Song of Surrender

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tears of nostalgia

(Lec-dems at the Music Academy on 17 December)

By V Ramnarayan

Deepak Raja’s was not only an erudite presentation on the topic of compound ragas in Hindustani music, it was also an emotive one, with the clips he played from past greats like Amir Khan, Vilayat Khan, and Hirabai Barodekar taking us back to a bygone era of timeless exploration of raga music. Within a short span of time, he took us through the nuances of such compound ragas as Basant Bahar, Jog-Kauns, and Kausi Kanada. To my technically untrained ear, the beauty and power of the parent ragas as well as their offspring were more relevant than the science behind their formation. A stalwart contributor to Sruti, Deepak Raja repeatedly marvelled at the high degree of awareness of the Chennai audience and its willingness to bestir itself to attend learned lectures at 8 am.  While he showed great poise in his elucidation of the nuances of the ragas, he became overcome with emotion while listening to a recording he played of Barodekar. “This exquisite recording brings tears to my eyes everytime I listen to it,” he said.

He was also hugely impressed by the high level of attainment of the galaxy of musicians/ musicologists who had gathered at the Music Academy to listen to him. He also got a taste of the rare pleasure of listening to comments by members of the expert committee, when Prof. TR Subramaniam rose to repeat Ravikiran’s comments, apparently not having heard the Chitravina maestro. (Ravikiran cited the example of the raga Ghanta as a compound of numerous ragas like Todi, Dhanyasi and so on, responding to Deepak Raja’s question whether compounds of more than 4 or 5 ragas could hold their own as independent entities).

TRS also repeated a delightful anecdote he related last year after S Sowmya’s lec-dem on the raga Ghanta.  According to the story, TRS’s coursemate at the Music College, Ramnad Krishnan once said that Ghanta was nothing but Dhanyasi sung imperfectly. To TRS’s query on how to sing Dhanyasi wrongly, Krishnan gave a tongue-in-cheek reply again: “Is it difficult for us musicians to get a raga wrong?”

Octogenarian TN Krishnan took his time to warm up during the lec-dem that followed. He dismissed his childhood ability to effortlessly repeat on the violin anything his father-guru Narayana Iyer or other musicians threw at him, as of no great consequence, repeatedly stressing his lifelong quest for musical knowledge and perfection. “I used to reproduce the Bhairavi varnam effortlessly when I was barely 4, but I am still unravelling it in all its dimensions.”

Krishnan also attributed all his accomplishments as a musician to what he imbibed from great masters of the past like Ariyakudi, GNB and Semmangudi. Sure enough, his superb rendition of their varied singing styles and his own accompaniment to them brought tears of nostalgia to the audience.

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