Audio |  Vidya Shankar on teaching Carnatic music to children

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Vidya Shankar (1919-2010)
Listen to an interview with
Vidya Shankar on teaching Carnatic music to children
held at her Chennai home by Ludwig Pesch (24 February 2005)

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Oral transmission vs. notation in Carnatic music: Pondering the “original pathantaram-s of kriti-s” 

One of the debated topics in Carnatic music is the deviation by musicians from the so-called ‘original’ pathantaram of kriti-s. This article is not an attempt to provide a conclusive answer to end the debate but a constructive provocation and an invitation for opening up the topic for a wider debate. […]

While in matters of art and aesthetics no rule can be imposed on either the artists or their audiences, some relevant considerations in the matter appear to be: Is there incontrovertible proof in all such cases that the ‘versions’—which includes the raga, its arohanaavarohana, mela and musical phrasing—touted as the original or authentic are really the versions composed by their authors? In the case of modern composers there may not be any problem because most of them write them down in notation which, in spite of the inherent limitations of any notation to capture all the nuances of Carnatic music, provides at least a defence against wholesale distortion. In the case of composers who lived during an earlier era of entirely oral transmission of music, there would be real difficulty in ascertaining the authenticity beyond doubt. […]

Read this valuable essay and more on Sruti.com >>

Source: “‘Original’ pathantaram-s of kriti-s” by PK Doraiswamy, Sruti Magazine
URL: https://www.sruti.com/index.php?route=archives/article_details&artId=98
Date Visited: 3 March 2022

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A storm of songs: India and the idea of the bhakti movement

by John Stratton Hawley

  • Review by Vinay Lal (Professor of History & Asian American Studies, UCLA) in Canadian Journal of History: A Storm of Songs: India and the Idea of the Bhakti Movement by John Stratton Hawley: “The idea of a ‘‘bhakti movement’’ has long been one of the largely unexamined verities that have played a critical role in the idea of Indian civilization and, more specifically, the notion of a composite culture. Bhakti is usually rendered as ‘‘devotion,’’ and in the generally accepted narrative encountered in Indian histories and popular Indian opinion alike, a devotional movement originating in the Tamil country in the eighth century gradually made its way north and eventually engulfed the entire country. […] The fundamental achievement of John Stratton Hawley’s A Storm of Songs is to probe how the idea of a ‘‘bhakti movement’’ came about and what Indian scholars, inspired by nationalism, might have contributed in giving rise to a canonical narrative about bhakti’s place in shaping an Indian sensibility. […] Hawley has succeeded in gifting us an exceptional study of India’s much lauded bhakti movement.” – Read the full review on this author’s blog or here:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315532465
  • Interview in The Hindu (January 10, 2016): “A Storm of Songs examines how devotional songs such as padams mingled with the abhangs, how the Dalit narrative and Sufi music found an outlet in creating the network called the Bhakti movement. In a conversation, he maps the mystical journey which knits India.” – Read the full interview here:
    https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/bhakti-challenges-communal-religion/article8086253.ece

“In this comprehensive book, Hawley traces the 20th-century history of the notion of the bhakti movement the idea that there was a significant, unified, pan-Indic turn to devotional religiosity in medieval India. The author argues that the invention and promotion of this idea was a key aspect of nation building in that it offered a narrative of Hindu unity despite the vast and disparate set of religious processes ranging over different vernacular languages, regions, and time periods.” – Learn more or find a copy in a library near you:
http://www.worldcat.org/title/storm-of-songs-india-and-the-idea-of-the-bhakti-movement/oclc/893099156

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Custom search for related press reports and interviews: https://www.carnaticstudent.org/service/google-custom-search-carnaticstudent-org

Gudu Gudu for “Happy days ahead”: Carnatic music at its innovative best – KaraikudiVoyage

Gudu Gudu makes wonderful listening, time and again. A rendition by Sreevidhya Chandramouli along with her husband and son as part of their ongoing KaraikudiVoyage.

This song encapsulates the healing power of music waiting to be brought into practice on a more regular base for being rooted in tradition at its very best.

Tips: 1. Search inside this file by first clicking on the (…) Ellipses icon; 2. click eBook title to access [ ] Toggle fullscreen; 3. to Read this book aloud, use the headphone icon.

Translation on Archive.org

  1. NEW FORTUNE TELLER (PUDIYA KONANGI)*
    by Mahakavi Bharati

    Gudu gudu gudu gudu gudu gudu gudu gudu
    Happy days ahead for the people!
    Caste feelings are no more.
    No more are there any conflicts.
    Shakti ! Maha Kali! Speak up.
    Predict good times for the people of Vedapura !

    Poverty is gone.
    Prosperity is in.
    Knowledge is ushered in.
    Sins have vanished in the thin air.
    If the educated try to deceive
    the simple men, they will be ruined in no time.

    Commerce and industry are being learnt.
    Workers flourish.
    Shastras and skills are being learnt.
    Fear is gone. Justice prevails.
    The hour of awakening is come.
    The magic of incantations is working all around us.

Source: Full text of “Poems Subramania Bharati” (National Council of Educational Research and Training, 1982), pp. 147-151 in the text version provided by Archive.org; and from p. 160 in the embedded version displayed above.

* The fortune teller is traditionally depicted as shaking a small hourglass-shaped drum called kudukuduppai in Tamil, and as damaru across India. Two beads attached to it by strings produce the characteristic rattling “kudu kudu” sound evoked in this poem as harbinger of a bright future for all.

Carnatic Singer Manickam Yogeswaran
playing the kudukuduppai (damaru) during a family workshop
at Museum Rietberg (Zurich) in 2008

More about the poet Subramanya Bhaaratiyaar (1882-1921)

Bharati was determined to abolish the caste system in India. He selected an untouchable boy, to prove his principle of “equality” to the society.

Learn more from the Annotated Biography (with a National Historical Background) published by his granddaughter Dr. S. Vijaya Bharati >>

When Bharati’s vision as a poet went to work upon the sober knowledge of national and world affairs derived from his journalistic labors, the result was compelling political poetry of a kind that is rarely found in twentieth-century literature – with, fittingly enough, Russian literature being a notable exception.

Mira T. Sundara Rajan in “Subramania Bharati — The Eternal Revolutionary” (The Hindu, 12 September 2017)
https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/subramania-bharati-the-eternal-revolutionary/article19670435.ece
(The author is a great-granddaughter of Mahakavi Bharati. She holds a DPhil from Oxford University, where her research involved the study of Russian law and history. A wealth of information about the poet may be found on his granddaughter’s blog, https://subramaniabharati.com)

Subramanya Bharathiyar is a renowned poet from Southern India. … His poetry is known for its appeal to the liberty and strength of the people. … His national integration songs earned him the title “DEsiya Kavi” (National Poet). He composed Tamil keertanais on love, devotion, fearlessness, mysticism. | Learn more on karnatik.com >>

For background information on places like Karaikudi, Ettayapuram (the poet’s birthplace) and Chennai (where he died), explore the musical map created for this course. | Tips for using the interactive Carnaticstudent-map >>

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“Sampradaya is like a broad river and the bani is a tributary”: Umayalpuram Sivaraman on his 75 years of performance >>

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Music that heals our minds, our hearts and spirit, and our body, and connects

Why not play music together and connect again – the way families have shared music for thousands of years, and long before music became a commodity?

Listen to Spark’s Next Big Thing series, which explores how technology in various guises might affect humanity in the far future: How will we experience music in 2050? >>

Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method – free mini course

Have you been looking for a fun way of memorizing the 72 melakarta names and numbers, finding them “mind bending” rather than “mind boggling” until now?

Here’s one method that may work – if you are ready to practice it for a few minutes every day; like passing time while waiting in queues or commuting, or unable to fall asleep. Silently so … such is the beauty and usefulness of the melakarta system.

STEP 1
Take today’s date (or your favorite musician’s birthday) in the format you commonly use (DD-MM or MM-DD, here we’ll use DD-MM)

12-07 for 12 July

STEP 2
Pick the corresponding mela numbers from the list available here (a special gift for all motivated learners):

There you look up the number pair for any given date, for instance:

12 = Rūpāvati R-P=21><12
07 = Sēnāvati S-N=70><07

Tip: if interested, find more explanations on page 2 to understand how the Kaṭapayādi sūtra is being applied to the names of 72 mēḷakartā rāgas (“melas”).

STEP 3
Remember how “yesterday … your troubles seemed so far away?”

11-07 for 11 July … so keep moving forward and backward after getting today’s numbers and names right, to start with.

You got it, all ready to go for days and weeks to come: because that date, too, is another day; one bound to become a memorable one with the help of the Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method.

STEP 4
What’s next? Here are some suggestions:

  • find the actual DD-MM date in the Western calendar which corresponds to “72 October 2021”
  • or any other DD-MM date you consider booking a ticket and attend the Chennai December Season
  • if motivated to do so: memorize the entire list of 72 melas in batches of 10 (rather than 6): you’ll spot the patterns more easily
  • apply mela numbers in order to remember daily matters: birthdays, holidays or passwords – you name it
  • print the above PDF-attachment, then fold the sheet along the lines “accordeon style”: this yields a neat, visiting card size BY-MM paper-app (battery free for 24/7 use)
  • use it as a gift for fellow music lovers interested in this subject

Just one more thing as regards general well being
Although it seems unlikely you didn’t know yet: remember how good walking is for both, one’s mental and physical health? For our brains and moods … even for learning all the 72 mela ragas by heart in a stress-free manner.

So I gladly recommend listening to the following podcast episode by BBC Crowd Science:
Why is standing more tiring than walking?
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct1pqm

So keep walking, and rather than talking, boggle your mind through mela memorization whenever you are out there – enjoy!

Ludwig Pesch on Rūpāvati-Sēnāvati Day 2021

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Why Carnatic Music Matters More Than Ever

by Ludwig Pesch

For this musicologist and author, there are good reasons to believe that Carnatic music matters, perhaps more than ever and almost anywhere in the world. So why not perform and teach it in the service of better education for all, for ecological awareness or in order to promote mutual respect in spite of all our differences? And in the process, get “invigorated and better equipped to tackle the larger issues at hand”.

Published by Shankar Ramchandran on behalf of Dhvani Ohio | Read or download the full article (PDF, 800 KB, updated 19 June 2021):

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License

Related post: A brief introduction to Carnatic music >>

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What makes one refer to Carnatic music as “classical or art music”?

Read the full article by Dr. Lakshmi Sreeram titled “Carnatic Music Ruminating the Landscape” (Indian Horizons July-September 2013, Indian Council for Cultural Relations New Delhi, PDF, 14,5 MB)

Tyagaraja worried about many things — about the death of brahmanatva — the lofty way of thinking and living, of sham religiosity, of sycophancy, of Lord Rama’s reluctance to bestow grace. In one such song in the poignant raga Naganandini, he laments: sattaleni dinamunu vacchena

Tyagaraja depicted by Sangeeta Vidvan S. Rajam

Such days have come…

Days that have no strength (sattu)

Strength that faith in God gives.

Reverence for parents and teachers is nought

And men indulge in evil acts

Such days have come…

But he did not worry for music except that it should not be divorced from bhakti. […]

What makes one refer to Carnatic music as “classical or art music”? Evoking Dr. Ashok Ranade’s suggestion of the musical pentad in India, religious music is a different genre of music from art music. Religious music consists of repertoire that is religious in content and it may and very often does use ragas and the tala. But the whole musical effect is towards heightening religious fervour. The repertoire of Carnatic music is predominantly religious; but the intent of a Carnatic concert is not religious — it is aesthetic. A good presentation of a composition focuses on correctness of lyrics, of patantara, of delivering raga nuances, of following the kala pramana or measure of time or laya, and indeed of bhava or communication of an emotive content. This emotional content is not religious but musical; intensity of imagination, artistry and delivery must evoke emotion, not literal meanings of words. […]

Even the brilliant Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, who was himself deeply religious, clarified that bhakti is essential for a Carnatic music, but this bhakti is for music, not for any personal deity. […]

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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The bamboo flute of South India

Art by Arun V.C.

The flute has played a key role in India’s artistic life since antiquity. This is evident from writings on dance-drama, mythology, sculptures and paintings. Its playing technique must have been highly developed for a very long time. Different names are used for it, for instance kuzhal (pronounced like “kulal” or “kural”) in Tamil speaking regions; and bansuri in northern India. In poetry, song lyrics, classical dance items and films, words like venu and murali evoke its association with Krishna, the ‘dark skinned’ cowherd and flute player. […] Tagore’s poetry reminds us of the fact that reed and bamboo flutes are the world’s most “democratic” to this very day, both literally and figuratively:

Tagore in Kalakshetra 
image by L. Pesch

Very often I think and feel that I am like a flute – the flute that cannot talk but when the breath is upon it, can sing. – Rabindranath Tagore whose pioneering institution Santiniketan inspired Kalakshetra | Read more >>