Revered vocalist R.K.Srikantan, who turned 90 on January 14, completed 75 years as a career musician. Incidentally, it is also the 15th anniversary of the R.K. Srikantan Trust. The present approach to music, he feels, is very different from that of earlier years, when there was complete devotion and dedication to the art.
Technical correctness has now taken precedence over bhakthi, the basis of our music. Spontaneity and improvisation are integral parts of Indian music, but Srikantan asserts that planning can ensure variety in ragas, compositions, talas, and composers, adding categorically that he always plans his concerts.
As for the criticism that Carnatic music it restricts creativity because of a preponderance of set compositions, he is emphatic that the raga alapana, neraval and kalpana swara segments provide vast scope for originality.
He recalled that this is a fairly recent phenomenon, as a hundred or more years ago there was no swara kalpana for krithis at all – only the raga alapana and krithi would be sung – and swara kalpana was indulged in only for pallavis.
Srikantan avers that in modern times “the guru-shishya relationship has become more commercial, though there are instances of genuine ‘guru bhakthi’. It was different in the olden days – the student stayed with the guru, served him, and as and when the guru taught, he would learn.
It is impossible to bring back the gurukula system, but the student can still have complete guru bhakthi and earnestness. No art coaching should be taken as a hobby – it should be taken as a career, as only then can the real significance of the art be imbibed.”
The future of Carnatic music, he feels, is bright, as there are many good artistes, “but let them maintain tradition and not do unnecessary things in the name of creativity. Respect the audience and don’t take them for granted.” The ultimate purpose of music, according to him includes aesthetic, emotional and intellectual enjoyment as well as spiritual upliftment, for all of which Carnatic music is the perfect medium.