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Friday, August 17, 2012

Carnatic music too must reinvent itself in a new Avatar

Classical Carnatic music too must reinvent itself in a new Avatar

I feel that the entire set up of caranatic music arena  needs to effect the necessary changes for better chances.


For its richness of ragas [very scientific and aesthetic sound structures] its reach is very limited.
WHO or WHAT IS TO BE BLAMED? I would say it is sticking on to tradition blindly.

 In reality carnatic music has become a December industry except for well established artists making some living at the mercy of NRIs but I doubt whether the next generation of NRIs will have either time or taste for continuing to sponsor our artists. Repetition is becoming rather too trite in Carnatic music.

Long back I wrote for a magazine saying that Sabhas have become like BCCI and the artists are at the mercy of Sabha secretaries and in the process proximity, contacts , recommendations etc rule over real merit very often. It is so unfortunate.

This great carnatic music is imbued with some intrinsic aspects and essences like the Bhakthi Oriented or Devotion based Lyrical splendor, the entire gamut of excellent ragas which stimulate not only our physical and mental aspects but even our soul's longing and takes us into a complete trance, gives adequate space for manodharma of the performer which can be vaguely translated as individual improvisation based on the artist’s imagination within the parameters of raga’s basic grammatical structure and many more such intrinsic aspects.

However, predominantly it is Bhakthi Orientation and/ or Devotion based. Whether we like it or not, unfortunately that aspect, namely Bhakthi or unqualified devotion is, if not absolutely but to a very great extent, is waning or has disappeared.

In this scenario, like many other art forms all over the world have made the leap in some cases; made the gradual transition or transformation in some cases; in some cases effected the necessary change either moderately or totally as a matter of evolution to adjust to changing situations, contexts, circumstances of life and its constantly changing demands and tastes. I think classical carnatic music too, must reinvent itself in a new avatar with more themes which are much closely and easily perceived and passionately followed by many rather than only sticking on to emphasizing on Bhakthi alone. 

I know that Carnatic music is primarily one of the best tools for devotion and deeper meditation rather than a mere entertainment based art form. That’s why when there is even a slight deficit or deterioration in its pristine quality it lacks the impact that it ought to effect on a rasika’s soul, a total perfection seeking academicians criticism, the overall spiritual and soulful impact that would stop all one’s noisy thought process and so on. This happens because artists too are after all  human beings and they too need enough money, freedom, free time etc to enjoy to their souls’ content the music that they render first and  then proceed on to share with the rest of the world their joy and communion with a higher realms of spirit. 

When the necessary attention and monetary incentives are not there, they naturally resort to venture into a totally different territory or domain, I am not saying it is right or wrong, namely the entertainment industry, whose requirements and demands are totally different from aesthetic appeal or deeper and devotional splendor or classical correctness etc.

So, once you are into entertainment industry channel then you need to adjust to that frequency by resorting to all sorts of themes, more variety which have an instant and immediate appeal, not necessarily long lasting value, and no one in the industry is bothered about such elements either.

The greatness of epics, scriptures, divine compositions, ancient architecture all over the world have their continued value for human race, they would always be the sources of inspiration, bench marks, reference manuals and much more there are like the Sun or many other stars in our galaxy and the far away galaxies always shedding light for life’s sustenance but life is also made of many passing clouds which too have their own role to play in the overall scheme of things. It all depends on what you want the Sun or the stars or passing clouds. Normal views of the eyes easily see the passing clouds but you need specially made telescopes and enhanced vision to see the Sun and spot the stars.

So if you want to plunge into entertainment industry and compete with the passing clouds, there is nothing wrong in that, then you cannot afford to be the constant ever shining Sun.

 The problem arises when, instead of making the inevitable adjustments, necessary modifications, in all aspects of the art form in its totality, you merely dilute the quality of raga, change of language, superfluous rendering without your soul and entire spirit in it, merely rendering it for your presumed market combined with poor audience concentration etc  many artists are more interested in exhibiting  skills which in fact kills carantic music of its Bhava, then you pander to superficiality using  a tool with enormous substance and sap like carnatic music [ it is like facing trying to hit a Bret Lee’s delivery with single straw] then there would be only uneasiness and unpleasantness instead of either complete and chaste devotion or consummate entertainment.

Do not be a cat on the wall, make your choice, there is nothing wrong, choose with your heart and soul either the entertainment channel or the enlightening course. It is so with all art forms, let me make a small comparison as a great monument a MAHAPALIPRAM, TANJORE TEMPLE, or an Akshradham temple will always remain as great master pieces of unchallengeable architectural splendors  which had , has and will always inspire , attract many to visit and look in awe and admiration but they cannot act as abode to live or sources of livelihood unless we happen to be a caretaker, cleaner or any other form of worker involved in up keep of the monument. While modern architecture provides us all the comfort to live and carry on our commercial activities. We do not visit an office building however great and good it may be as a tourist and look at the building in awe, get to know its historical importance or get enchanted by its architecture though it may be good. While many spend in millions on modern sky scrapers to house commercial complexes no one willingly gives even the entry fee for monuments if there happen to be any such thing. What we can do at best to make these monuments more visible is to provide proper roads around, enough hotels to eat and stay and other tourist attraction related facilities so that tourists are able to come and visit easily. These monuments have had, still have and shall continue to have their significance without even an iota of reduction in their significance for many centuries with or without any facilities for accessibility. Similarly the greatness of the compositions of the Carnatic music’s Trinity and the many other great composers survived, survive and shall survive irrespective of whether Aryakudi Ramanuja Iyengar sang it or Aruna Sairam sang it in any concert. 

The great composers of the past and their compositions do not need our anaclitic choice [choose something based on some nostalgic and protective attachment] to continue their existence.

As I have mentioned earlier that we must make the inevitable adjustments, necessary modifications, in all aspects of the art form in its totality. In the context of carnatic music one important further improvisation could be composing songs with proper structure of ragas and swaras in different themes and in as many languages like something about thinking, knowledge, love, youth, society, environment, oneness of all life forms, biodiversity, animal welfare etc .

 Imagine the popularity and takers for Carnatic music if we had compositions  rendered in English on various themes.
Reading the scriptures will enhance and enlighten our life’s journey but to get a job or employment, of course other than that of a religious priest, we need to read, learn and acquire the skills from many other relevant books in each subject.

So what is of importance is to first distinguish between the two major aspects of life, namely, survival aspect of life and living aspect of life. Then choose different things for these two different aspects of life and depending on the situation, context or circumstance give priority for one over the other and carry on without complaining about lack of reception for what we do. Or if we decide to do only what is close to our heart, well, we must never grumble, just do that and everything else will be taken care of.

What is of greater importance to do what we love and love what we do then the concomitant factors necessary to make life happy and peaceful would automatically fall in place.

What is more pathetic is not lack of respect for tradition and traditional culture or even the indifference towards them but trying to put a price tag on them rather than value them for what they are. 

This has happened in every culture where the economic welfare has not accompanied the rich culture and tradition and therefore the survival aspect of life has taken a precedence over living aspect of life and tradition instead of being a part of life has become something to be acquired outside from some expert and once someone becomes an expert then prices are fixed for exhibiting that expertise.

All women used to adorn the entrances to their houses with Kolams now there are Rangoli classes and competitions with price money. All mothers cooked variety of eatables now we have Idly shops and Dosa shops and readymade Idly and Dosa dough, readymade chapattis too. Similarly everyone was singing Carnatic songs, some nicely others not so nicely it was not the preserve of the select of few. 

As long as traditions permeate life they remain rich but when it is alienated then they degrade into professions of livelihood where only some practioners of tradition become rich and not the tradition.

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