Dance India Asia Pacific 2020 Music

By Sushma Soma

“This has been a difficult year for many of us, but it was so gratifying to have a week filled with art with artists par excellence and I am excited to see what the future music sessions of DIAP will bring for us musicians!” summarises Sushma Soma about her experience on attending the inaugural masterclass music program at the DIAP 2020. Every year when Dance India Asia Pacific starts posting its schedule and I start feeling the palpable buzz amongst the dancers in Singapore, a part of me would envy them. I would wonder ‘Ah, when can we have a similar residency programme for musicians?’ And just like that, DIAP read my mind and debuted an unforgettable music initiative this year.

With Dr S Sowmya leading a padam session, Sikkil Gurucharan leading a Manodharma & Ragam Tanam Pallavi workshop, Patri Satishkumar leading a Sankeerana Nadai in Mridangam workshop, DIAP ensured that it had something for every different Carnatic vocalist and mridangam artist. Initially, as all the participants conversed, we were all daunted by the fact that we’d have to sing and perform in our respective sessions in front of the doyens. However, this worry was put to rest when the artists from India reassured everyone that there was absolutely nothing to feel conscious about and this was a safe space for everyone to learn. We made mistakes and we learnt from them. Sowmya akka as she was respectfully called by all of us, generously shared with us the padam, ‘Pusadaramu’ that she learnt from T Muktha of the legendary T Brinda and T Muktha duo. She patiently taught us every nuance, emphasised on the importance of ending a sahitya a particular way and the importance of highlighting a ghamakam a certain way – she made it very clear that she held the patantaram with utmost reverence and that we had the responsibility of receiving it and singing it with that same respect. Many of us were new to the padam form, hence took considerable amount of time to grasp the flow and nuances. However, Sowmya akka was insistent (even more so than us) that we did not rush the learning process and she repeated each line multiple times until we understood it. While we felt guilty that the session had to be extended to the following week, Sowmya akka carried with her the same excitement and passion to share this gem in Todi Raga as she did on the first day. For this and more, we are all so grateful to her and DIAP for giving us this opportunity! While emphasising that manodharma is a lifelong pursuit and it cannot be fully learnt in 3 days, Sikkil Gurucharan gave the participants a treasure box of tips and useful methods which set a strong base upon which the participants can build their manodharma. Working with a Pallavi set in Pantuvarali Raga “Guruvina Gulaamanaaguva Thanaka, Doraya Danna Mukuthi”, participants learnt about the jeevaswaram in each raga. From building a tanam to neraval to kalpana swaram and lastly to even creating their own pallavi, the participants were exposed to every facet of the RTP. I was particularly intrigued by how one could work on the trikala exercise or 3 speeds exercise using just S R G M P D N S and corresponding words Sha ra va na bha va gu ha. Sikkil Gurucharan ensured that every participant had the opportunity to share his/her work, hence ensuring the participants did not miss the in-person interaction as much. Apart from the workshops, there was a lec-dem by Sowmya akka on “Padams and Javalis from the  Brinda Muktha school”. It was inspiring to hear how they would not change any sangati and sang it exactly the same way every time they rendered it and passed it down to their disciples too. It was also interesting to note that padams explored the idea of Shringara through ghana ragas, which made me wonder as a vocalist how I could bring out the Shringara rasa while singing a Bhairavi or Todiraga. This has been a difficult year for many of us, but it was so gratifying to have a week filled with art with artists par excellence and I am excited to see what the future music sessions of DIAP will bring for us musicians!

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