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27 comments | Friday, January 19, 2007

I was listening to this recording of "Deva Deva Kalayaami te..", mayamaalava gowla keerthanam by Shri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer with my friend during the christmas vacation at home. This was an AIR broadcast, and was done during the last days of Sri SSI. My friend is a staunch carnatic enthusiast and has this rather strange philosophy.

Critisism of music is a flexibility available only to a listener, but a student of music is not entitled to it. He should look for only the positives and learn from them and NOT get into the fault finding mode.

Well, I am sure, he is not the only one who thinks that way. I have seen eyebrows go up and voices getting heavier when I used to remark Shri SSI should have stopped singing atleast 30 years before he actually sang his last concert. His shruthi lapses where too many, his voice was unpalatable to my ear. ( Now the elitist will argue that you have to grow beyond the voice to appreciate carnatci music, there by weakening the line between caliphony and cacophony!) I have tremendous respect for the knowledge of Shri SSI and the enrichment he has provided to the art. But wait!! Just beacuse I am a student of music, I am allowed to talk only about his postives and not about his rough and unwieldy voice. Hypocrisy taking another form. period.

As much as I learn from the greats of carnatic music about whats good about them, I also learn whats miserable about each of them and how not to let that happen in my singing. I feel thats just getting constructive. Most of the guys who oppose my view take the apologetic supportive stand "Man, he is 88 and still he is pretty very good!". Bah! Mohinder amarnath played a crucial part in winning cricket worldcup to us, but he retired when he knew he was no good. Unfortunately many of our musicians have never heard that word. They will sing, croon, cry but wont give up!

If a student of music doesnt look at the art with a critical angle then its a shame to call himself or herself a student. A student of music is more equipped to be a better rasika and he/ she should use discretion to point out flaws in the past master's renditions along with imbibing their virtues. It is just not a one sided coin. Criticism is the best form of music appreciation and it should form a major part of the cumulative mindset of all music enthusiasts / students of music.

I came across the following in Shri G Ravikiran's blog:
KVN showed me just what soukhyam actually meant!!
SSI showed me what singing with life and energy was all about.
MDR was shruti and bhaavam personified.
MSS symbolised purity and clarity in every aspect of music.
Ramnad Krishnan embodied grace and finesse.
Brinda was the epitome of aesthetics.

So true, The qualities he as mentioned were the positve differentiators for the above mentioned greats of carnatic music. Ofcourse every student of music should learn these nuances from these masters of the past. In another post Shri Ravi writes:

Is there ANY great musician who has not toiled day and night in the hope of mastering the art?
Arent all human beings prone to a fault (or faults)?
Being a student, if I casually form opinions and stay that way, my music would definitely not grow!!
This is the point that I oppose:

If I were to write down what aspects of the above mentioned artiste's that I would work hard NOT to absorb, then it will look like this.
KVN showed me how you can create boring monotony by rendering almost all the rendition in the same vilambita kaalapramaanam, which lacked grip, tempo & excitement.

SSI showed me what having a good voice meant to the listener with his rather rough and unconditioned voice and also how raaga aalapana akaarams make or break the soothing effect it is supposed to provide (ex: instead of the usual na, tha dha ri na... he had a rather annoying "nghya nghya...")

MDR showed me, much like KVN, singing slow is not always the way to go as almost all his renditions were like a tortoise race. He had biological reasons why he had a 1/2 kattai shruthi but then will you accept it in a sports form if the athlete had a disability which makes him less capable than some one else?

MSS showed me that music without vyavahaaram is like coffee without sugar. It was like sitting in a plane that will never take off. And also how much on stage creativity adds value to a concert by demonstrating the lack of it!

GNB (I have to confess, I just love his style and attitude to singing, and he is almost close to what I think is exciting concert rendition with absolutely no predictability). showed me that it can be terribly annoying to race through all compositions at 100mph! Also when you sing brighas at machine tempo, your shruthi could go for a six.

....

Okay, I am sure many of you folks who read this will find my representation haughty, boorish and filled with hatred (Thats what my friend tells me most of the times...) I reiterate the fact that I have learnt gazillion things from these greats but I have no hangups pointing out their shortcomings. I feel that makes me a neutral, non apologetic and keen to learn rasika / student of music. I agree every body has their shortcomings, but the community / artist should have a bigger heart to accept criticism on the etablished norms and also appreciate younger folks criticizing the former generation. Music, for god's sake does not quantify against age, it is the amount of time you spend analyzing it.

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