For the Non Classical Trained

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 🙂

About R's Mom

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50 Responses to For the Non Classical Trained

  1. Santulan says:

    It’s a good thing for parents to instill hobbies upon kids. Hobbies are a way of developing. However they must take into account the inclination of the child. I personally like the fact that Amma-Appa did not force you to get into it. And hopefully, R will pick up a hobby and be good at it. But like you said it could be skating, dancing, or maybe taekwondo or painting or something else

    • R's Mom says:

      Oh even I am hoping she picks up a hobby and sticks to it 🙂 I like Taekwondo…good idea eh?

      • Santulan says:

        Back in my Bombay waala school, We had to take Yoga, Taekwondo, Art and Crafts classes every week. One hour of each. And not just simple drawing and sticking labels. We were charcoal painting, multi layer etching, fabric painting in arts. For crafts there were puppets, tv screens, POP Toys, stitching and all. So it helped us see where our inclination was

  2. pixie says:

    I can so relate to this post!! 😀
    my sis and I enjoyed dance classes more than Carnatic music classes!
    We used to bunk a lot! heh! we even had one teacher, who in the midst of a class would remove the extra kajal from her eyes and smear it to the carpet she was sitting on!! LOL! yuck!

    There was a time when I used to identify raagas too! Sigh! Now, if I start singing, the roomm will start emptying! :mrgreen:
    I’d rather dance! 😉

    • R's Mom says:

      you went to both classes..wah! ekdum good girls eh?

      Eh ma, why would she smear kajal on the carpet!!

      you could identify raagas..wah thats awesome na! Glad you dance now 🙂

  3. You know classical dance??? WOW!!! R ko bhi sikhana pakka.. okie??
    I still tell my Mum why she did not send me to any classical dance class 😦

  4. R wants to send Chucky to classical music, he wants to do everything he couldn’t do through his daughter..And Chucky is very clear, she wants to learn Piano..I am stuck between two..

    • R's Mom says:

      She wants to learn Piano..baap rey, like I said LF, she is like the most perfect kiddo I have ever seen!!!

      you just let her do what she wants..nothing wrong in letting her attend a couple of carnatic classes and then check if she likes them eh? We should at least let them explore it

  5. chipmunk says:

    My voice is a really base voice and you know there will be some swaras you need to sing on the base of my voice, where only air will come and no words will be uttered out. I never go for the thought of others. infact I went to learn violin, whereas my music teacher on the other hand insisted that one must need to know basics of music to start a violin. my interest went, I completed, several varanams and still my teacher didn’t utter a word about this violin term itself.

    • R's Mom says:

      My Akka plays the violin almost professionally, but her teacher also asked her to learn vocal first and then graduate to violin

      Darn! I wish you had an more enthused teacher 😦 I agree..most of the time it definitely depends on how nice the teacher first dance teacher was so strict that I used to pee in her classes (well,I did once!) and the second one who is a Gujarati is the most amazing teacher ever!

  6. chipmunk says:

    I was wholly irritated and at the end a full stop came for music on the whole. It depends upon the teacher and mainly the interest. Let R learns watever she wishes to do dear, never listen to others words, people will speak, they are known for it, its a particular age where she herself will gain some interest in any one of the art so no worries till then, but if she didn’t take any initiative you do then, as of now, she needs a strong bones and a lively environment. You are giving that, may be send her for swimming,

  7. techie2mom says:

    Whoa!! Tambram kids are supposed to know the raagas and all!! I think your mom did right when she didn’t pressurized you!!!!
    And argngetram at the age of 9!!!! Your mom is amazing!!!

  8. Smitha says:

    🙂 I can actually imagine that 🙂 All the Tambrams I know are super talented when it comes to music. I am tone deaf. I learnt music for 5 years, and have nothing to show for it 😦

    Your parents are lovely that they let you be. And let you do something that you enjoyed instead – that is what matters in the end, isn’t it? That you truly enjoyed dancing?

  9. Smita says:

    You know I love this thing about Bengalis & people from south, they are really rich in culture and take all pains to even instil the same values in ur kids! Seriously! When I think of us north Indians all we are taught in the name of culture is Food, not that is bad but still.

    What about R, what is her inclination music or dance or both? Aah! I will tell you, languages!!! 😀

    • R's Mom says:

      Well..I think food culture is very very important too eh? and no North Indians do have a lot of stuff like Kathak and hindustani music which they do pass on to their next generation. I have a Visharad in Dance and trust me, in the papers I wrote about dance, I wrote equally about both Hindustani and Carnatic music, and equally about Bharatnatyam and Kathak dances 🙂

      LOL on R’s choice…i dont mind her being a will be wonderful 🙂

  10. mim says:

    hey i know A FEW ragas…
    not quite the know-ramus you make me out to be.
    and online there’s always google to fill in the blanks.

    i enjoy carnatic music… because it has an effect on me — moves me, bores me, kills me , kisses me

  11. LOvely post, RM!

    Both of my parents are not musically inclined, except for Appa, who loves Bolllywood music. 😀 I take after him. My entire family is not all that much into music, in fact. I was never put into music or dance class – it is not such a big thing in Gujarat, and our family has been there for, like, over 70 years now.

    I don’t really understand classical music, but I do appreciate it. Whole-heartedly. I love listening to music from different parts of the world, trying to find what I like best. It is a work in progress for me. I admit I get bored in classical concerts. Maybe if I had a better understanding of the ragas, I wouldn’t nod off so easily.

    People have told me that I have a nice voice, too, and that I should learn to sing. I would like to, someday. Just as I would like to learn to dance.

  12. RS says:

    And I thought that the concluding para would be about why R is/is not enjoying her carnatic music lessons..
    Hey and i have learnt bharat natyam as well.. from a tambram teacher . Why would one need to identify raaga in dance. I think you need to have a sense of rhythm or understand the taal…but ragas…i dont understand..ok may be i am not tambram..that is why.. but i loooove to dance.

  13. garima says:

    well music/dance ke saamne I am nill,shoonya ,so I better not say anything.
    Next time we meet ,you perform a dance show like your mami and I will just sit back and enjoy *bhago RM maarne aane wali hai*

  14. Ashwathy says:

    You DO have a strong voice…with a very strong base. Hey, better late than never. It’s still not too late to learn, you know. 🙂

    So, does R have interests in singing or dancing?

  15. meenamenon says:

    hmmm s it only in India that jus cause we are from certain community we are expected to know abt certain genre of music!

  16. Your post made me nostalgic ! I was brought up around Tambrams and learnt Veena for few years. Later discontinued as we moved to HYd. I so regret my decision now after having kids of my own and decided to enroll myself along with my 4 year old in music classes. I think it’s the influence of Tambrams ( 🙂 )I am inclined to have my kids into one or other form of arts.
    Loved your post.Good to know that you dance:).

  17. anisnest says:

    I am like you RM.. I have learned bharathanatyam and can dance decent enough but have no sense about ragams, swarams and thalams… I am glad Adi is learning her music.. Hope she continues with it..

  18. Reading about your cousins and family reminded me of my family or any bong family for that matter where children learn rabindra sangeet, classical music, tabla, chess, Odishi/manipuri dance, painting, swimming etc. etc. I also did not get chance to learn much more than studies and whatever was taught at school because of mobile nature of my fathers job. My mother – a well trained (rabindra sangeet) person herself had lots of worries around the fact that i am not learning anything extra. Father was not worried at all though he could play tabla and act. Today as a grown up I do go through pangs of ‘I should have learnt something feeling’. I would like to learn to swim and drawing/painting and an instrument. But then I try to enjoy, listening music, watching a painting, watching good movies, and do stuff when I see J doing anything. But for J again I find it difficult due to time constraints and her inclination to decide what should she learn. I guess this is a continuous process.

  19. Pepper says:

    All I thought of when I read this post was – R is such a fantastic dancer! I can still picture her shaking her leg. She understands rhythm so well! Music and dance, you guys make a talented family!

  20. Sreetama says:

    Oh I could so relate to the post. The story is pretty much the same in bengali households as well n we must have proper gyan about Rabindrasangeet. Initially I took classical music lessons followed by Rabindrasangeet.

  21. Amit says:

    My parents never pushed me into anything but I used to sing and dance and paint in school. I can’t sing anymore without waking up the dead.
    I think it is important to push your child in extra curricular activities but the child should show some interest in an activity. If this too is turned into a competition, then how is it different from normal studies?

    • R's Mom says:

      I agree…but my point is finding that thin line between introducing and ensuring that your kid attends enough classes to figure out if the kid is actually interested or not..thats a very very difficult line to find 🙂

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