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Bodhana - Carnatic Music - An Introduction

Author: Seetha Rajan

Seetha Rajan is a rare combination of a seasoned performer, dedicated Guru and accomplished musicologist of rare merit. As a Guru, she has dedicated her entire life to teaching and perpetuating the values of Carnatic music among aspiring students. She has been doing extensive research on the teaching methodology and devised very effective methods of teaching to benefit students and help them understand the system of Carnatic music better.

In this context, “Bodhana”, a music book authored by Seetha Rajan is a very valuable contribution which has attempted in re-structuring some of our conventional teaching practices. Of course, this has been suggested after keenly analyzing the pros and cons of the traditional content and modifying it suitably based on a sound logic and rationale.

In this book, the time-tested svara exercises have been kept intact and the difference lies in the approach. While it is usual to start the music lessons in Mayamalavagoula and proceed with sarali, jantai, alankaram, dhatu varisai and geetham in the same raga, Seetha has chosen Mohanam  as the raga to train students in the basics. She gives a sound reason for not opting Mayamalavagoula, “An average student may not find it easy to grasp the swarasthanas as the intervals in-between the pairs of svaras are very small. In my experience, I have observed the students singing rsabha almost in the position of the sadja and dhaivata almost in the position of Pancama……Many students somehow manage to sing the material but do not assimilate properly, the svarasthanas or the melodic structure of each raga. The ground preparation a student gets by the above mode of learning is not adequate for a clear understanding of varnams or kritis. It is here that the link seems weak. There is a need for thoughtful revision and addition of material for the sake of solid stabilization of basics. The Bodhana training system that I have envisaged is an attempt toward this end.”

In this method of Seetha, a learner gets introduced to music with svaras of Mohanam, a raga with five notes. Stating the reason for this choice, Seetha says that in this raga, there is clear and wide intervals between the notes of the scale. Apart from sa and pa, the other three notes i.e ri, ga and dha are all of sharp variety and hence, the student finds it easy to render them. She gives another valid point that the opening of the voice is also made easier by practice of such sharp notes which facilitate bold and loud singing. This raga also gives the student the advantage of concentrating on only five notes instead of seven in the beginning.

In this book, after the preliminary exercises in Mohanam, a namavali, gitam, varnam and kriti is also included to give a better and detailed understanding of the nuances of the raga.

After from Mohanam, Seetha introduces the student to other pentatonic scales like Gambiranata, Amritavarshini, Hindolam, Revagupti, Sudha Saveri, Hamsadhvani. The lessons are divided into three parts and the first part contains svara exercises, simple songs, namavali and a jatiswaram in each of these argas.

The second part has a varnam and a few tougher songs in the same ragas.The third part introduces Sriranjani and also two popular ragas Kalyani and Mayamalavagoula with exercises, varnam and three songs in each.

Bodhana is indeed a value addition and Gurus can definitely adopt this methodology and make teaching more effective and productive.

The book is priced at Rs.500 and available at Bala Brundam Sangita Gurukulam (044 24469999/ 9952075357) or Karnatic Music Book Centre (044 2811 1719). CDs containing a portion of the lessons is available at www.charsur.com and the remaning songs can be obtained by making a request to balabrundam@gmail.com

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