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Classical music in a changing world

Gowri Ramnarayan

Speakers focussed on their own experiences as performing artists



TALKING MUSIC: Participants at The Hindu Friday Review November Fest conference at Taj Connemara. From left are Karaikudi Subramanian, Shubha Mudgal, Sudha Ragunathan, Aruna Sairam, T.M. Krishna, Dallas Smith, Fazal Qureshi, Christian Paulin and Sriram Parasuram. — Photo: K. Pichumani

Chennai: An eminent group of musicians and lovers of classical music gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by Indian music in a global environment. The conference, which was held at Taj Connemara, was organised as part of The Hindu Friday Review November Fest.

Among the questions that came up for debate was whether international exposure has altered the texture of Indian classical music, how traditions can be protected in the face of the globalisation of music, and how innovation and change can be furthered without destroying the essence of authentic tradition.

Sudha Ragunathan, Aruna Sairam, T.M. Krishna, Karaikudi Subramanian, Fazal Qureshi, Shubha Mudgal, Christian Paulin and Sriram Parasuram (who also moderated the three-hour discussion) focussed on their own experiences as performing artists, as they grappled with the need to develop pragmatic approaches, attitudes and methods in a changing musical ambience.

Emotional core

In the first session, Sriram Parasuram spoke about the importance of ceaseless learning in the quest for excellence.

Sudha Raghunathan emphasised the need to preserve the emotional core of Carnatic music rather than focus merely on its intellectual complexities. Aruna Sairam shared her experiences in collaborating with foreign musicians in a speech that juxtaposed songs from medieval Europe and Morocco with ragas Kalyani and Navroz.

In a talk that was noticeably blunt and honest, T.M. Krishna spelt out the need to anchor all experimentation in tradition. He warned against the tendency to pursue change for merely the sake of change.

In the second session, Karaikudi Subramaniam drew from his own musical journey to illustrate the vital need to develop sound methodologies, in order to enable students to grasp the complexities inherent in classical traditions. Shubha Mudgal, who will be performing on November 24 as part of the festival, drew attention to the challenges in preserving India's musical diversity in the face of commercial pressures and exploitation.

Fazal Qureshi, Christian Paulin and Dallas Smith of the fusion music band Mynta spoke about the process of internalising musical genres different from one's own.

Earlier, in his welcome address, N.Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu , said it is clear that Indian music "has always drawn influences from systems of music in other parts of the world." While it was a "slow process of exposure and assimilation" in the past, "in the global village of today such transformations happen at accelerated speeds," he said.

Suggesting that tradition and modernity were not mutually antagonistic, he said there "are elements of modernity in any tradition and vice-versa."

The conference began with a rendition of a kriti by Nisha Rajagopal accompanied on the violin by Charumati Raghuraman. Geetha Venkataramanan, Asst. Editor, Friday Review, delivered the vote of thanks.

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