Her life-long mission
(Prompt-2 Round Five - April 2016)
As Kishori delineated the raga, the audience in the Shanmukhananda concert hall, kept up with her pace, melodic framework and the time cycle. They needed to know these basics in order to enjoy a concert of classical music. Uninterrupted, it flowed. Unawares, they were carried along the waves of her musical ocean, her own unique interpretation of the language of music.
Indian classical music manifests different emotions, which are universal. The artist should feel the emotions to bring them out through music. The raga or note intonation and the tala (rhythm) are the foundational elements, which are similar to the roles of father and mother in Indian classical music. Each musician has his or her own pitch. Kishori’s way of harmonizing the raga and tala has a tremendous appeal. From the hundreds of ragas of the Indian classical music, an artist may pick the one that suits the mood of the occasion, be it a wedding, a funeral or a worshipful activity.
Today, she chose a song by the prominent south Indian music exponent of the eighteenth century, Sadguru Tyaga raja. He had set the song to the raga named “Thodi” that suited the content. The devotee questions the Lord as to why He had no pity for him. Did he forget him in the crowd? Was He there at all? Who else would save him if not Him?
Kishori successfully emphasized the questions full of anguish by her delicate and impacting rendition. She was duly accompanied on the “Mridangam,” a percussion instrument, which is as old as the Vedas, and violin and veena, ancient Indian stringed instruments.
When the kriti (a classical song of devotion) ended, there was a silence in the Shanmukhananda concert hall. Many of the audience’ eyes teared.
Of the two traditional tributaries of music, the Hindustani genre of the North and the Carnatic genre or the South, Kishori chose to specialize in the latter.
Her dad Mr. Vinayak Pande, recognized her extraordinary skill of reproducing any song with all its difficult nuances even as a little girl. He took her to a music teacher he knew. The teacher noted her ability of grasping the basics of Indian classical music with ease. All the seven notes sounded exactly as they should when she sang them. Even at an early age of six, there wasn't a single note of dissonance in her voice. Her pitch was high and melodious.
In later years, her mother, an emotional singer and a doyen of classical music herself, explained to her teen age daughter,
“Emotions are universal. Art manifests these emotions in different media. For example, an art like painting can show through a visual medium, the colors of sunset. A musician’s task is more challenging because he or she should be able to evoke the time and aura of sunset through the notes he chooses. The artist needs to go through a kind of penance to achieve that effect. In a particular raga, there are certain notes that can best bring out the mood of nature, which in turn could be felt by the artist and through his manifestation, the audience. The singer has to familiarize and practice the notes of that raga with all its nuances till he gets the complete effect. Only then music serves its purpose.”
Ever since that day Kishore endeavored to explore the depths of her chosen ragas for different occasions.
When an interviewer asked Kishori after the concert, whether it was necessary to feel pain to be a superior singer, she replied,
“Life is mostly pain. Everyone knows it. Pain and pleasure are the two faces of bliss. Until we realize it life looks only painful. Pain and pleasure are experienced by the artist during the delineation of a raga.”
“What are you searching for in your music?” questioned a fellow musician. Kishori replied,
“I look for bliss. Bliss is something above pain and pleasure. It is above contraries. Life is mostly pain. Everyone knows it. Pain and pleasure are the two faces of bliss. Until we realize it, life looks only painful.”
“Are there limits that bind musical emotions?”
“Music’s outlook is universal. Different schools of classical music give importance to different aspects such as notes, a set of rules that govern the movement of a raga or rhythm etc. Any field can be manifested through music, or notes. Some schools of music do not permit the musician to let go beyond the prescribed ways of singing a particular raga. Such restrictions can limit our manifestation of different emotions by introducing variations.”
“How do you delineate them?”
“By changing the format, by innovation, I try to show that emotions could be well manifested by going beyond a set of rules and regulations.”
She experimented with those ragas, where certain notes are prominently used to bring out certain emotions like love or mercy or fiery emotions of a battle. The artist should concentrate on the note and understand what it says, she told her students of her own music school.
Kishori’s endeavor was to understand and feel the pain of others, feel their sadness and then show it in her music.
Classical music of India shows that music is language of the soul. This happens only when the artist experiences it.
On another occasion, she told an international interviewer,
“My life is a difficult journey of music because I am a sort of rebel. I am breaking away from tradition. This is because I want to cross limits and become liberated from prescribed styles. Types are not above the spontaneity of a musical manifestation.”
She guided her disciples by telling them that,
“No one can be a complete artist. It is difficult to keep the pitch of each note perfectly. Each note has four or five shades. Each shade shows a different feel or emotion. A particular raga is built on the foundation of that shade of the note which is its domain. One should specialize it to attain maturity.”
She was of the view that despite the digital age, where music is being used in different ways, the one that would stay put would be the natural music.
“Natural music is eternal. It cannot be replaced or displaced.”
A true musician might be able to understand the truth of her words.
Word Count: 1037