Having but six notes (instead of seven), this type of raga pattern is traditionally classified as being “derived” (janya) from a melakarta raga.
The most characteristic feature in the above svara pattern is the absence of the fifth note (pa) – the very note that conveys a sense of balance in most other ragas. It may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with any sadava–sadava raga you are already familiar with (e.g. Sriranjani and Hamsanandi).
Listen to a brief excerpt of a sloka in raga Hamsanandi sung by Aruna Sairam (Padam le chant de Tanjore, Ocora, Radio France, 1999)
The four strings of the tambura that provide sruthi or the basic swara (pitch) for musicians are considered the life force for any melodic exercise. Fixed in jack wood to enhance the naada, yesteryear musicians were stuck to this pitch provider because there were no alternatives. […]
While many are comfortable with the electronic gadget while practising, how does it feel to have an object there on the concert stage, bereft of human touch, minus the aesthetics of the real thing?
“The digital tamburas are handy for travel, but only a compromise. It’s like decaffeinated coffee,” says vocalist Aruna Sairam.
“Digital versions are comfortable to use, but only a tambura can bring in a tranquil aura.”
“We use both to get an effect. If it is only the tambura, sometimes we don’t hear the strings resonating as an open-air ambience often drowns it, thanks to decibel levels. So a good tambura along with a digital one can strike a good balance,” says Sriram Prasad of Malladi Brothers.
Doyen R.K. Srikantan says: “We were used to visualising a stage only with the traditional tambura both for aesthetics and aural synchrony. There is an art to playing the tambura, we were told, not just wielding one. But we get dependent on those who have to play it for hours. Technology assists us to meet urban demands.” […]
Even so, visually there is something elevating about a beautifully carved tambura, with its mesmeric resonance, being plucked in perfect timing by a resplendently turned out artiste.
And if it is the main artiste who is handing the tambura, nothing matches the picture of his or her face resting against the magnificent tambura, lost in sadhana. Bits and bytes can’t beat such chemistry.
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Voice Culture and Singing by Friedrich Brueckner-Rueggeberg
This course material was originally produced for – and used by – teachers and students at Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts, today known as Rukmini Devi College Of Fine Arts.
Meaningless and uncontrolled singing and exercising are rather harmful since the long-term memory of the brain needs to be supplied with correct impulses which requires immediate recognition of functional disorders and their correction.
Herein lies the great and far-reaching responsibility of the teacher whose full care and control is demanded in order to allow the singer to acquire an automatic and playful sense for the correct usage of his voice. In this manner, he is relieved sufficiently to devote himself fully to content and presentation of his music (described as Bhava in India). […]
Many victims of either wrong techniques of singing or careless teachers keep wandering from teacher to teacher in pursuit of their shattered hopes. This fact lends weight to the concept of voice control from the very beginning before defects can encroach that are so hard to correct later on, if at all.
Quote from page 15 in the printversion | Learn more >>
A two week long voice culture course was offered at the request of its Founder-Director, Rukmini Devi (1904-1986) when introduced to the renowned singer and voice trainer, Friedrich Brueckner-Rueggeberg in 1982.
This project was conceived on the basis of earlier experiences, namely that Indian singers would benefit from time-proven as well as modern methods such as described here, mainly in order to prevent injury caused by mechanical practice (e.g. a lack of awareness that a pupil’s vocal range, breathing and posture should be taken into account).
The method described here is oriented towards “intercultural learning” which explains why it has since been adopted by several voice coaches from all over India, be it for “classical” singing or otherwise.
The Chennai branch of the Goethe Institut (German cultural institute, better known as Max Mueller Bhavan)sponsored Friedrich Brueckner-Rueggeberg and his senior disciple Peter Calatin to conduct the voice training course hosted by Kalakshetra in 1983 for which the present contents was created.
First published by K. Sankara Menon and edited by Shakuntala Ramani in Kalakshetra Quarterly Vol. V, No. 3 (Chennai, 1983).
Co-author, translator and researcher (adaptation to the Indian context including illustration and photography): Ludwig Pesch – the author’s former student at Freiburg Musikhochschule (Germany) – then a student of Kalakshetra College.
S. Rajam (1919-2010) is credited with defining the visual identity of South India’s classical music. The present recording was made at his Mylapore home on 12 December 1997 when rehearsing for a lecture-demonstration; an annual event serving to highlight rare facets of South Indian (Carnatic) music. More about this recording & Sangita KalasikhamaniS. Rajam >>
A couple of years ago, musician-friend Ludwig Pesch invited me to a music lesson taught by S Rajam. One of the disciples there was Vijayalakshmi Subramaniam. The bond between the master and the student became evident as the lesson wore on. As the midwinter sun cast lazy shadows across the courtyard, I saw the guru lapse into proud silences, letting his disciple sing unaided. […] The memory of that master lesson at Rajam’s home remains etched in my memory. As the master and the student rendered a composition in Anandabhairavi, a curious butterfly lodged itself on my shoulder. The stillness of that moment lent me a certain delicate joy. It was something deeper than contentment—an ability to stay absolutely rooted to the music. The rest, as they say, is mere noise.
Anyone who is familiar with the world of Carnatic music, would recognise S. Rajam’s paintings of the Trinity—Syama Sastry, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar. They are probably his most popular creations. But his paintings of the seven swaras based on the visualisation of the swara personalities described in Sangeeta Kalpadrumam—the treatise by vidwan Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar, are equally interesting and beautiful. That Kalpadrumam was the source of inspiration for these paintings has been acknowledged by the late Rajam himself, in the detailed notes that he has given to Sruti.
Despite the many alternatives available today, fortunately we still get to see the tambura player on stage. In fact, the first thing many musicians do after accepting a concert date is to book their preferred tambura player. As more musicians show a renewed interest in the instrument, the tambura is experiencing a resurgence. Paradoxically, though, the number of dedicated artistes playing it is declining. […]
[Eminent violinist] RK Shriramkumar laments the fact that one needs to refer to the instrument as an acoustic tambura to distinguish it from its electronic version. “It’s a tragedy that musicians have brought upon themselves by settling for electronic versions. Just as instrumentalists are expected to bring their own instruments to concerts, vocalists must be instructed to bring tamburas. Students should be encouraged to play the tambura for their gurus on stage to experience the constant give and take.”
Source: “The tambura is back. But where are the players?” by Lakshmi Anand in The Hindu 2 December 2021