Mano Dharma VS Mano Adharma
Manodharma Sangitam or extempore music is an integral part of Indian classical music. The term Manodharma implies showing one’s creativity [Manas] within the parameters [Dharma] of the music system. On Aug 19th,2022, I heard a very insightful and thought-provoking lecture by Sangeet Samrat Chitravina N Ravikiran on the topic of what constitutes Mano Dharma Vs what is Mano Adharma, which was arranged by Madhuradhwani: a Chennai based Sabha which has been promoting Carnatic Classical music since its inception in 2012.
Quest for truth
Shri Ravikiran began the lecture by stating that, for some people, music is mere entertainment. For some others, music is a hobby. for some, it may be passion. for a few, it may be a profession. However, at the end of the day, the aim of every music student is to be on the quest for the truth, which is synonymous with god. There are common truths to every system of music, such as purity of note, command over rhythm, having pleasing tone/voice, correct and pleasing pronunciation of lyrics etc. on the contrary, there are specific truths, that apply to a particular system. For example, in western classical music, all notes are equidistant, while in Hindustani, and Carnatic music, their Shruti values are different. Opera singers use a lot of vibratos, while we Indians emphasize straight notes.
Adherence To Raga
One of the most important truths in both Hindustani, and Carnatic system, is the adherence to raga. A raga is larger than, all people who have sung/played it, all those who are singing/playing it, and all those who will be singing/playing it, put together. It is bigger than mere personal tastes, or a particular Gharana. However, Raga structure may vary from gharana to gharana. for example, some gharanas do not advise the use of Pa in Bageshri, while others use it in some particular Prayogas. Similarly in Carnatic, some school used more of kakali nishadam or Ni 3 in Athana, than others. [now the over all percentage of use of Ni3, and Antar Gandharam/Ga3 has reduced considerably.].
Its imperative for an artist, to stick to a particular school of raga rendition for around 95 % of the time, and should not mix all the schools together. He may be influenced by some other legend, who is from another school, but that influence should be shown in such a way, that it should not appear like some copy and paste. To accomplish this, an artist must know what are the most recurring Sangatis, as well as the Vishesha Prayoga, specific to a particular school of music.
Style Vs Mistake
To stay loyal to the raga, one must know the signature phrases of the raga. for example, one can not sing Sa Re Ga in Begada [as its signature phrase is Sa Ga Re Ga], just because it sounds beautiful. Another important thing is to know the exact sequence of notes in ascending/descending scale of a raga and sing accordingly. For example, many songs in Saurashtram contain phrases, which defy the exact sequence of the Raga notes. In such cases, it is the duty of an artist to correct those Sangatis. There are 2/3 ways to correctly sing a particular phrase. If an artist chooses one of them, it will be his style. However, if he sings something else, it’s a mistake, that should not be condoned, by the artist himself, or by his audience. even if some legend makes a mistake, it does not give a license to a student to do the same. so in short, one should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff or be like a Rajahansa, which can separate milk from the water.
See the lec-dem here.