Life-giver and soul of Indian music: The Tambura (tanpura) according to T.M. Krishna

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In his recent book, A Southern Music: The Karnatik Story, T.M. Krishna reflects on those misconceptions and stereotypes that stand in the way of truly appreciating South Indian music. He reiterates the unique role played by the (acoustic) tambura / tanpura which is all too rarely heard ‘live’ in Indian concerts today.  

For this eminent singer “it is the one instrument that can be said to hold within itself the very essence of classical music. So unobtrusive is this instrument, so self-effacing in its positioning on the stage and so tender of nature, that it is almost taken for granted. It is the life-giver, the soul of our music. … Only a musician who has experienced this sanctity can be a true musical vehicle. In the internal absorption of the tambura’s resonance, music happens.” (pp. 48-50) He asks whether the electronic tambura satisfies the human sense of tune when digitization really changes the manner in which we hear sound, a phenomenon he has explored in practice.

In his view, the practice of substituting the tambura by electronic devices also in the classroom “has worked to the detriment of sruti. All this has consolidated the misconception of Karnatic music going ‘off key'”. (p. 235-6; see the book’s index for more on this and related topics)

For reports on the book release and interview, type “Karnatik Story Krishna” in Google custom search – carnaticstudent.org >>

Publisher’s note
One of the foremost Karnatik vocalists today, T.M. Krishna writes lucidly and passionately about the form, its history, its problems and where it stands today
T.M. Krishna begins his sweeping exploration of the tradition of Karnatik music with a fundamental question: what is music? Taking nothing for granted and addressing readers from across the spectrum – musicians, musicologists as well as laypeople – Krishna provides a path-breaking overview of south Indian classical music. – HarperCollins Publisher (2013) Price: Rs. 699

As performers-cum-teachers, we should practise with the traditional tambura and teach music with the same to the students.

Malladi Brothers quoted by Aruna Chandaraju in The Hindu >>
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Tambura / Tanpura “tree of enlightenment” for Mallikarjun Mansur

N. Manu Chakravarthy, The Hindu,  September 22, 2011

It [2011] is the centenary year of the legendary Jaipur-Atrauli musician Mallikarjun Mansur. Unravelling the individual genius of the maestro is also the study of a living tradition 

It is not easy to locate the greatness of Pandit Mallikarjuna Mansur and understand his relevance in our times. The life and accomplishments of Mansur unravel the various dimensions of a great tradition; it is also the act of exploring the multiple dimensions of a living community. […]

Mansur remarked quite often that the drone of the tanpura became his bodhi vriksha (tree of enlightenment). He often said that he would not have had a mystical revelation of the notes had he not constantly meditated on it. He would declare: “I understood that all the notes are the manifestations of the first note sa and all ragas are the flood that emanates from sa.” In his autobiographical work, “Nanna Rasayatre” Mansur says, “Rather than a theoretical exposition of a raga, a sterling asthaayi (the basic framework) can delineate the ragaclearly and comprehensively. These days singers have little interest in mastering the valuable old asthaayis. The ragas have lost connection with their notes, and it ends up in the torture of a raga. One is not against producing new compositions. However, it is detrimental to make new compositions without knowing the form and value of traditional compositions.”

Mansur who learnt in the gurukula tradition under Pandit Neelakanta Bua, had an encounter with Ustad Alladiya Khan sahib at Sangli, the doyen of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana; it propelled him to a state that he had never experienced until then. Mansur describes the manner in which Alladiya Khan’s music virtually mesmerised and left him speechless. Alladiya Khan’s taans and boltaans gave Mansur a new musical vision. […]

Source: Manna from heaven | The Hindu
Address : https://www.thehindu.com/arts/music/manna-from-heaven/article2476298.ece
Date Visited: 25 July 2021

“Tambura is my constant companion – a bridge to my past, keeping the memories of my childhood alive.” – Bombay Jayashri >>
Learn more about the tambura (tanpura) >>

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Video | Weighty rendition by new generation of Karaikudi vina tradition

Kapila & Sushruta, sons and disciples of Sreevidhya Chandramouli, perform “Sarasiruhasana” (Nata raga, Adi tala); a kriti composed by Puliyur Doresvami.

Recorded on the occasion of Dhvani’s Carnatic Composers’ Day 2012

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Paper and Lecture Recital at the International Congress of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung

Music | Musics. Structures and Processes
15th International Conference of the Gesellschaft für Musikforschung Goettingen

Title of the presentation by Manickam Yogeswaran & Ludwig Pesch: “Unity in diversity, antiquity in contemporary practice? A fresh look at South Indian music”

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