There is hardly any Tambram household which does not have a trained carnatic singer or a trained Bharatnatyam dancer. Most households initiate their kids (girls or boys) into either of these streams at very early age.
My family from both Amma/Appa’s side has been no exception. I have cousins who are excellent singers, amazing veena players, superb mridangam players, lovely sitar players, accomplished violin players and I even have a cousin who does Rabindra Sangeet.
In short, I come from a very musical family.
My Appa’s Amma has often been compared to M S Subalakshmi. My Appa himself is not trained, but can sing so amazingly well that he can sound as good as trained singers. AND I have heard him even identify ragas (I was at awe till I was 16 after which I realised there are only like 6-7 ragas he can identify, but hey thats not bad at all eh?)
Amma is like those silent singers who can hum along with anyone though she pretends not to understand music. This from a lady, who completed her arengtram in Bharatnatyam at the age of 9, go figure!
Anyways, in short, like I said before, I come from a musical family.
In contrast, brother and I are musical duds. Honestly. Bro loves to sing and has an amazing voice, but he sure can make you shudder at times. I dance. period. fullstop.
Now, when we were kids, we used to go to Calcutta and usually around that time, all my cousins (all seven of them) used to do some form of singing or playing an instrument and they used to take us to their performances which their class would hold.
I must admit here that bro and I would not understand a word or rather correctly, a note, but we would just keep sitting there and looking at our cousins and swell with pride.
Then my mamis used to perform as well. It was those times, when you hero worship your mamis. And when they sat on stage and did a solo/duet performance with accompanyments, I used to feel they were greater than Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhonsle.
In short, this was a case of clearly being awe stuck. I used to get bored when they would sing Alaap but would love with when they played around with the swarams…You know go ‘sa ni pa ma sa dha’ or something in those lines.
I am not sure about my brother, but there have been times I have even gone off to sleep midst such concerts. As soon as cousins and mamis finished, I would get bored and nod off while people around with me shake their flower filled heads in talams with the jhumkas in their ear rings going left and right, their hands slapping against their thighs palms up, palms down in perfect talaam to the mridagam player’s beat.
Funnily, people expected us to understand music. Bro and I. We were under tremendous pressure at one point in time. and no its not that my parents didnt want us to join classes, I was put into a music class like every other Tambram girl, but I was scared of the teacher and would pretend to have a stomach ache EVERY time it was class time. My Amma being the most adorable mother in the world, never forced me and just made me join a dance class instead. and the rest is of course history.
Its weird that as a Bharatnatyam dancer, I confess not to understand music, more specifically carnatic music, because dance is void without the music. However, I learnt my dance under a Gujarati teacher. Who is the bestestest teacher in the world, but had her limitations in the music part, language being the key barrier. Does that mean I repent learning under her? never. Today if I can enjoy any kind of dance, and can dance anywhere, its ONLY because of her. She gave me a base so strong, that I can start off garbas in unknown places and dance by myself in Tambram weddings including my own!
But the pressure to understand Carnatic music, is very high on a Tambram child. you are ‘expected’ to know it, identify raagas, find out which talams, figure out the sangathi and all that. and if you confess you arent trained, you are looked upon like an alien from the Mars or something. Even more, your parents background is questioned ; ) *both parents Tambram ah? music class la podalai?*
Personally, if I could go back in time, may be I would want to join a music class. I have been told by a couple of people that I have a ‘strong voice’ go decipher what that means *rolls eyes*
But, I think its always good to have a hobby. Whether its dancing, singing, painting, skating, walking whatever.
When I read about the music festivals happening in Chennai in December, I have this sudden feelign to go and attend one of those. But then I remember the concerts in calcutta from childhood and get a bit scared. What if I dont understand a word and I am expected to? :):)
This post came up as a reaction to the guest post which Srinayan did on Sudhagee’s blog
and of course, one person in the blogworld I know who knows her raagas perfectly superb is Maid in Malaysia. Her posts on music or the raagas which spoil her morning :) where she links up the videos often make me hang my mouth open in awe 🙂