Friday, September 30, 2016

Karnataka Music: The Story of it's Evolution

Mysore School of Painting
The broad division of Indian music into Hindustani and Karnataka types that obtains at present amongst the writers on the subject is capable of further sub-division from the evolution view-point. The main stream of musical tradition that originated from Bharata underwent many changes with the changing years. New influences were brought to bear upon the two branches of the main stream, so that each acquired a characteristic peculiar to the cultural tradition of its part of the country. It is a long way from the classic purity and restrained beauty of Dhrupad to the imaginative intensity of the Thumri in the history of North Indian music, which was subjected to Arabian and Persian influences. But South India here as elsewhere stands to-day as the rigid custodian of more or less traditional forms. Not that there were absolutely no changes whatever, for music was always a “live” art and is still so in spite of the scant attention it receives from the so-called educated classes. No vital art can be static and so we find that certain changes and improvements were effected from time to time.

Karnataka culture in this as in other branches of its activities presents a synthesis of forms and symbols of apparently alien cultures. It reconciles the northern Samskrta tradition with the Dravidian forms of the far south. Modes indigenous to the country were assimilated into the scientifically evolved forms of the north in such a skillful way that it is usual to find in ordinary parlance an impression that mathematical rigidity of form characterises Karnataka music.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

G. Venkatasubbiah: A brief biography

Prof G. Venkatasubbiah
Ganjam Venkatasubbiah (G. V.) is a Kannada writer, grammarian, editor, lexicographer and critic who has compiled over 8 dictionaries, authored four seminal works on dictionary science in Kannada, edited over 60 books & published several papers. Recipient of the Kannada Sahitya Akademi Award & the Pampa Award, G. V's contribution to the world of Kannada Lexicography is vast. G. V.’s ancestry can be traced back to a quaint old village enroute to Melukote from Mandya which goes by the name of Mudagundooru. For generations, his forefathers lived here practising priestly activities before they were faced with the famine of 1876 – 88. This famine dealt a severe blow to the already arid region necessitating their exodus elsewhere. Thus, the family came to a village on the banks of river Cauvery by the name of Ganjam. The family continued with their priestly affairs earning meagre sums. The chief priest among them Narasimha Joyis had 2 children. His first son – Thimmannaya was a Kannada teacher by profession at the local Government school and had to endure frequent transfers to other cities.

L-R: B.L.D'Souza, S.Karanath, J.Wodeyar, A.N.Murthy Rao, V.Si., G. V., Kuvempu
Thimmannaya and Subbamma had eight children. Second among the eight children was Ganjam Venkatasubbiah born on 23rd day of August, 1913. While at Ganjam, Venkatasubbiah’s grandfather would regularly walk to the banks of river Cauvery to fetch water. Little Venkatasubbiah would accompany his grandfather on these trips all the while reciting the Amarakosha.  Venkatasubbiah would accompany his father across several towns owing to frequent transfers. Among these towns were Bannur and Madugiri. G. V. stayed at Madugiri between 1927 – 1930 and had an engaging childhood taking an active part in local sports, trekking, extra-curricular activities at school and listening to inspirational speeches by national leaders. Mahatma Gandhi visited and spoke at Madugiri in 1927. Even the doyen of Kannada literature, Maasti Venkatesh Iyengar visited Madugiri during these years and presided over a local event.  G. V.’s classmates included the likes of K. S. Narayanaswami – the editor of Gandhi Sahitya Samputa and K. S. Krishnaswami – an eminent economist who would become deputy governor of Reserve Bank of India and vice president of World Bank. G. V.'s elder sister Gowramma was rendered blind due to plague. He had 6 younger brothers – Seetharamayya, Narasimhamurthy, Dakshinamurthy, Krishnamurthy, Suryanarayan & Visweshwara and a younger sister Lalitha. Eventually, his father would get transferred to Mysore and along came G. V. In 1932, G. V. joined Yuvaraja College at Mysore to pursue his intermediate course. While at it, his subjects included Ancient History, Sanskrit and Logic. His teachers included Na Kasturi, Kuvempu and M. A. Venkata Rao. Here G. V. made it a point to read “The Hindu” & “Madras Mail” to keep abreast of national and international affairs.

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