Improvisations in Carnatic music and the need to introduce fresh themes
By soumyark on August 10, 2014
I was listening to TNS's kutcheri the other day. The main krithi was in Thodi raagam, which is arguably one of the very difficult raagas to render and to completely justify. After the main piece came a 'thukkada' in raagam, Charukesi. What a bliss that was! That's when I realized something - Charukesi appealed and moved me totally when compared to Thodi. I wanted to dwell in Charukesi for a longer time. This made me wonder why Charukesi raagam was not considered as a main piece. Was it because, its against the conventional kutcheri format?
This incident triggered me to think about certain questionable aspects of the Carnatic music scene. Why are the Trinity krithis being sung over and over again even after decades? Mainstream Carnatic musicians have been applying zillions of manodharma a.k.a improvisations on them and they have even made a career out of it. Isn't this analogous to cover versions of songs? I was amused at the numerous possible permutations and combinations of manodharma being used by different Carnatic musicians. At the same time, I wondered how musicians thrive significantly on improvised version of songs. One reason could be there's an audience who enjoys and is willing to pay for that.
Here's one way it could be accomplished - understand the history and the context based on which the yesteryears' compositions were made. Play devil's advocate by analyzing the pros and cons in those compositions. Now, gradually change the context to the current/present state of affairs and see if those good things are still relevant. If yes, go ahead and include those aspects in the new pieces else, ignore them and find new ways that are relevant to the current context.
Wow, I guess the management consultant in me is talking now - being extremely process-oriented. Well, its easier said than done but, do we have better ways to accomplish this? I'm searching for an answer as well.
On that note, here's my rendition of the Telugu Carnatic krithi, Emayya Raama in Kamboji raagam, set in Khanda chaappu thaalam and composed by Bhadrachala Ramadas.
Readers, pause and contemplate - do you think there is a way to introduce fresh themes in Carnatic music? Share your thoughts either in the comments section below or via the contact form.
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