The second presentation today (20th December 2010), on singing varnams in six speeds, was by Sangita Kalanidhi TK Govinda Rao. As the Sangita Kalanidhi designates are his disciples, they vacated their seats of judgement on stage and joined the audience.
TKG was assisted in the exercise by his disciples Radha Ramji, Gokul and Prasanna Venkataraman (who is also a disciple of Sanjay Subrahmanyan).
The entire exercise was one of demonstration. The group sang the Ninnukori (mohanam) varnam in six speeds. This was done by first singing in chauka kalam the pallavi, anupallavi and muktayi while keeping to the 2 kalai beat cycle. This was sung in chatushram and tisram thereby making for 2 speeds. Then the charanam was rendered in chaukam with single kalai talam in chatusram and tisram.
The same was repeated with kizh kalam (normal tempo) in 2 kalai talam and in fast tempo thereby making for six speeds. It was deceptively simple as I discovered when I tried to keep talam. I was so behind the singers and was told rather brusquely by a neighbour to hide my talam lest those on stage get distracted.
The same exercise was done for the pallavi, anupallavi and muktayi of the Viribhoni varnam. This apparently was an on the spot rendition unlike the mohanam piece. It appears that TKG was an expert at doing mishram also in this when he was young.
Sangita Kala Acharya PS Narayanaswami complimented TKG and said that this is the kind of exercise that all serious students of music ought to take up, with the guidance of a guru. If it was religiously practised up to the age of 15, no errors in talam can ever happen he said. He agreed with TKG that care must be taken that karvais and gamakas are not sacrificed while doing this. He said that despite his advancing age, TKG had done it commendably to which the latter replied that he was ONLY 83!
TR Subramanyam reminisced about the time when TKG and he were students at the Central College of Karnatik Music. It was nice to see the two stalwarts talking of the past. Their guru, Tirupamburam Swaminatha Pillai was apparently a stickler for such exercises.
Very little was said in the presentation but it touched a chord. It was back to basics and those of us who have struggled with calculus will know that it is the basics that matter.