Tuesday, May 18, 2010
of Hindustani vs Carnatic music
I did not intend to post this experience online, but a well-wisher N asked me to do so.
Sometime in March 2010, we had a lady guest lecturer - who retired as head of department of music, from SNDT University. She is from the Gwalior Gharana (from what I recall). She was supposed to give us lecture on 'importance of music in films and television'. The lecture began and she was doing some alaaps and started with a prayer etc. and moved over to the structure of music recitals - like Arohanam, Avarohanam, Alaap, Jod etc. (I know these terms through Wiki, and the number of CD's I own in past few years. I raised a question that the structure of Carnatic music is completely different and if she could talk about it as well. I was well supported by a couple of other folks in my batch who had learned Carnatic music in their childhood, whereas I was just a Kansen (all read/heard knowledge).
The guest lecturer told us that she was not exposed much to Carnatic music, and started to put in points like - "There is no scope for improvisation in Carnatic music. Whatever the Guru teaches, you are supposed to follow the same. Whereas in Hindustani music, your Guru will teach you and you can go ahead and sing however you like." To her ignorance, one of my classmates pointed out that in Carnatic music - we had a rendition called Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi where there is enormous scope for improvisation, and that apart we have many songs in Ragamalika (a song having multiple Ragas in it). To this she replied that it must be some advanced level of Carnatic music. We had to tell her that its not advanced level and all - she was still not happy. She started her next talk (which was about asking if anyone wanted her to sing any song in any raga) by stating that 'I do not know much about Carnatic music and that she sang only Indian Classical Music'. I had to raise my opinion again, that Carnatic music was part of Indian Classical.
Her complete session was only about 'aur koi farmaaish' instead of what the lecture was meant for. At a stage when she was literally doing farmaaish of various ragas which folks in my class knew, I requested for a rendition in Jhinjhoti Raga, and her reply was 'Jhinjhothi is a very light raga, and I sing only classical music'. This was the similar reply (with stress on 'I don't sing film songs') she said when someone asked her for rendition of a song called 'Jyothi Kalash Chalke' (which apparently is a film song am unaware of). I wondered why this lady was there to give a lecture in 'Film and Television Institute of India'. I can bitch and act ignorant about Hindustani music too, but I like listening to all forms and appreciate them - this lady had no flexibility at all to any other kind of music.
The icing of the session was when one of my classmates - S, who hails from Tanjore came late to class half hour before it was to end. The lady lecturer had her usual dialogue "aur koi farmaaish'? and this guy asked 'madam, one pancharatna keerthanai please' ! She was totally blank - and then few of us managed to explain to her that it was about Carnatic music, and Thyagaraja songs asking for. I wasted my 4 hours.