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Dikshitar workshop held in the U.S.

A WEEK-LONG workshop on Carnatic Music, with special emphasis on Muthuswamy Dikshitar's kritis was held during August 19-23, in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, USA, under the auspices of the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. The Arsha Vidya Gurukulam; founded by Sri Dayananda Saraswati, is an institute of learning of Vedanta and Sanskrit.

It was indeed fitting that the special music camp devoted to Dikshitar was conducted by B. Rajam Iyer who learnt the great composer's kritis from none other than T. L. Venkatarama Iyer, an authority on Dikshitar's compositions.

The music workshop was structured as three separate sessions each day, the first two with Rajam Iyer and the third, as a satsang with Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The Swamiji, himself an ardent admirer of Dikshitar and a composer of many songs in Sanskrit, had personally selected the kritis to be taught at the workshop. He also enthusiastically attended all the music sessions.

The participants, some of whom had come from as far away as Canada, were an enthusiastic and talented group eager to learn in the ambience of a traditional gurukula that the workshop represented.

The morning session was a lecture demonstration followed by the teaching of a kriti of Dikshitar and each music lesson began with an introduction to some theoretical details of the particular raga.

The teaching of the defining swara patterns of each raga as well as some raga sancharam, enabled the students to understand the lakshana and the lakshya of the raga.

Sri Rajam Iyer underscored the sahitya bhava of each kriti and the intricacies of the various musical phrases.

The second session was held later in the evening as a music class, where the students had the opportunity to render the kriti they learnt in the morning. Rajam Iyer guided the students well and patiently helped them to get the right musical phrases without compromising the inherent beauty of the raga, tala and the sahitya.

In the third session, Sri Dayananda Saraswati explained the meaning of the kriti, phrase by phrase, unfolding the beautiful Sanskrit compounds, the underlying Vedantic meaning of the kriti and the sheer brilliance of Dikshitar's musical formations.

In his lectures on music appreciation and the nuances in Carnatic music, Rajam Iyer stressed the importance of maintaining the purity of the notes within each raga and the need to keep it simple yet precise, while bringing out the jeeva swaras and the characteristic sancharams.

He explained these points with numerous examples from the compositions of the trinity and other composers.

Uncompromising, however, in his demand for accuracy, he cheerfully repeated the subtleties of each sangati till he was fully satisfied that the students had indeed grasped it.

V. SWAMINATHAN

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