Unravelling the seven notes

Balamurali, Karnad launch first-ever encyclopaedia on Indian music

Unravelling the seven notes

Posterity beckons: Renowned Carnatic vocalist and composer M  Balamuralikrishna presents ‘The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Music of India’ to noted playwright and actor Girish Karnad during its release function in Chennai on Thursday. PTI

While preserving its diverse musical traditions down the ages, Indian music had also been “so mixed and yet creative”, Karnad said, after M Balamuralikrishna, renowned Carnatic music vocalist and composer released the first-ever ‘The Oxford Encyclopedia Of The Music of India’ on Thursday. The release coincides with this year’s music season in Chennai.

“I am struck down by the sheer size (three volumes) and sheer range of the entire work,” which did not compare with any of the earlier similar scholarly works on some aspects of Indian performing arts like the ‘Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre’, he observed.

This encyclopedia spans a mind-boggling 2,000 years of Indian music and dance through a range of forms, traditions and durbars, from classical, folk, film and other forms of music.

Presenting a historical snapshot, Karnad said, “you don’t understand India if you don’t understand her music.” It captured the spirit of India, he said.

To Balamuralikrishna, it was a “great day” for Indian music, as nothing like the encyclopaedia was ever attempted before.

The encyclopedia was a 12-year-long strenuous effort with over 5,000 in-depth entries contributed by about 100 acclaimed writers and scholars, said Manzar Khan, managing director of the Oxford University Press.

The volumes, a collaborative effort with the Mumbai-based ‘Sangit Mahabarati’, include 200 rare pictures from family collections and albums. They also cover the musical traditions of neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, added Khan.

Major contribution

A majority of writers who contributed to the encyclopedia from the south are experts from Karnataka and Kerala. They include Messers B S Ramakrishna, associated with the IIS, Bangalore, the Late B V K Shastry from Bangalore, B Pushpa from Thiruvananthapuram, G Venu from Irunjalakuda in Kerala, L S Rajagopalan from Thrissur, Gowri Kuppuswamy from Mysore, Hindustani music scholar Sadanand Kanavalli from Dharwad and V S Sampath Kumar, former Professor of Education of Mysore University.

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