Sunday, November 16, 2014

Swathi Thirunal's Compositions in Hindustani Music

In Hindustani music, a gharānā is a system of social organization linking musicians or dancers by lineage or apprenticeship, and by adherence to a particular musical style. A gharana also indicates a comprehensive musicological ideology. This ideology sometimes changes substantially from one gharana to another. It directly affects the thinking, teaching, performance and appreciation of music.

The word gharana comes from the Hindi word 'ghar', which means 'family' or 'house'. It typically refers to the place where the musical ideology originated; for example, some of the gharanas well known for singing khyals are: Agra, Gwalior, Indore, Jaipur, Kirana, and Patiala.

Justice Shri V R Krishna Iyer while unveiling the portrait of Sri Swathi Thirunal Maharaja at Sree Karthika Thirunal Theatre, on 7th May 1974 at Thiruvananthapuram delivered a speech with a tribute to the Maharaja as National Integrator.  He gave a vivid picture about his interest in Hindustani music and praised his compositions.

Maharaja as National Integrator. 

"Now, Swati Tirunal was, as I mentioned in the same hall on a former occasion, a great integrator.  We have today plenty of talk about National Integration.  Just three days ago, I think it was on the 4th, the day after the Courts closed, I went to Pilani, Birla’s Institute and was requested to speak on National Integration.  And all that I could tell them was, if we could find some mehod of arresting a little, the forces of national disintegration, we would have achieved much; because everything that is happening is fissiparous in its essence and nothing that is happening is pointing towards a hopeful omen in regard to national unity and integration.  This formed the burden of my soul-I concluded saying: “With these discouraging words let me conclude honestly.” Now this is what I had to tell the Pilani young men and women."

Maharaja's own Gharana.

"And yet long ago in Travancore there was a Prince whose duties did not oblige him to learn Hindustani – nay the Britishers might have induced many Princes in this country to acquire some little knowledge of English. Of course,  Swati Tirunal had studied English too,  but he mastered Hindustani and composed songs in Hindustani.  He mastered cultivated himself in the system of Hindustani music so as to produce compositions in its stylized forms.  They are very different from our kriti. For instance few in the North know what is a kirtana or Jaweli; on the other hand few here may bother to know what is gazzal or thumri.  But here was the royal composer whose vision had encompassed the entire country including upper India and so he studied the languages of the people of that region; he studied the forms of art of North India and went to the extent – shall I say to a daring extent – of composing Hindustani songs in their styles and forms – highly stylized are those musical patterns, which could really be popularized among Hindustani musicians.  As a matter of fact, it is inadequate homage to the Maharaja Swati Tirunal that his votaries should be only South Indians or his compositions should be sung only by South Indian artistes.  He composed pieces in Hindustani music, his repertoire of compositions  includes Marathi songs and there is obvious justification for us to persuade our brethren in those areas to render Swati songs.  Kumara Gandharva, for instance, sings so enchantingly.  If only we request men of that musical stature to sing some songs of Swati Tirunal composed in Marathi; if we appeal to some of the ustads of North India and persuade them to sing some of the Hindustani Kritis by Swati Tirunal, I suppose we would have laid the aesthetic foundation for national integration and exchange for stronger than the propagadist vapourisings of politicians. After all, culture is the strongest bond between people.  These days after Semmangudi popularised Swathi Tirunal’s songs, many of his disciples and other artistes have taken to singing in every music concert a song or two of Swati Tirunal.  Indeed, dancers who perform Bharatha natyam pick up a song or two of Swati Tirunal for abhinaya, because they lend themselves to expression of exquisite emotion on the stage with considerable effect.  Only when we succeed in including at Hindustani music concerts, Swati Tirunal compositions in their language and art form then I suppose we would have done justice to the prince composer.  I would not be satisfied with holding mere amateur competitions on the compositions of Swati Tirunal among Malayalis and Tamilians.  In fact   I must confess when we arranged music competitions in Delhi, the competitors or the entrants were some Malayalis and a larger number of Tamils.  I would consider this adventure to be a happy cultural conquest, only when we win the hearts of our friends in Delhi, the “assal” Delhivala, the Utharpredeshvala, the Rajasthani, the Maharashtrian.  They must come to take and start rendering Swati songs even as our vocalists sing meera bhajans and other Hindustani pieces.  This two-way process would really start a Swati Tirunal movement spread over the whole country.  This cultural expansion is, I suppose, the best tribute to the hero whose likeness I have just unveiled.  Of course, Sri Vaidyanatha Aiyer has made a magnificent contribution to popularising Swati Tirunal songs.  We have – as part of this pan-Indian programme, to undertake considerable research.  Research has been done by Muthayya Bhagavathar, Semmangudi and others.  Now there are collections of Swati Tirunal’s songs, which are available.  This treasure house has been thrown open and in that publication process, what you might call the communication gap has now been eliminated to some extent by the efforts of men like Sri Vaidyanatha Aiyer.  The next stage which is equally important is in introducing Swati Tirunal’s Hindustani compositions to the real North Indian musicians and to the North Indian audience.  If we do that and only then - a proper appreciation of the prince’s aesthetic personality, in its lustrous fullness would emerge.  I salute this great Indian. "

"Sangita Acharya" Thiruvaiyaru Krishnan has rendered the following Swathi Thirunal Kritis during  "Swathi Thirunal Maharaja Festival concert 2002" at Los Angeles. Sarvasri Krishnan Kutty on Violin, Vadiraja Bhat on Mridangam, Kotecha on tabla and Nookala Kamesh on Kanjira accompanied him for this concert.