BANGALORE: Imagine listening to poems on Christ's life written in Bhamini Shatpadi (a six-line native Kannada form) style used by Kannada poets of yore like Kumaravyasa and Kanakadasa and rendered with gamaka, singing of epic poems without rhythmic accompaniment. Audio CD Yesu Jeevana Charithe, which was recently launched, has just that.
The form in which these pieces are written lends itself easily to gamaka. "As soon as I read the text which is beautifully simple, as a gamaki myself, this seemed the natural style of music to set it to," says Karnatak musician Sukanya Vijay Kumar, who coordinated this project. And it was no different from other poems used for gamaka, she says.
The text that is set to music is taken from the Kannada epic poem of the same title as the album. It is based on the first four books of the New Testament and runs into 2011 stanzas.
"It was penned by Professor V Narahari from Hassan and published in 2011," says album producer Father Antony Payyappilly, who met the poet at Hassan, a couple of years ago.
However, 2011 stanzas were too many to be interpreted in one audio CD. Hence, Sukanya, who met Antony at a college poetry competition, selected 718 of them and passed them on to over 20 gamakis who she thought were equal to the task.
"If I had to take the entire poem, I'd have needed over 50 gamakis. So I've ensured that the essence of Christ's life hasn't been lost. The ones I've left out are mostly the more descriptive stanzas," says the artiste, who has sung about 120 stanzas in the collection and played piano, keyboard and veena for the background score for the commentary.
"For the background, we've used compositions of greats like Tyagaraja; in accordance with the bhaava the text evokes, we've used different ragas for navarasas," she adds.
A person who subscribes to the belief that all forms of divinity are one, Sukanya feels blessed to have been able to put the CD together.
"On hindsight, managing the project was no easy task. I'm more convinced than ever that Christ was the one getting everything done. I was but a nimitta, an instrument," she proposes.
She recounts an incident from 20 years ago that kindled in her an urge to serve god in this form. When she was teaching music at Mary Immaculate School at Wilson Garden, a garland fell from a statue of Christ next to her.
"Right then, I felt: Christ has given me a garland, I want to give him something in return. I didn't know what though, so I asked the Sister there. She said to me, 'You're still young. Become accomplished at what you do, and sometime later, give him back a garland of music'," the artiste says.
When a couple of years ago, she met Father Antony Payyappilly, she finally found her opportunity.
Yesu Jeevana Charithe Mahakavya has ten sections: Nivedane, Jananakanda, Agnyatakanda, Pareekshakanda, Adbhutakanda, Drushtantakanda, Keerthikanda, Vicharanakanda, Punaruthanakanda. Two variants of the audio CD have been launched — one with Kannada commentary and another with English.
For more details, contact Antony Payyappilly on 9448448844 or Sukanya Vijay Kumar on 9611525942.