Launching Sruti Digital Magazine Subscription

Launching Sruti Digital Magazine Subscription

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Is there a bias against Instrumental music?

A series of Interviews by V. Karpagalakshmi

Akkarai Subbulakshmi and Akkarai Sornalatha 
Popular duo (violin and vocal) Akkarai Subbulakshmi and Sornalatha agree on most of the issues raised by Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi (see blog) such as the lack of response for instrumental music in Chennai.
Do you feel there is a good response for Instrumental music?  How do you approach a concert?
Instrumental music is treated equally with vocal in other states like Karnataka and Kerala and the response is overwhelming among the Western audience. While performing abroad, we have observed that when the audience comes for a concert they stay till the end; be it vocal or instrumental. Perhaps they are more attuned to instrumental music and enjoy it better.
The Chennai audience is not able to relate to the music if they can’t hear the words. When we perform a rare kriti, one of us usually sings it while the other plays it on the violin to familiarise the audience with the piece. We have heard that in those days people listened patiently even for over three hours to concerts by Lalgudi Jayaraman or Flute Mali.
Do you think there is parity when it comes to instrumental concerts?
Though our music is based mainly on vocal style, there could be some pieces to demonstrate the virtuosity of the instruments. If the tune is catchy and interesting it would be accepted but it depends upon how the musician presents it. For instance, a varnam can be played in five speeds on instruments; the same is not possible in vocal. But if an artist needs to get a command over the instrument he or she should to able to play in five speeds, but that would demand enormous amount of practice. Artists must select a raga which would be interesting to listen to even in five speeds, and must also plan the concert in a balanced manner without compromising the greatness of our music. The entire concert need not be planned with abstract tunes; that will not work under the kutcheri formula, we need to adhere to the paddhati. In the ragam-tanam-pallavi for instance, the tanam is very suitable to show the virtuosity of the instrument and it is also quite abstract.
What do you think can be done to kindle interest in people and change this mindset towards instrumental music?
Workshops and lec-dems could be organised to make the audience understand what goes into playing instruments. But one has to make sure that people attend such programmes.  Also, during the season there are not enough opportunities for instrumentalists. Any good artist should be given a chance; rotation should not be the norm. We have discussed this issue with a number of instrumentalists and they all feel rather dejected about the poor response in Chennai. Some seniors get to perform every year while the younger talented generation misses out due to the limited opportunity and rotation system, which leads to their frustration.  There are five slots in a day during the season and young talented musicians can be accommodated. At least 25% of the total concerts need to be set aside for instruments.

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