Today’s lec dem was on the Abhyasa Gana exercises in the Sangita Sarvartha Sara Sangrahamu of Vina Ramanuja. The presentation was by Rajshri Ramakrishna of the Madras University. This book was published in 1859 (150 years ago) and is really the first printed work in Carnatic Music. It was first presented at the Music Academy in 1980 by Savitri Rajan and Michael Nixon and there is a detailed article by them on the book’s contents and this has been published in the Journal of the Music Academy, Madras, 1981 (Vol LII).
The new element in the presentation was the abhyasa ganamu (partly dealt with by Nixon and Rajan) which basically deals with the exercises taught to beginners in music. It would have been better if this portion had received the main focus instead of a long introduction about the book which took over ten minutes in a lec dem of thirty five minutes.
Here, the contents of the sahitya for the sarali and jhanta varisais as composed by Ramanuja was taken up. The demonstration was rushed through. But AKC, who quite rightly choses to intervene only when necessary asked the speaker to demonstrate the talas clearly and complete full cycles. The speaker did this.
There was a brief comparison of how the abhyasa ganas were treated in the subsequent books such as the Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu of Subbarama Dikshitar (1905), the Gayaka Siddhanjanam of the Tachur Brothers (1905), the Sangita Swara Prasthara Sagaramu of Nathamuni Pandita and the Thenmattam Brothers’ Sangitananda Ratnakara, both of which are early 20th century publications.
It was interesting to see how the beginners exercises had changed and finally crystallised into what we hear today. Of course, the raga for beginning, Mayamalavagaula has not changed.
Dr Premeela Gurumurthy (HOD, Department of Music, Madras University) wanted to know if there is any reference in any of the books to Purandara Dasa writing down the beginners’ exercises. The speaker replied in the negative.
AKC Natarajan stressed on the importance of these lessons and said that there were also known as Chikku Varisais. He said that if these are learnt while young, pronunciation, knowledge of swarasthanas and clarity in musical expression would automatically follow as benefits. He also pointed out that in one of the lessons sung, the exercises did not progress beyong panchama. When asked why was this, the speaker replied that the book had the lesson set only till panchama.
The Bodhaka Award was presented to Kalyani Sharma of Bombay today. Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao read the citation while N Murali and AKC did the honours.
Born on 25th April 1936 at Trivandrum to K Venkatarama Iyer and Janaki Ammal, Kalyani Sharma completed the Vidwan course in vocal music and the Sangita Bhooshanam course on the veena at the Swati Tirunal Music College, Trivandrum. She learnt vocal music from Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and trained on the veena under Sangita Kalanidhi KS Narayanaswami. Later she underwent special training in Padams and Javalis under Sangita Kalanidhi T Brinda and Sangita Kala Acharya T Muktha. She has since performed regularly at various concert venues in India and abroad. She began her teaching career at the Swati Tirunal Music College and later moved to Bombay where she taught at the Sangita Vidyalaya of the Shanmukhananda Sabha. An A-grade artiste of the All India Radio, she has numerous lectures and publications to her credit.
The awardee’s students then presented a music session. I did not stay for this.