Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Musical Weekend

"Culture is not just the spice; it is actually the oxygen. It is culture that really glues a civilization together" - Ravikiran, renowned Chitraveena maestro

The occasion was ArtInteract, a music conclave yesterday, where eight accomplished speakers shared their views on various facets of the arts. This conclave was organized by Centre for Indian Music Experience (IME) at MLR Convention Centre, JP Nagar. Another program, a Jugalbandhi, featuring Pt. Vishwamohan Bhatt (Mohan Veena) and Ravikiran (Chitraveena) was also organized in the evening at the same venue by IME.

These two programs were organized by IME to commemorate the occasion of  the inauguration of their beautifully designed new building yesterday by the Chief Minister.

I attended both these wonderful programs. Just as the advertising slogan promised it really was A Musical Weekend I Wont Forget.



ArtInteract began with a terrific talk by Ravikiran. This talk had the quality and assurance of a TED talk. I wish there were more folks to listen to this and get inspired about Indian musical heritage. I really liked it and thought of logging the important parts from the talk here in my blog. At the end of the program, Deepti Sudhindra from IME, who very ably compered the event, also did exhort the audience to spread the word.

Many years ago in Mysore, Ravikiran had visited my school Sri Ramakrishna Vidyashala and had played his Gottuvadyam (Chitraveena). He was already making a name for himself even as a young artist. It was great to see the same musician again, who in the interim had become a world renowned musician.

Ravi Kiran spoke about the topic "The role of culture" and he started his talk by warmly commending IME for their efforts in the endeavor of bringing the experience of Indian music to the people of Bangalore.

Talking about the patterns in promotion of art and culture in our country, he sought to look at it as two streams. The structured and unstructured. Structured being the macro level promotion by the government, and the unstructured being the promotion by individual organizations like the Music Academy in Chennai, The National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai, the Sangeeth Research Academy in Culcatta, and now Bangalore's IME and so on. He said there has been an excellent support from the unstructured segment, that has resulted in several young talents emerging. He felt the media coverage for the promotion of art and culture needs to improve, though it is not bad in Chennai (through the Hindu), Bangalore, and Hyderabad.

In terms of structured promotion of art and music we need to really improve a lot, he felt. He regretted that among the millions of kids in our schools very few knew about stalwarts in the Carnatic music space like  Purandhara Dasa, Thyagaraja, or Oothukaadu Venkata Kavi, and so on.

He referred to the European and American school systems, where there are school orchestras, at middle school and high school level, Jazz bands, marching bands and so on. He said they have concerts at least twice a year in schools, where students are trained in Symphony orchestras and exposed to the compositions from Western classical masters like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and so on.

He said the classical and the contemporary go hand in hand in most countries. He said it was high time that we took every step at a macro level so that every Indian takes pride in their own country's heritage and culture, as that is what the rest of the world comes to us for. He drew attention to the fact that people from US, Europe, Australia, Africa come to India just to learn about our culture.

Stressing the need to have structured programs in our school level, he said, organizations like The Music Academy, IME and so on should lobby strongly with the government to have a structured program for the promotion of Indian art and music. He recalled meeting the Prime Minister in a delegation a few years ago and presenting a proposal for a syllabus to be adopted in government schools from class one to eight. He hoped that the government starts implementing that soon.

The other aspect Ravikiran touched upon in his talk was about the depiction of classical music in films. He said he finds it objectionable that some films try to make it fashionable to degrade our own culture. It never happens in contemporary movies in the west, he said. Even while depicting their contemporary music in their movies, they never undermine their classical music, he observed.

He said our image of ourselves seems to be a confused one and that we need to wake up from our image crisis. He stressed that music is universal and that we need to respect other forms of music. He recalled his collaborating with artists of other forms of music like pop, jazz, Chinese, Brazilian, African origins. Even while respecting the other forms of music, he reminded how important it is to take pride in your own form of music too.

He summarized his thought provoking message thus-

"Our classical culture is the product of the cumulative genius of thousands of brilliant people over several centuries. The people who made the system are brilliant minds, whichever yardstick you measure them with. With the objective experience of collaborating with different systems, I would say Carnatic music is easily the most complete melodic system in the world. It has melody, rhythm, lyrics in so many different languages. It has pure rhythmic improvisation, pure melodic improvisation. It has intellectual content, emotional content, spiritual content, and philosophical content. I would not say there is a parallel to this in such a systematic way. It is one of those systems that can easily be taught to any person in any part of the world with a rational mind. It is a very scientific system with a proper notation system. There is nothing vague about it. It has a systematic theory. Mathematical and scientific principles are involved in it. So it is something that we all need to be very proud of.

So also the Hindustani music. Even though there is a lot of Persian base, it is a fantastic hybrid of Indo-Persian values and Indo-Persian cultures.

We have dance systems here like Bharatanatyam and so on.

All these have been the product of so many centuries of evolution and an occasional revolution. We need to respect this a lot.

Indian Music Experience (IME) is providing us this kind of space to take things in perspective. We are going to have contemporary, classical folk, classical and other systems from all parts of our country and anybody who is going to be in touch with this institution is going to see how enriching it is to enjoy all these different art forms and go home enriched, entertained, educated, as well as elevated. "

Indeed, Ravikiran is not just a genius Chitraveena player. He is also a master communicator. I could not agree more with him about IME. As far as I am concerned, it certainly looks like the beginning of a long association with this beautiful centre that promises to bring more such unforgettable musical weekends.

Among the other talks, the one by Vasu Dikshit, Lead vocalist at the Indian Independent Music Band 'Swaratma', was very interesting too. Priyadarshini Govind,  renowned Bharatanatyam dancer and the director of The Kalakshetra, Chennai, gave a brilliant talk on the role of music in dance. Her talk was accompanied by  dance demonstrations by one of her disciples and by herself. The final speaker for the day Prakash Belavadi, Journalist and theater personality, also left the audience wanting for more. More on these other talks some other day.

After listening to Ravikiran's talk in the morning I certainly did not want to miss his concert in the evening. It was a full house in the evening at the MLR Convention Centre. It was a memorable experience too. The sheer mastery he and the other artist Pt. Vishwamohan Bhatt have over their musical instruments is really amazing.



I have compiled links to some articles on Ravikiran, published in the past in the Friday Review section of The Hindu. You can find these links in my Carnatic instrumental albums list. In this list, the Carnatic instrumental albums in my collection are listed in reverse chronological order of their release.

You will find my other music lists here-
My Music Lists