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Give music teaching a laya orientation: Parur Quarter
CHENNAI, January 9: The ‘Parur Quartet’ comprises three generations of violinists. Father M.S. Anantharaman, his two sons – M.A. Sundareshwaran and M.A. Krishnaswamy – and M.S. Anantakrishnan, son of Sundareshwaran, form the Quartet.

The second and third generation members of the Quartet - Krishnaswamy, Sunderesan and Ananthakrishnan – showed up at the Rasam Restaurant here on January 7, 2011 for an interactive session organized by Deccan Chronicle.

Even as they diplomatically deflected ticklish issues, they revealed their minds on very many subjects. There was fineness in they way they fielded a range of questions with quite efficiency. They revealed a sense of openness to embrace all good things in music and life.

Do we get overdose of Carnatic music during December? "You can’t avoid this," argued Krishnaswamy. Lot of NRIs (non-resident Indians) made a beeline for the music season. "Where will these NRI kids go? They will feel happy performing in front of their own people – their grandmas and grandpas," he said. This would give their lot more happiness than performing in front of a foreign audience, he pointed out.

He felt that the growth of sabhas had resulted in the distribution of audience, resulting in small attendance at many a concert. The classical music, he said, had only a niche audience. Is classical music compromised these days? It all depended on the listeners. "What is Carnatic music? All musicians know this," he said. But dilution happened for assorted reasons. In this context, the brothers quoted Neduneri Krishnamurthy who said, "if you do rightly, people follow it. So don’t dilute music." Well, according to the brothers, "you need two hands to clap", suggesting the need for the audience to develop good taste.

For the brothers, music is anything but secular. According to them, music transcends lyrics, language, caste, religion and everything. So much so, they were convinced that "a good music will always get appreciation." Often times during their overseas trips, they ended up playing violin in churches. In the late 80s, the brother duo had even played at a Dargah in Paris Corner in Chennai!

Why should music teaching be only raga-oriented? Sundereshwaran felt that there should be a laya-orientation to the music teaching. "Our music has sruthi and laya inherent in it. But that should be explained to the students to give them a better understanding of what they are learning and rendering. This will enhance performance,” the brothers felt. "While we learnt, we learnt entirely based on the murchanas of a raga and there were no text books or notations available. In the modern day, however, one has every component required to learn the nuances of music,” Krishnaswamy pointed out.

What is important – music or lyrics? "Music is important for music. It should sound good to listen," asserted Krishnaswamy. For him, music comes first and then the lyrics. "It is difficult to learn everything and sing," he pointed out. After becoming a full-fledged Vidwan, however, "we have to bring perfection to the lyrics,” he conceded.

Asserting that the music-learning kids these days were quite intelligent, Krishnaswamy pointed out that they got more inputs from diverse sources these days. Sundereshwaran, however, felt that children should first have a natural desire to learn music. "We can only build on that," he added. He also cautioned the kids against turning over-confident. By-hearting music was good. "But you have to convert it (by-hearting) to Siddhi," the elder brother pointed out. "It is not enough if music comes to you. It must stay with you," he said. Semmangudi and others had done it. "If the music is not practiced and left incomplete, then the music is not yours," he added. "We used to practice at least for ten hours daily,” Krishnaswamy said. "Even today our father Ananthartaman practices for 5 hours," they said.

Sundereshwaran felt the challenges were plenty while playing solo. Accompanying someone else was also equally a tough job. "It is like a pole vault in the case of solo and like running a 100-meter race in case of accompanying a main artiste," he said.

The brothers swore by traditional music. They were against dilution in any form. "Even the audience who attends a temple concert applauds when music is presented in its undiluted form. So, it is the responsibility of the leading musicians to take forward our traditional music and give the best to the audience without bringing down the standards,” they felt.

Disciples of their father Anantharaman, who did not skip his violin practice even while undergoing treatment at a city hospital, the brothers said, "Music is greater than the individual at any given point of time. It is something beyond human that makes a person a musician of repute.”

Ananthakrishnan, the GenNext member of the Parur Quartet, is doing quite a few things apart from pursuing classical music. He runs a fusion band called ‘Zinx’. His ‘white violin’ is his original invention. And, this innovation has become a hit with his fans. Like his father and uncle, he too has completed his graduation in commerce and is presently doing his MBA and ACS. "I want to create my own tone in violin. I would like to be known as a musician. I will take it (music) as what I know and do what I could with whatever I know," said young Ananthakrishnan. He said he had no role model. He said he would take inputs from all, especially from grandfather, father and uncle.

Music is in their DNA. They talk, breathe and live music. They enjoy it and make it enjoyable for others. For the uninitiated, they are violinists from the same family. For the musically-minded, they are the famous Parur Quartet. Their violin playing has come to be known as the Parur style. This style is unique and evolved around `gamakam' (finest oscillation between two notes). Their playing style often attracts huge turnout for their concerts. The patent holder of this style of violin playing was A. Sundaram Iyer. He may have gone into the pages of history. But the style he had perfected lives on through his kids and is hailed as a classical one by musicians and fans alike.