Varnas of modern composers
SULOCHANA PATTABHI RAMAN
VARNA SAGARAM 415 Tana, Pada, Chowka, Ragamalika and Daru Varnas: Compiled and Edited by T. K. Govinda Rao; Ganamandir Publications, 16, XI Cross Street, Indra Nagar, Adyar, Chennai-600020.
The genre of Varna in the repertoire of Carnatic music is an absolutely vital ingredient that forms the fundamental base for the learning of Carnatic music. This book is an amazing collection of 415 Varnas in various languages such as Sanskrit, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Manipravalam. The Sahityas in Devanagari, Diacritical Roman and other regional scripts followed by SRGM notations in Roman scripts are simple, facilitating comfortable understanding by students of music belonging to even different disciplines.
The purpose of this book is to present and preserve the authentic versions of 415 Tana varnas in Adi, Kanta, Ata and other talas, Pada and Chowka varnas, Ragamalikas and Darus by various composers of the pre- and post-Trinity period that are a wonderful gift to posterity.
Wide range of composers
This excellent compilation covers a wide range of 20th century composers such as Tiger Varadacharyar, Gomathi Sankara Iyer, Lalgudi Jayaraman, T.M. Tyagarajan, Thanjavur Sankara Iyer, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, T.R. Subramanyam, R. Venugopal, T.K. Govinda Rao, the compiler, and also the creations of Chitra Veena Ravikiran and Charumathi Ramachandran. All the varnas are presented in a manner that gives a clear idea of the raga, Arohana, Avarohana, Mela, Sahitya, Thala and so on. The index at the end of the book in alphabetical order in both Devanagari and Diacritical Roman scripts enables to locate each composition with ease.
About the notation in South Indian classical music, he expresses the view, that however perfect the notation may be, one cannot understand the `raga bhava' and synthesise it beautifully with the composition's `sahitya bhava', because most importantly it is the singer's intuitive mind that accounts in the final and refined presentation.
Only those with sufficient knowledge of the nuances of the `raga swaroopa' and `swarasthanas' can understand the `gamaka' symbols the underlines, the double underlines otherwise they do not serve any useful purpose. It is to some extent true that those who possess an innate sense of `gnana', do not require symbols at all. Their `lakshya gnana' or aesthetic sense will carry them through. However symbols have their own pride of place.
Govinda Rao has introduced a method of simple, self-explanatory symbols that can be understood without any special knowledge of the Dasavidha gamakas, subscripts, superscripts and slashes to denote the movement of the notes, the reduction of the font size indicatives for double speed, the Tala system maintained at four units per beat, and the numbers in subscript denotive of the type of swara in the arohana avarohana formats of a raga. The 72- melakartha chart by Govinda is given. The phonetic chart is so clear, ensuring correct enunciation.
The bibliography acknowledges many musical treatises such as the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini and others. The galaxy of composers who have been included in this colossal publication takes one's breath away. The book credits the Navaghanaragamalika varnam "Intha kopamelara" to Kalahasti Venkatasami Raju.
There is also arguably a school of thought that it is a creation of Veena Kuppaier. There are quite a few errors in spelling that perhaps need not be given any serious cognisance in a book of this monumental magnitude. It may be worthwhile to spread the contents in two volumes in future publications, that would be more eye-friendly and also for easier comprehension.
T.K. Govinda Rao is an amazing achiever in many branches of Carnatic music, but his unparalleled contribution to the art through his valuable publications like the Sriranga Pancharatna, compositions of Dikshitar, Shyama Sastri, Subbaraya Sastri, Annaswami Sastri and Swati Tirunal in Swara Sahitya, cannot be measured by a few words of praise it deserves the gratitude of the entire South Indian musical community.
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