Kadhalagi Kasindhu Kaneer Malgi
Odhuvar thammai nanneerikku uyipadhu
vedham naangin meiporul aavadhu
Naadhan naamam namachivayave

Bearing Witness

"..... I was 15-and-a-half, and I was thrown into a haunted universe where the story of the human adventure seemed to swing irrevocably between horror and malediction. I remember, I remember because I was there with my father. I was still living with him there. We worked together. We returned to the camp together. We stayed in the same block. We slept in the same box. We shared bread and soup. Never were we so close to one another.

We talked a lot to each other, especially in the evenings, but never of death. I believed — I hoped — that I would not survive him, not even for one day. Without saying it to him, I thought I was the last of our line. With him, our past would die; with me, our future.

The moment the war ended, I believed — we all did — that anyone who survived death must bear witness. Some of us even believed that they survived in order to become witnesses. But then I knew deep down that it would be impossible to communicate the entire story. Nobody can. I personally decided to wait, to see during 10 years if I would be capable to find the proper words, the proper pace, the proper melody or maybe even the proper silence to describe the ineffable.

For in my tradition, as a Jew, I believe that whatever we receive we must share. When we endure an experience, the experience cannot stay with me alone. It must be opened, it must become an offering, it must be deepened and given and shared. And of course I am afraid that memories suppressed could come back with a fury, which is dangerous to all human beings, not only to those who directly were participants but to people everywhere, to the world, for everyone. So, therefore, those memories that are discarded, shamed, somehow they may come back in different ways — disguised, perhaps seeking another outlet.

Granted, our task is to inform. But information must be transformed into knowledge, knowledge into sensitivity and sensitivity into commitment.

How can we therefore speak, unless we believe that our words have meaning, that our words will help others to prevent my past from becoming another person's — another peoples' — future. Yes, our stories are essential — essential to memory. I believe that the witnesses, especially the survivors, have the most important role. They can simply say, in the words of the prophet, "I was there."

What is a witness if not someone who has a tale to tell and lives only with one haunting desire: to tell it. Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.

After all, God is God because he remembers. "

- Eli Weisel as read in "This I believe" , NPR Apr 7,2008.

We walked into the Wong Auditorium @MIT a few minutes late. It was rainy,windy,and cold. The walk didn't help either.As we walked in, he was just getting done with his Varnam.

Sikkil Gurucharan. All I knew before this concert was that he was from the Sikkil lineage, and if his youtube videos were anything to go by, talented. As I sat there, he started with a "Kannadai" followed by composition in Bhavapriya. The Karaharapriya main peice was effortless, crisp and fast.

Not once during the Aalapanai did I feel the need to get out and get some fresh air, as is the case with people who sing Thodi and Kalyani. Yes, I judge people who sing Thodi as the main peice. Even as the sub-main. Call me a snob, I don't care. Thats how much I hate Thodi. Are you people heartless slobs? Music is all about feeling. Bhaavam. Character. Emotions.Yes, it has to do with complex math, arithmetic and geometric progressions. But in a way that embellishes the mood set by the Raaga. These progressions have to flow, it cannot be forced upon the listener.Granted these raagas are "strong" , but they fail to invoke any emotion in me. Its not the fact that they are melakarthas. Believe me. I love Shamugapriya. It has depth, it has beauty.

But somehow Thodi and Kalyani - Trite. Done to death.Beaten, used.Cloying.Its like seeing the Microsoft default desktop and crooning "Wow!! Soo pretty". Or, eating a store-bought and microwaved mac and cheese, and saying "you are the best cook in the world". Or going to every damn ice-cream shop in the world and ordering vanilla ice-cream everytime.Shut up !! It makes me want to rip my hand off just so I can hit these people. And don't even get me started on the Aadi thaalam kalyani Thyagaraja krithi. (No offense to the great composer - it's just a BANAL combo!)

Anyway, now that I have offloaded my rants, let me get on with the concert review. Where were we? Oh, yes. The Kharaharapriya main peice. It was fast-paced , and Nagai Sriram on the violin did an amazing job. Neyveli Skandasubramanian as always , was brilliant on the mridangam and the whole peice was orchestrated beautifully.

I want to take a moment and talk about a beautiful Panchalinga krithi called "Ananda Natanaprakasam" set to Kedaram. Composed by my favorite trinity Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Gurucharan knocked this one out of the park . He was simply brilliant. I want to emphasise why this part was sooo fasinating to us. No offence to the yesteryear stalwarts, you guys were good, but IMHO the male singers of yore while being technically competent,weren't particularly bhava-centric. In other words, they catered more to people's brains rather than emotions. Since Yesudas and Unnikrishnan, things have changed, and I am thrilled to see that the modern day singers including Sanjay Subramaniam and Gurucharan modulate voices and notes to enhance the emotion of the raaga. We were mesmerized by his Kedaram - He made us want to run home,search this song online and learn it ASAP.

Gurucharan proved that he is an artiste of professional caliber as he presented an RTP in Reethigowlai. (My fascination for this raagam started since - you guessed it "Azhagana Ratchasiye.") A semi- elaborate raagam and a quick thaanam later, we were treated to a swara spelt of Reethigowlai, gowlai, kannadagowlai and kedaragowlai. Borrowing from the Gowlai Pancharatna, Gurucharan effectively used manodharma to string together unusual swara patterns.

Another example in point about how contemporary carnatic music has evolved is when, seeing our puzzled faces trying to figure out the raaga that followed after gowlai, he gave out the name of the raagam as soon as he was done with the swarams and Nagai sriram was exploring Kannadagowlai. It saved me a whole lot of thinking, going crazy, and searching online. :)

The concert was wrapped up with a a virutham followed by a bhajan,Javali in Paras, the behag thillana and the Mangalam.

Some nuances in concert that may not have been apparent yesterday : Gurucharan took particular care in choosing raagams (no repetitions, no janyas or similar sounding ones), composers (all major composers covered), languages (Telugu,Tamil,Hindi,Sanskrit,Kannada),types of krithis (from the Varnam,thillana,RTP,bhajans to the oft-forgotten javali, devara viruththam), thaalam (Aadi, rupakam,mishra chapu, kanda chapu and a thaalam that I haven't quite figured out yet - no complete lagu and one dhrutham). His Hindi pronounciation was perfect, with no hint of the southie accent.

Overall, I was very impressed. This guy is definitely someone to watch out for.

Fine Print : I swear the fact that he is in his early twenties (and good looking) did not affect this review at all ;)