Managing moods with music

Managing moods with music

Classical musician Nithya Rajendran is employing music to help working professionals de-stress.

Nithya Rajendran

Nithya Rajendran, founder of Music Vruksh, uses Indian classical music to help working professionals and students explore its potential for enhancing creativity, aiding mindfulness practices, de-stressing, managing moods and emotions and building singing skills.

She does this by bringing common raagas (or melodic structures) in both Carnatic and Hindustani music on the same stage using the corresponding accompanying instruments such as the tabla and the harmonium for Hindustani and the mridangam and the violin for Carnatic. Excerpts from an interview:

By merging Carnatic and Hindustani, are we taking the risk of denying the unique identity of both streams?

The format of concerts I have done and hope to continue doing is to not merge the two forms, but simply present the common raagas, in both Carnatic and Hindustani music in their authentic styles. This is different from fusing both together. My stage usually has accompanists of both forms with me, much like a jugalbandi concert, except that instead of two artistes, there is only myself as a single vocalist presenting both forms alternatively. My intention through presentations like these, is to not dilute, but to in fact, enhance appreciation and integrate audiences for each of the forms into one large cohesive audience that can learn to appreciate both forms equally.

Historically, both forms had the same source...the Sama Veda, but now, the origins are seen as being separate. Your opinion?

Yes, the Sama Veda is the source of all Indian classical music. The divide came with Persian influences and the Mughal rule, which brought about an interesting new dimension, leading to pure Hindustani classical forms like Khyal and other semi-classical forms. While music remained primarily devotional in mainstream Carnatic kritis, in mainstream Hindustani forms, along with devotional content, we began to see an infusion of romance and appreciation of seasons.

While content and styles may have evolved into two, the underpinnings of divinity, spirituality and submission of the personal self/ego to the divine remain common to both forms. That’s a state of being all Indian classical musicians aspire for.

How do you intend to bring both forms together?

Through concert demonstrations that bring common raagas in both forms on the same stage, but in their authentic styles. For example, Bhairavi in  Hindustani is roughly the same scale as Thodi in Carnatic, or Kalyani in Carnatic, which is similar to Yaman in Hindustani; even Ahir-Bhairav in Hindustani roughly matches with Chakravagam in Carnatic. This way, we are speaking the same music language in two different and yet authentic styles. This, I hope, will help integrate audiences much more easily.

Music is healing, but both streams follow a different path, especially in the ‘time-of-day-raga’ system. How can we reconcile this difference?

As I said earlier, while the approaches may be different, the goals are the same... spiritual upliftment, submission of the ego to the divine and internal peace. Whether through the beauty of the time-of-day method in Hindustani music or through the richness of devotional lyrics in Carnatic kritis or through rasas or emotions in raagas, applicable to both forms, the end objectives remain the same.

In difficult times like these, how can music help youngsters, especially teenagers?

Indian classical music has immense potential to heal a person spiritually (and by extension, emotionally and physically). It can bring about meditative states, emotional catharsis, transformation and a feeling of connectedness and compassion towards everyone. This, in itself, is an amazing tool for all people, including teenagers, who struggle with anxiety, alienation and weak self-concepts, which leave them feeling isolated and withdrawn from life.

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