"To write about one's daughter and disciple is a very difficult proposition. All I can say is that I'm thankful to the Almighty that he has given me Kala, who with her immense talent and musical abilities is all set to carry forward my tradition and legacy - The torch bearer of the Mewati Gharana in the true sense of the word. 'Kala' means art and that too related to fine arts. She stands true to her name in every way.
Kala Ramnath was born into a family of prodigious musical talent that has gifted Indian music such violin legends as Prof. T.N. Krishnan and Dr. N. Rajam. Kala's genius with the violin manifested itself from childhood under the watchful eye of her grandfather Vidwan Narayan Iyer. Simultaneously she received training from her aunt Dr. Smt. N. Rajam (see 'Radiant' Sense 022). For the past eleven years Kala's musical talent has been nurtured and enriched by vocal maestro, Pandit Jasraj.
Absorbing all these influences, Kala has successfully developed a style of playing that is truly unique, and has played a huge part in bringing Violin into the mainstream of Indian classical music. Though her improvised phrases are often complex, she never loses sight of the lyrical side of her music, her violin playing characterised by an elegant tone, combined with an immaculate bowing technique.
The violin used by Kala Ramnath is the same in shape and design as that commonly used in Western music. Only the holding position is different. The violin is played sitting down, the instrument pointing to the ground resting firmly on the ankle. Traditionally fingering is based around the middle finger (which slides up), and the index finger (which slides down), and there is extensive use of the use of micro-tones and grace notes. It is a technique which often leaves many western violinists lost for words. Open tunings, such as DADA are commonly used in order to incorporate the drones which are such an important part of Indian music.
The violin came into India in its present form as early as the 17th century and Baluswami Dikshitar was the first Indian musician to adapt the western violin and popularise its use in the South Indian Carnatic Music. The violin has become well established in the South, principally as an accompaniment to the voice, but also sometimes as a solo instrument. It has assumed a similar role alongside the Sarangi in the Hindustani music of the North, making it a versatile instrument in modern Indian classical music. However, the origin of the Indian violin has been traced to an ancient instrument called Ravan Hatta, which is still found today in Rajasthan. Mythology credits this creation to the demon king Ravana in the ancient Ramayana texts.
Subhankar Banerjee is one of the most popular tabla artists on the Indian music scene. His playing combines technical mastery with creativity, and his popularity can be gauged by the fact that he has already featured on more than one hundred commercial recordings.
At the age of five he was placed under the tutelage of Shri Swapan Shiva, celebrated artiste and teacher of Farukhabad tabla gharana. There are six recognised distinctive styles (gharanas) of tabla playing in North India, and over the years Subhankar has dedicated himself to the study other gharanas from different maestros.
Raga Jogkauns is an ingenious musical concept attributed to Jagannathbuwa Purohit "Gunidas" in the middle part of the last century. It successfully combines two of India's most popular and distinctive ragas, Jog and Chandrakauns, creating a unique raga with its' own personality.
All compositions presented in this performance have been written by Kala herself. She begins with a short alap, outlining the main melodic phrases of the raga, before moving seamlessly into the first composition set to a slow tempo of twelve beats known as ektaal. This rhythm is the preferred time cycle of vocalists and allows us to sample the soothing lyricism of Kala's playing. The second composition is set to a fourteen beat time cycle, ada chautaal, a favourite rhythmic cycle of the violinist. The third and final composition in Raga Jogkauns is a Tarana, (track 3) a rhythmic vocal style which has been successfully adapted on to instruments by the more skilled musicians of India. The tarana gives Kala an opportunity to demonstrate her remarkable technique, creating improvisations of a playful character and full of exuberance.
Raga Bhatiyar is an early morning melody with a somewhat haunting appeal. It has a complex structure making it a raga that is only usually tackled by highly practiced and experienced artists. Kala again begins with a short alap, before playing two traditional compositions, firstly in sixteen beats then in drut ektaal, a fast tempo twelve beat rhythmic cycle.