Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sruti

Sruti is 25 years old. My family was full of music enthusiasts and stories about musicians dominated a lot of the chatter at home. Especially in December every concert heard was analysed and talked about. I was 15 years old when Sruti was launched back then. My dad went and got the first issue and since then it was a permanent fixture in our house. Even today every single one of the old issues is a collector's item. The in depth profiles of the greats, the war of words in the Letters column, the vintage photographs, reviews etc etc. Whispering gallery was another favorite column and it was great fun to try and guess the people being mentioned. Shri Pattabhiraman ran the magazine with a missionary zeal. Later in the early nineties my Guru Shri KSK became a part of the editorial board. During this period I got to know Shri Pattabhiraman a little better. He was quite influential and played the diplomatic game very well. There was a time when he was a close confidante to Shri TT Vasu and kept recommending artistes for the Sangeetha Kalanidhi. He was also quite influential in Delhi and sat on many of the awards committees there as the Southern representative. One of my favorite columns in the early issues was the Bullseye column which ran detailed critiques of some of the top ranking musicians of that time. The articles were very incisive and pointed and highlighted both the stronger and the weaker areas of the musician.

One of the main reasons for the revival of the RTP in modern day concerts was the efforts taken by Sruti. In the eighties a series of RTP concerts were organised and it sparked off a trend with sabhas like the Academy insisting that musicians sing a pallavi in all the senior concerts. Sometime in the nineties Pattabhiraman got fascinated with the concept of 'raga' music whereby he felt that every aspect of carnatic music sought to portray the raga primarily. He wrote extensively on this and wanted to establish that even though kritis with their rich lyrical content emphasising on bhakti were performed extensively, they still used the raga as the main vehicle for exploration. The kriti was just another method for raga exploration. Unfortunately this concept did not take off in a very big way as Pattabhiraman expected.

In his last years Pattabhiraman concentrated a lot on his pet project Samudri. He had a mega vision to create a big one stop destination for all things carnatic. The plan was grandiose and Pattabhiraman with his long experience with the UN went about it in a systematic manner, planning and executing his vision. Unfortunately his death kind of put a stop to that completely and one doesn't know what happened to all that was collected including money and material like photographs, recordings, books etc.

Today, Sruti still enjoys a premier status as an English magazine dedicated to carnatic music. Its modern look and feel under the new management is definitely more impressive that its earlier avatars. Hopefully the content will also come upto scratch soon.
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