The Meandering Mysteries Of Manodharma


For practitioners of Carnatic music, mastery of manodharma is a sought after but elusive thing. Manodharma lies in the liminal space between structure and freedom, learned action and spontaneity, and somehow distills the essence of a raga at all points of time — its heritage, present convention, and future possibilities.

Among the variety of forms found in manodharma, the more common ones include raga alapana, kalpana swaram, and neraval. We all know raga alapana as a foundational part of improvisation, an exposition of the raga that outlines its unique essence. With no rhythm or lyrics, the soloist has a great deal of freedom to shape not just the pitches and phrases, but also its speed and structure. Kalpana swaram is a form of improvisation involving the singing of swaras within the bounds of tala, requiring great feats of rhythmic calculation and complex pattern creation. Neraval is a form of improvisation that elaborates on the melody of a certain line of sahityam. The challenge of neraval lies in keeping the sahityam fixed in its point of time within the tala, while still rendering it with a melody that is true to the raga.

It is precisely manodharma’s complexity and centrality to Carnatic music that has led to a wealth of discourse and information on the subject, though the variety of perspectives can be somewhat difficult to navigate. So, what better way to start than from the beginning? As part of SYAMA’s Margazhi in Singapore, we welcome esteemed vidwan Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan to offer some insight into manodharma as conceived by the musical trinity — Thyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, and Syama Sastri. Hopefully, in learning about the roots of the modern manodharma practice as we know it, you will find inspiration to cultivate your own manodharma practice.

Pedagogy and Practice in Carnatic Music

The student-teacher relationship is by far the most essential one to the study of Carnatic music, and esteemed singer Dr S. Sowmya presents a collection of interesting insights into this relationship from decades of experience as a student and teacher in this lecture demonstration. Drawing on her time as a student under senior vidwans such as Dr S. Ramanathan and Smt T. Muktha, as well as from the advice and guidance she has received over the years from various other practitioners, Dr Sowmya will present her thoughts on how to engage in practicing and learning the art of Carnatic music, something that will surely give you new ideas on how to cultivate your own practice in the years to come. Dr Sowmya will also touch on the pedagogy of Carnatic music and various teaching methodologies she has encountered and uses as a teacher herself. Particularly, how might teachers make the learning process interesting for students (and themselves)? To learn about this and much more, tune in to Dr Sowmya’s lecture demonstration on 18th December 2020 at 7pm SGT from here: https://fb.me/e/1Ifu76bNW

By Shiva Ramkumar