feat by the amount of scope of innovation that the ghazal gayaki gives an artiste. The first thing that came to my mind is, why cant I add those subtle nuances that a ghazal singer gives to a ghazal to a Thyagaraja Keerthanam? I couldnt find a convincing reason which would prevent me from doing so. Who decides Sankarabharanam has to be sung "THIS WAY ONLY!" Who decides A raaga alaapana should always follow an upward progression that is the lower sthaayi to upper sthaayi and back... hey hey... these are all rules that got imposed into carnatic music , just because the older generation did it that way! PERIOD.

The proverb which puts me off to the greatest extent is - "OLD IS GOLD!" Bull crap man!! if everything old was gold, we will be still wearing tree leaves instead of clothes and would be loafing in some obscure forest hunting animals with crude stone spears!!! ONLY change is constant. The older things should just become history. If somethig old, that has some significance to today, retain it, otherwise chuck it! its not worth holding on to it!!

I refuse to sing a particular keerthanam or raagam in a particular way just because GNB or Musri Subrahmanya Iyer sang it that way.. Apply ur rational here, think what appeals to the current generation, and sing that way.. thats the ideology I would like to follow. So I am absolutely against this Sampradaya oriented musical fundamentalism where any new artist who experiments is criticized just for the heck of it because the person deviated from the traditional mode of renditions... I was apalled by the way the well known critic Subbudu responded to Padmashree T N Seshagopalan's extremely commendable attempt at singing a Raagam Taanam Pallavi in Raag Brindavana Saaranga. His comment was something like 'TNS has insulted the audience by rendering a RTP in a petty raag like Brindavana saaranga which doesnt even qualify to be rendered as a pre - main raag" Comon, what the hell man? Appreciate TNS's genius for bringing out the subtle nuances of this extremely challenging ragam (atleast in the RTP perspective)..

Why am I saying all these, well i saw atleast some 5-6 eyebrows go up during my performance at AIR where I chose to sing Raag Manirangu for the main kriti. Everyone wants a todi, kalyani or a harikamboji rendition? why??? I think manirangu is an amazing raagam and it also has immense scope for improvisation. I would much rather sing the soothing , easy to listen raagas rather that overdoze the audience with the heavy duty stuff. I am not saying u should not sing a bhairavi or varaali... all I am sayig is that PLease dont make it a rule that only melakarthas or the so called heavy duty janyas qualify as main keerthana renditions. Please bury the cliched sampradaayik rules and help carnatic music soar greater heights. And also for heavens, please take into consideration the critical opinion of the current generation folks also and not just the generation of Subbudus (With all respects to him, I just hate his hypocrytic views on carnatic concerts!) which is the past.

hail music!!


Blogger A. Noname Moose said...

So you're a Carnatic singer...
How about an audio post or two?

I dont know anything about the science and the art behind Carnatic music, I only know that I enjoy it. So, I dont know what to say to your post.

And, finally, on a more selfish note, I could use some copyright free audio for my blog.

1:54 AM

Blogger Krishna said...

Knowing your music, that would have been an awesome Manirang exposition !!

Well,just adding to whatever you said :

The main Crux of Carnatic Music Compositions has been Bhakthi and thats the way it is and thats the way it would be and has to be.

So as long as you dont loose on it you can and should improvise..

Because to me Music is an Expression of Thought and if you dont improvise you are a thoughtless/expressionless musician !

To re-instate, I have heard the Legendary Ustaad Abdul Karim Khan render "Rama Nee Samanamevaru"(Karaharapriya), in Hindustani Style, it was quite out of the world .. But still i could feel the devotion, the bhakthi with which Tyagaraja had composed the song ..

Carnatic Music, unfortunately by certain section of people has been undermined. It has never been allowed to flourish because of the so called restrictions, restrictions on what to sing/how to sing .. restrictions on the people who could learn this music .. blah blah blah ...

Its still for me the SuperSet of all music .. and thats what keeps it going .


6:27 PM

Anonymous Srimatha said...

I dont understand what u say on sangathis..may b it varies from school to school..i do improvise in a composition, as long as it doesnt spoil the feel of composition, n this holds good for any kind of music that has room for creativity I guess..
N coming to the raagas, agreed, we can not go around doing things just coz older generation did it that way. but a thodi or a shankarabharanam have got the 'heavy duty' reputation not just by the virtue of some people singing it in a particular way right? it is all part of evolution of the understanding of manodharma aspects. I dont understand why a manirangu alapana would cause raised eye brows, if it is as creative and has as much musical depth as alapana in any other heavy raaga! if it does, those are not the brows a serious musician needs to concern oneself with- is what I feel. I have been a student of Carnatic music, and it has never made me feel shackled..instead it gives me more freedom n scope for creativity than any other genre..

1:38 PM

Blogger Harish Sivaramakrishnan said...

Hey Krishna - that was a great reply!

Srimatha - Even I am a hardcore carnatic enthusiast and i still keep it very close to my heart... but why is it that we are not allowed to sing some neraval and leave it as is, without singing any manodharma swaram?

The format becomes so important inthe rendition and thats precisely something that makes me feel shackled.

I took to ghazals mainly because of the freedom that form of music offers.. u are not bound by raagas o r any other intricasies... its pure and ethreal music!!!

9:51 PM

Anonymous Srimatha said...

hi harish, that is not the case any more right? Sanjay and the likes do sing neraval for a composition if they feel like, without bothering about the swara prastharam, and Sanjay is one of the most respected musicians of the generation.. how does the format become more important?! u r free to choose to which krithi u wanna sing neraval/alapana/swaraprastharam rt?
also classical music and ghazals are two different expressions of creativity..the former is where u work within a framework, and explore possibilities, and by definition, any classical art is that. Infact it is only the Indian classical music that gives scope for creativity unlike its western counterparts.. ghazals on the otherhand are where u are on ur own.. I do enjoy ghazals immensely. but it is a different expression of creativity - and not necessarily 'better'..

9:17 AM

Blogger Harish Sivaramakrishnan said...

Thanks Srimatha, Ur comments are awesome! and thanks to the pointer to Sanjay Subrahmaniam (Havet heard too many of his renditions, will go ahead and lissen to them!)

Ad you rightly point out, Classical Music forms work within a framework, and I feel that framework is very predefined. again to do your thing in carnatic, either u have to be singing for urself or u have to be established. I personally feel, It should be absolutely fine to play bass guitar on a carnatic concert and Still call it a carnatic concert and Not a "Jugalbandhi" (its one of the most abused terminologies in modern music) or Fusion! But do you think the Madras Music academy will allow u to do that! Its pretty much tightly coupled when it comes to "things that needs to be done the way its done..." Thats what I strongly oppose.

All the value additions to carnatic music have happend only bcoz of some out of the box thinking by some great exponents, othwise, Violin would never have featured in a carnatic concert. One more point I wish to make is I dont believe in the word "AnyaSwaram", As I see it there can be only two type of swarams "SuSwaram" and "ApaSwaram". So I dont see a problem in adding a small daivatham in abheri without calling it a different name for the heck of it! Let music be what is good to the ears!! I am not saying u should add a swaram to a raagam just for the heck of it, i am only saying theres nothing wrong in experimenting.

Let the music transcend the rules and let it grow to its totality where there are no frameworks, biut just a pure and ethreal expression of heart!

4:08 PM

Anonymous Srimatha said...

thanks!:) ya, u shud listen to sanjay and gang..tmk is another u could try if u have nt..he is one terrific pathbreaker who can carry off a daachukovanala as an opening piece, or do a neraval n swaraprastharam for a varnam..basically an artist who does things differently, and does it well..

yes, classical music has a format, but formats are that - predefined - rt? its what u do with that format that is left to ur creativity..

a bass guitar in a carnatic concert is fine with me if the person plays carnatic music! subbudus are a thing of past ya.. accepting it in the music academy - well, Srinivas did bring mandolin to carnatic stage in a big way - if u think out of the box, and are able to do it well, carnatic music has always accepted and respected it.. but all said and done, format is necessary for any form..u wouldnt put a different tune to 'bala gopala' and call it a ghazal rt? format is inevitable for any form..

this raaga thing..yes, sometimes i too have been tempted to sing that way..but then i thought, ok, suppose i sing a mukhari sangathi for a bhairavi krithi, what would I do in the alapana/neraval/swaraprastharam? maintain infiltrations only from mukhari? or should I give in to kharaharapriya too? or why only allied raagas..I could go off on a tangent! what do I end up doing? going on a tangent is always easier than trying to work my way within bhairavi rt?

As I said, experiments have always been accepted when they are done well.. till then these are the things any experimenter in any field will have to face.. but if u want to experiment within carnatic music, there is ample space for that unless u unnecessarily concern yourself with subbudus of the past..

9:09 AM

Blogger Krishna said...

Carnatic Music is never restrictive, its just that some people's views sometimes seems illogical to me.

And Harish, i am somewhat against adding that anyaswaram or whatever to a raaga that is pre-defined .. i somehow feel it spoils the mood that has been built up ..
Anyway thats my view .

Have you guys tried singing some Dikhshitar's kritis in Dhrupad style ??

Eg: "Rama Chandram Bhavayami" (Vasantha)
"Ranga Pura Vihara" (brind Saaranga).

Actually it gives an amazing feel to sing these kritis in absolute slow motion and gradually pick up the speeds, like they do in dhrupad style .. !!

I dunno if the current purists would accept this !!

Guess what Tiger Varadachariyar used to sing like this it seems !! A bit of history says Dikhshitar was heavily influenced by North Indian Music during his time at Varanasi and some of his compositions actually speak of that influence !!


4:02 PM

Blogger Sriram said...

Well, i am not a musician and dont understand the technicalities of the music. But as a person who immensly enjoys this form of music, this is what i feel:

First, manirangu is popularly associated with "Maamava pattabhirama" which is a mangala krithi and generally sung at the end of a pooja/cncrt. except for the gAndhAram in avarohana, its pretty much the madhyamAvathi, which is identified with the closing piece "pavamaana". This is the only reason i could see for the raised brows, when you started singing manirangu in the middle of the concert. May be the AIR guys were worried you are ending the concert half-way and they have to find a filler for the slot... :)

And experimenting, i always enjoyed it. But experimenting just for the heck of it always pisses me off. one should be capable enough to do that and believe me, such people will always be encouraged. But if you wanna take a "Evari maata" and sing it in "atana" and call it experiment, no one will appreciate.
If you wanna sing a tyagaraja krithi, you have to sing it the way the great soul composed it. If you wanna add a "rishabham" in hindolam, please dont sing "saamaja varagamana" and also dont call it hindolam. thats my opinion about bringing in anya swarams. if you dont want to stick to the format, well no harm, but please spare tyagaraja. also, when you dont wanna stick to the standard swarams, what fun calling it with the same name.

compose on your own and name it a new raaga ( a la balamuralikrishna :)).if the music is good, people will definitely appreciate it.

Well, its a highly personal thing, but its better we refrain from saying things like one form of music is pure and ethreal, while the other one is not. Not everyone takes it too kind...

2:17 PM

Blogger CyberRowdy(Q8TechDrive) said...

I am envious! I love carnatic music and I listed to it all the time...I cant sing...but why cant you do some audio posts once in a while? that will be great I think

11:23 PM

Blogger Gita said...

Hey Harish,

I like what you say about experimentation. And obviously one's not going to do something like singing Hindolam with Rishabham. Having grown up with CSNY and Cat Stevens and getting to CArnatic late in life, my expression has always been different. For instance the Charanam of Muthiah Bhagavathar's Niroshata piece - Neeye Harikesha Raagni - has always wanted me to stand up bend my kness like a rocker, throw my head back and belt out the lyrics. But if I did that , I would never find a teacher. So I do that only at home--

2:26 PM


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