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FIRST PERSON

I started Nadamrta because of my deep belief in tradition

arnatic music is more about


listening than learning. It
can be taught only up to a
level. After that it depends on what
we acquire from listening to other
sources, and how we use our skills to
utilise the medium. If it is spoon-fed,
it will remain at that level and will not
develop further. This is probably true
of any other art form too. We absorb,
imbibe by listening, discriminate
between what is worthy and what is
not. And Gods grace is necessary for
that wisdom. Because aesthetics is
subjective what is good for me may
not be good for you. To be able to
discriminate, it is important to have
a good circle of friends with whom
you can thrash out all your opinions. I
have been fortunate in this.
I have been lucky in my father
L. Krishnan and my vadyar
M.N. Kandaswami Pillai. They always
pursued art for arts sake with no
thought of translating it into money.
Their rm belief was that when
fame or money was the object, music
would slowly but surely leave, when
it would be too late to retrieve it.
It is my absolute belief that tradition
is of utmost importance. It does not
mean innovations are taboo. My
gurus advice was to listen to all
styles, take the good aspects, and
analyse how to integrate them. He
did not restrict me to playing what
he taught me. My father was an
expert in all systems of music. He
allowed me to listen to lm music
and Hindustani music. Therefore
I am able to appreciate the dierent
styles in depth and understand the
technical aspects as well.
In Carnatic music we must respect
three things sruti, layam and
the Trinity. The Trinity were the

Oothukadu and Tiruppugazh are


acceptable. Among raga-s, only
traditional Carnatic raga-s are
allowed. Behag, Sindhubhairavi and
Mohanakalyani are taboo I do
not want even a trace of Hindustani
or any other style to creep into the
Carnatic style. For tukkada-s we
have raga-s like Chenchuritti, Kurinji,
Nadanamkriya, and Madhyamavati.
There is no need to turn to lighter
raga-s.

K. Arun Prakash

spoke to Gayathri Sundaresan


fountainhead, and whatever came
later was based on their prodigious
work.
If anyone claims that he has created
something new, I am sure I will be
able to rebut that and prove that
every facet of our music has already
been handled by the Trinity. If for
example, someone takes a new raga
and composes songs beginning on
each note, Tyagaraja did it in Todi.
It would be appropriate to say that
the person followed that idea and
has built upon it now. If people
claim the discovery of new raga-s,
Tyagaraja too discovered new raga-s.
Manjari and Kalanidhi were not in
existence before him.
My deep belief in traditional values
induced me to start Nadamrta,
my outt that presents concerts
featuring the compositions of the
Trinity and pre-Trinity composers
only. Annamacharya, Purandaradasa,

I have a list of 78 raga-s without


including Keeravani, Simhendramadhyamam, Latangi, Dharmavati,
and pentatonic scale raga-s. It is
a lamentable fact that nowadays
Harikambhoji is sung as Khamas,
and the dierence between Poornachandrika and Janaranjani is not
even known.
I want Nadamrta to uphold pristine
ideals, hence I am running it as a
one-man-show. I will be willing
to include in our fold only such a
person with equal passion (not just a
passing interest), a genuine devotee
of the Trinity, whose ideas coincide
with mine. To me it has to be 100%
commitment if sruti or laya is 99%
in tune, what is the use? When sruti
is not aligned, it is not. There can be
no 99 or 98% in that!

Having been under the British for


so long, we enjoy being slaves. Being
awestruck by others greatness has
been injected into our blood. We
lost our self esteem. India was not so
before their entry. I am not saying we
have to be chauvinistic, but that we
should rst know our own stock well
our values, our culture, our tradition.
The compositions in the Sangeeta
Sampradaya Pradarsini the structure,
the sahitya are unbelievably brilliant!
We are burying all those treasures and
looking for new things. Our previous
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FIRST PERSON
generation has done a lot,
but not enough. It has to be
a focused eort like a drastic
shock treatment, a wakeup
call. We have to propagate
and trumpet the greatness of
our music.

last laghu in misram. Just as


we have laid by the wayside
Jayantasena and Kalanidhi,
we have also lost this aspect
of our music. We use it only
for the last Tiruppugazh,
and want to forget it as fast
as possible.

There is much undoing to


be done. It is easy to build
anew, but tougher to knock
down and then build. The
menace has spread like a
banyan. While we are trying
to undo some damage, the
mess is growing too.
Today everything happens
in comparison. We cant try
to develop our art based on
anothers competence or lack
of it. Our goal should be high and we
should try to reach that. Others may
see that something sells, get attracted
to it and try to surf on that, but I
should stand steadfast on my own
high goal that I have set for myself.
The order of the day is: Dont make
me think. There are thousands of
avenues for entertainment without
having to think. The Internet,
Facebook, chat rooms they are all
supercial, no one wants anything
serious either. No one wants to listen
to this lament even.
Then how do we preserve our art
form? Is everything cheap then?
False? With ve lakh rupees I can
make a star out of a novice within
a year purely through marketing
gimmicks. After a year, when people
hail him as a star, no one will
listen to me tell the truth even if
I shout it from the rooftop!
Sruti editor Ramnarayan asked
me if my strong views and their
implementation in Nadamrta would
not aect my career. I dont care
about that. I too use many raga-s
when I compose music for various
48 SRUTI March 2011

events. I have no right to say I dont


like a particular raga. But my question
is: What will happen to Athana,
Manji, Dhanyasi, Natanarayani,
Poornashadjam, Pushpalatika and
Jayantasena? Bury them because they
have lived long enough? Relegate
them to the dustbin?
It is easy to create tunes in Madhuvanti,
but not so in Jayantasena. And that is
because we have not delved deeply
into its nuances. If everything were to
be served on a platter, there would be
no value. We must ruminate on how
to approach the subject with insight,
how to approach and develop a scaleoriented raga, and how to sing Sahana
or Devagandhari. Sankarabharanam
has phrases too, but can also be
developed note by note. We gain
such insights into raga-s from the
Trinitys kriti-s.
I organised a lecdem by D.A. Srinivas,
mridanga player for lms. I requested
him to perform a laya vinyasa kutcheri,
and he chose the tisra Dhruva tala. He
took the rst three beats in tisra nadai,
the next two (dhrutam) in chatusram,
the next laghu in khandam and the

Some performers say the


audience does not understand too many intricacies.
Do
people
understand
everything? Do they come
up to you after a concert
to say, I enjoyed your
varjya prayogam in the raga
immensely? Lalgudi says
our art is not only entertainment. It is an art form
that contains everything,
including entertainment.

During one of my tours in the U.S.A.


someone asked me why I consider
Carnatic music to be so great. I
could have heaped reasons to prove
its greatness, but he did not have the
time or patience to listen. Carnatic
music has more variety than Western
classical music. He said Western
music has many moods. I countered
him saying that I could demonstrate
more moods in our system than he
knew of. I can play the mridanga
for Bhogeendra sayinam in such a
way as to evoke laughter! Name it
and we have it. If you are looking
for spiritual content, Dikshitars
kriti-s are so rich that a lifetime
is not enough to fathom their
complete import. An indepth study
of the Kamalamba Navavarana
alone can take ages. Every time you
discover a new meaning in it. That is
true art.
Let us try to master our traditional
raga-s before we run after newer,
fancier stu. Let us learn to appreciate
the Brihadeeswara temple rst. We
can go to Paris and relish the beauty
of the Church later.

FIRST PERSON
Another important reason for the
birth of Nadamrta was my yearning
to learn. I select the topics and invite
presenters who are totally well-versed
and committed. There are numerous
aspects of music that need to be
discussed, explained: How to make
a korvai; how to do niraval; which
line or word to choose for niraval;
how to enunciate sahitya without
losing meaning and continuity; how
violin-play for niraval should sound
like niraval of the sahitya and not
like swara. The swara-singing styles
of the masters Madurai Mani,
GNB, Semmangudi, MDR can all
be discussed. When an expert talks
seriously, people are willing to listen.
Lalgudi Jayaraman said, The pallavi

of the kriti O Rangasayee has so many


sangati-s. But none in the sthayi.
The O keeps developing, but returns
to plain Rangasayee, because He
is at rest. Every musician should
introspect on all aspects of music.
When an uttama vaggeyakara
composes, he places certain syllables
in a particular swara, each with a
purpose.
We need listeners who understand
and appreciate good music. We
need to make people take the eort
to appreciate good music. What is
being doled out today is not the real
music. A lone singer striving here and
there will not do. It should become a
movement. One lifetime is not enough
to learn this art in its entirety.

Nadamrta,
an
experience
of
pristine Carnatic music, conceived
and founded by mridanga vidwan
K. Arun Prakash, was launched in
March 2010, at Chennai. An attempt
to showcase traditional Carnatic
music, the emphasis in the series
has been on lecdems and concerts
on old Carnatic raga-s and Trinity and
pre-Trinity compositions, shunning
contemporary insertions. A thinking
musician, Arun Prakash derived much
of his inspiration from his late father
L. Krishnan, a disciple of GNB, and
his mridanga guru M.N. Kandaswami
Pillai. The inaugural Nadamrta concert
was by T.M. Krishna, accompanied by
R. K. Shriramkumar on the violin,
Melakaveri K. Balaji on the mridanga
and B. S. Purushotham on the
khanjira.

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