Yet another proof and a delightful one (if any were needed), that “Music is the purest form of art, and therefore the most direct expression of beauty, with a form and spirit which is one, and simple, and least encumbered with anything extraneous. … No one of its notes is final, yet each reflects the infinite.” – Rabindranath Tagore (Sadhana, the Realisation of Life)
Akshara Samskriti is the daughter of Carnatic musician Kiranavali and scientist-philosopher, Vidyasankar Sundaresan. This video was recorded on Nov 1, 2013, when Akshara was 4 years old. It was originally in multiple parts for educational video compilation, and has been put together as a single video here.
The 72 Melakartas are regarded as the parent scales in Carnatic music and serve the purpose of grouping similar sounding ragas/scales in the same category. It also helps create new scales which can then potentially evolve into full-bodied ragas.
The idea of classifying ragas that sound similar has existed over many centuries and were taken to a more definitive stage by 17th century musicologist Venkatamakhin. It was fine tuned further by Govinda to its present and more popular form. Nevertheless, the Melas propounded by Venkatamakhin continue to stay in vogue primarily through the compositions of well-known Carnatic composer, Muttuswami Dikshitar.
The world of sound is a tiny bubble in the silence of the infinite. The universe has its own language of gesture; it talks in the voice of pictures and dance. Every object in the world proclaims in the dumb signal of lines and colours, the fact that it is not a mere logical abstraction or a mere thing of use, but it is unique in itself, it carries the miracle of its existence.–Rabindranath Tagore quoted by Dinkar Kowshik in
Doodled Fancy, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan 1999, p. 8
Documentary maker Beeban Kidron (4:49): “They [the devadasis themselves] know what an education means. And what an education means is a possible way out. Not necessarily a way out but a possibility that you could earn your money some other way. […] This is about economics. This is about poverty. This is about not having alternatives.” […]
Girl taken out of school at a young age by her mother (5:30 onwards): “It’s been two years. […] No money in our hands, so I don’t go [to school].”
Beeban Kidron (7:27): “One of the things that is fascinating but complicates the whole issue is that there is more than one form of being a devadasi. I think what is important is to know and to understand that the elite devadasi are actually the grandmothers of Indian national dance bharata natyam in the elite world of temple and court. These women were the lovers of princes and priests and other high caste men. And it was a huge privilege and a sign of social mobility to be a devadasi. But there has obviously been a break in the tradition and it was made illegal in 1947 as the British left India. […] We have to be careful how we view things. And that was the journey for me. […] That system of dedicating young girls is abusive, is sex slavery, and so on. It’s paradoxical, you have to raise the age of consent, you have to work with the women, you have to help them educate their daughters, you have to help with the alternative.”
Read a recent interview with Beeban Kidron in The New York Times, on protecting children online
The Baroness Fighting to Protect Children Online By Natasha Singer, August 27, 2019
Beeban Kidron has successfully pushed stricter limits on how tech companies can target children online in Britain. […]
A member of the House of Lords, she had just flown in from London to attend an international meeting hosted by the social network. And now, in a hotel thronging with tech executives, she was recounting her plan to overhaul how their companies treat children. […] Read the full interview here >>
More (documentary) films by Director, Producer and writer Beeban Kidron on imdb.com >>
Learn more about the devadasis throughout (known) history in Music, Dance and the Art of Seduction
Chapters by Joep Bor (pp. 233), “On the dancers or Devadasis: Jacob Haafner’s Account of the Eighteenth-Century Indian Temple Dancers” and Tiziana Leucci (pp. 261), “Between Seduction and Redemption – The European Perception of India’s Temple Dancers in Travel Accounts and Stage Productions from the Thirteenth to the Nineteenth Century”
Vainika K. G. Vijayakrishnan’s determination to get the younger generation interested in Veena Dhanammal’s soulful music resulted in a documentary on the legend. The documentary, conceptualised by Vijayakrishnan and directed by Avinash Prakash, was recently launched at the Music Academy. […]
Vijayakrishnan’s father had all seventeen of Dhanammal’s 78 rpm records. He recorded them in his Grundig spool recorder. Except for the Kapi javali ‘Sarasamulade’ by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, Vijayakrishnan has digitised all the others. He presented the entire set of recordings to the Music Academy. […]
N. Murali, President of the Music Academy, said that Dhanammal was a mystical genius, who played for herself, and not for an audience. HMV, which cut all Dhanammal’s discs had difficulty marketing them, because only a few had the knowledge needed to understand the nuances of her music. […]
K.G. Vijayakrishnan has performed in leading sabhas in Chennai and in Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and the U.S. He is the author of The Grammar of Carnatic Music published by De Gruyter Mouton, Germany.
Aparna Karthikeyan, The Hindu, April 11, 2015 | To read the full story and view more photographs, click here >>
It takes many days to make a block of wood sing. And it takes exceptionally talented craftsmen to do it. The four families who still make the nadaswaram by hand in Narasingapettai (a village near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu) are so skilled that they almost make it look simple. […]
Selvaraj tells me about his village’s long association with the wind instrument, without which no Tamilian wedding or temple procession is ever complete.
“Nadaswaram is a ‘mangala vaadhiyam’ (auspicious instrument). It originated in this area, in a village near Mayavaram. My great-grandfather, Govindasamy Achari, went there and learnt the craft. “ […]
Traditionally, nadaswarams are made with aacha maram (Hardwickia binate, Indian Blackwood). “But you can’t use fresh wood; it has to be at least 75-100 years old. Young wood will bend and bow. All this wood was once lintels and pillars of old houses.” He points to the pile in his backyard. “But we face trouble transporting the wood. We’re stopped at check-posts and asked for a bill; but which seller will give me a bill for old wood?” Even worse, they’re accused of smuggling sandalwood.
Their worries don’t end with procuring the wood. “You need three persons to make each piece. After deducting all the costs — wood, labour — we are left with Rs.1000-1500 per nadaswaram,” rues Selvaraj. […]
But every morning, they wake up with worries: will they find some acha maram, will their sons sit down and learn from them, will the government recognise their contribution to music…
This article is part of the series ‘Vanishing Livelihoods of Rural Tamil Nadu’ and is supported under NFI National Media Award 2015.