Raga Sri | A musical tribute to Dr. Pia Buonomo Srinivasan – Brhaddhvani

Dr. Karaikudi Subramanian and Dr. Meenakshi Subramanian salute Dr. Pia Buonomo Srinivasan (May 15, 1931 – April 8, 2022)1 for her respect and selfless contribution to vina and its tradition. […] We dedicate the raga Sri2 she loved particularly in her memory. | Read the full tribute posted on the video channel of Brhaddhvani – Research and Training Centre for Musics of the World >>

Karaikudi style is not a family style.
It is a veena style.

THE JOURNAL of THE MUSIC ACADEMY MADRAS
Devoted to the Advancement of the Science and Art of Music
Vol. LXXVII 2006, pp. 28-31

The Karaikudi Style

“Bhani” from “bhanihi” in Sanskrit which is from the root word “bhan” meaning “sound”. “Bhanihi” also has another meaning, “weaving”. Literally it is “weaving with sound”. But when one talks about style, a “bhani” in Carnatic [music], first and foremost is that one recognizes the total personality of the performer speaking through the music performed. The personality encompasses the way in which the performer has lived, the number of years staying with the master, the values held, the music listened to, the aesthetics developed, the right and wrong integrated unto oneself due to lineage or as disciples of the master, and finally the individual limitations and strength. “Bhani” is generally translated as “style” in English.3 […]

Describing a musical style of a parampara4 going back to several generations in the contemporary context becomes even more difficult, especially in an oral tradition such as Indian music.5 The Karaikudi style of veena playing started from Karaikudi veena brothers, Subbarama Iyer, Sambasiva Iyer’s son’s generation veena players in their family.6 No recordings are available of the music of Subbarama Iyer. […]

Karaikudi style is not a family style. It is a veena style. The lecture was presented by live demonstration at the different places to understand the Karaikudi style by Dr K S Subramanian.

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  1. Date as per official records, corrected from May 14 preferred and shared for personal reasons []
  2. The most concise definition of a raga may be that by Joep Bor: a tonal framework for composition and improvisation. []
  3. Tamil பாணி pāṇi , n. U. bānī. Style, manner, peculiarity – University of Madras Tamil Lexicon []
  4. Sanskrit sishya paramparā, a series or succession of pupils – Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary []
  5. “The Karaikudi Bani is characterized by Swaras that stand out, alternating Meetu and firmness with clarity one can feel it only when one listens to it. It is just like saying sugar is sweet. You can understand it only by tasting it.” – Ranganayaki Rajagopalan, quoted in Analytical study of the different banis and techniques of playing the saraswathi veena, PhD thesis by R. Jayanthi, University of Mysore 2006, Ch. 9 []
  6. “I was twelve when my parents, Veenai Lakshmi Ammal and Narayana Iyer, decided to give me in adoption to her uncle Sambasiva Iyer, who was concerned about the continuity of our tradition.” – Reminiscences: K Sambasiva Iyer and Mysore Vasudevachar, Narthaki Profiles, March 18, 2008 []

In memoriam Pia Srinivasan Buonomo (15 May 1931 – 8 April 2022)

With vainika Rajeswari Padmanabhan
(Madras, winter 1974-75)

With the demise of Dr. Pia Srinivasan, the world of Indian music has lost one of its most fervent supporters.

For over three decades she and her husband, renowned Indologist Prof. S.A. Srinivasan, spared no effort to acquaint discerning music lovers with the intricacies of South Indian classical music; and this with remarkable success as evident from critical acclaim for their publications including a musical memoir in Italian titled Il raga che porta la pioggia; a work not just distinguished by an understanding for the traditions and the ways of life in India but – in the words of Renata Maione –  an empathy that enables her to judge in freedom from her own cultural heritage and gets the reader too involved in the India she describes.

rajeswari_pia_vina_1969
Pia with her guru in 1969

In her own words, it all began “when I joined Kalakshetra in 1968 to learn Carnatic music. It was there that I met Rajeswari. It was a great event in my life as I came to realise more and more.”

Prof. David Reck (Amherst University), a close friend and associate in her lifelong pursuit of spreading Carnatic music far and wide, expressed best what this music meant to them and their students:

For those of us who experienced those halcyon days Pia brings back wonderful memories. For other readers her writing will bring the images, smells, tastes, personalities, rhythms of existence, and most of all the music of those times vividly to life.

In short, her and her husband’s quest was all about building bridges across cultural and linguistic divides; one that continues to benefit anyone willing to make an extra effort for the sake of getting immersed in this music for an extended period of time.

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Raga, Tala and Pedagogy: On the First Steps in Carnatic Music

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Raga, Tala and Pedagogy: On the First Steps in Carnatic Music by Jeremy Woodruff

Jeremy Woodruff >>
Art © Arun V.C.

The system by which any music is taught is the key to what is preserved, and how, in a musical tradition. I chose to research the basics of instruction in South India,both as an entry point for some practical knowledge on the South Indian flute, and as away of examining basic tenets of karnatic music. Using advanced knowledge of a foreign music without having prior knowledge of its basic pedagogy is a bit like attempting to build a chair without a seat for one’s backside. Only by studying the basic assumptions of the music, may we identify what techniques are useful to us, or not, because only then we carefully consider for what they were originally intended. […]

All melodic instrumental training in karnatic music is focused on reproducing subtleties of vocal performance. As imitating singers was the main way that instrumentalists from the time of ‘the Trinity’ updated, preserved and greatly enriched what is now known as karnatic music, it is natural that it is considered the greatest means to accomplishment in instrumental training. Where schools mainly disagree is on how (and how far) these vocal subtleties should be imitated. […]

Gitas are the first pieces to be learned after the rigorous basic exercises outlined above. The Gita, ‘Sri Gananatha’ is the first of these Gitas to be learned by any student. Maybe it is the ‘Für Elise,’ or ‘Minuet in G’ by Bach of karnatic music. It is therefore a special case, but it can still serve well as a concrete demonstration of how gamakas of a single raga, on a single song can differ radically from teacher to teacher. The gita is given in fig 2.1 in Indian notation.

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Read the full paper A Western composer’s view of early music education in Carnatic music on Academia.edu >>

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Video | Flute recital by JA Jayant

The Music Academy Madras presents it’s HCL Concert 2021 featuring

JA Jayant – Flute
L Ramakrishnan – Violin
K Sai Giridhar – Mridangam
Dr. S Karthick – Ghatam

More flute music performed by his grandfather and guru, TS Sankaran, and by JA Jayant >>

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The tambura’s role in perfect alignment to pitch: “The most beautiful way to discover music” – T.M. Krishna

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To sing just with the tanpura has been revealing: TM Krishna

M Suganth | Times of India | Nov 27, 2014 | To read the full article, click here >>

They had collaborated earlier for Margazhi Raagam, which was a first-of-its-kind Carnatic concert film and now, singer TM Krishna and filmmaker Jayendra have come together for One, a film that they say will be a peep into a musician going through the process of creativity. The two reveal how the project came to be, the challenges they faced and what it means to the viewer. […]

TM Krishna: To be able to sing just with the tanpura is the most revealing thing for me as a singer. It is the most beautiful way to discover music without becoming dependent on the pakkavadhyam or the mic. There is nothing to protect you. It was a very emotional and intimate experience for me. That depth of my experience is revealed in the film. […]

Source: To sing just with the tanpura has been revealing: TM Krishna – Times of India
Address: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/tamil/music/To-sing-just-with-the-tanpura-has-been-revealing-TM-Krishna/articleshow/45284656.cms
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) >>
Tambura posture, fingering & therapeutic effect

By Rama Kausalya

The Tambura is considered queen among the Sruti vadhyas such as Ektar, Dotar, Tuntina, Ottu and Donai. Although tamburas are traditionally made at several places, the Thanjavur Tambura has a special charm.

Veena Asaris are the Tambura makers too but not all are experts, the reason being it requires a special skill to make the convex ‘Meppalagai’ or the plate covering the ‘Kudam’ (Paanai).

There are two ways of holding a Tambura. One is the “Urdhva” – upright posture, as in concerts. Placing the Tambura on the right thigh is the general practice. The other is to place it on the floor in front of the person who is strumming it. While practising or singing casually, it can be placed horizontally on the lap.

The middle finger and index finger are used to strum the Tambura. Of the four strings, the ‘Panchamam’, which is at the farther end is plucked by the middle finger followed by the successive plucking of ‘Sārani’, ‘Anusārani’ and ‘Mandara’ strings one after the other by the index finger. This exercise is repeated in a loop resulting in the reverberating sruti.

Sit in a quiet place with eyes closed and listen to the sa-pa-sa notes of a perfectly tuned Tambura – the effect is therapeutic.

Except a few, the current generation prefers electronic sruti accompaniment, portability being the obvious reason. Besides few music students are taught to tune and play the tambura. Beyond all this what seems to swing the vote is that the electronic sruti equipment with its heavy tonal quality can cover up when the sruti goes astray.

During the middle of the last century, Miraj Tambura (next only to the vintage Thanjavur) was a rage among music students, who were captivated by its tonal quality with high precision and the beautiful, natural gourd resonators.

Source: “Therapeutic effect”, The Hindu (Friday Review), 30 March 2018 

Perfect alignment to pitch, intellectualism and bhava make for great music

Widely varying styles have an equal place under the Carnatic umbrella. Is it at all possible to define a single aesthetic for a genre that ranges from the thrilling and electrifying rhythms of a Trichy Sankaran accompanying the late Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer singing the Tyagaraja masterpiece Dinamanivamsha, to the subtle rendering of a padam by the late T. Brinda? Such contrasts, though they do exist in a genre like Hindustani music, are always less stark. […]

One common aspect of such artistes who were perceived as highly aesthetic in the earlier days of amplification is the scrupulous attention they paid to shruti shuddham or toaligning themselves perfectly to pitch. Arguably, such scrupulous attention to pitch alignmentmay well have had the effect of mitigating the jarring impact of imperfect amplification. Even where there’s a great struggle to maintain shruti shuddham, an exquisite secret leaps out of old recordings of ageing masters who had lost control of their voices. That secret is the pride of place they accorded the tambura and its overall audibility. The aesthetically pleasing aura created by a sonorous and meticulously tuned tambura has a way of gently embracing a singer’s shruti lapses and folding it into the overall sound. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is feared and hence a tendency to relegate the tambura, whether a real one or electronic, to de facto inaudibility for the audience. This only exacerbates the listener’s perception of a lack of shruti shuddham.

Art, as it is normally understood, is first and foremost sensual and emotional before anything else, but Carnatic music has always been seduced by the intellect, resulting in anything from a mild flirtation to a torrid affair. The intellectual, even in musical contexts, need not be disdained but it certainly challenges conventionally held notions of aesthetics. More importantly, such intellectual music may not suffer as much at the hands of bad audio as conventionally aesthetic music, and hence, could induce stagnation in the evolution of better sound. […]

The emotional in the art is what is referred to in the Carnatic world as bhava. Bhava comes from many aspects of Carnatic music but its most serious claimant is the repertoire itself. The bedrock of Carnatic music is its repertoire – the intensely bhava-laden compositions of great masters. The remarkable vibrancy and sustainability of Carnatic music compared to some other genres come from bhava which is certainly the crown jewel. In fact, it could be argued that this alone often compensates for the lack of other aesthetic dimensions in the overall experience. […]

Source: “Challenges of internal diversity in the Carnatic genre” by Uday Shankar, The Hindu, 17 December 2011
Address: https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/music/challenges-of-internal-diversity-in-the-carnatic-genre/article2721404.ece
Date Visited: 2 August 2021

T. M. Krishna (in MOPA “Notes to Myself”):
Now here is a fascinating story of a musician born and bred in privilege by his own admission, who enjoyed a liberal, progressive environment both at home and at school that laid the foundations for a fearless, critical mind and outspoken tongue, enjoyed the best of teachers who fostered an abiding love for Carnatic music in his young heart and was one among the band of young musicians who took the Carnatic stage by storm in the 90s. […]

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