19 March 2005

Sydney's Aradhana

Let me digress a little to write about a local event. This weekend Sydney is celebrating Thyagaraja Aradhana. Today we had performances by students while tomorrow will commence in the traditional manner with the group rendition of the Pancharatna kirtanas followed by a short dance drama using one of Thyagaraja's compositions and then individual performances by adults.

It is a huge community event in Sydney. Food has become a large part of the event as Saturday night dinner and Sunday lunch are served. Most of the food is cooked by volunteers. My mother, a living dynamo aged 72, was up at 4.30am this morning to start making chole for 300 people. Similarly, so many others will be up before the sun rises to start on the lunch.

The standard set by a lot of the students today was very high. Despite being born and bred overseas, these kids are able to perform so admirably. The challenge, however, is in taking the music to the next stage of manodharma. In the individual krithi rendition, the students excel but I feel more emphasis should be paid in teaching students the other aspects of our music - such as kalpana swaram and raga alapana. A lot of people will suggest that these aspects cannot be taught, but still students need to be encouraged to try these aspects early and and give equal importance to practicing these elements instead of just krithis. Those students who are able to achieve that aspect are the ones who really love and understand the music.