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

Mahakavi Subramania Bharati’s 100th death anniversary celebration – Usha Rajagopalan & Geetha Srikrishnan

Mahakavi Bharati: The Man, His Poetry, Those Times
Video lecture on the occasion of Mahakavi Subramania Bharati’s 100th death anniversary

In commemoration of the 100th death anniversary of poet C. Subramania Bharati, join us on this virtual event as we celebrate the life and works of Mahakavi Bharati.
Usha Rajagopalan is a writer, translator, and lake conservationist. Geetha Srikrishnan hails from a musically inclined family, and is a Classical Carnatic Musician.

An independent writer who moves from writing for children to translating Bharati’s poetry, Usha’s interest in Bharati’s poetry “was fuelled by hearing his songs sung by all ranks of singers”.

Read the full interview in The Hindu >>

Selected Poems of Subramania Bharati
by Usha Rajagopalan

Ranging from the fiercely patriotic and the deeply romantic to the humbling intensity of devotion and the sharp criticism of self and society, this selection brings together poems that reflect the very essence of Bharati’s broad philosophy. Usha Rajagopalan’s translations echo the lyricism and transformative power that have lent Bharati’s poetry their distinctive and enduring quality. They seeks to complement what Bharati himself set out to do with the original text: to create an epic using ‘simple phrases, a simple style, easily received prosody, and the rhythms used in the language spoken by the common man.’

https://usharajagopalan.co.in/books/

Tip: to find a copy this publication, type the author’s name and title into the search field seen below

List of sites covered by this Google custom search engine

  1. http://carnaticbooks.com
  2. https://www.dkagencies.com
  3. https://india.oup.com
  4. https://www.mittalbooks.com
  5. https://www.orientblackswan.com
  6. https://penguin.co.in
  7. https://www.routledge.com
  8. https://www.sangeetnatak.gov.in
  9. https://www.sruti.com
  10. https://www.thehindu.com

Acharyanet courses for subscribers & Mini courses

Streaming Plan Sign Up: Join the Acharyanet Premium Subscription and get access to over 400 hundred video lessons taught by top gurus, to learn at your own pace. Obtain unlimited access to all lessons from basics to advanced including varishais, geethams, varnams, krithis and many more. | Pricing details >>

Mini courses by Sangita Kalanidhi Chitravina N Ravikiran >>

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

Find out more about the persons and subjects covered above

Coming soon: the 3rd, digital and free edition: Ragadhana 2021

Both earlier editions of Ragadhana were well received in India and beyond. Being out of print for several years it is time to make it available again as a 3rd (free) edition. 

In tune with today’s needs, Ragadhana may now be read as well as browsed:

  • online with the help of any browser
  • offline via eReader (any tablet or pc)
  • in printed form (PDF download)

The present edition incorporates the 2nd, revised and enlarged edition (1993).

Carnatic music is a vast realm with room for both, adherence to tradition and creative exploration of melody in all its diversity. This observation may account for the enthusiastic feedback received received from students, teachers and composers for the earlier editions. The present updates and some additional material are intended as a way of returning their compliments.

“I completely enjoyed the role of being an observer and a commentator”: Sebastian and Sons by T.M. Krishna celebrates the contribution of mrdangam makers

More by and about T.M. Krishna >>

Read the full interview in the Deccan Herald >>

The writing in Sebastian and Sons introduces us to the storyteller in T M Krishna like never before. It’s a non-fictional work written with a novelist’s touch. It makes for a riveting read with the musician’s earnestness to absorb the stories of his subjects and his ability to look at the larger picture shining through. He concurs his approach was unique: “This book was very different writing for me; it was a new form for someone who has largely explored philosophical ideations driven by research (treatises), activism and self-introspection. This is the first time I wrote a book with the approach of a journalist. And it was other people’s stories, which I was trying to make sense of. I completely enjoyed the role of being an observer and a commentator.”

Source: Srivathsan Nadadhur, Deccan Herald, 7 June 2020
URL: https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-art-culture/the-melody-of-dissent-an-interview-with-carnatic-vocalist-tm-krishna-845453.html
Date visited: 7 June 2020

Excerpt from S. Gopalakrishnan’s “Another Listening” newsletter
A much awaited book ‘Sebastian and Sons’ by TM Krishna on the evolution of the art of Mridangam making is going to be released on 2 February 2020. ‘The making process is an intellectually, aesthetically and physically taxing one. From acquiring the skins for the circular membranes and straps to the wood for the drum, from curing the material to the final construction, and at the end of it all, making sure that it has the tone that the mrdangam player wants, mrdangam-making is also a highly nuanced operation at every stage. This requires a highly tuned ear and an ability to translate abstract ideas expressed by musicians into the corporeal reality of a mrdangam. Yet, their contribution to the art of the mrdangam is dismissed as labour and repair—when it is spoken of at all.

There are legendary mrdangam players, yes; there are also distinguished mrdangam makers, many of them from Dalit Christian communities, who remain on the fringes of the Karnatik community. Sebastian and Sons explores the world of these artists, their history, lore and lived experience to arrive at a more organic and holistic understanding of the music that the mrdangam makes’.

As a dedication to all major Mridangam makers of the past I dedicate Mridangam solos of three all-time masters, Pazhani Subramania Pillai, Palakkad Mani Iyer and Ramanathapuram C S Murugabhoopathy

1. Pazhani Subramania Pillai (1908-1962) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r2FafKt_X8
2. Palakkad Mani Iyer (1912-1981): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Zd8GjQ39w
3. Ramanathapuram CS Murugabhoopathy (1914-1998): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtFXE4aVMT8

Subscribe to the “Another Listening” newsletter for daily Carnatic music recommendations and more: anotherlistening@gmail.com

There is not only myth, but also vocabulary. “In Tamil, ‘thol’ means ‘skin’ and ‘thattu’ means ‘plate’. Mridangam players will talk about thattu, but not about thol,” Krishna said. “These were all ways of distancing.”

Photo © The Telegraph picture

Read “T.M. Krishna speaks about his new book, Sebastian and Sons at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet” (21 January 2020): https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/west-bengal/mridangam-the-cowhide-conundrum/cid/1739616

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. […]

Book search (India)

List of sites covered by this Google custom search engine

  1. http://carnaticbooks.com
  2. https://www.dkagencies.com
  3. https://india.oup.com
  4. https://www.mittalbooks.com
  5. https://www.orientblackswan.com
  6. https://penguin.co.in
  7. https://www.routledge.com
  8. https://www.sangeetnatak.gov.in
  9. https://www.sruti.com
  10. https://www.thehindu.com

Enter a book title, author’s name or any subject of special interest in the above search field.

Note: if the Google Custom Search window isn’t displayed on this page (on a tablet device and smartphone or any PC)
– “Enable JavaScript” in the “Security” settings of your internet browser
– Toggle to regular web view if you happen to use the “Reader” view

Audio tip | JA Jayanth’s grandfather and guru TS Sankaran live at Kalakshetra >>

Find out more about the persons and subjects covered above

The idea of singing birds: A tribute to a vital artistic tradition – Book Review

More by and about T.M. Krishna >>

A Southern music: The Karnatik story

By T.M. Krishna, HarperCollins, Rs 699

If a successful and busy Karnatic singer takes time off in order to write reflections on South Indian or “Karnatic” music, the book release function is bound to be met with considerable interest. […]

He pays tribute to the tambura (the tanpura) as “the life-giver, the soul of our music”. For Krishna, “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.” Sadly, the tambura is rarely played “live” even during live concerts where it tends to be drowned by its electronic surrogate with devastating effect. Restoring its presence would seem indispensable in efforts such as those outlined under two chapter headings, “To Remove the Barriers Imposed by the Music” and “To Expand the Listenership of Karnatic Music”. The very concept of “fusion” is dismissed as a “lopsided idea of the music.” […]

The fact that 15 out of 588 pages are assigned to an Index is welcome in view of the publisher’s ambition to provide readers with a “path-breaking overview of South Indian classical music.” A mere glance at the Contents page and Index proves that, as in his concerts, T.M. Krishna would take nothing for granted, starting with instructions titled “A Note on Reading”. […]
LUDWIG PESCH

Source: The idea of singing birds
Address : http://www.telegraphindia.com/1140228/jsp/opinion/story_18023416.jsp#.UxC3W16kAfl

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

Up-to-date information: Composers, musicians, scholars, publications and special events

Custom search – press and websites

For up-to-date information from several leading periodicals and other websites, simply type one or several keywords such as a personal name or institution you want to learn more about (e.g. “carnatic”, “karnatak composer”, “hindustani musician”, “ragamalika”); optionally add a city or state (e.g. “Madurai singer”, “Karnataka violinist”, “Trivandrum music festival”, “Chennai music season”):

To confine results to one website, include its name in the search field (e.g. “MS Subbulakshmi sruti.com” or “MS Subbulakshmi musicresearch.org”).

Technical support 
No Google Custom Search window or media contents visible on this page? Then try these steps: (1) switch from “Reader” to regular viewing; (2) in your browser’s Security settings select “Enable JavaScript”; (3) check Google support for browsers and devices | More tips >>

Periodicals and other recommended sites included in the above Google custom search:

  1. Deccan Herald
  2. Hindustantimes.com
  3. The Indian Express
  4. Livemint.com
  5. Newindianexpress.com
  6. Sruti.com
  7. Telegraphindia.com (The Telegraph Calcutta)
  8. Thebetterindia.com
  9. TheHindu.com
  10. Timesofindia.indiatimes.com

More resources & custom search engines | Disclaimer >>

Find a copy of The Oxford Illustrated Companion

Critical acclaim from India and beyond:
“Pesch’s sumptuous Illustrated Companion is a delight”, “the most thorough study of Carnatic music”, “a marvellous work”, “a thorough, and scientifically accurate companion to our classical music” that includes a “useful chapter on voice training”; in short “pure reading pleasure”

Used as textbook for this course, The Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music is readily available. For order details please visit the publisher’s websites: Oxford University Press India & Global OUP >>

Please beware of inflated prices quoted for used copies compared to the publisher’s list price: even as online vendors suggest otherwise, the revised 2nd edition has been in print since publication.

Library copies

Search this and other titles related to this course in a library near you:
WorldCat.org >>
 

ISBN for copy-paste in the WorldCat search field:
9780195699982

Tips

Disclaimer: all links are for information purposes only >>

The mridangam makers of Mylapore

Jesudas Anthony makes holes in circular leather cutouts, which he fastens to one end of the mridangam using thin strips of reed. Right: A wooden stick and stone are used to regulate the instrument’s pitch 
https://ruralindiaonline.org/articles/the-mridangam-makers-of-mylapore

Jesudas and his son Edwin are skilled craftsmen, known in the Carnatic music universe of Chennai and elsewhere for the mridangams they give life to, though they still face occasional communal biases | Read the full article with more images in full size here >>