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Insights into Carnatic music

P. VASANTH KUMAR


Lecture demonstrations on a wide range of topics in Carnatic music by a reputed musician and musicologist

SANGITA SAMPRADAYAM Vol. I — A Collection of Lectures on Carnatic Music: R. Vedavalli; Pub. by Devaganavali Trust, 2, Lakshmipuram, 3rd Street, Royapettah, Chennai-600014.

Rs. 200.

R. Vedavalli, a reputed musician and musicologist, has been occupying a respected slot in the theatre of Carnatic music for many decades. This book comprises nine lecture demonstrations by her under the auspices of various cultural institutions in India and abroad.

She has covered a wide range of topics such as Varnam, Tanam, Pallavi, changes in Carnatic music, the beauty in the Sanskrit compositions of Tyagaraja, Ambal as visualised by Tyagaraja, Bhakti and Sangeetam, Rakti in Ragam and Layam, and Sangeetam (tunes) that is appropriate to suit the emotions and sensibilities embedded in the Sahityam.

Suggestions

She very correctly emphasises that Varnams are the bedrock for the beginner's progress, as they are in accordance with the raga lakshana, highlight the prayoga subtleties, and are harbingers for later manodharma sangitam. Her suggestions on how to practise the Varnam in different tempos and `eduppus' (take-off points) are worthy of being followed by both instrumentalists and vocalists.

An authority in the forms of Pallavi and Tanam, she clearly explains the definitions for Anulomam (increasing the singing speed), Vilomam (decreasing the speed) while the `talam' is maintained at the same pace. The `talam' should be in 4-kalai. When the singing is confined to one speed and the talam is varied, the exercise is called `pratilomam'.

The term `tri kalam' is rather ambiguous, and many refer to it as `anulomam', even when the pallavi is set in the madhyama kalapramanam. Rakti ragas like Sahana, Nattakuranji, Begada, Nilambari and others that do not strictly conform to the arohana, avarohana format, gain their melodic swaroopa by their `dhwanivisesha' prayogas that have had ascendancy over mere grammar.

Rakti in laya has been associated with nagaswaram music, and nagaswara vidvans used to play a very laya oriented composition called the `rakti' when the procession of the deities around the temple was in progress.

The author very aptly and authoritatively says that Bhakti and Sangitam are inseparable, and they are one and the same. In medieval India the Bhakti movement gained more momentum because of the songs of numerous saint singers that were in praise of God, and to sing them was a siddhi and a path to Self-realisation.

Up-and-coming artistes would get a clear understanding of the Bhakti element in Carnatic music in this chapter. Vedavalli's concept that a Bhakta need not necessarily be a musician, but a musician has to be a Bhakta carries conviction.

This publication should be a prized possession for all those who value Carnatic music.

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