The book and music lovers had a thrilling experience on Sunday the 18th as they witnessed a rare experiment of exploring a novel through its music. It was an extraordinary event where the Saraswathi Samman award winning Kannada novel Mandra by litterateur S L Bhyrappa was described in the form of music. Mandra (2002), which is equivalent roughly to Lower Octave in Western Music is perhaps the greatest novel about music in Kannada. Mandra Sangeetha, program exploring the musical essence hidden inside this novel, was organised by Odugara Balaga at Ravindra Bhavana in University College, Mangalore.
Well-known scholar Shathavadhani R. Ganesh who compered the whole Mandra Sangeetha program started with the famous words of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy whom the book’s author earlier dedicated one of his novels – “Indian music is essentially impersonal: it reflects an emotion and an experience which are deeper and wider and older than the emotion or wisdom of any single individual. Its sorrow is without tears, its joy without exultation and it is passionate without any loss of serenity. It is in the deepest sense of the words all-human.”
Even though it is extremely difficult to explain one art form through another art form, substantiating an art form through another art form is the vital part of all arts, said Ganesh who was narrating the novel. Explaining the essence of art, Ganesh said an art work should not pass judgements. “It is not the work of an art to judge things, but it should only provide the materials for the art enthusiasts by giving them the freedom to judge.” Describing Mandra novel, he said it is all about conscience. Even though the hero of the novel (Mohanlal) is a Vocal artist and it is the music that is the protagonist of the novel.
It is the first and the only novel in India which has music as its soul. The story, the characters, the phrases, the similes and the words in the novel celebrate music. The evening was brightened as each set of the explanation delivered by Ganesh was followed by a vocal rendering by Hindustani singer from Dharwad, Ustad Fayaz Khan. Various phases of the novel were best explained through the live music.
Dr. Ganesh explained succinctly the context of each ragas and how they are entwined into the lives various characters of the story like Chunni, Javari Bai, Madhumitha, Manohari Das, Lauren Smith & Ramkumari in the novel who interact with the hero of the novel Mohanlal. The program started off with a Bhajan in Raaga Yaman, followed by rendition of different ragas as they were represented in the novel.
We were treated to a great feast by Ustaad Fayaz Khan rendering beautifully ragas like Puriya, Megh Malhar, Maru Bihag, Ahir Bhairav, Jai Jaivanthi, Omkara Asavari, Durga, Shuddha Kalyan, Marwa, Jogiya, Pilu, Kedar, Komal Rishabh Asavari, Bageshri, Mal Kauns, Darbari, Bhupali and ending the concert with a memorable rendition of Bhairavi.
Ravindra Katoti very ably accompanied Khan on Harmonium, Pandit Gurumurthy Vaidya on Tabla, Jagannivas Rao and Roshan Matis on Tanpur. For nearly four hours the whole program kept us spellbound, took us deep into the essence of the novel and made us appreciate the nuances of musical heart of the novel. Even though I had read this novel few years back, it was a totally new experience to understand the insights as explained by R. Ganesh and the music as rendered by Usatad Fayaz Khan.
Before the Mandra Sangeetha program, delivering a talk on Pusthaka Preethi, scholar Dr Willy D’Silva explained how the communication originated in humans, evolved into books and now culminating into information dissemination via the internet revolution. The knowledge and information today is stored in a virtual world, but the creativity will always be stored in the brain. He explained how the knowledge emerged and the interest towards knowledge developed in the human beings, about how the knowledge flow was blocked by the priestly class and how it was shared to the masses after the invention of press.
For me it was a greater challenge to capture the essence of this musical program in pictures. I took Ganesh’s words “Even though it is extremely difficult to explain one art form through another art form, substantiating an art form through another art form is the vital part of all arts”. Even though photography is considered secondary art and a poor medium to express thing as complex as music, I set out to capture the essence of the musical concert through my photography. I was using Canon EOS 1D mark IV as I had sold my 5D mark II camera which would have excelled in low light capture. I used it along with Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L USM Lenses to capture these photos. All photos were taken at ISO 1600 as light was quite low. I hope I have been able to achieve my goal of showing you how thoroughly I enjoyed the program using these images.