Follow us on
join us facebook
G.S. Mani wants Government to help take Carnatic music to masses
A big push from the Government is a must for taking Carnatic music to masses, declares senior vocalist G. S. Mani. In an interactive session organized by Deccan Chronicle here on December 22 at the Rasam Restaurant, Mr. Mani regretted that the Governmental push "is lacking’’ for Carnatic music.

In a candid discussion, he regretted that the three government-run music colleges in Kerala had not produced enough performing artistes of calibre. "Out of the 100 concerts I do, 50 are in Kerala,’’ he said. According to him, a number of music students in Kerala were primarily keen on only getting certificates to secure some jobs. These students had mostly job-oriented minds, he pointed out. Nevertheless, he said, most Carnatic music concerts in Kerala were well attended. "Even a so-called poorly-attended concert will see at least 1,000 people,’’ he said. The presence of a big audience – which stayed put till the end of a concert – reflected the stature of Carnatic music in that State, he pointed out. "The respect for Carnatic music is there and will be there in Kerala,’’ he said. Music was kept alive in that State because of the Royal patronage. So much so, one could see discerning listeners even for instrumental concerts such as veena or violin, he said. "Any festival there (in Kerala) will have a Carnatic concert,’’ he said. In this context, he pointed to the `Kala Utsav’ in Calicut where a Carnatic music competition was held for secondary school students. Mr. Mani was present there as one of the judges. The competition, he said, saw 10,000 children participate. "Even their parents have come for it,’’ he added. There were around 30,000 people in all. The Kerala Government took care of their requirements during the competition. "Governments have to come forward and occupy the place of kings,’’ he said. Asked if the Dravadian rulers in Tamil Nadu had anything to with the lack of push for Carnatic music in that State, Mr. Mani replied in the negative. "Why is it a failure in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka?’’ Mr. Mani counter-questioned. In his opinion, "Classical music is more an evolution of Tamil Isai present since the time of Tolkaappiyam and Silappathikaaram.’’ The Government had a responsibility to take it to the people, he felt. In this context, he pointed out that Appar, Sundarar and Manikkavasakar propagated religion and Tamil through music. To a question on why the West had not able accept Carnatic music, he said, "the West always considered us underdogs.’’But for Mr. Mani, "our music is pristine.’’ He asserted that "Our music stands well above any global system of music.’’ To a query, he said, "classical music is a fine art. Fine art is for those who love it.’’ Mr. Mani said he had done three audio cassettes on `Carnatic music and cinema’ so as to make people know ragas. He had given 28 ragas in three audio cassettes. It was done at Joy Studio in single day, he said. He did this for his friend Pond’s Bala, he added.

Fielding a range of questions with candor, Mr. Mani said he would prefer the term "Shastria Sangeetham’’ to Carnatic music. He asserted that swara-singing could never bring out the raga. "It (swara-singing) digitalizes the raga,’’ he said. In former times, it was about "lot of raga singing and a bit of rhythm-oriented singing’’. Swara singing was a later addition, he pointed out.

Mr. Mani was quite outspoken when asked why Carnatic music did not reach out to the masses. “I blame it on arrogance of the Brahmins,’’ he said. They always kept Carnatic music as a closely guarded secret of their community and never let it prosper cutting across communities, which, I personally consider, is a disservice to the art. Music is all pervasive and why should anyone be denied of experiencing it?” he asked. Perhaps, they (Brahmins) felt that "only a diamond cuts a diamond,’’ he reasoned.

A tenth generation descendant of Shankara Avadhaani – a minister in the Royal Court of the Vijayanagara Emperors Harihara and Bhukka, Mr. Mani wanted every performing artiste educate his/her audience on the nuances of this great art form. "No other musical genre in the entire world is so pristine and at the culminating level as ours,’’ he said. "This is a system of music that is incomparable and stands very well above the music systems elsewhere in the globe. Only if a performer starts speaking and enlightening the listeners, can this art be reached to people. This will take a good fifty to sixty years minimum even if one starts the process right away,” he added. In this context, he said his seniors had never talked about music. "What is there to talk? It is there in singing,’’ they would always tell him. Consequently, their music remained with them and only a part of it went out to students they had picked. "In that sense, the music was not distributed or dissipated,’’ he said.

He said that there should be a genuine interest in spreading Carnatic music to all including the Christians, Muslims and the downtrodden. In this context, he pointed out that a friend of him who had composed music for many Malayalam film songs was working on bringing Christian songs to Carnatic platform. He even sought the help of the violin maestro Lalgudi G. Jayaraman in this regard.

Mr. Mani came down heavily on the modern day film industry. “Film music has a wide reach. In recent times, however, the producers offer the public with nothing but cheap music. The present crop of composers has digitized music completely with no element of soulful rendition of Classical touches. The listeners are taken for granted and dumped with music in its most polluted form,” he said.

Quizzed further, he said people such as K.V. Mahadevan and G. Ramanathan had composed excellent pieces in Kalyani, Todi and other ragas without tampering with their original swaroopa. Illayaraja, he said, was one of the most intelligent composers he had ever seen and his background scores always had logic in them.

“Music is how intelligently you disturb the silence,’’ he said. He asserted that "you can never separate music from spiritualism.’’ He pooh-poohed at those who claimed that raga bhava was more important for them than the sahityam. "If you are fascinated only by ragas, there is no place for you in a concert platform. The concert format is fixed by our elders,’’ he said. Asked to define a good musician, he said, “A good musician is one who achieves tremendous sruthi unison. Merging with the sruthi should be the ultimate aim as the taara sthayi shadja is termed jeeva brahma aikya rahasya kshetram.’’

Mr. Mani felt that a musician should also be able to render vivadi melas as they formed the majority of the 72 melakarthas. "Even great composers such as Tyagaraja have done compositions in vivadi ragas. I don’t see any point if anyone says it is a sin to sing vivadis. It only shows the artiste’s inability,” he said.

For this political science graduate, music came as a profession by accidental. “Music as a profession is not rewarding,’’ he said. He claimed that he did not earn the kind of money that a 25-year-old software engineer earned. "But we have also dealt with the softest of wares,’’ he quipped with a tinge of sarcasm. "This is one profession where one should look at aathmaartham or self realization as the ultimate goal, a difficult one in that,” he added.
Interviews Archive