Friday, August 14, 2009

A Knowledgeable Rasika - 2

Srinivasan has been quite active on the internet these days. He had seen places where people discuss carnatic music online. He loved these discussions. There was so much to be learnt from so many knowledgeable persons. Also the huge amount of music available online for download was such a boon. Any musical point was immediately demonstrated with a downloadable link to a piece of music. He started slowly posting about his own views and opinions. He had cultivated friendships online with a number of like minded music lovers from all over the world.

Last week he had posted a long detailed post on some rakti ragas like Mukhari and Dhanyasi and as a result found some rare recordings of Ramnad Krishnan posted online. He loved both these ragas and thought that a number of modern day artistes were ignoring them. He had gone to attend a family wedding in Coimbatore and met a distant uncle of his who was a long time lover of carnatic music. He had heard several of the great masters and would usually be happy to talk about his experiences. Here is a gist of the conversation.

S: Mama (in an excited tone) I have just got some very rare recordings of Mukhari and Dhanyasi alapanas.

Uncle: Oh! Where do you get all these?

S: From the internet. Nowadays you can get anything online. Have you heard any of the great masters sing these ragas in your times?

U: Let me see. These were generally considered minor ragas. It was only after Ariyakudi and Maharajapuram that these ragas were sung more often. My father used to tell me that in the early twentieth century they still sang only the major ragas like Kambhoji, Todi and Sankarabharanam. Ariyakudi wanted a lot of variety in his concerts and so he increased the number of compositions presented. This resulted in a need to learn up more songs so that he does not sound repetitive. Otherwise our music would have retained the creative aspect like Hindustani music.

S: But these are such beautiful ragas and so classical in their nature. Why are modern day musicians ignoring them? Look at the way Ramnad Krishnan sang these ragas.

U: Yes Ramnad Krishnan was an exceptional singer. But he was not very successful commercially. Listeners don't have the patience to listen to an elaborate Dhanyasi with intricate phrases. It is all right in front of a knowledgeable audience in a small place. For instance my father would tell me that he has heard Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer sing Narayanagowla. Even your so called great masters have not sung this ragam. When Maha sang Chakravakam nobody even knew the name of the ragam. Patnam Subramaniya Iyer composed a varnam in Balahamsa. Does anyone know what it is today? Afterall if Patnam thought a raga as rakti and created a major composition like an ata tala varnam, why did 'your' greats ignore it? Today you don't like it if someone sings some rare raga. But you don't mind something that was considered rare a 100 years back?? I don't understand your logic. In my father's time Ariyakudi was considered an upstart who had diluted carnatic music with his new kutcery bhani. Today he is hailed as a margadarshi. I have heard so many people lamenting about how Ariyakudi is primarily responsible for killing creativity in carnatic music. But Ariyakudi's success is enough to say that he was a man ahead of his times. You have to understand that especially in India people have to wait much longer to be recognised for their efforts in the larger scale of things. Also everything that attracts attention will not set a trend. GNB introduced a lot of innovations in his time. Not all of them have become a trend. For instance he sang Sanmukhapriya for 45 minutes. No musician is doing it these days. Even when they try they are so repetitive that it gets boring from the 6th minute. I am comparing GNB's music with today and saying this. But when my father heard GNB in the 40s he never liked it. He said that college students were unnecessarily hyping him up. Today you are so excited with the music of Ramnad Krishnan. But we all never considered him so great. He got away with singing minor ragas like Mukhari and Dhanyasi. I also see a lot of people getting excited over MDR. Have you heard the great Tiger? MDR was just a pale imitation! But then there is no access to Tiger's music today and so we have to be happy with what we get. One thing I can definitely tell after more than 60 years of listening to music. Thee will always be a group who preferred an earlier generation to the current performing generation. That is why the fans of Maha and Patnam don't like the fans of Ariyakudi and Maharajapuram, who don't like the fans of GNB and Semmangudi, who don't like the fans of MDR and Ramnad Krishnan, who don't like fans of KVN and Nedanuri, who don't like the fans of Seshagopalan and Sankaranarayan who don't like fans of Unnikrishnan and Vijay Siva, who don't like fans of Sikkil Gurucharan and Balamuralikrishna!

Note: This is entirely fictional.