Song of Surrender

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Developing Sruti Sense

By K N Viswanathan

In “Child MS meets a teacher” in the Sruti blog Gowri Ramnarayan describes how young MS played with the tambura and how she was hypnotized by the sound of the tambura strings. A sruti soaked voice is a pure delight to the ears. It helps the singer to establish instant rapport with the listener. Sruti mata layam pita is a saying often quoted in Carnatic music, but how much attention is paid to develop sruti sense in a beginner in Carnatic music?


The first music lesson for a child must be in developing sruti sense. She must be taught to play the tambura first for half an hour a day, encouraged to keep her ears on the tambura stem and listen to sa pa sa., then taught to tune the tambura.

The sruti box is not a substitute for the tambura. The beginner must listen only to sruti-aligned music. Bhimsen Joshi, Kishori Amonkar, MS Subbulakshmi, T Brinda and KV Narayanaswamy are some of the names that come to mind as sruti-perfect voices.

These artists had flawless vocal techniques, with no false voice singing, no nasal sound, no straining of the voice, no affected singing, no excesses of any kind. There is nothing unique about them except that they had an efficient vocal technique, sang open mouthed without restraint, and had excellent breath control.

Madurai Mani Iyer and MD Ramanathan sang in perfect alignment with sruti, butthe child may imbibe their unique vocal technique and try to imitate them. It takes time to appreciate the right things in music of say Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar or Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. They had problems of voice but compensated with superlative gyanam and other aspects of Carnatic music. The child can be taught to appreciate sruti perfection even by listening to old film songs of P. Suseela, Lata Mangeshkar, or Kishore Kumar, emphasising their sruti perfection and flawless singing styles. Kelvi gyanam is as important as learning from a teacher. Sabhas can encourage youngsters to play tambura for established artists. The outcome may be improved sruti sense amongst future Carnatic musicians.

1 comment:

  1. You have omitted K J Yesudas whom i feel also has sruti aligned voice! This really was the secret of M S singing which was captivating...

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