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  . . Karaikudi Tradition | Introduction

Karaikudi Veena Bhaani

Karaikudi Vina Bhaani
Karraikudi S. Subramanian, 20-12-2005

Bhaani is from Bhaanih in Sanskrit, which is from the root word bhan meaning sound. Bhaanih also has another meaning- "weaving". Literally it is "weaving with sound".

But when one talks about style or bhaani in Carnatic music, first and foremost is that, one recognizes the total personality of the performer speaking through the music performed. The personality encompasses the way in which the performer has lived, the number of years staying with the master, the values held, the music listened to, the aesthetics developed, the right and wrong integrated unto oneself due to lineage or as disciples of the master and finally the individual limitations and strength.

Bhaani is generally translated as Style in English. With this equation, we need to distinguish style from stylization. For example in Indian films, there are two categories of actors. The stylized actor whose idiosyncratic gestures, movements and the preferential roles in the film, make him unique and distinguishable from the rest of the actors. He belongs to the first category. He stands out. In the second category the actor acts the roles of characters in accordance with the characterization in the story. Here the actor's self is subordinated to the characters of the story. This is quite simple to understand.

But it is difficult to describe a musical style precisely in the above manner. Describing the musical
style of a parampara going back to several generations in the contemporary context becomes even more difficult, especially in an oral tradition such as Indian music. I present this with the hope that all sections of the audience will be able to get something substantial out of this.

Karaikudi style of vina playing started from Karaikudi vina brothers, Subbarama Iyer and Sambasiva Iyer the 7th generation vina players in their family. No recording is available of the music of Subbarama Iyer. Recently a recording of Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer is made available from a private collector. But the recording is a duet or trio performance where the two prime disciples of Sambasiva Iyer, my sister, Smt. Rajeswari Padmanabhan and Smt. Ranganayaki Rajagopalan have accompanied him. However, I will describe here and demonstrate the most important features of the style.

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