Shabda – living art archive

The Shabda initiative takes a little help from digital revolution, aiming to take classical Indian music and dance to a wider audience.

"It can be presented as a speeding arrow reaching its target or as an intimate conversation between spouses." That’s how R Visweswaran, veena maestro from Mysore describes naya or the rakthi raga Begada in his talk, "Classification of ragas as Ghana, Naya and Deshya ragas." He was speaking at  Shabda  an unusual performing arts event held recently at the Bangalore Gayana Samaja in Chamarajapet, recently.

Shabda came into being when three carnatic musicians T M Krishna, H K Venkatram and R K Shriram Kumar met at the Music Academy canteen last December in Chennai. While T M Krishna and R K Shriram Kumar live in Chennai, violinist H K Venkatram is from Bangalore south. Venkatram works for Intel Corporation as Director of Intel Architecture Group in India. He also heads the Vijaya College of Music, a premier music institution in Bangalore.

The three musicians wondered what it would take  to propagate Indian arts and culture to a wider audience. Their inspiration was TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) talks which brings the speakers and presentations of any conference to everyone on the internet. The runaway success of TED’s short videos has lead to the widespread dissemination of a variety of ideas and opinions. Likewise Shabda‘s founder’s visualized experts in the field of  arts presenting live on the  topics of their choice for 20 minutes and videos of these would be available online for any interested viewer.

The nonagenarian Bangalore musician and Padma Bhushan awardee R K Srikantan kicked off the second edition of Shabda. He demonstrated how the use of one musical note, the Sadharana Gandharam when interpreted in different ragas brought a whole new listening experience every time. Whether it was the grandeur of raga Thodi, the flatness of raga Dhenuka or the grace of raga Shanmukhapriya the same note had a different effect on the listener’s ear.

Two Bharata Natyam dancers Guru Bhanumathi and Guru Priyadarshini Govind talked about "musical compositions in dance as a group" and "visualizing a composition" respectively. In Guru Bhanumathi’s  presentation the geometrical patterns presented by her students while executing the jatis had a vibrancy of movement and expressions. Bhanumathi runs a dance school in Jayanagar.

"I wondered how I could bring out the emotions of the boy and girl when encountering crabs on the beach" said Gowri Ramnarayan, Chennai-based writer and playwright as she discussed the incorporation of classical music in the theatrical adaption of the poem "Crabs" by Marathi poet Arun Kolatkar. The strains of raga Kathana Kutuhalam conveyed the surprise element of the players in this scene.

In yet another video clip from the play "Sarpa Sutra" the notes of the raga Behag reflected the turmoil of the snake woman who is later annihilated by the forest fire initiated by the God of fire Agni. The event was rounded off by Bangalore musician Dr. T.S. Satyavati who spoke on the aesthetic appreciation of a musical composition.

Starting with the one classical note, the day’s journey through vocal rendition, theatre and dance, Shabda brought an eclectic collection of the performing arts to the audience present. More importantly, it is a worthy endeavor that brings a diverse audience to the arts, not merely confining itself to students of music, dance or theatre. The founders of Shabda have many projects on the anvil. For more information and upcoming events go to – www.shabda.co.in

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