Music Matters – That was the name given to the chat between Nirmala Lakshman, joint editor of ‘The Hindu’ & T.M.Krishna was held on April 29th at Full Circle, Chamiers. This was organized by ‘The Hindu’. Here are some of the topics that were covered in the programme.
T.M.Krishna and Nirmala Lakshman have known each for a long time now since Nirmala’s son was TMK’s senior in school. So the entire evening had an informal air to it.
The conversation between them started on a lighter note with TMK asking Nirmala why they used an old photo of his (The ad for this programme had an old photo of TMK in which he doesn’t have a beard) in the ad of this programme which appeared on ‘Metro Plus’, when ‘The Hindu’ has so many recent photos of his. 🙂
Coverage of Carnatic music in newspapers
Agreeing with the fact that ‘The Hindu’ still remains the only newspaper which does the maximum coverage on Carnatic music, he said that the coverage given is still not enough. He also wanted to know if reviews are the only thing that a newspaper can write about Carnatic music and talking about the quality of the reviews appearing in the paper, he gave a sample of the lines which usually appear in a review. He quoted some lines like ‘This alapana was great, the tani avartanam was short and sweet, etc.’
He also said that while December Season is definitely important and it does deserve the coverage it is currently being given, the same has to be done during other months too. Referring to the music season supplement which has more of reviews, he felt that reading too many reviews at a stretch becomes a bit tiring. Nirmala said that they have also started doing features on the musicians.
He also wanted to know how they choose the reviewers. Nirmala said that nowadays, people prefer the visual medium to print medium and they don’t really have many people. She said that they did plan to give some training to the reviewers, but somehow that hasn’t happened yet. Talking about reviewers, she mentioned an incident where a senior musician once walked in to their office and demanded an apology from the reviewer for having written a negative review about his concert
During the Q&A section in the end, when replying to an audience’s question about the coverage of Carnatic music in press a few decades back, TMK said it was much better back then. Sriram V, who was in the audience, added that since he has accessed the archives of ‘The Hindu’ to a great extent, he knows that Carnatic music was given a better coverage. He said news items like ‘MS has a tonsils surgery today’ or ‘Madurai Mani Iyer returns from some country (I don’t remember the country) today’ appeared back then.
TMK spoke about the fixation with tradition/sampradayam that people have which makes them stick to a particular concert format etc. He said that, of late, the balance between kalpana & kalpita (compositions) sangeetham seems to be reducing with kalpana gaining more prominence and that is one of the reasons why he is experimenting with the concert format by singing varnams/padams as main or singing javalis before the point at which they’re usually sung in a concert.
Talking about Svanubhava, he said that this is open only for students, since some of them get intimidated seeing the usual rasika saying the raaga names loudly (it is another fact that the rasika might have identified the raaga incorrectly) and showing off their knowledge of Carnatic music, in general. He also said that this year Svanubhava is going to be for 6 days.
Male chauvinism in the field of Carnatic music
TMK said that he doesn’t have a solution for this since even male accompanists in their 20s say they won’t play for female musicians. He said there are some Gurus don’t want their disciples to play for female musicians, some senior musicians tell an accompanist that he can play for him in the future and that he should stop playing for women from then on. And some male accompanists themselves suddenly say proudly that, from now on, they won’t play for women!
He said that the reason for bringing out ‘Voices Within’, the book which he co-authored with Bombay Jayashri, as a coffee table book was that there is not much visual representation of the musicians. He said that after their book, four more coffee table books on Carnatic music have got released, including Sriram V’s on Music Academy. Talking about the musicians who are covered in the book, he said that their entire generation was inspired by these musicians.
Promoting Carnatic music
He stressed on the need to keep publicizing Carnatic music, especially, among the kids too since they are more open to new things. Citing an example, he said that quite a few years back, he had to perform a lec-con (lecture-concert) organized by YACM at a Govt. school in Perambur. He said that he initially had apprehensions about having to talk fully in Tamil and performing among kids whom he was not sure will be interested. But, in the end, it turned out to be one of his best lec-cons.
When asked who his favourite singers among the present day singers are, TMK said that among the singers in his generation, Sanjay is his favourite and in the previous generation, T.N.Seshagopalan and T.V.Sankaranarayanan are his favourites. It seems there was a time when he went to 10 concerts of TVS in a row just to hear him sing a pallavi.
When asked with which of the past legendary accompanists he wishes he could have performed, Papa Venkatramaiah on the violin and Pazhani Subramania Pillai and Palghat Mani Iyer on the mridangam were the musicians that TMK mentioned. He said he is not mentioning musicians like Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai since he has listened to the recordings of the musicians he has mentioned and there are no recordings of Pudukottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai available. (I hope I have got the names correct! I don’t remember now)
Promoting young talents
He said that earlier the sabha secretaries used to listen to the concerts of new musicians and decide if they can be given a chance to perform in their sabha. Sadly that trend is almost not there now and some musicians are getting concert opportunities by paying money to the sabhas and the sabha secretaries cite sponsors as the reason for giving a concert to somebody.
TMK has started a new organization with a friend in which he will promote talented youngsters from Chennai as well as outside Chennai. They will organize 3-4 concerts every quarter. He said all he wanted from other sabha secretaries was to come and listen to these youngsters.
TMK said his pastimes are gossiping, eating out, partying with close friends and, of course, cricket.
The future of Carnatic Music
TMK said that this is the golden period of Carnatic music since the top musicians of today are quite young, probably the youngest of any art form. The oldest musician of his generation is not more than 45 years and he himself is the youngest of that generation. He said that if this is properly tapped, the future of Carnatic music will be safe for the next 150 years.
Apart from music related questions, TMK asked Nirmala about her book ‘Writing a Nation’, about investigative journalism which she had once ventured into and not doing anymore. He also asked her about what she strikes her as she looks at ‘The Hindu’ at her doorstep every morning. She talked about how excited she was to join the newspaper, the integrity that the paper stands for and how each day is filled with so much work to fill up the pages of the newspaper till the last minute.
TMK was, of course, asked to sing a song. He sang Jagadhodharana on the request of someone. It really was a soulful rendition. Listening to just TMK’s voice sans any accompanists was pure bliss!
After hearing TMK speak so much about the coverage of Carnatic music in newspapers, I would have personally preferred to see a better report of this event in ‘The Hindu’ than these two: http://beta.thehindu.com/arts/music/article418411.ece (appeared in bottom half of the 4th page of Saturday’s supplement with a small photo of T.M.Krishna) and http://www.hindu.com/rp/2010/05/02/stories/2010050250090300.htm (The name of his book is given as ‘Voices’ instead of ‘Voices Within’)
P.S.: I have written all that I am able to recollect now. I would have definitely missed out quite a few details. In case there are any mistakes in what I have written, feel free to correct me.