Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Importance of pronunciation and sAhitya in Classical Music

I am learning Carnatic Classical Music (well, I used to learn for a long time, and will restart learning in the near future), and for me, Music is something that links human with God. Almost all the kritis and varNas sung are known both for their sangIta aspect and the sAhitya aspect. Then, why pray, are they sung with such a horrible accents that one cannot even figure out the lyrics, let alone enjoy them? With the exception of a few, musicians do not even *try* to pronounce words properly. For some time, I had completely stopped listening to vocalists because their mistakes were so glaring that I could not even appreciate the good parts in their music!

An example- an old CD of GNB's recordings had this in its index "Manasulonima" ... ! Is it so hard to figure out that it 'manasulOni' and 'marmamu' are two different words? I have heard a musician pronounce 'nArada bhayahara' as 'nArada bayagara'. 'One who dispelled the fears of nArada' became, to my Tamil-untrained ear 'One who created fear in nArada'!

I had once attended a concert of T.N. Seshagopalan, one of my favourite musicians. He sang a romantic aShTapadi in - tODi! The rAga tODi is good for dainyarasa, and certainly anything but romantic! His Todi is impeccable; I have not listened to any tODi better than his. But it would have been much more enjoyable if he had chosen a different composition, or sang the same aShTapadi in a different raaga like kAmavardhini!

A course in saahitya must be made mandatory for musicians. This will help them put more emotion or bhAva into their singing. For example, lines like "kaantamagu pEru ponditivi" in "paalinchu kaamaakShi" are filled with love and devotion for the Mother. The neraval should bring out this devotion and love. It is of no use otherwise. I have heard some 'good' musicians sing 'nagumOmu ganalEni' with an enthusiasm that puts an child high on espresso to shame ! The meaning of the pallavi of this kriti is 'Rama, how can you have a smiling face when you know about my suffering?' See what happens when the musician does not understand the lyrics? It is the confluence of sAhitya and sangIta that makes Carnatic music so beautiful. Unless musicians understand this, they cannot do justice to their music.


Anonymous said...

in my opinion, for whatever it is worth, each of the following should be used (33% each):

- raga (how good the singer sticks to the notes)
- tala (how well the singer's rhythm is)
- pronunciation/sahitya (how good/clear the singer's pronunciation is)

and i agree with you, especially singers of the previous era (not all but many i have listened to), sing nonchalantly not enunciating the words properly. it is very difficult to understand what they are singing!

- s.b.

Kansen said...

Your profile says you are also interested in hindustani music. Could you write something on that, please?

Aram said...

Even the Hindustani vocalists also do not give much importance to proper pronounciation. Bhimsen Joshi's popular drut bandish in Puriya Kalyan ( Bahuta dina beethey, beethey, ajahoona aaye morey shyaama...jaba aavanaki ). Panditji's rendering of the phrase, "Jaba Aavanaki" always sounds to me like Jaba Raavanaki."

ITC has set up a gurukula sytle school in Kolkata (Sangeetha Research Academy - http://www.itcsra.org/sra_index/sra_index.asp) for grooming budding artistes. I wonder if they are addressing this particular issue.

Aram said...

The following is an extract from a post by Keshav in sampada.net

ಇನ್ನೊಮ್ಮೆ ಹೀಗೇ ಆಯಿತು, ರಾಗಧಾರಿಯ ನಂತರ ಭೀಮಣ್ಣ ಗಂಟಲು ಸರಿಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಿದ್ದರು. ಸರಿ, ಶ್ರೋತೃಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಕೆಲವರು, 'ದಾಸರ ಹಾಡು’ (ಕನ್ನಡ) ಎಂದೂ, ಇನ್ನೊ ಕೆಲವರು 'ಅಭಂಗ್' (ಮರಾಠಿ) ಎಂದೂ ಶುರುವಚ್ಚಿಕೊಂಡರು. ಭೀಮಣ್ಣನಿಗೆ ಸೀಟ್ಟು ಬಂದಿದ್ದು ನೋಡಬೇಕಿತ್ತು, 'ಸಂಗೀತಕ್ಕ ಭಾಷಾ ಇರೂದುಲ್ಲ’ ಎಂದ್ಹೇಳಿ ಇನ್ನೊಂದು ರಾಗ ಶುರು ಮಾಡಿದರು.

Aram said...

"Canara Bank Ede Thumbi Haaduvenu" is a favorite of my beloved, and some weeks ago I happened to watch it too. Dr. S.P.B. was with his guest judge - a lady called Dr....Bhat whose Ph.D. was in Hindustani music. He asked her what was the difference between light music and classical. She replied that in light music the words and lyrics were important whereas in pure classical they were not.

However, I would agree with you and S.B. - "It is the confluence of sAhitya and sangIta that makes Carnatic music so beautiful."

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, though an instrumentalist, has said that vocal music is the king of all music.

The late Ustad Vilayat Khan used to break into singing in the midst of his sitar playing.