Doff your hat to the rasikas

Sriram placed the onus squarely on the rasika for the future trajectory of Carnatic music
The veteran vocalist stood up from his position on the stage to greet an old gentleman who came into the auditorium and occupied a seat in the front row. The musician later explained to his disciple that the gesture was his mark of respect for a rasika who had put in over 50 years of hard work listening to classical music.
The musician had been the renowned C.R. Vyas (1924-2002), and the sishya the versatile Sriram Parasuram — vocalist and violinist in Carnatic and Hindustani music, scholar and
communicator par excellence.
“The hard work of the rasika is greater than the hard work of the musician, for the reward for the rasika comes after years of effort, the reward of understanding, while the musician can enjoy immediate rewards,” Sriram said in the course of a recent music appreciation lecture-demonstration in the city, the first of a monthly series organised by Music Forum and the TAG Corporation, to promote greater musical awareness in the serious rasika.
Sriram in fact placed the onus squarely on the rasika for the future trajectory of Carnatic music. The rasika must demand genuine music from the artist, he said. Demonstrating the difference between similar ragas Nayaki and Darbar for instance, he said we must reject the casual musician whose rendition leaves us in doubt as to which of the two sister ragas is on offer. Musicians who take advantage of the lack of knowledge of the audience or mislead it are businessmen, not artistes, he continued.The general mood of the talk was however inspiring and positive, not despairing or cynical. Sriram spoke of the many facets of life great vaggeyakaras like the Trinity touched in their songs — bhakti, philosophy, literature, nature, even architecture — and marvelled at the perfect blending of lyric and song they often achieved.
For example, every composition by Tyagaraja is a lesson, he said, as the bard displays the raga marker so clearly in both the lower and higher tetrachords of each song. The lecture served twin purposes. It enhanced the level of understanding of the riches of Carnatic music, but it also increased the enjoyment quotient, though Sriram insisted that classical music is not merely to be enjoyed.
It has the potential to take the rasika to a much higher plane, that of mystical experience, and even beyond — after years of hard work honing your listening skills, of course. At the end of the session, it was possible to see how the evolutionary path of Carnatic music had been dictated by the standards set by the rasika of the last century. Yet the lecture did not overlook the role of the artiste in educating the audience, especially newcomers to music appreciation.
Inevitably, worrying thoughts emerge: that the rasika today is perhaps not in a position to demand high aesthetics and genuine art, because the market forces make him less of a thinking listener and more of a blind follower of artificially generated trends.
The very musician Sriram wants us to reject is constantly ever so subtly misleading young and uncultivated minds about the true nature and purpose of classical music.
(The writer is editor of Sruti magazine)
( Source : deccan chronicle )
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