Does Carnatic music need promotional efforts ?

From The Hindu,  Date: 08-05-1998 :: Pg: 28 :: Col: e

How to rejuvenate Carnatic music has been claiming the attention of many music organisations in recent times. Under some pretext or the other periodic festivals lasting a week and more are held in many parts of the city. The stress on the number of artistes taking part with one or one and a half hour concerts has only resulted in the law of diminishing returns in full play. One thing is obvious. The organisers and the artistes themselves have come to feel sincerely that Carnatic music is not such a demanding fine art calling for years of rigorous intensive training. Goes with it the altruistic argument that youngsters must be encouraged. A music teacher is under compulsion from the parents to ensure that in two or three years the boy or girl learning under him is put on the dais. Anyone less than ten years giving a performance is vociferously declared a child prodigy. The music organisations, always on the look out for new faces, are quick to provide an opportunity for such precocious musicians and pat themselves that they have brought to public view the maximum number of youngsters. The cassette producers are not far behind in this promotional laissez-faire. In all these efforts quality has been gradually declining. Parents have to leave the timing of arangetram to the guru, who has to build his reputation on the standard of the disciple. Artistes themselves should see that the loftiness of the art is not sacrificed. Music organisations should keep a watch on the progress of the youngsters given chance. There must be some kind of selectivity. Preservation of the quality of music depends on these three promotional wings. In this direction meaningful action is called for.

Another aspect in giving life to Carnatic music is to recall the practices of great vidwans in the matter of raga elaboration, duration of cutcheries and pallavi singing. This happens to be related to middle level musicians who have established a name and have to some extent fulfilled the promise of early years. Thus we have now and then four-hour concerts, exclusive pallavi exposition and one raga-one kriti concert followed by kalpita performance as the one organised by Mudhra. The kalpita part according to a printed slip distributed, was mainly kirtanas with minimal raga alapana, no neraval and swaras. The objective is to make musicians put their effort in rendering the musical forms with a better understanding of their bhava and also to bring more rasikas into the fold of Carnatic music - no doubt a most desirable objective. Implied in this explanation is the admission that concerts at present lack the features that the kalpita concert sought to achieve.

In fact the split performing arrangement (with a ten-minute tea break) of Mudhra was on the pattern of old cutcheries, the only difference being the reversal of the process.

In the performances in earlier years, kalpita sangeetham namely varnams, kritis formed the first part and one long raga and pallavi (instead of a song) formed the concluding part. That was born out of experience.

The vidwan exercised the voice in the kalpita part to make it warm up and pliable to embark with ease and comfort on a mega elaboration of a pallavi at the end. But Mudhra chose to reverse the order, so much so, the vidwan had to slowly grope his way through the raga, swara by swara, to lengthen it to an hour when the voice was not highly negotiable.