A wonderful KVN interview

A lovely interview with KV Narayanaswamy.


So what should one do? In our youth we have so many thoughts, so many ideas — some good, some wasteful. As we grow older, we slowly shed the wasteful. the unnecessary. the ridiculous. We become mature through life’s experiences, become discerning and acquire the ability to sift and retain only the good. In art, in music, it is the same. When we are young, the body is strong and we entertain all kinds of ideas. We reel off swara-s and briga-s in showers, we scintillate audiences with power, we compel audiences to applaud. We make a name for ourselves as performers capable of great things in music. We need time, we need experience, to come to terms with our art. But, at some stage, shouldn’t we cultivate ‘sowkhyam’ in our music? And restraint? Shouldn’t we, for example. sing a raga briefly and still capture its true identity? I used to hear Veena Dhanammal play Sankarabharanam in my youth. She would reveal the raga swarupa in all its glory in just a few minutes. We should also aim for that instead of wasting time searching for Sankarabharanam all over the place in a long alapana. Searching is necessary. of course, but it must be well directed.

An essential prerequisite for this to happen is suddham, purity, in personal life also. A musician should have satvik habits with the emphasis on moderation and understatement; he should be god-fearing and devoted to the music, and he should eschew any activity that can upset his physical well- being. As a Tamil proverb has it, how can one draw a picture without the wall [the canvas] ?

Kitsch vs Classical

(Tamizh) film music is often maligned by people interested in serious / art / classical / Carnatic music. But sometimes, they contain within themselves, germs of ideas far more valuable than those explored in the most serious kutcheris and lecture demonstrations of classical music. So many examples abound.

In the following song (Guruvayurappa) I am amazed at the ease with which Chitra and SP Balasubramanyam seem to sing, especially the Anu Pallavi, without the “heaviness” inherent in a Carnatic classical presentation, almost like a little bird flying: quietly and beautifully. Maybe I am an ignoramus or being incredibly naive here but in most Carnatic songs, the composer seems to take a bit of a break in the middle: the Pallavi or opening line is very beautifully structured and sometimes the Anu Pallavi seems to fall short in comparison. The Anu Pallavi of this song is lovely :). So are the rhythmic interludes in between the Pallavi / Anu Pallavi and Anu Pallavi / Charanam. Or watch at 1:50 or so, when the two dancers display a deep and intuitive understanding of the rhythmic structure of the song (i.e., layam in Carnatic terms). At a stretch it seems like (of course this is a huge and idiotic oversimplification) elements of ┬áCarnatic music and Jazz give you film music. What is not to celebrate about this :)?

Also, there was this lovely song, Omana Penne, where the lilting exhuberance of Bilahari (on the Naadaswaram too) was combined in a most lovely way with hip hop dance that it was, extremely aesthetically elegant and pleasing to both hear and watch, the aesthetic sensibility matching, dare I say it, the delicate finery of a Ramnad Krishnan kutcheri :).

On a tangent how lovely must it be to listen to a full and unrestrained (by time and space) outdoor Naadaswaram kutcheri where he amply explores a Bilahari, (Najivadhara is of course so exhuberant that the story goes that it brought a dead man back alive :)).

Ranji trophy tales

Assam and Vidarbha qualify for the knock outs, who would have thought. Of course I am happy because KB Arun Karthik is Assam’s main batsman and S Badrinath is Vidarbha’s captain. Looking at the way Tamil Nadu capitulated, both of them were of course sorely missed. It is always lovely to see a lesser known team qualify, like Jammu and Kashmir at one point :)

Karnataka have been knocked out. Earlier in life, I would have jumped up and down gleefully and now I feel sad for this truly great team. How life turns as we age.


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