It takes a Carnatic village
Married to a family less familiar with classical music and staying in a nondescript village that remains marooned for most of the time during monsoons, K Krishnaveni Hebbar dared to dream of sharing her passion and initiating the uninitiated into the world of Carnatic music.
Krishnaveni begun realising her dream by motivating her five children to defy all odds and train themselves in Carnatic music. Decades later, the talented siblings led by renowned violinist Vidwan Vittal Ramamurthy have institutionalised their mother’s dream through the annual Carnatic music workshops organised particularly for children from neighbouring village in their ancestral house in Nidle, near Dharmasthala, Karnataka.
The family’s commitment to the cause of classical music is seen to be believed. The siblings, including Ramamurthy, and his disciples take time off from their packed music season and ready their house to host the free ‘Karunbithil Sangeetha Shibira 2012’, modelled on the lines of a typical Gurukulam.
As in the past, the entire family, barring a couple of sisters including US-based Vidushi Rajarajeswari Harish Bhat who initiated the annual camp in 2001, and disciples of ‘anna’ (Ramamurthy) were in attendance to serve the young delegates and get immersed in soul-stirring music from May 8 to 13. Ramamurthy, who perfected his craft in typical Gurukulam style under Carnatic violin icon Lalgudi Jayaraman, believes that the workshop also exposes the younger generation to similar traditional methods of learning Carnatic music.
The workshop also breaks the myths about classical music and teachers. For top artistes like M Balamuralikrishna, T M Krishna travel all the way to this sleepy village, share their knowledge and even perform before the students for free. The workshop trains students, aged six to 25, on bhajans, basic exercises, keertan and manodharma (creative interpretation). “The workshop emphasises improvisation of raagas which distinguishes artists and the resulting hard work which is the key to success and not music lineage,” says Ramamurthy.
The popularity of the annual workshop, which was launched with just six students, is evident. The 13th workshop attracted as many as 200 participants and students from as far as Kasargod, Mysore and Chennai.
The six students from the first batch continue to enroll in successive camps is another revelation on the workshop adopting a flexible curriculum for learning. “It is a wholesome camp which has something for everyone,” says Ramamurthy.
During the workshop period, the house and its surroundings resound with Carnatic music day in and day out. The workshop also brings participants closer to conventional ways of living.
The participants eat, sing, sleep under one roof of the century-old house. The day begins around 4 am, as they take turns to complete the morning rituals. The music lessons and practice sessions that begin at 9.30 am continue non-stop except for ‘Kashayam’ (granny’s potion to soothe singing throats) breaks. The lunch menu also shows the camp is not just a fest of melody but also homely mouth-watering cuisine.
The time after lunch and the evenings are spent in exploring hills, farms filled with a variety of fruit-yielding trees. The evening performance sessions from 6 pm to 8.30 pm provides every student an opportunity to perform solo or in groups on the stage. The presentations vary from simple geetams, krithis to elaborate concerts.
Lalgudi’s Chennai-based senior disciple S P Ramh was all praise for the dedication of students. Poorvikalyani raga, a difficult composition of Ramanathapura Srinivas Iyengar used as main item in solo vocal concerts, was on the lips of students within minutes of its rendition. “In learning compositions quickly, students here have proved to be no less than their Chennai counterparts,” Ramh stresses.
What motivates Ramamurthy and his wife Chandrika to conduct the family’s ‘charitable event’ year after year and even dream of a music school in Nidle? “It is the extending family of Carnatic music lovers,” he emphasises with a smile and goes on to cite a few instances of some uninitiated members of the workshop establishing themselves as Carnatic vocalists of repute.