Recently “The Wire” (Editor: Siddharth Varadarajan) published an article by one Ashik Kumar, “T.M. Krishna and the Quest for a Truly Contemporary Art Music”. As a music lover, my views are very much different from what was written. The title itself sounded very arrogant as if there is no “truly” contemporary music and TMK is going to find one. The article puts down the entire Carnatic music fraternity by implying it is “unfairly braminised” and traced the problem back to Saint Thyagaraja. I tried to post a comment with a country view. The Editors of “The Wire” promptly removed it. To give them benefit of doubt, I tried couple of times and the result was the same. I have taken screen shots of my post, one awaiting Editorial approval (@12:15:35 pm) and another after its removal (@12:23:30 pm) which are shown below:
But I am not surprised as “The Wire” is a leftist online portal and I am commenting on the article written probably by a leftist about the another “leftist” TMK. These are the people who claim to stand up for “freedom of expression”, “accommodate contrary views”, etc. But they just cannot stand if their view is criticized.
Following (most of it) was my comment which “The Wire” could not tolerate (so much for their “Intolerance drama”):
“This article is firstly free of substance; there is no story it tells other than allowing T.M.Krishna’s continued rant against Carnatic music, brahmins (and hence BJP), Carnatic musicians (this time extended to Saint Thyagaraja himself). His challenging of Carnatic orthodoxy, claims of its social exclusivity, its politics are his opinions and it is okay to have such opinions. His choice of songs and the order in which he sings, choosing to stop without completing, are all his choices and it is okay too. I don’t need to go into the merits of it. But the writer claims the established aesthetic is politically motivated. One can imagine political motivation for anything and everything under the sun and this is a kind of Schizophrenia. Evolution of any art form is influenced by the practitioners, the social norms of their times, spatial and temporal contexts, etc., and these are not planned sequence of events. It is organic. If TMK wants to innovate, he can very well do so. Let him compose “a truly contemporary art music” as the writer boasts. No point in just announcing. I challenge TMK to come up with one composition and put it to the test of time. The point is that it has to come naturally and not because of grudge. Saint Thyagaraja did not compose because he found fault with composers before him. Music and devotion were just the way he breathed. Great composers did not announce their actions. They just went about doing what they knew the best. Any new creation seeks to add, grow, expand and it need not have the purpose of denigrating the evolution of music thus far. Don’t invent a problem where there is none just for your attention-seeking purpose. Let there be a limit to stupidity.
The writer seem to argue on behalf of TMK that giving importance to “Bhava” is denying the natural abstractness of music. I don’t see how. They can perfectly co-exist and strengthen each other. To me and to many music lovers, music is not just sound but the words too, the poetic beauty behind. The writer also exposes his half baked music knowledge by using the syllables “Ta Da Ri Na” which is normally used during “Alaps” to say that lyrics are not important and only sound. Perhaps, this was how TMK taught the writer. There are many compositions where specific notes are chosen to bring out the Bhava corresponding to the lyrics and not just a melodic sound. Great composers and practitioners can beautifully mix both Bhava and melody. If there is a tradition to preserve the emotion of the Composer, what is wrong? Sometimes the Bhava itself brings the meaning and the context even without knowing the language (depends on how it is sung and listened). There are many rasikas who seek to understand the meanings of the song to elevate their sensibilities. It is arrogant on the part of TMK to ridicule his audience that they don’t understand. Who is he to judge? There is a limit to insult the intelligence of others. People are attracted to music for various reasons; sound, lyrics, tunes, gait, context, improvisation, singer’s talent, and the entire dynamics of it. For some, it is religious experience and for some just music. This diversity is to be cherished, celebrated and not ridiculed. Coming to “Bhava”; Music is defined as “the art of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion”. Purandaradasa says, “prEmavillada gAna kELanO hari tALano” (Hari will not listen or tolerate music without emotion and devotion). TMK will see this as a plot by Purandaradasa to bring in God and thus religion into music. I don’t understand what is his problem with that. Here is what Blues legend BBKing has to say: “…. for me, one good note put where it should be put, will say what it will take some people many notes to say“. He implies the notes are placed not for just sound, but to convey emotions, bhava.
Knowledge is about accumulation of diverse experience over time. It is not about one winning over the other.