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 hypnotised 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 laya pita” is an often quoted saying, but I wonder how much attention is paid to develop sruti sense in a beginner in Carnatic music?
The first music lesson for a child must focus on 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 she should be 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, M.S. Subbulakshmi, T. Brinda and K.V. 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 M.D. Ramanathan sang in perfect alignment with sruti, but the 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 gnanam 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 gnanam is as important as learning from a teacher. Sabha-s can encourage youngsters to play the tambura for established artists. The outcome of this could be improved sruti sense among the future generation of Carnatic musicians.