Saturday 27 April 2013

Ramanavami Concerts April 2013

The Ramayana is undoubtedly the most popular Hindu epic and Lord Rama is one of the most admired incarnations of Lord Vishnu. He, with his consort Seetha, his devoted brother Lakshmana and his greatest Bhaktha Hanuman, has been abiding in the heart of every Indian for centuries. We find countless musical compositions on Lord Rama composed by great mystics and vaggeyakaras in different languages throughout the country. Particularly, Carnatic Music, over the centuries, seems to have an exceptional and inseperable bond with Lord Rama. And come Ramanavami season, its music, music and music everywhere. This Ramanavami season was great for me and I really enjoyed singing concerts at some of the most reputed places. I am happy to share with you the list of compositions I sang in these concerts.

Date : Apr 13 2013
Venue : Upasana Kala Sangha, Sahakarnagar, Bangalore.
Accompaniments : 
Violin - H.M.Smitha
Mridangam - Suneel Subramanya
Khanjira - Karthik

1. Samidayajuda(Varna) - Kedaragowla - Adi - T. Thyagayyar
2. Gam Ganapathe - Hamsadhwani - Adi(tishra) - Muthaiah Bhagavatar
(Shloka, Swara)
3. Sri Valli Devasenapathe - Natabhairavi - Adi - Papanasam Sivan
4. Korinavara - Ramapriya - Roopaka - Patnam Subramanya Iyer(Raga, Neraval, Swara)
5. Bhogeendra shayinam - Kuntalavarali - Khanda Chapu - Swati Tirunal
6. Intha Sowkhya - Kapi - Adi - Thyagaraja (Raga, Swara, Tani)
7. Nanoruvilayattu - Navarasakannada - Adi - Papanasam Sivan
8. Ariddarenayya - Desh - Khanda Chapu - Purandara Dasa(Ugabhoga)
9. Mangalam (Pavamana)

Date : Apr 14 2013
Venue : Nadabrahma Sangeetha Sabha, Mysore
Violin - Aditi Krishnaprakash
Mridangam - Mysore A. Radhesh
Ghatam - S. Manjunath

1. Enthoprema(Varna) - Bahudari - Adi - Lalgudi Jayaraman
2. Ra Rama Inti daka - Asaveri - Adi - Thyagaraja (Brief Raga)
3. Sri Jalandhara - Gambheeranata - Adi - J.C. Wodeyar (Swara)
4. Nannuvidachi Kadalakura - Reetigowla - Mishra Chapu - Thyagaraja (Raga)
5. Ramachandram Bhavayami - Vasantha - Roopaka - Dikshitar (Swara)
6. Mari mari vachchuna - Kambhoji - Adi - Mysore Vasudevacharya (Raga, Neraval, Swara, Tani)
7. RTP - Mohana and Amruthavarshini - Mishra Jathi triputa tala (tishra nade)
8. Nimma Bhagya Doddado - Ragamalika - Purandara Dasa
9. Tillana - Garudadhwani - Adi - Balamuralikrishna
10. Mangalam (Pavamana)

Date : Apr 21 2013
Venue : Vyalikaval Rama Mandira, Bangalore
Accompaniments :
Violin - Aditi Krishnaprakash
Mridangam - Adamya Ramanand
Khanjira - Bhargava Halambi

1. Eranapai(Varna) - Todi - Adi - Patnam Subramanya Iyer
2. Jaya Janaki Kantha - Nata - Khandachapu - Purandara Dasa (Swara)
3. Ramabhadra Ra Ra - Anandabhairavi - Adi - Bhadrachala Ramadas
4. Apparamabhakti - Pantuvarali - Roopaka - Thyagaraja (Raga, Neraval, Swara)
5. Kamalaptakula - Brindavani - Adi - Thyagaraja
6. Evvarimata - Kambhoji - Adi -Thyagaraja (Raga, Swara, Tani)
7. Rama Rama - Tillang - Roopaka - Purandara Dasa
8. Mangala (Mannarukrishnage)

Date : Apr 22 2013
Venue : Bidaram Krishnappa Rama Mandira, Bangalore
Accompaniments :
Violin - H.K.Narasimhamurthy
Mridangam - Suneel Subramanya
Morsing - Ramanujam

1. Eranapai(Varna) - Todi - Adi - Patnam Subramanya Iyer
2. Jaya Janaki Kantha - Nata - Khandachapu - Purandara Dasa (Shloka, Swara)
3. Sujana Jeevana - Khamach - Roopaka - Thyagaraja (Brief Raga)
4. Korinavara - Ramapriya - Roopaka - Patnam Subramanya Iyer (Raga, Neraval, Swara)
5. Ninnadanela - Kannada - Adi - Thyagaraja
6. Rama Katha sudha - Madhyamavathi - Adi - Thyagaraja (Raga, Swara, Tani)
7. Ramachandrudithadu - Dwijavanthi - Adi(tishra) - Annamacharya
8. Rama Rama - Tillang - Roopaka - Purandara Dasa
9. Mamava pattabhirama - Manirangu - Mishra Chapu - Dikshitar
10. Mangala (Ramachandraya)

Friday 19 April 2013

Namasankeertanam - In the wilderness…

Man is closest to God when with his creation, when with nature and when with music. What to say of the divine experience he gets when all of this is put together! One such experience is what we get when we go a remote, serene place in the midst of thick vegetation of Malnad; a place about 20 kms from the temple town of Shringeri called ‘Naibhi’. This place, consisting of about 13 families, is home to a unique and one of its kind Bhajana Sampradaya which was started 53 years ago by a great bhakta Sri Subbannayya, now being organized and led by an elderly person Sri Sheshayya.
This tradition involves a bhajan by all the natives of the village on every Saturday plus a special 11 day long bhajan during the Vasantha Navaratri which begins on the Ugadi Padya and concludes on the Ekadashi day, the 9th day being Ramanavami. It is a gathering of about 40-50 men, women and children who sing to the accompaniment of a harmonium and a mridangam. Prominent among them are Sri Subramanya, Sri Ravi, Sri Nagesh, Sri Nagabhushan, Sri Venkatesh, Sri Achyuta, Sri Ganeshayya and Sri Krishnamurthy. The weekly bhajan will be hosted by all the families of the village turn by turn, where as the 11 day Ramotsava Bhajan by Sri Nagesh. A particular paddati or format is followed which involves a few dhyana shlokas in the beginning followed by songs on Ganapathi, Durga, Shiva, Saraswathi, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Krishna and Rama; which is followed by Nama Ramayanam, certain special namavalis, pundalikas, arathi song, laali (lullaby) song and finally a mangalam. The whole format takes about 4 hours to complete during the regular Saturday bhajan. However, the Ramotsava bhajan involves certain added features like Deepa Pradakshina, Ashtavadhana Seva and an Utsava where the idol of Lord Rama is carried with all the festivities and the all the people go up singing “Rama Rama Jaya Raja Rama…” to an Aditya Panchayatana Temple on top of a small hill, perform pooja and come back singing. The Ramanavami day features a 24 hour Akhanda bhajan and the last day (i.e., ekadashi) ends with a Hanumotsava. The passion and the dedication of these people to keep the tradition alive and to engage themselves in Namasankeertanam, keeping aside all the individual differences and all the difficulties of a countryside living, is something extraordinary.
We have been a part of this grand tradition for many years now. When we want to lose our sense of time and space, when we want to go into the silence of nature and the depth of devotion, we make some time in the midst of our busy professions to experience this out of the world feeling of oneness with divinity. The people there with all their innocence and sincerity, with immense love and respect for us, are always overwhelmed to have us participate in their bhajan. Special mention has to be made of the tasty, healthy and other-wordly desi food which is prepared by Smt. Susheela (wife of Sri Subramanya) along with daughters Swapna and Shruti; and the untiring outside support by Suneel (son of Sri Subramanya) and Subbu (whose is lovingly called Puttu).  We were there for 4 days during the Ramotsava and now back with memories that will keep us charged till we go there again after 3-4 months.
This time the group consisted of the two of us, that is my husband Mridangam Vidwan Arjun Kumar and I, renowed violinist Smt. Charulatha Ramanujam, vocalist Smt. Radhika Karanth, connoisseurs Sri S.J. Anand and Sri Hassan Kumarswamy with some of my husband’s prominent disciples Adamya Ramanand, Suneel Subramanya, Ghanashyam, Skanda and Skandaprasad. We sang, danced and played our instruments till we forgot ourselves, but always kept wanting for more. Naibhi bhajan has become an integral part of our lives. In the days to come, we wish to make this bhajan tradition more dynamic, effective, bright, lively and powerful with our active participation, support and contribution. We always pray to the Almighty that we get more and more of such great musical and devotional time at Naibhi…
“Rama Rama Jaya Raja Rama.. Rama Rama Jaya Seetha Rama.. Raghupathi Raghava Raja Rama.. Patita Pavana Seetha Rama..”

Thursday 11 April 2013

Should Carnatic Music be irreligious?

“Music knows no barriers and has no language” – is a celebrated reality. Just as the Vedas proclaim “EkaM sad viprA bahudhA vadaMti”, music is one, but its forms are many and Carnatic Music is one of them. All forms of music are forms of entertainment based on melody and rhythm, having seven notes, and Carnatic Music is no exception.  Notwithstanding the fact that Carnatic Music is undoubtedly one of the most advanced, scientific, absolute, complex and unique systems of music which has given it an illustrious position among the different musical systems of the world, it poses certain challenges in the current scenario.

Some argue that Carnatic classical music is not able to reach out to world-wide audiences and attract listeners since it is “religious”. Our music is predominantly composition based which makes it Sahitya oriented; and sahitya in Carnatic music essentially means praising Hindu deities like Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha, Lakshmi, Kamakshi, Muruga and so on. This prevents Carnatic Music from becoming global and to bring about the same experience to a foreigner, as to an Indian who has strong roots in our culture and is reasonably aware of our history, scriptures, literature, mythology, socio-religious practices and customs. Thus, the argument is that if the Bhakti or the religion element in Carnatic Music can be completely done away with, we can take our music to wider audiences and make it more popular.

Before we debate on this any further, there is a certain historical and conceptual background to it which is important to understand. India is a spiritual land, known for its richness in philosophy, culture, religion, civilization, knowledge and education. It is undeniably here that we can trace the origin of human culture and civilization. History has put on record that when the other countries of the world were either unknown or steeped in the darkness of ignorance and primitiveness, it was our great Bharatavarsha which had seen the light of knowledge and enlightenment several thousands of years ago.

These is a reference in the Vayu Purana, which says
uttaram yat samudrasya himavad dakShinaM cha yat |
varSham tad bhArataM nAma bhAratI tatra santatiH ||
Meaning “that country which is to the north of the ocean and to the south of the Himalayas is called bharata and its people bharatiyas.” Thus, ours is fundamentally Bharatiya Samskriti more aptly termed as ‘Sanatana Dharma’ (the universal way of life), which was only later termed as Hinduism and called a ‘religion’, particularly after the advent of Islam and Christianity.

Besides, it is the only country which has always visualized knowledge as a means to reach the supreme truth (sA vidyA yA vimuktayE) The ancient Indians have called all the branches of knowledge as Arts and have classified sixty four arts (chatuShShaShTi kalAH) which can be Fine arts, Creative arts, Scientific arts or Commercial arts. Be it astronomy or medicine, arts or literature, chemistry or architecture, agriculture or economics, philosophy or morality; all vidyas had flourished to their most evolved and developed forms in India several centuries ago, the basis of all of them being the Vedas. Of the various vidyas that originated in ancient India, Adhyatma vidya and Sangeeta vidya are quite prominent. Since time immemorial, spirituality and music in India have grown hand in hand.  Sangeeta Vidya also called as Gandharva veda is an Upa-veda of Samaveda (the root of which is nothing but ‘OM’-the primordial sound) is not mundane; it’s the only vidya that facilitates the four purusharthas, namely dharma, artha, kama and moksha. Carnatic classical music, the present evolved form of the ancient music system of India, is known for its sublimity and uniqueness, and stands apart when compared to other forms of music across the globe. Being one of the most aesthetic and beautiful forms of music, it is both vibrant as well as soothing. If other music forms are sensual, Carnatic music, which is both devotional music as well as art music, is sensuous and is capable of bringing about the experience of divine bliss (sat-chit-ananda).

Not just that, ours was the richest nation of the world which was the reason why it was subjected to the maximum number of foreign invasions by the Shaks, Hoonas, Mongols, Turkish, Portugal, Greeks, Persians, French and the British. These foreign invaders, particularly the British who ruled us for nearly two centuries, tried in different ways to not just loot the wealth of our country but also to destroy our rich cultural heritage. It was highly unfortunate that we yielded to them and allowed them to do it. Thanks to the struggle and sacrifice of great freedom fighters that we somehow managed to make them quit our country. But, are we really independent? On being asked this question, the great sage Kanchi Paramacharyal said “We have surely attained freedom, but not independence”. So true is this statement even today. In the wake of Globalisation and Liberalisation which is fast changing our mindsets and lifestyles, we need to realise that it is nothing but Westernisation (or Americanisation to be more precise) in disguise. We have gone to a state where we neither know our roots nor do we believe in anything that is traditionally ours. In the past two or three centuries, and more so since independence, we have been gradually and tactfully conditioned to believe that  anything that is from the West is great and superior, and this has made us lose faith in the tenets of our Sanatana Dharma. Ideas, inventions, discoveries, models, formulae have all been very cunningly “stolen” from us and given back to us as those of Western origin. Our own history that we study particularly in schools and colleges is completely distorted including the Aryan Invasion theory which has been disproved only recently. There are rampant religious conversions which, like slow-poison, are aimed at gradually eliminating Sanatana Dharma and all its wings. In short, all that is purely Bharatiya in its source and essence, be it philosophies, sciences or art forms are massively targeted in various ways. I feel somewhere, in some way, Carnatic Music is also indirectly affected; and the practitioners and connoisseurs of this great, purely Indian art form have been made to believe (given the present Indian state of mind) that our system fails to cater to universal needs.

In response to the argument that Carnatic music should be made secular, it is worth mentioning that Carnatic music doesn’t depend on Sahitya alone. Those who look at Carnatic Music only from the Sahitya point-of-view seem to have failed to recognise its other great dimensions. The most advanced, technically precise and intricate Raga and Tala Paddatis, the idea of absolute music or Manodharma Sangeetham, ample scope for creativity within the frame of tradition, the variety and richness of compositional forms, the happy co-existence of classical and popular forms and above all, its therapeutic and educative value have rendered it a completeness and given it an exalted place among the different musical systems of the world. Moreover, sahitya in Carnatic Music compositions are not mere devotional expressions of particular composers towards their Ishtadaivam, but much more than that. They bring out lofty tatvas propounded in the Vedas and Upanishads, which form the basis of Sanatana Dharma. It is necessary for us to understand here that these ideologies are not relevant to just Bharatiyas or Hindus, but to the whole of humanity.

Given the fact that Carnatic music is art music, whether you sing of Rama-Krishna-Ganesha or use secular, modern and contemporary themes should not make a difference as far as the experience of music is concerned.

Also, if the sahitya in Carnatic Music is to be changed for good, what can it be changed to? What language will be used? Since the argument holds that our languages are regional and local, and hence lack global relevance, is it possible to sing Carnatic Music in English? (Moreover it is to be noted that English is unreasonably termed as International language, when hardly few countries in the world speak English officially and the percentage of world population speaking it is not more than 25%.) On the other hand, if our languages are to be retained as they are, but only the theme is to be changed, still the world would not understand our music. This means the argument is totally unsubstantiated.

Furthermore, there is no reason to look at antiquity, spiritual and religious preponderance, and bhakti orientation as hindrances to the popularity and global acceptance of Carnatic Music. Instead,

Why can’t we consider these as the special and unique features of our music?

Will Carnatic music retain its identity and status if the aspect of devotion is removed? Rather, why can’t we create a brand value for our music by saying that ours is the only system of music in world which provides not mere entertainment but also refines the human mind and soul, finally leading towards enlightenment and self-expansion of both the performer (sadhaka) as well as the listener (rasika)?

Why do we so easily lend ourselves to believe that there is something wrong in our system which needs to be changed for the sake of the world which is actually incapable of understanding its greatness?

Can the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, Vyakarana of Panani, Artha Shastra of Kautilya, Ayurveda of Charaka or the Kavyas of Kalidasa be changed or diluted so that a foreigner understands them better?

Is it not better and more sensible to educate and create awareness and to bring about meaningful and constructive innovations to help audiences appreciate Carnatic Music better and realise its greatness as an instrument to reach out to divinity, rather than changing or diluting it?

Are we not doing more harm than good by trying to make music irreligious with an object of popularising it?

Can we not use Carnatic Music in all its glory (which includes its bhakti-oriented sahitya) as an instrument to preserve and propagate the glorious heritage of this country for ourselves and for our next generation?

Is there a real, genuine and practical need to make Carnatic Music irreligious?

-       K. Vrinda Acharya
Carnatic Classical Vocalist