ఆగస్ట్ 21, 2018

Cultural Appropriation and Carnatic Music

As I was driving down the supposed express way of OMR this morning, I have observed groups of folks clad in safronish robes walking on the side road. The number of these groups kept growing and what got me curious was the fact that many of them were pushing prams full of luggage. The prams looked imported and the bags also belonged to foreign brands. A bit further ahead and I encountered a well bedecked chariot shaped vehicle parked bang on this express way with a big cross on top and a big poster of mother mary on the back. And then it occurred to me that all these folks are on a religious trek, apparantly worshipping mother mary, albeit in a very hinduish way. Obviously, this has no sanctity in their book of religion but is adopted from the way hindu sastras prescribe certain way of worship. The words cultural appropriation and inculturation flashed in my mind at that moment. My thoughts moved on to the current hot topic of carnatic musicians singing christian songs. Below is a question and answer session that ensued in my mind:

Q)Is music tied to a religion?
A)No, music is very very instinctive to many living organisms including humans and not tied to any religion.

Q)Then, is Indian music tied to a religion?
A)Even if we restrict the scope to Indian classical music, which can be broadly defined as music based on saptaswaras or notes, how can we tie that to a religion? Afterall, aren’t the seven notes supposed to be adopted out of various animal sounds? Even if we take the basis of proposition that music evolved from sAmavEda, it is difficult to tie it to a religion since a lot of sciences / shAstrAs have evolved from vEdAs and they are pretty secular at least as we know. For example, we can’t restrict AyurvEda to only hindus. It is a right of whole humanity to benefit from it and now a days even hindus are trying to spread it as much in the world as possible.

But then well, the converse is very true. Followers of hinduism have discovered the ultimate truth or parabrahmam through music and the process was called nAdOpAsana. They even saw every sound and syllable that we hear and utter as born out of the little drum wielded by Iswara and also prescribed a spiritual course through aksharArAdhana. They have channelised divine powers in to these syllables and created sacred bIjAksharAs that lead to development of a whole colossus of mantrasAstra. And no one can deny this close bond between the mantrasAstra and sanAtana dharma.

Q) So what about carnatic music?
A)Carnatic music as practiced in the current form is inseparable from the trinity of Sri Tyagaraja, Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Sri Syama Sastry. Though there are numerous other composers other than these three, the compositions of these three composers form the backbone on which this tradition currently stands. Most of the other composers have followed the path shown by these three in producing their own compositions. All the three are nAdOpAsakas of highest order and have seen music as a path to liberation, the concept of which is thoroughly based on hindu religion / sanAtana dharma. Their compositions are as much about devotion as they are about music. So for someone like Tyagaraja there is no use of music or musical knowledge if it is devoid of devotion to the god.

Obviously, majority of patrons of such music are from the hindu society and they strongly believe in those concepts as espoused by these greats in their compositions. As someone recently said, most of the rasikas or patrons of carnatic music come to listen to the concerts as much for the bliss of devotion they experience as much for the sheer pleasure of listening to the music. Names of most of the sabhA’s or organizations that facilitate these concerts reflect a strong link to hindu religion as they refer to saraswathi, nArada, krishna etc. Hindu temples are a big source of support for this genre of music, as they channelize the strength of devotees to patronize this music. So there is little doubt that carnatic music as practiced in current form is very closely tied to hindu religion.

Q) So is it wrong for a carnatic musician to venture into other art forms or sing songs that are propagating other faiths like Christianity?
A) I think it should be completely left to the individual’s choice. Tyagarajaswamy was not a commercial artiste (by which I mean someone using music for commerce / earning money), But 99% of today’s musicians are. So if they see some commercial interests in pursuing such activities it is entirely up to them. Also, in current generation artistes can be multi-faceted. We are seeing folks who have expertize in carnatic as well as hip-hop. Many young mridangam artistes are also good at playing drums. So it is not fair for anyone to ask them not to showcase these talents which could be of interest to them.

Q)That brings me to the actual question, what about carnatic music patrons, sabhAs, listeners etc.? Are they wrong in trying to ban the artistes who have sung songs propagating Christian path?
A) I don’t think they are wrong. As mentioned above, many of the patrons/rasikAs and even sabhAs see a strong link between sanAtana dharma and carnatic music. It is the devotional experience that draws them close to this genre of music and they are in their own right to take offence when an artiste patronized by them is seen singing songs of other faiths, especially when the other faiths are hell bent on destroying the sanAtana dharma which is so dear to them. They are duty bound to resist such attempts and use their strength to stop such activities. There could still be some patrons and sabhas that may not want to do it, and again it is their own choice.

Q) So what can artistes do in this situation?
A) I think it is again entirely left to the individual. As a commercial artiste he/she can take a decision that suits him/her best or gives maximum commercial benefit. Like for many professionals and in many scenarios, this could be a decision involving mutually exclusive options. So one better do a good judgement and take the decision. I don’t think one can complain against patrons for not supporting him if he takes a decision that is not favourable to the patrons.

Q)There is already a complaint of carnatic artistes not having enough market and these actions may aggravate the fear of someone who may want to take up this as full time career. Art will flourish only if there are good talents pursuing it which will only happen if it is commercially viable. So what about the danger of carnatic music losing potential talents and the art becoming extinct if the artistes are expected to be faithful to hindu religion only?

A) Well, I think it is little too far to say that the art will be extinct if artists cannot involve in missionary activities. First and simple,There are many things that a carnatic artiste can do to pursue his other interests without hurting the sentiments of the art’s patrons.Second, the art has enough patrons and sabhAs that are doing a good job of supporting it.

But we cannot overemphasize that art needs patronization and patrons can influence and drive artiste behaviour that has the potential to shape the art.So there are few risks these patrons of carnatic music have to be aware of and perhaps few lessons they can learn from history. An example I can relate to this is a story I heard about a certain family of north Indian musicans (Dagars, IIRC). Few hundred years back, artistes from this family performed in front of muslim rulers and have accepted tAmbUlam (pAn/betel leaves, generally given along with some money) from these rulers. The hindu community apparantly out-casted them because of that and eventually the family was patronized by these muslim rulers and was given a muslim name.

The point here is, as far as Carnatic music is concerned, eventhough it is an exaggeration that there is a problem of lack of market, there are few genuine problems one must recognize. One is that there is a supply – demand problem. There are more artists becoming available now compared the commercial market available. The other one is about the over-dependence on Chennai based patronship.

Let us look at these issues in a little detail. The oversupply of artistes is infact a good problem to have. And we should recognize that this is as much due to technology and global availability of competent gurus as much it is due to the raised popularity of this art in last two decades after the bad phase of missing patronship it went through during 80s and 90s.

And here in we can we can find a solution to the second problem. Behind the regained popularity of carnatic music are efforts of organizations like YCMA that have worked hard to rejuvenate the art. Leading artistes of today have worked hard during that time to re-establish the popularity and market that it is enjoying today. Ofcourse, it also helped that the Indian economy and NRI community have flourished economically during this time bringing in lot of financial support.

Now is the time to expand the market to the next level, leveraging the increased supply and it can certainly grow beyond Mylapore. Especially in India, there is a big potential to take this art beyond the current size and locale. The entire South India is available for out reach and it is upto the artistes and well wishers of the art to expand the market for it. There are talented artistes already available in places like Bangalore, Mysore, Vijayawada, Vizag/Vizianagaram and Tiruvananthapuram. Currently artistes from all these places compete for slots in Chennai performances. But if Chennai sabhas and artistes can collaborate with the artistes and patrons in these places, it is entirely possible to create a mylapore in each of these places in next 2-3 decades. Instead of competing for slots in one December season in Chennai, we can have multiple seasons through out the year like a Rama navami season in Bangalore, Dasara season in Mysore and Sankranti season in Vijayawada. Ofcourse it is easier said than done and there is no established paths to follow. But it is achievable and the NRI community which is patronizing the art so well today can help take some initiative in promoting the art in their native places. We can also leverage the presence of big temples in these places and the strength of devotees around them to rally support for this initiative.

Q)OK then, last one, what about TMK?
A)Oh, he is just one of those brilliant musicians who can sing sublimely well. Rest of the stuff from him is pure noise. Use filters if you can to not miss his music or please ignore.

జూన్ 16, 2017

ఆపాతమధురం: ‘కారుణ్య’ వాణి

మంచి తెలుగు పాటల గురించి తపించే నాలాంటి వాళ్ళందరికీ మంచి ఊరట. కారుణ్య కొత్త పాటతో వచ్చాడు, పైగా తనే తయారు చేసుకొచ్చాడు. చాలా మందిలాగే నేనూ చాలా రోజులనించి ఇతని గాత్రంలో ఒక మంచి పాటకోసం చూస్తున్నాను. మంచి తెలుగుపాటకుండాల్సిన లక్షణాలు అన్నీ కలగలిపి పట్టుకొచ్చిన మిక్చర్ పొట్లం లాగా ఉందీ పాట. సినిమా సంగీతం అభ్యసించేవాళ్ళకైతే వర్క్డౌట్ ఎగ్జాంపుల్ లాంటిదనుకోండి. భారతీయ సంగీతం ఆధారంగా చేయబడినా ఇళయరాజా లాగ పాశ్చాత్య వాద్యాలని చక్కగా వాడుకున్నాడు. గాత్రానికి ముందు వెనకా వినిపించే వాద్యసంగీతం అతి మనోహరంగా అందరినీ ఆకట్టుకునేలాగ ఉంది. కష్టపడి మంచి పాటనిచ్చినందుకు కారుణ్యకి నా ధన్యవాదాలు.

గౌరీ మనోహరా, కీరవాణా లేక మరొకటా అనే అలోచనలు పక్కనపెడితే ఇది చక్కని కారుణ్య వాణి. ఈ పాట ద్వారా కారుణ్య సంగీత సాహిత్యలలో తనకున్న అభిరుచిని అందరికీ మరోసారి చాటాడు. తెలుగు యువతరానికి ఒక ఆదర్శగాయకుడిగా తన ఉనికిని చాటుకున్నాడు. ఇప్పుడైనా సినీపరిశ్రమ తనని ప్రోత్సహించాల్సిన స్థాయిలో ప్రోత్సహిస్తుందని ఆశిద్దాం.

సాహిత్యం గురించి ఇక్కడ కొంచెం – అచ్చతెలుగు సాహిత్యం, అందంగా ఉంది. ఐతే  రంధ్రాన్వేషణే కానీ, కొన్ని కొన్ని ప్రయోగాలు ఇంకా బావుండొచ్చేమో అనిపించింది:
– నిదురలోనైనా కలల వీధుల్లో విహరించ బోకే అలా: వాక్య నిర్మాణం?
– ప్రణయరాగాలు నాలో జ్వలించాయి: జ్వాలలు జలిస్తాయి, రాగాలు కాదుగా?

తెలుగు సంగీతసాహిత్యాభిమానులందరూ తప్పకుండా వినండి, ప్రోత్సహించండి.

*కొత్తవారికోసం:ఆపాతమధురం,  ఆపాతమధురం(కొనసాగింపు…),  శారదా….!,  ఆపాతమధురం – 3




మే 19, 2014

The Man Who Introduced Me To Narendra Modi

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

We all have seen this quoted innumerable times and read it in too many writings. But this magnificent poem by Rudyard Kipling remains far from being a bromide and tells us the importance of persistence and self-belief. It is very easy for anyone to preach such virtues but those who epitomize them in real life are few and far between. The above poem can easily be a tribute to Narendra Modi, but here is another person I would associate this with too, and I knew him better than I knew Narendra Modi. For, Shashi Shekhar or Offstumped as the way lot of people know him is the person who introduced me to Narendra Modi.

I started reading (and writing too!) blogs pretty early since their inception and I think it was in year 2007 that I chanced upon his blog. Shashi was writing a blog named Offstumped on an online platform called Indian National Interest(INI). It was an aggregating platform of blogs by (then) like minded individuals who wrote on multiple topics of national interest including politics, defense, International policies etc. Offstumped was majorly focusing on politics with a right of center approach and how it has to be adopted to the Indian political context. It was not the first time that I was reading a right-wing blog, I have been reading couple of folks like the ruthless Rajeev Srinivasn and fierce Sandeep Balakrishna who have been doing a great job with their blogs. While Rajeev’s writings had a majorly international context, Sandeep’s focus lied on hard core fight with left-lib’s false propaganda on Hindus. But what struck me about Shashi’s writings was the relevance he brought with Indian political scenario and how the center-right approach can be applied to change the status quo. He wrote with great semblance and not once would try to force an argument down with brute force or word play. His POV’s were always based on the principles he would lay out and he would never go the route of convenience and opportunism to establish his view of liking. I read him with great interest and read him consistently. Some where in 2009, he came out of the INI platform (given the Indian political scenario, it was always on cards) and started blogging on his own blogspot site.

Then came the general elections of 2009 and the Offstumped blog has become a major platform for all the right wing Indians who were hoping for a change in the guard at center. The passion and fierce dedication Shashi brought in at that time was to be experienced to be believed. He would de-construct all the malicious media articles that were being churned by the left-lib pundits with irrefutable rejoinders while at the same time write about the policies on which the proposed right of center approach should build the nation. During the process he has also introduced me to Narendra Modi and the great work he has been doing in Gujarat on the principle of “minimum government and maximum governance”. Shashi covered the elections, state and constituency wise, day and night, with a super-human effort. It is during this time that the main stream media could no longer ignore this online phenomena but instead of recognizing its true potential they came up with derisive terms like “Internet Hindus”. And if you ask me, Shashi’s blog was the major cause of heart burn to them in those days. The activity on the Offstumped blog has generated so much enthusiasm and hope that most of us believed that a BJP victory was certainly on the cards. But alas, the polls were not to be held online and the results brought with them a crushing reality. I was personally so disappointed and was really not sure what direction the Offstumped would go.

But then Shashi was not the one to give up, he started from scratch again, built a new umbrella of all pervasive right of center thinking at his new website offstumped.in and continued writing about how the task has to be taken forward for next elections. Shashi has been a great believer in Narendra Modi’s abilities right from the beginning and did yeoman service in highlighting his achievements. It was only because of Shashi’s writngs and rejoinders to malicious media articles that people like me were able to understand the reality and separate truth from propaganda. His writings have brought forth all the right reasons for supporting Modi and explained why one has to take media reports with a pinch of salt. And to think that an IT professional who was working with one of the most demanding companies in that field was able to spend so much effort on doing this was unimaginable for me. So when I got to know that this IIT Bombay graduate was working as a hard core technology guy all the while and has multiple technology patents to his credit, I was left astounded and my respect for him grew much more. Shashi eventually left his IT job and took up a full time position with an up-start online media platform called NitiCentral as it’s Chief Digital Officer. He then went on to build first-of-it’s kind volunteer platform in India for Narendra Modi’s mission 272 initiative. As he got busy with these activities, he started writing fewer blogs and would only post an occational article on NitiCentral. I was missing his blogs but was happy to know that the cause was greater.

And today, as he stands vindicated after an unrelenting fight of so many years, I am much happier. It even forced me to write this post on my blog after so much time that I stopped writing. I certainly hope to meet him some day but now I take this opportunity to thank him from the bottom of my heart for the amount of education and inspiration I received from him. I am sure even Narendra Modi would join me in this.

(PS: Shashi would often write in his blogs that he wants to move to Ahmedabad and settle there. But now that Modi has moved to Delhi, I would hope to see Shashi move there even if temporarily and occupy one of those Lutyen’s buildings to make them worthy:))

జూలై 8, 2010

ఎందరో మహానుభావులు….

Filed under: కబుర్లు,సంగీతం — Sriram @ 1:06 ఉద.

శ్రీ మంగళంపల్లి బాలమురళీకృష్ణ గారి తో పరిచయం, సాక్షిటీవీలో:
మొదటి భాగం

రెండవ భాగం

వయసుమీదపడినా తాను యవ్వనంలోనే ఉంటానన్నమాట ఆయన సంగీతానికి తప్పకుండా వర్తిస్తుంది కానీ, పెద్దవయసు వల్ల వచ్చే చాదస్తం వల్ల ఆత్మవిశ్వాసం స్వోత్కర్షగా మారడం ఆయన మాటలలో తప్పకుండా కనిపించింది. ఏమైనా, ఆయన మాటలు వినడం భలే సరదాగా ఉంటుంది. ఇరవైరెండువేల కచేరీల తరవాత కూడా ఆ గొంతులో మాధుర్యం ఎక్కడా తగ్గకపోవడం నన్ను అబ్బురపరుస్తూ ఉంటుంది. ఆయన నిజంగా కారణజన్ముడు.

గాయకుడిగా రావలసినంత పేరు వచ్చినా, అయన కృతులు మాత్రం ఇంకా ప్రచారం పొందవలసినవి అని మాత్రం అనిపించింది. కర్ణాటక సంగీత ప్రపంచంలో ఆయనకి ఎక్కువమంది మిత్రులు లేకపోవడం, ఆయనస్థాయికి తగిన విధంలో శిష్యులని తయారు చేయకపోవడం కారణాలు కావచ్చు. తెలుగువాడిగా పుట్టడం కూడా. ఐతే ఈ మధ్య కేరళ రాజవంశీయులు రామవర్మగారు ఆయన బాణీని బాగా ప్రచారం చేస్తున్నారు. మంచి గాయకులూ, వీణ విద్వాంసులు ఐన ఈయన యూట్యూబు ద్వారా కూడా బాలమురళీగారి సంగీతాన్ని, కొన్ని అరుదైన వీడియోలనూ అందరికీ అందిస్తున్నారు.

మార్చి 27, 2010

ఎంత అజ్ఞానం!

పెళ్ళికి ముందు శృంగారం తప్పుకాదంటూ గౌరవనీయులైన సర్వోత్తమ న్యాయస్థానమూర్తులుంగారు తమ అభిప్రాయం వ్రాక్కుచ్చి ఊరుకుంటే బాగుండేది కానీ మధ్యలో రాధాకృష్ణుల సంగతి ఎందుకు తెచ్చారంటూ చాలామంది హిందువులు నొచ్చుకుంటుండగా అది కేవలం వ్యాఖ్యమాత్రమేనని పెళ్ళివినా సహజీవనం హైందవ సంస్కృతికి విరుద్ధం కాదని వక్కాణించడానికి వాడిన ఉదాహరణ మాత్రమేనని కొంతమంది విశాలహృదయులు సర్ది చెప్తున్నారు.

ఈ సంగతులెలా ఉన్నా, ఇవన్నీ చూసిన పెళ్ళికాని యువకులెవరైనా శ్రీకృష్ణునికున్న అష్టభార్యలనుదహరిస్తూ హిందూ వివాహచట్టాన్ని బహుభార్యాత్వానికి అనుకూలంగా సవరించాలని ప్రజాప్రయోజనవ్యాజ్యం దాఖలుచేసి సఫలీకృతులైతే వారి అజ్నానంవల్ల పుట్టిన అత్యాశకి వారే మూల్యం చెల్లించుకోవాలని మాత్రం హెచ్చరిస్తున్నాను.

నాకు మాత్రం తాతయ్య మా చిన్నప్పుడు చెప్పిన కధొకటి గుర్తొస్తోంది.

ఆదిశంకరులు శిష్యబృందంతో కలిసి భిక్షాటన చేస్తుండగా దారిలో ఒక కల్లుపాక ఎదురయ్యిందిట. శంకరులు వెళ్ళి భిక్షాందేహీ అన్నారుట. పాపం ఆ కల్లుపాకవానికి ఆ రోజు ఇంకా బోణీ కాలేదుట. అయ్యా! నా దగ్గర కల్లుతప్ప ఇంకేమీ లేదని కళ్ళనీళ్ళు పెట్టుకున్నాడుట. అది చూసి చలించిన శంకరులు ఆ కల్లే పొయ్యమని భిక్షాపాత్ర పట్టారుట. అతను మహదానందంగా సమర్పించుకోగా గటగటా శంకరులు ఔపోసన పట్టేసారుట. అయితే ఇది చూసిన కొంతమంది శిష్యపరమాణువులు గురువుగారు తాగితే లేని తప్పు తాము తాగితే ఏముందనిచెప్పి ఆ సాయంత్రం వెళ్ళి పూటుగా పుచ్చుకుని రావడం చూసిన శంకరులు వారి అజ్నానాన్ని పోగొట్టాలని చెప్పి మరునాడు బిక్షాటనకి ఒక కమ్మరి దుకాణం వద్దకు తీసుకెళ్ళారుట. భిక్షాందేహీ అన్న శంకరులని చూసి దుకాణదారు, స్వామీ! ఉన్న ద్రవ్యమంతా ఇప్పుడే లోహం కొనడానికి ఖర్చు చేసాను, కొలిమిలో కాగుతున్న సీసం తప్పితే నా దగ్గర ఇంకేమీ లేదు అన్నాడుట. శంకరులు అదే పొయ్యవయ్యా అనడంతో వాడు సలసల కాగుతున్న సీసాన్ని బిక్షగా పొయ్యగా ఈయన అదే ధారగా తాగేసి శిష్యులకేసి చూసి మీరూ తాగుతారా అని అడిగారుట. తమ తప్పుతెల్సుకున్న శిష్యులు ఆయన కాళ్ళమీద పడ్డారుట.

అందుచేత పిల్లలూ, గురువుగారు చుట్టతాగేరని మేమూ తాగుతామనడం, కృష్ణుడు వెన్నదొంగతనం చేస్తే లేని తప్పు మేము సున్నుండలు దొబ్బితే ఏమిటనడం లాంటివి అజ్ఞానపు మాటలని చెప్పి మా తాతయ్య ముక్తాయించేవాడు.

ఔను మరి, పదహారువేలమందిని పెళ్ళాడాడని శ్రీకృష్ణుడిని వెక్కిరించడానికి తయారయ్యే మన మేధావులకి, ఆయన ఏకకాలంలో పదహారువేలరూపాలలో గడపగలిగిన వాడని మాత్రం గుర్తుండదు. మహాభక్తులకి సైతం ఎంతో సాధన వల్లకానీ అర్ధంకాని కృష్ణతత్వం గురించి నోటికొచ్చినట్టల్లా మాట్లాడకూడదన్న కనీస జ్నానం ఈ మేధావులకి లేకపోవడం వారి ప్రారబ్దం అనుకోవచ్చు కానీ, ఇలాంటివాళ్ళ నోరుమూయించే శక్తి హిందూసమాజానికి లేకపోవడం మాత్రం శోచనీయమైన విషయం (హిందూ పురాణపాత్రలగురించి, వాటి నిగూఢార్ధం గురించీ నేనీమధ్య చదివిన ఈ మంచి వ్యాసాన్ని ఆసక్తి ఉన్నవారు చూడండి).

భారతీయులందరూ అనాదిగా పరమ పవిత్రులనీ, మన సమాజంలో వివాహేతర సంబంధాలు ఉండేవే కావనీ నేను అనట్లేదు. మన పిత్రుస్వామ్య వ్యవస్థలో పురుషులు, ముఖ్యంగా కాస్త ధనవంతులు స్త్రీలను ’ఉంచుకోవడం’ వందల ఏళ్లుగా జరిగిన వ్యవహారం. అయితే, మధ్యయుగపు సంధికాలంలో ప్రబలిన ఈ వ్యవహారాన్ని సమాజం నిరసించడమూ, ఇటువంటి సంబంధాలవల్ల కలిగిన సంతానం సమాజంలో వివక్షకి గురికావడమూ జరిగింది కానీ ఇలా శాస్త్ర సమ్మతమంటూ తీర్పులిచ్చినవాళ్ళెవరూ లేరు. కాలక్రమేణా భారతీయసమాజం లో జరిగిన మార్పులూ సంస్కరణల ఫలితంగా ఇలాంటి అవాంఛనీయపోకడలు బాగా తగ్గుముఖం పట్టడం మన అద్రుష్టమనే చెప్పాలి. ఇప్పటికే వివాహవ్యవస్థ బాగా దెబ్బతిన్న పాశ్చాత్యదేశాలలో ప్రబలిన పెళ్ళికాని జంటల వల్ల ఎన్ని దుష్ప్రభావాలు కలుగుతున్నాయో చూసి కూడా కేవలం విశాలహ్రుదయులుగా, హిందూవ్యతిరేకులుగా తద్వారా లౌకిక వాదులుగా గుర్తింపబడడం కోసం ఇటువంటి పోకడలని సమర్ధించే కుహనామేధావులనీ, సంస్కర్తలనీ సమాజం తిరస్కరించవలసిన అవసరం ఎంతైనా ఉంది.

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