Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Ramanathan’s analysis

By T.M. Krishna

The following response is with regard to some points made by Dr. N. Ramanathan in his article Vaggeyakara and tunesmith. While the greatness and brilliance of Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna cannot be questioned, there are a few points with regard to the article that I would like to raise.

(1) The comment on the Hamsadhwani of Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham is unfortunate. I am actually surprised. A deeper look at the notation of this very composition as in the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini reveals quite a marvellous structure, which we have eschewed. In both the anupallavi and the charana, there are beautiful patterns which we have changed in our renditions. Therefore I am not sure how it can only sound like the sarali and tara sthayi varisai. If this is the reference to the pallavi sangati-s, then we are told that Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer is to blame! Therefore, I do not agree with his perception about Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham.

(2) Regarding the tuning of Annamacharya’s compostions, if we consider Annamacharya a vaggeyakara, then some amount of respect needs to be given to the raga names given in the copper plates. If not, are we ready to call him only a poet? With regard to Tyagaraja compositions where raga-s have changed, of course this is erroneous (like Abheri, Chittaranjani) but one wrong cannot justify another. Tyagaraja keertana-s that are sung in the same designated raga over the years have also changed in form and feel. This does not make the vaggeyakara irrelevant. Many musicians in the sishya parampara have embellished the compositions themselves. Does this make the original vaggeyakara irrelevant? I don’t think so. I feel the understanding of the role of the vaggeyakara and the renditions through time is more nuanced than just asking the question does it sound exactly as composed by Tyagaraja? Almost all raga-s have also changed form, therefore in no way will any rendition of today completely connect to something of even 200 years ago. What exists are threads of history within the form of many of these raga-s which gives a link to its long past. Similarly these raga-s given to the compositions are small threads connecting us to the past that we should respect.

Since we are to choose the melodic form for the compositions of Annamacharya why not try to do the same in the raga-s mentioned? To the question does the mere retaining of the raga as per the name add any value? In my opinion this is very essential if we want to consider Annamacharya a vageyyakara. The melodic form to the composition is by a modern composer but at least we should show some respect to the original composer.

Regarding the raga-s that may have lost their identity today, is it not a better endeavour to try and give a lost raga a form though it may be a modern interpretation? Who better that Dr. Balamuralikrishna to try and do this?

(3) In the paragraph about his renditions, while three compositions namely Nannu ganna talli, Sree Neelotpalanayike and Akhilandeswari have been mentioned only two have been elaborated about. We do know that Dr. Balamuralikrishna’s renditions have shown very close resemblance to the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini and other texts. Unfortunately, the fact that Sree Neelotapala nayike has not been rendered by him in Reetigaula (as per the Dikshitar sampradaya with Suddha dhaivata) has not been pointed out. This is definitely a case of a wrong interpretation of the raga with regard to the Dikshitar sampradaya. There is no sampradaya of this Reetigaula in the Dikshitar tradition.

(4) While any amount of appreciation of the brilliance of Dr. Balamuralikrishna will not suffice, I feel Dr. Ramanathan’s article could have carried more analysis about the non-Carnatic aspects of his compositions which have been mentioned a couple of times by him in a mildly negative vein (or is that something only I sensed?).

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