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Exploring the ragas

G. JAYAKUMAR

Kudamaloor Janardanan strives to highlight the emotive and expressive quality of the raga.


The scientific base of classical music is ragam, thalam and sruthi.

Photo: S. Gopakumar

MELLIFLUOUS NOTES: Kudamaloor Janardanan.

On a moonlit night at Kuthiramalika open-air stage in Thiruvananthapuram, flautist Kudamaloor Janardanan played a lullaby in the raag `Navroj.' The kriti was the evergreen `Omana Thinkal Kidavo.'

For the flautist, it was an unforgettable experience. Not just because of the ambience or the appreciative audience but because he felt he was able to do justice to the charm of the raga by taking it beyond the literary content of the composition.

Says Janardanan, "The scientific base of classical music is ragam, thalam and sruthi. A musician should have the capacity as well as the freedom to use this science to the fullest possible extent to appeal to the listeners."

Spirit of Indian classical music

Janardanan considers ragas as "the spirit of Indian classical music." And as an instrumentalist, he strives to bring to the fore the emotive and expressive quality of the raga in his concerts.

"A kriti like `Nagumo' became popular not only because of its poetic quality, but because it is based on the raag `Abheri.' Similarly, `Raghuvamshasudham budhi' became popular because of the unique features of the raag `Kadana Kuthoohalam," he contends.

To make his point clear, Janardanan cites the example of two film songs, `Enale nee oru sundara ragamai' and `Ambalaparambile.'

"Both were composed by Dakshinamoorthy Swami in the raag `Begada' and yet they sound so different! When I say that these songs are outstanding classical pieces, I know that there are music pundits who will disagree. These pundits belong to the school of thought that believes that only if you sit on the floor and perform, it can be called classical music!"

Resisting innovation and change and citing tradition as an excuse, hinders the growth of music resulting in listeners losing interest, feels Janardanan.

"Actually, the earlier generation of acharyas attempted to elaborate the ragas only as a pointer for the future. They never believed that theirs was the last word in music."

Misconception

"In Carnatic music, kirthans and bhaktigeetams have been given a great deal of prominence. This has resulted in the general impression that classical music means devotional music. Only when it is freed from such notions will classical music be able to spread its wings and be enjoyed by more people," asserts Janardanan.

"If classical music is likened to a tree, devotional music is only a branch. It must be realised that when the blue sky or moonlight is being expressed in a raag, that is also classical music. In `Gita Govindam' where the theme is that of love between Radha and Krishna, it is the `shringara bhava' that should be brought forth by the musician. But many artistes still keep projecting the bhakti bhava."

On the limitations faced by instrumentalists, Janardanan says, "A kriti is usually written with vocal music in mind. The range of the instruments like the veena, violin or the flute is not taken into account. An instrument can go through different sthayis and appropriate sruthis. Most of the kritans end in madhya sthayi.

However, to the panchamam and above the gandharam kritis in this category are rare. Because of this, in veena, violin and flute some sthayis are not played. The instrumentalist can give his best by being fully aware of the possibilities of his instrument."

Janardanan, who holds Ronu Majumudar in high esteem, has brought out two albums recently - Madhava Murali and Swati Murali. The music moves gently through the air ,transporting the listeners to a world of bliss.

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