Song of Surrender

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

More madhyama sruti kritis?

By S. Sivaramakrishnan

I have observed that several core  kritis of the Carnatic idiom in ragas like Punnagavarali, Kurinji, Nadanamakriya and Chenchuritti, which are normally sung in madhyama sruti of a given pitch, have been traditionally taken up only in the ‘tukkada slot’. As a result we are unable to listen to madhyama sruti compositions in the  first  half  of  the  concert.  The historical, yet practical reason could be that in the past  (before the advent of the e-sruti box), it took a lot of time to adjust the panchama swara string of the tambura  to suddha madhyama for such kritis and again re-align it back to panchama. This was probably seen as an interruption to the flow of the kutcheri.
However, the tukkada segment of the golden era was really grand and once the tambura was tuned to ‘M’, several kritis—from tough to light, including ashtapadis—would be rendered one after the other like a ‘kadamba-mala’ or a garland of different flowers. A kriti like Ehi Annapurne (Dikshitar) in Punnagavarali is an example. In a recent concert in Chennai by a leading young vidwan, there were only a few to listen to this great song because it came only in the tukkada session, much late in the recital.
With the advent of digital sruti boxes and a variety of electronic gadgets and apps, I consider that one or two weighty ‘M sruti’ kritis could be easily accommodated  in  the  first  half of the concert itself to restore their pride of place. The only thing the artist has to do is to shift to madhyama sruti which is possible by the mere touch of a button in the pitch gadget. Even those who use a tambura on stage these days keep a stand-by digital box and hence this should not be a problem at all.

Of late, due to compulsions (read ‘popular demand’) for singing bhajans, abhangs, and ‘trendy’ numbers based in ‘M sruti’, core kritis get relegated. A specific kriti in this category is Swati Tirunal’s Nandasuta tava jananamin Kurinji (Misra Jhampa) on the glory of Lord Krishna’s birth on AshtamiRohini. There are numerous such compositions of the great vaggeyakaras, including the utsava sampradaya kritis of Tyagaraja. It is likely that shortage of time compels singers to skip some of the core kritis planned. I suggest that ‘M sruti’ based padams of Kshetrayya be sung in the first one hour of kutcheris for their sheer musical value without being sidelined as tukkadas. Such strategies are necessary to preserve the identity of Carnatic music and to improve the level of appreciation of rasikas. Let us take care of the first  ‘golden  hour’  to  save  core Carnatic music.

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