Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fluffing your lines

Recently, I attended a concert by Karthik Lakshminarayanan and Kaushik Lakshminarayanan, two upcoming youngsters, organized by LOTUS (LOcal Talent UnderScored). It was an excellent concert featuring Mamava Meenakshi in Varali, Tulasi Jagajanani in Saveri (requested by yours truly), a beautifully rendered Tulasi Bilva and a mind-blowing Akhilandeshwari. The violinist Krishna Parthasarathy was quite upto the task and the mridangist Sriram Raghavan's playing was delightful throughout the concert.

Well, I managed to provide a brief review of the concert. But I wanted to bring up another important issue in this post. There have been endless debates on musicians having the lyrics of the song in front of them. I normally take the stand that as professionals, they should be memorizing the lyrics, especially because it's difficult to write down the sangathis. Also, I feel that one just learns a krithi to be able to sing it on stage without actually understanding the meaning of the song. If one makes an effort to understand the meaning and the emotion that the composer tries to convey, they shouldn't forget the lyrics, right?

On this note, I started paying closer attention to the sahitya on my runs and found some glaring mistakes by some of the popular names in CM. For example, BMK leaves out a whole charanam in Dudukugala, interchanges charanams in Endaro. In Taye Ezhaipaal, Sanjay sings

naayEnum paalanRi engE selvEn
pOdum ini muDiyaadu unadaDi
pOdu aDaiya idu pOdu varam aruLi

instead of

naayEnum paalanRi engE selvEn
naLina mruduLa sukumaara manOhara
saraNayugaLa maruLa taruNamiduvE en


and then corrects himself. In Brochevarevare, he again forgets one of the charanams and interchanges it. Coming from professionals, this is a bit disappointing. While we need to applaud their ability to learn and memorize thousands of krithis, we should also expect some professionalism from them. In this respect, I have come to think that it's probably a better idea to have the lyrics in front of them so that they don't change the meaning of krithis or forget them entirely. This would enable them to sing with a lot more confidence I guess.

As long as they do not write down kalpana swaras like some artists have been known to do, they should be fine. :-D


  1. Kalapana swarams in note book! Tongue tied!

  2. Eventhough your point is correct in view of perfection in lyrics, my view is slighlty different. If we have the lyrics infront of you and you see it and sing, there will be a slight diversion of concentration from what your singing to what is there on the paper. Myself being a singer, I have tried using the lyrics in some concert for the new songs which I had learned exclusively for that concert. When I do it its too difficult to manage both, i.e., reading the lyrics and singing with raga-bhavam. When I sing the song after memorizing it its totally different, it will be in different class alltogether.

    So I personally feel that people should memorize it properly with the meaning and then sing them in concerts without the lyrics. I have never heard of MDR and KVN seeing the lyrics and singing in concerts. I know KVN is totally against having the lyrics in concerts.

  3. Yes, I totally agree with you on that. One thing which I didn't make clear in my post was that the lyrics should be used only to provide cues to the artist if he forgets them. Ideally, we would like performers to not refer to their notes but there are a number of factors in the present day scenerio which might force them to do so;

    1. Lack of gurukulavasa
    2. Information Overload
    3. Learning from tapes

    1. Without gurukulavasa, it becomes difficult for the Guru to establish a strict training schedule where the sishya has no option but to memorize everything and the Guru would be in a position to ensure that happened.

    2. Factors 2 and 3 are intertwined. In this Information Age, we have access to thousands of songs. Performers might like a particular song that they heard somewhere and might wish to learn it. Without access to a Guru, they might end up learning it from tapes. This can be both good and bad. It can be good in that the same rendition can be repeatedly played, enabling the artist to learn the nuances of the krithi well. But, depending on the experience level of the artist, this might fail on a number of fronts. 1) Lack of a Guru to explain the meaning 2) Complacency - Feeling that they have mastered the krithi before they actually have. This makes them move on to the next krithi and they end up learning a lot of krithis half of which they hardly remember.

    I'm sure I might be mistaken but I feel that artists should refrain learning from tapes alone until they reach a particular level. They should always strive to learn from someone even if the other person is a peer.

  4. At this moment I remember what DKP said "Practice a song 1000 times before rendering in a concert". This is not for every concert but for the first concert in which one is going to sing that song. I think if we do that it will never ever goes off our memory. But Human is entitled to make mistakes; hence forgetting 1 or 2 lines is ok. But doing it again and again is not at all professionalism.

    And regarding learning from tape; I too agree with you. In my case I have never sang a song learned from tapes in a concert. In fact I will not have enough confidence to sing it.

  5. And one more thing; if I am not wrong (I assume it was a flute concert) I think I know Karthik well. I think he did his Btech in IITM when I was doing my PhD there.

  6. I remember when Unni was at his peak and I'd gone to his Kutcheri at the IFS. The guy playing the thambura sang along on all the songs (which is very typical) but he also mouthed all the kalpana swaras! I was pretty disappointed that Unni had memorized the swaras for the concert..and lost interest in his kutcheris afterwards. After all isn't spontaneity what differentiates a concert and a CD?

  7. Rather than memorizing the swaras for that particular concert, he must have been singing the same swaras again and again in all the concerts. TVS does that a lot. My brother and I would do that for most of his songs.