Talks By The Firelight 1.5: Rhythms and Ragas

Aruna Sairam, Indian Classical Vocalist

Venkat S
Venkat S
Oct 18, 2018 · 5 min read
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Padma Shri Aruna Sairam delivering her guest lecture at NIT-T (Courtesy: Pixelbug)

It was two days since Festember ’18 had embarked on an Arabian Odyssey. Amidst the festive fun, Day 2 of Festember saw Sangeetha Kalanidhi Smt. Aruna Sairam entrancing us with her amazing lecture on Carnatic music and its allure. A few members of Team Festember were most fortunate to interview her after she had delivered her guest lecture, as part of Festember’s Carpe Diem series of lectures.

Often regarded as one of the finest pioneers of Indian Classical music, Smt. Aruna Sairam is also referred to as the Music Ambassador of India, for successfully taking Indian music to the global arena. Her refreshing approach to the age-old performing art and her mesmerizing performances have left many an audience in awe. Steeped in expression and divinity, her songs never fail to evoke devotion in every listener’s soul. In her guest lecture, she narrated a few glimpses of her own past including how much she wanted to become a chemical engineer. However, stating that “Life takes its own course”, she explained that music not only gives us joy but also teaches valuable lessons in life.

“The focus of every musician lies in the notes which he/she is about to play immediately. Similarly, if you are lost in a sea of thoughts, restrict your thoughts to a boundary. That’s how you focus.”

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Picture Courtesy: Pixelbug

“To appreciate Carnatic music, you need a little initiation. But once you get the taste for it, you’re hooked to it for life.”

Smt. Aruna Sairam demonstrates the gliding movement of the notes in Hindustani music
Smt. Aruna Sairam demonstrates the nuance of the notes in Carnatic music

This is a different aesthetic approach very particular to Carnatic music and exposes Carnatic musicians to a structured way of thinking.

“If one is exposed to Carnatic music first, any other form of music can be handled easily.”

She also added, “Carnatic is one style where the Bhakti, or the devotion aspect, is not diversified from the music”. The lyric is as important as the music. Any song or composition that one sings, there is always a spiritual content in it and is always offered to the Lord. In all other music, music as an art is generally separate from spiritual music. These two are the specific features of Carnatic music which she thinks are very special.

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Smt. Aruna Sairam singing for an enthralled audience at the guest lecture (Courtesy: Pixelbug)

When asked about her modified approach to Carnatic music, incorporating the singing of Abhangs and other styles, she says that experimentation is welcome as long as the core of the song involves pure Carnatic music. She also believes that to innovate and collaborate is to take Carnatic music to the next level. She assures that the future of Carnatic music is very bright and experimenting with fusion has only taken it forward.

Talking about the importance of music in a technology-driven society, she says, “I would say the more and more technical we get, the more we need music. To save our souls. We keep working with technology to the extent that we don’t even move around a lot, let alone interact with fellow human beings. With so much technology around us, it’s more like a solitary existence.” She thus feels that for a technocrat, the easiest way to get relaxed, to feel uplifted and to be inspired would be music.

As we approached the end of the interview, she took some time to share her pearls of wisdom, when she advised aspiring musicians to start off by choosing what it is they want to do, like being a vocalist or an instrumentalist. “Depending on where and which level of competency you are in, you will definitely require a mentor to take you to the next level,” she explained. All it takes then is to focus and practice and get to a point of professional competence, from where one can consider options on how to have a career in music. She also adds that there would always be people to help us out at any point in life. When asked whether she would subscribe to the idea of senior Carnatic musicians starting a forum to take Carnatic music to the next level, she graced the question with an immediate “Yes”.

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Picture Courtesy: Pixelbug

Smt. Aruna Sairam’s guest lecture proved to be illuminating, with her mellifluous voice captivating the audience. It was an incredible experience for Team Festember to interact with one of the most experienced and distinguished artists in the Indian Classical music scene.

This interview was taken along with Murali Krishna, Srinivas Rajagopalan, and Divya S.

The Festember Blog

The official creative outlet of Festember, the inter…

Venkat S

Written by

Venkat S

The Festember Blog

The official creative outlet of Festember, the inter college cultural, literary and arts extravaganza of NIT, Trichy. Subscribe to look at the world through a unique looking glass, with our thought-provoking and fun reads.

Venkat S

Written by

Venkat S

The Festember Blog

The official creative outlet of Festember, the inter college cultural, literary and arts extravaganza of NIT, Trichy. Subscribe to look at the world through a unique looking glass, with our thought-provoking and fun reads.

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