03 November 2007


When I sing, I feel something releasing in me. I deeply miss my music classes with Mrs Sampath. I learnt a bit of Carnatic music from her in Hubli, of all the places. As far as I know, she was the only Carnatic vocal instructor in Hubli-Dharwad, the cradle of Hindustani music in Karnataka. Pure stroke of luck that I found her.

When I first joined the classes, I was about 12; my voice was good, but raw... unused to modulations, to 'bhaava'. Mrs Sampath told us to practise at home at least once a week. Prashanti, the little brat and my music classmate, and I would 'practise' all the way from my house to Mrs Sampath's, a distance of about 15 mins. But the good thing about us was when we began to sing in class, we poured our heart out. And Mrs Sampath would be impressed, and would say, "So, you have practised."

But Mrs Sampath was no fool: soon, she told us that our voices were good and we sang well, but we had no bhaava. Now, what is bhaava, I remember thinking. And then she sang the same kruti that we had just sung, and I began to listen. I heard many sounds in her voice, many ups and downs, many twists and turns, many a thing that made me close my eyes and rock my head. (That's among the many similarities music has with the process of an orgasm: you cant stand or for that matter lay still when you are experiencing either.) And I knew I didnt produce these sounds; at least not then.

So, I began to practise. Not much, maybe an hour or two a day. I also began to listen to more music. One day at class, after I finished singing a pancharatna kriti, Mrs Sampath looked hard at me, as if trying to search for something, and then gave an approving nod of her head. The beginnings of musical insight - that's what she was looking for in me, and she said she found them.

Mrs Sampath was a perfectionist. Weeks used to go by with me stuck on a line. There was no going ahead unless she heard what she wanted to hear. It was excruciating for me because I could see where she was tweaking it a little, but to do that myself made me sweat. There was only one way to sing it the way she did: shut my eyes tight, map out her voice exactly in my mind, and imitate it. And, bingo! If you hear it right, you've got it. This was how I picked up Bengali, too. Works with language and music.

Must find a teacher here. Must practise, must sing, must breathe!

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