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Portraits of the classical masters

The master who composed concert favourites like Brochevarevarura and Bhajare manasa also wrote a warm book about his fellow musicians. An English translation is just out.

Mysore Vasudevacharya composed hundreds of kritis in Telugu and Sanskit. He wrote his books in a simple, sparkling Kannada.

Nenapugalu (Memories) has keenly observed details of early 20th century Mysore. Naa Kanda Kalavidaru (The artistes I know) contains gentle, witty descriptions of scores of fellow musicians. This is the book Vasudevacharya's son-in-law, S Krishnamurthy, has translated into English. Masters of Melody was released in Bangalore in June.

Over 100 musicians sang in unison seven of Vasudevacharya's compositions at the release ceremony.

Honour for a critic

B V K Sastry, veteran music critic, was honoured in Bangalore on Sunday, 11 July.

Gayana Samaja, whose auditorium is hallowed by the music of the great masters, was the venue of the felicitation ceremony.

Born in 1916 in Nanjangud, Sastry studied painting at Mysore. Chikka Rama Rao, the famous vocalist, recognised Sastry's interest in music and took him as his disciple. Sastry heard the best Karnatak musicians over the years.

Sastry's career as a critic began sometime in 1938 when he started writing for a Mysore magazine called Sadhwi. He worked for a while at the Mysore University library, where he met and interacted with many writers and scholars.

He then served in the treasury, and was transferred to Mysore in 1956, where he started writing on music for Sudha, Prajavani and Deccan Herald.

Sastry, who is 84, continues to write frequently. "It is a good artiste's duty to win over the audience and raise them to his level. He shouldn't stoop to please them," he says.

"We live in a culture that believes that even the bitterest criticism must be couched in pleasant words. We don't have a tradition of criticism like the West," he says.

Friends, acquaintances and others

Marasim is Urdu for a tie, relationship, friendship, an acquaintance, casual or intimate.

Gulzar favours engaging the listener in the intricacies that language is capable of. He believes oversimplification kills both the language and the listener.

Gulzar and Jagjit Singh, with thirty years of friendship behind them, feel the key to a good audience is sensitivity, not cheap gimmicks and colourful videos.

In their own words: "It is very rare for human beings to abide by just one relationship in life."

Fleeting moments of great rapport with an acquaintance may never be recaptured. Chance meetings leave behind impressions, or over a lifetime one might only have a very distant acquaintanceship. All these in-between, indescribable, but very real relationships form the emotional content of Marasim.

Tapes and CDs are available on Sony.

Big music store in Bangalore

Music World, India's biggest music store, opened in Bangalore on June 25.

The airconditioned store, next to Nilgiris on Brigade Road, stocks over 75,000 titles.

Music World has set up listening posts for those who'd like to sample the music before they make their choice. Knowledgeable merchandisers are around if you need help.

This is the third store in the chain, the other two being in Kochi and Chennai.

Take a look at Taal claims

Subhash Ghai's musical Taal boasts a web site where you can hear clips from A R Rahman's soundtrack.

Taal claims to be the first film to be promoted on the Net. Its site is tacky, and the star chat is, well, judge for yourself ... They're discussing the music here:

Aishwarya: My favourite is each and every song.

Anil Kapoor: You know according to me, I feel, really seriously, honestly, it means I feel, its got the greatest music...

And Anil again: You know, you get intoxicated, you feel bugged (yes, that's what he says) when you hear the music of Taal.

For more entertainment click here

Seeing music, smelling colours

BBC's Horizon recently aired a programme on synesthesia, the ability to smell or hear colours, and see music. No, we haven't got the verbs wrong.

Synesthetes, or people who have synesthaesia, perceive the world differently. Sensory perceptions stimulate their brains such that their reactions overlap.

A woman listening to jazz sees golden balls cascading down and scattering in time to the music; that's how jazz sounds and looks like to her. Some see colours when they hear words. Yet others can hear vibrant neon colours screaming at them. People are blobs of colours. Traffic sounds are tingling sensations at the tips of their fingers.

This is the emotional brain interpreting external stimulii.

Synesthesia seems to run in families. The famous novelist Vladimir Nabakov, who wrote Lolita, was a synesthete. So too was his wife. Nabakov (yes, the programme had a clip of the novelist himself) explains how he associates an alphabet with blue and his wife associates it with pink. Their son blends these two colours to percieve the same letter as lilac!

Synesthetes love their perceptive powers. To them it is a gift that leads to creative pursuits. Carol Steen listens to music in order to paint. The famous artist Kandinsky too was a synesthete and his work is believed to be an expression of this distinct way of perceiving life. He used to talk of the "scent of colours".


Awards for Bhimsen Joshi, DKP and Lata

Three greats received the Indian government's Padma Vibhushan awards this year: Bhimsen Joshi, D K Pattamal and Lata Mangeshkar.

Bhimsen Joshi is among the greatest living musicians today. He ran away from home when just 12, convinced he had to find himself a music teacher. He found an anchor in the music of the Kirana gharana.

D K Pattammal ought to have received the Padma Bhushan long ago.

She represents the best in traditional Karnatak music. She sang playback for films in the black and white era, but she did not sing bhajan music.

Her singing is characterised by great intensity and depth. Her grand daughter Nityasree carries her tradition forward.

Lata Mangeshkar joined the film industry when she was barely in her teens.

She regrets the lack of formal classical training among today's singers. Her biography, now on the stalls, talks of her rise from humble origins to stardom. If you want to hear Lata's truly unforgettable songs, switch off the TV and switch on the radio.

The scent of music

A new perfume shares its name with Lata Mangeshkar.

She loves perfumes, and it is not surprising that she agreed to have one named after her. "Why not?" she retorted when a journalist made bold to ask her if she had been paid to lend her name.

At the launch a badly hung hoarding almost fell on her. But the lady was all smiles. Sixty one distinct notes (olfactory and not musical) go into this scent of a singer.

Honour for Ilaiyaraja

The Madhya Pradesh government has chosen Ilaiyaraja, the master composer of the South, for the Lata Mangeshkar award this year.

Lata, incidentally, has sung a couple of songs for him.

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