Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Role of a Music Critic

Role of a Critic in a concert

I always wanted to write about this from a long time but was a little skeptical about doing it. I guess the time has come to express my feelings about the same now. 

Even from my childhood days, I have been reading the reviews in the news papers, music journals about the programs that happen in the city. I wondered who would be writing these and what would be the role of the person who carries that job. Long back I understood there would be specific people called "Music Critics" who would do the job of writing reviews about a program.

As an accompanying artist, if I see the pattern of the music review it is very monotonous. Section one would be about the organization presenting the concert. 2 sections on the main artist and the items performed on that day. Last line in the last section of the review, names of the accompanying artists. 

In many forums there were questions thrown at these so called "Critics" as why is the injustice happening to the accompanying artists. And some of the justifications given by them are blaming the news editors who strip off whatever the critic has written to fit the review column. In that case, I personally have a question as why cannot they have a say in the journal committee? Or, as a Critic, are they doing justice to the profession/post they are holding?

According to me, the role of an ideal Critic is 
1. Critic should in person go to the program and should listen to the entire concert and not the section of the program and write about it. 
2. Critic should feel the pulse of the concert and give their judicial comment on the music as well as the artists. 
3. If they are open in their comments be it Positive Criticism or Negative Criticism, let them express it to the artists itself. 
4. One more important point I have noticed here is most people go by the popularity of an artist and express their comments. I guess, for me it is one of the biggest mistakes. Respect the artist for what he/she has done in past but base your comments only for the day you are writing the review for. The review is for the program and not for his past / future recognitions. 
5. Last but not the least, please write more about the accompanying artists as well. I am not asking to over do but a line each on each accompanist will do a lot of good for his/her confidence and will carry that artist an extra mile. Please give some respect to the efforts the accompanying artist puts in to achieve what he/she has achieved to be there in the program you are writing about.

If these things does not happen, I feel, the artists would lose faith in so called "Criticism" / "Reviews" and would not respect any more. Probably, the organizations should come up with their own journals to write more about the programs they conduct so that the real picture (review) of the program is highlighted in an appropriate manner.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sparkling Simhanandana

Its time to write about the unique experience and an opportunity I had to play for Simhanandana Tala, one of the longest talas in the Astothara Shata Talas. It was a special RTP concert in Simhanandana tala sung by a very young but highly talented vocalist of Karnataka, Vinay Sharva, disciple of Vidwan S Shankar. The program was aptly under the banner of Percussive Arts Centre, which has been serving the Tala and Laya field for over 25 years.

He was accompanied by Charulatha Ramanujam on the violin and My Guruji, Shivu sir on the Mridangam and myself. I was obviously excited about the whole stuff as I had an opportunity to be part of the program and to play an active role. We had put in a lot of effort in rehersing this and we all dearly wanted the program to be a success.

There were close to 1500 people in the auditorium with some highly learned and accomplished artists witnessing the program.  Vinay started the program with the traditional Shahana Varnam, followed by a Ganesha kriti in Begade. After that, there was a kriti in kalyani, pankaja lochana. We had some sort of problems with the microphone initially as the feedback speakers were not of high quality. But, we just thought not to get bothered with all that.  There was also a brief outage in power which for a time being interrupted the program. 

The RTP was in the raga Todi. Vinay sang both raga and tana extremely well with all the necessary sancharas, and Charulatha madam giving fitting replies to all. He then explained the technicalities of the tala and the structure of pallavi using a powerpoint presentation. He then started the pallavi and he was at his ease all through the rendition be it Trikala, pratiloma, neraval, swara prasthara or for the Tani avarthana. It just shows the amount of concentration levels Vinay has and coming good on big stages. Shivu sir's contribution to the planning of the pallavi, the intricacies in each of the items such as neraval, swara prasthara, is beyond words!!!

The tani avarthana was exactly for 15 avarthanams. The genius thoughts of shivu sir just flowed in planning the tani avarthana. There were chaturasra, mishra and thrishra rounds which followed with a unique 30 akshara koraippu followed with a nadai and urutu round and to round it off, a mohara in a single avarthana and muktaya the entire cycle. 

After the pallavi ended, people just rose out of their seats and there was a standing ovation for us. It was quite an experience for me. 

Truly an outstanding concert and I would say, for the effort we had put in for the program, we tasted success on the big day!!! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A concert to remember !!!

Thought, I would share my experience of playing with Balamurali sir. I had performed with him in a private concert some 6 months back. But, this time, it was a different venue, different ambience. 

I had the privilege of accompanying him in the biggest Ganesha festival of Bangalore, Vidyaranya Yuvaka Sangha at APS grounds. My co-artists were, HKV and Arjun Kumar.  There were around 10k people witnessing the program and eagerly waiting for Balamurali sir to sing. 

He started off with his composition "gam ganapathe" in the raga "ganapathi" which has only 3 swaras,  sa, ga & pa. He sang a composition which he told sounds similar to a varnam in the raga karaharapriya and he told that he was singing it for the first time. 

It was totally a different experience accompanying him as you need to be constantly listening to what he is singing as there will be lots of nuances in it and most of the time as an artist, you would not know the composition. 

It was more of listening and soft accompanyment for the whole concert. Kumar sir showed all his experience in accompanying to such music and compositions. I was just following him as a shadow through out. 

The main composition of the day was in the raga Arabhi - "Mahadeva suta", which Balamurali sir sang elaborately and the swara prasthara was in thisthayi, typical of Balamurali sir. HKV sir matched him on all occassions. 

The tani rounds was the time I had to make sure I matched Kumar sir stroke to stroke. There were 2 brisk rounds in chaturasra nadai and followed by crisp koraippu. Balamurali sir was very supportive and appreciative on stage. 

After the concert, which lasted for more than 2hrs, he came to me and told "You play very well" with his deep voice which is still reverberating in my ears. He blessed me after that and we all started to move away from the huge crowd. 

One dissapointing thing happend though after the concert was, the organizers forgot to get the names of the accompanying artists and did not even mention our names. And above all, he expected us to give the names when announcing !!!