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Friday, December 15, 2000

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Confluence of traditions

BRIHADDESI SANGEET Mahotsav, a festival and seminar on regional music traditions that was presented by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, in association with the Kalakshetra Foundation, the Madras Music Academy and the South Zone Cultural Centre, December 6-10 in Chennai went almost unnoticed by the rasikas.

There were just a handful of audience in the morning seminar sessions at the Music Academy and only the students of Kalakshetra at the evening performances at the institution's auditorium. A great opportunity of witnessing some of the exquisite traditions was missed by the Chennaites.

The concept of different regions, practising and pursuing their own traditions was Matanga Muni in his extraordinary work, the ``Brihaddesi''. Each area and language nurtured distinct musical styles and systems that expressed the regional flavour.

In Chennai, the festival began with performances at the Kalakshetra auditorium with Panchavadyam from Kerala by Pallavoor Kunjukutta Marar and Mallari on the Nadaswaram by Tiruneswaram T. R. Rajagopal.

There were performances of music of the devadasis in the temples of Andhra Pradesh by Annabattula Sathyabhama and Annabattula Lakshmi Mangatayaru, Harikatha of Karnataka by Hande Guruvedavyasa Archarya, Sopana Sangeeta of Kerala by Kavalam Sreekumar, Chindus by S. Soumya, Kuchipudi music by Mahankali Sreeramulu Sarma and P. Keshav Prasad, Thayampaka of Kerala by Pallavoor Kunjukutta Marar, Thevaram of Tamil Nadu by Tiruttani N. Swaminathan, Salaga Suladi Prabandham of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh by R. S. Nandakumar, Divya Prabandam, Thiruvachagam, Thiruppavai by M. N. Venkatavaradan, stage music of Karnataka by Y. M. Puttaniah, music in Kathakali by Kerala Kalamandalam, Harikatha Kalakshepam by T. R. Kamala Murthy.

Musical dialogue

All these traditions were talked about, information given and questions raised and answered in the morning seminar sessions. After the introductory remarks by R. Sathyanarayana from Mysore, who displayed tremendous scholarship, R. Vedavalli very concisely gave an illustrated talk on the practice of mallari in the temples of south India then Kala Krishna spoke on temple dance and music of Andhra Pradesh with demonstration.

Kavalam Narayana Panicker spoke on Sopana Sangeet of Kerala giving raise to quite a few questions. S.A.K. Durga's scholarly paper gave full information on the Chindus of Tamil Nadu. Dr. Rajinikanth Rao played some recorded excerpts from old darus of Telugu drama. A surprise was a musical dialogue between Rajnikantha Rao as Arjuna and M. Balamuralikrishna as Abhimanyu.

Dr. Leela Omcherry who set out to talk about music in Kathakali ended up with a Bhajan type of crescendo that belonged to neither Sopana nor Carnatic music. A big question that was deliberated on for a long time was on the ragas and their prayoga in these regional music traditions where bhava or expression is of prime importance. Should the ragas used be pure in their raga Lakshana or can they use anyaswaras.

The debate had some active audience participation. It is the musicologists who are studying the rural traditions who give the names of ragas to the songs sung by the artistes. They can only identify what raga the song resembles. They cannot classify it as a certain raga since there are other swaras and prayogas, it was said.

Dr. V. V. Srivatsa spoke and demonstrated Thevaram with Naganatha Oduvar from the Kapaliswara temple, Divyaprabandham and Dr. Sathyanarayana the Suladi with Nandakumar. Dr. Prameela Gurumurthy demonstrated Thirupugazh. There was Dr. H. K. Ranganath who spoke on Karnataka stage music.

Engaging presentation

The finale was the best presentation in the seminar. Dr. N. Ch. Krishnamacharyulu spoke and demonstrated on Comparative Study of Harikatha Traditions. It was full of humour, great singing and erudition.

As Dr. N. Ramanathan who summarised the sessions put it, there is no music that pertains purely to one region. And the folk and classical divide is an artificial and narrow one.

Though the festival was about little traditions, only the well- known names in the concert circuit were invited to present papers. There are many other genres and the work of the Sangeet Natak Akademy is long and arduous if it aims to represent all the little traditions of the country.

V. R. DEVIKA

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