Yes, he is royalty… He is a Prince… He is Rama Varma from the Maharaja Swathi Tirunaal dynasty…

I had an opportunity to attend a 2-day workshop a few days ago at the Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan, conducted by 2 music enthusiasts and good samaritans Ms. Jaya and Ms. Ramya (believe me, they were pro when it came to organizing). The Workshop was on Rare Kritis taken by Prince Rama Varma (aided by his disciple Amrutha Venkatesh who archived the entire process). Find below my musings and learning from the workshop.

Difference between Hindustani and Carnatic:
We push a note from the lower note in general, say a RI or a NI in Carnatic. Whereas, in Hindustani, most of the notes are pulled from the upper swara. Say NI is taken from the upper SA, and more heads will nod as it is aesthetically provided.

Wits abound:
The Prince was full of harmless funny remarks all along without much ado, and we would find ourselves smiling.
One such example was when he started the Sadasiva Brahmendral kriti, he had asked the students for the Mudhra (signature) of the said composer. Somebody said it was “Parama Hamsa” diligently. He appreciated and then asked, “So what would you call a Sadasiva Brahmendral song that is sung very very badly!?” When we were all blinking, wondering what the answer could be, he replied, “Parama Himsa… depends how you want to treat your audience now… Hamsa or Himsa!”

Importance to Detail:
Couple of examples from what I observed is all I can say. But just imagine, if we could see so much detailing in a couple of days, I wonder why I have never listened to him more till now 😦
Many syllables , GA for instance, I thought he was telling with a ‘N’ sound… like nga… For long I did not realize that it was getting aligned to the Sruti, which I sincerely believe now, that it is.
Loads of tips to hone our singing were given – from singing PA varjya raga without having PA in sruti.

A video of us learning Sarvam Brahmamayam below… (courtesy musiquebox)

On Carnatic Music and Interest:
In our Music, silence is very under-rated, he says. This reminded me of a Shashank’s concert where 2 people sitting behind me were talking thus: “The only difference between Hindustani and Carnatic is, in Carnatic they will sing very fast.” And I had to do a facepalm in my mind 😦

In the words of Prince Rama Varma –
Silence is very under-rated. The performers don’t give the importance to a long ‘kaarva’, instead think that heavy, fast brugas establish our superiority over music. The lay people who appreciate old Tamil classical songs, say that these classical concerts are drab and annoying. We in turn brand them illiterates gnana shoonyam). In reality, the gnana shoonyas are us! Incase you give a half aavarthana of silence and your accompanying artise might not follow the same, please warn him before hand in the green room!!, he said 🙂

The songs I learnt under his tutelage those 2 days were:

1. Nottuswaram by Muthuswamy Dikshitar
2. Sarvam Brahmamayam / Misra Kamas by Sadasiva Brahmendrar
3. Thillana (Kadhana Kudhugalam) by M. Balamurali Krishna
4. Aliveni Enthu Cheyvu / Kurinji by Swathi Thirunaal
5. Ekkati Maanusha Jenmam / Revagupti by Pedha Thirumalacharya (son of Annamayya)
6. Thillana (Ahiri Bhairavi) by M. Balamurali Krishna
7. Rama Krishnaru (Thilang) by Purandara Dasar
8. Kadham Chale / Desh (Hindi Bhajan) by Surdas

The only glitch in the whole workshop, was that, I had already learnt one of the songs in a different raaga, which turned out to be an unfortunate coincidence. However, it was an overall enthralling and illuminating experience. Hope to attend more in the future.

– Until next,
Vid 🙂