The Rediff Special/ Shobha Warrier And now a CD-ROM on Carnatic music!

    Ask Sowmya and Shasikaran who, after three years of relentless effort, have finally come up with Nadanubhava, the first ever CD-ROM that seeks to provide the nitty gritty about one of the most ancient music forms in India.

    One time child prodigies in Carnatic music, Sowmya and Shashikiran give a simple explanation for their effort. “As we achieved popularity, name and fame, we thought to ourselves, this art has given so much, so it is our duty to give something back to the art, to the music lovers who gave us so much encouragement and love. You can call this our homage, to our art, to the lovers of our art, to those musicians who have gone before us, to the elders who have contributed so much to Carnatic music.”

    That music is the hub around which their lives revolve is a given — the former is busy with research work on music at Madras University, while the latter is now into the post graduate stage of her studies in music. Interestingly, when Sowmya found that she was unable to cope with both music and academics, she quit the Indian Institute of Technology where she was pursuing research studies in chemistry — in order to concentrate on her first love.

    It was during their togetherness at Madras University that the two prodigies decided to put together the ultimate database. “Many have the appetite and urge to learn, but the problem they faced was lack of readable material,” they point out. “We decided to supply that deficiency.”

    Being today’s generation, the medium they choose was very ‘today’ too. “We could not think of any other medium to talk about Carnatic music. You need both the visual and aural mediums to explain the intricacies of this type of art. For example, on a CD-ROM, I can show a veena performance and then explain about the instrument, how it is played, etc through audio commentary. This facilitates understanding. And that is why we choose multi-media, which we believe is the only medium which has all the capacities to project Carnatic music in the right way.”

    Shashikiran, who was already performing even as he researched the teaching methodology of Carnatic music, went on to become the brains of the project, while Sowmya with her experience of live concerts became the soul and spirit behind it. Making it a family affair, Sowmya’s husband Sridhar chipped in with his knowledge of software.

    The end result was an interactive CD-ROM that incorporated not only demonstrations and explanations, but also quizzes, swara exercises, in a bid to get their audience to participate.

    And the project is not without some very attractive bells and whistles — most notably clippings of almost the entire pantheon of Carnatic music greats, in concert. Archival clippings incorporated here date way back, to 1930, while composers whose works figure date way back to the 7thcentury.

    It all adds up to one heck of an effort, made more complicated by the fact that both Sowmya and Shashikaran are individually busy with their studies, research and performances. “For the last few months,” says Sowmya, “we have been working almost all night, being performing musicians we don’t have the time during the days, to put this together. Sure, there were hitches and obstacles throughout — but it also served as a learning experience for us, we acquired an enormous amount of information about Carnatic music that we might otherwise not have come across at all.”

    “At the end of the day,” says Shashikiran, “we feel content and satisfied.”

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