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 Singing is about Dance & Drama as well....

Just as I was wondering about what topic to take up for my editorial this month, I chanced upon a comment  by a veteran musician in Facebook about a clipping from a programme by a legend which said, “We can imagine the future of Carnatic music. A day will come when musicians will lose the Nada Sukham and only enjoy gimmicks like this. Nobody bothers about the greatness of the Vaggeyakara and their great sahithyam.”

I am sure that as a traditional musician who cherished values and held them close to his heart, he was quite upset to see this as he felt that the sacredness of Karnatic music was getting destroyed by presenting it in such a lowly entertaining manner. Yes, the whole thing was so dramatic but the artists were also not wanting to let go their image value and hence, had a huge backdrop of the Trinity - as if  they were meant to endorse all this! 

Now, what are the core values of  Karnatic music and to what extent can a musician stretch its boundaries without compromising on quality? Well, this is a very tricky question to answer, especially with such vast changes taking place in its presentation. However, a point to be remembered is that in the process of the so called innovation, only the form gets changed and not the content. We have to honestly admit that every musician clings to the kritis of the Vaggeyakaras for drawing inspiration and a trained listener will know that well, it is just  old wine in a new bottle!

Music which was earlier regarded as an embodiment of divinity has taken a complete twist today. Music is not just about enlightenment. In fact, it has become more of an entertainment and that is compelling artists to think of different methods of presenting it so as to draw the attention of audience. If we look at the musical journey of some maestros, we see how they started off traditionally and switched over to popular taste for want of patronage. When novelty strikes a chord with the audience, the artist has no choice but to move with the times and make that his second nature. Sad, but true!

All sorts of combinations beyond a traditional kutcheri format are presented in a new garb. The sabha culture is facing challenges and so, offbeat venues are also being used to showcase the arts. Roads, slums, parks, beaches, buses, malls, clubs, restaurants, ashrams, temples - all public spaces are being used to showcase Karnatic music. Why so? Obviously to reach out the arts to the masses and to make them get a glimpse of its existence. But, how do we sustain their interest and bring them into the fold of this great music? The readymade answer is that it should be made trendy and interesting.

Most people don't want to see serious looking performers on stage. They want to see lively and trendy artists who not only sing but also do dance and drama on stage! I am not joking; that's the truth!

It is perhaps like the egg and chicken story. Do we need to reinvent ourselves to reach Karnatic music to a larger audience or do we need to preserve ist core values and try to uplift those who are already in its fold?  Your opinion is welcome………………….

Click here to view the Editor Column from the last issue.


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