The effects of ga-ma radiation

Posted on December 13, 2014


Some of the ‘Metro Plus’ staffers, all newbies to Carnatic music, had questions about the Season. Baradwaj Rangan attempts to keep a straight face and provide answers. (All names are changed.)

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Dear BR: If we’re listening to an earnest Abheri and the smell of the adai-avial from the canteen is irresistible, what do we do? – If music be the love of food…

What a silly question. You go to the canteen, of course. After all, it is possible to listen to the earnest Abheri in the canteen, but the adai-avial won’t come to you in the sabha.

Dear BR: I want to check out Carnatic music, but I am intimidated by all the terms floating around in the reviews – alapana, kalpanaswaram, thani avarthanam… They can’t just call an auditorium an auditorium, right? It has to be a… sabha. Even December isn’t December any more – it’s Margazhi. I mean, who renames a month? – Dazed in December.

Sigh. I know. It would be a lot easier if they said “raga elaboration and exploration” instead of alapana. But imagine the plight of the newspaper if there are ten concert reviews. If they substituted each instance of “alapana” with “raga elaboration and exploration,” they’d need a special supplement. Now, take the word “emoticon.” You use it all the time, right? Imagine if your grandfather said he found it confusing and that he’d feel more comfortable if you said “a digital icon or a sequence of keyboard symbols that serves to represent a facial expression, and convey the writer’s emotions or clarify intent.” Get the idea? The trick is not to worry about the terms. Just be open to the music.

Dear BR: What do you think of people sitting on the stage and beside the performer during a packed concert? – Bill A. Hari.

I think they are called (left to right), the mridangam player, the kanjira player and the violinist.

Dear BR: What is the origin of the words ‘besh’ and ‘bale’ and why are they repeatedly used in concerts? – Gobble D Gook.

Long before “EPIC!” became commonplace, people needed other words to express their admiration. Hence ‘besh’ and ‘bale’. As for their origin, I’ll tell you only if you can tell me how a word that used to connote The Mahabharata and The Odyssey has come to signify your appreciation of everything from a Federer drop shot to a Rajinikanth meme.

Dear BR: Are silks and flowers a part of the prescribed uniform for singers? – Pattu Mami

Don’t be daft. The last time I saw Sikkil Gurucharan on stage, he was in a veshti-kurta.

Dear BR: So, okay, I go to one of these things. What if I don’t like it? There isn’t even a place nearby, in this godforsaken city, where I can drown my sorrows with a drink. – Marga(zhi)rita.

Okay, you have to stop being a baby. You hated the taste of beer at first. But you developed a taste for it, right? And now, when you meet up with friends, you say, “Let’s put a beer, machi!” So think of Carnatic music as beer. You wince at the first sip, but keep at it and you may, one day, find yourself saying, “Let’s put a kutcheri, machi!” Or think of Carnatic music as wine. At first, you just ask for “white” or “red,” but if you cultivate an interest, you may find yourself telling the waiter, “I’ll have the 1994 Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon.” Or think of Carnatic music as rum – it features a lot of compositions by old monks. The key is to consume a lot. Someday, the music may end up giving you a real high.

Dear BR: Is it rude if I do a Yo Yo Honey Singh thing in the middle of Margazhi? Can I air guitar? – Double Cheese Rap.

I can’t honestly say I know what a “Yo Yo Honey Singh thing” is, but as long as you don’t break into a lungi dance in the middle of Music Academy, I guess it should be okay. As for air guitaring – absolutely not. You may, however, try air violining and air mridanging.

Dear BR: Do the thighs of Carnatic singers pain after heavy-duty tala delivery? – Ache Do Teen.

Um, they’re simply counting out the beats of the rhythm cycle – they’re not exactly doing lunges. Though that might be something to see. Sa, two, three, four… Ri, two, three, four…

What’s the best translation device to use if the lyrics leave you baffled? – It’s getting verse.

Well, if you’re a beginner, listen to the music first. Then try to figure out the meaning. Let’s say you go to an ice-cream parlour. Are you going to savour the taste, or will you begin Googling up the compounds present in vanilla? Or chocolate. Or… Hey, how do you expect me to answer this question if you won’t tell me what your favourite ice-cream flavour is?

Dear BR: What do you do if you enter the wrong hall and find yourself ushered to the front row of what turns out to be a lecture by a scary-looking woman who makes you clap and sing Govinda-Govinda for 20 minutes non-stop? Is there any elegant way to make an exit? – Trauma Queen.

Listen carefully. You are not in a Carnatic music concert. You are inside Ram Gopal Varma’s head, experiencing his dreams. GET OUT AT ONCE!

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