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Overcast sky, violin on the radio and morning cooking
Every morning, I thank the AIR for the one hour classical music programme for making it easy to stand in front of the stove – stirring, frying and mixing some dish or the other. Today, it was a foot tapping and hip swaying Kalyani filling the kitchen in waves after waves – from the strings of MS Gopalakrishnan and Narmada’s violin. Cooking is infused with my joy (Doesn’t food become tastier and healthier?)
This is incidental, however AIR’s great service in promoting our music and art forms has, for years, quenched my thirst for music and broadened my knowledge.
As a teenager, it was AIR’s broadcasts of the concerts during the music season that had thrilled me. (I was not a Chennaivasi, then) I grew up feasting on Hindustani and Carnatic music of legends of yesteryear. I wanted to reproduce the Brigas, bhava or the permutation and combination of swaras that flowed and poured from their creative minds, fingers and voices.
It normally used to be the parents pushing their children to learn classical music in a typical upper class surrounding in Tamil Nadu but in my case, I begged, cajoled and convinced my patti (grand-mom) to allow me to learn. It is not that they did not appreciate classical music at home. In fact, my patti could explain the meaning of many kritis of Saint Thyagaraja or Ramadasa. Every one at home had good musical ear and my grand uncle could sing with brigas like Bhimsen Joshi. His voice sounded like that of P.B. Srinivas.
Some great musicians and patrons of my city then decided to provide easy access to ordinary people (other than the privileged upper echelon of the community) for learning classical music.
I considered it as an answer to my deep yearning and started my music learning. A very strict music teacher ensured that our base was strong and sound. The importance of Shruti and Laya (it can be understood as pitch and rhythm ) was dinned into us every moment with the saying -” Shruti matha Laya pitha”. Yes, singing in harmony with shruti keeping the beats (rhythm) is the basic requisite and they are like our mother and father. I realised then, being able to sing makes me happy. At home, my patti, thatha and uncle were all fond of listening to me singing and the daily ‘Riyaz’ (practice) was a time I really enjoyed.
After a gap of five years, I scouted around and got a middle aged woman who was equally passionate about music and started my lessons from her. My music teacher had taught me how to listen to 3 hour concerts and appreciate the subtle nuances of each raga. That was a wonderful period, when after the class we would share our impressions about previous day’s radio relays. I lapped up every note, every phrase that came through, in the majestic voice of Voleti Venkateshwarlu or the mellifluous voice of Nedanuri garu or the soft distinct notes of Kalyanaraman. What a magical time it was when I was completely under the spell of music!
But all good things come to an end, don’t they? After about 2 years of this magic – family rules, social customs and my expected role dictated that I had to get married and become ‘a responsible woman’!! I felt it was a gamble – how the two strangers would be compatible? Are we taught about mutual respect and open communication? With multitude of questions I entered into this new phase. My marriage to an army officer took me far away from this music physically, yes. But it continued to nurture me and enriched the new relationship as well. I realised I was blessed to have a partner who respected my space and took pride in my talents and achievements.
My husband appreciated good music of any type; he recognised my passion for classical music, gifted me with audio cassettes of my favourite ones and he loved to listen to them with me! He wanted me to pursue music lessons and hone my writing skills. With him, for the first time I listened to jazz and other western form of music and learnt to appreciate good music from any corner of the world.
Now, I am back to the place – that is the ‘happening place for Indian classical music. I attend concerts, through my stumbling and fumbling with technology, manage to listen to webcast programmes and have been part of a carnatic music group which share special music concerts through online radio. This group has members who are experts in theory and the practical aspects of music and when they share their views, I gain more insight into the intricacies and technicalities of carnatic music. Music has been a great point of bonding with some wonderful people. Like this morning, within a moment, the surrounding changes to endless blue sky with the azure mountains beyond bordered by tall coconut trees and other big trees and the scent of jasmine wafting in the gentle breeze.
It just let my imagination flow unrestrained and I soar up, up and up feeling that oneness with all things around me.
I hail from the temple city- Madurai. I am retired from teaching but am keenly
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