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Festival of ragas

SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN

Raga Ratnam Junior on Amrita TV is a talent hunt to select and encourage up-and-coming Carnatic vocalists.


Music teachers should not only teach lyrics, tala and raga but also teach students to emote and modulate.



Tuning in: Contestants of Raga Ratnam Junior on Amrita TV;

Just when one thought that reality shows had reached saturation point, Amrita TV has packaged a talent hunt and reality show that is aimed at showcasing the best up-and-coming talent in Carnatic music. Called Raga Ratnam Junior, the show has 15 young sters competing for the top slot in the talent hunt.



Judges Palakkad K. L. Sreeram, Aswathy Tirunal Rama Varma and Bini Krishnakumar;

“We wanted a show that was rooted in our culture. So the aim was not to mimic the usual reality shows that go over the top to promote the participants and the show. We wanted a value-based programme that would reach out to all music lovers.

“Of the 1,500 contestants who participated in the audition, 15 were selected by a jury headed by veteran music composer Dakshinamoorthy,” says Sohanlal, producer of the show.

The result is a group of young singers between the ages of 10 and 15 celebrating a festival of ragas.

Avers Dakshinamoorthy, the man at the helm of the talent hunt: “I see the entire exercise as a lesson for budding singers. They can see, learn and correct themselves. Music teachers should not only teach lyrics, tala and raga but also teach students to emote and modulate.”

True singers

“The effort has been to select and encourage students who go beyond merely memorising and parroting what has been taught by a music teacher. The participant should be able to improvise and prove his/her proficiency as a singer,” says Palakkad K. L. Sreeram, one of the judges on the panel.



Dakshinamoorthy.

Sreeram, a playback singer, composer and Carnatic musician, feels that students must be motivated to explore the ragas and come up with kalpanaswaras on their own.

A view shared by Carnatic vocalist and veena artiste Aswathy Tirunal Rama Varma who participated as a ‘celebrity judge’ in a round devoted to compositions of Swati Tirunal.

He adds: “Although I am against competitions in music and fine art, I agreed to participate in this show as this talent hunt does not merely promote gloss. These kind of competitions get a lot of media space and attention and so it is a platform to share our views with the participants and viewers. Moreover, there is a genuine attempt to kindle the spark of creativity in the participants.”

Unsung heroes

He was all praise for the accompanists Edapally Ajith (violin), G. Babu (mridangam), Sudheer (ghatam) and Govindaprasad (morsing).

“It was wonderful to see their selfless work and the way they encouraged, supported, guided and, sometimes, covered up the small slips of the contestants. Despite the glare and heat of the lights, they consistently and tirelessly came up with a marvellous performance for each competitor,” he adds.

While applauding the high standards maintained by the finalists, both Rama Varma and Sreeram rue the many simple mistakes made by some participants in the audition rounds. “There were many able singers who failed to make the grade because of the glaring errors they made in the swara sthanam and ragas; mistakes that they seem to have picked up from their teachers. Mistakes in elaborating the ragas, in pronunciation and rendition of lyrics. But what is heartening is the enthusiasm and verve of the contestants, some of whom were outstanding,” they explain.

Playback singer and Carnatic vocalist Bini Krishnakumar, one of the judges on the panel, echoes their sentiments when she says that some of the participants were so good that it was difficult to cut a single mark.

Bold decision

“I feel the channel must be congratulated for a bold decision to plan such a show. The minute I heard about it, I agreed to participate as a judge.

“It is difficult to come up with rigid parameters in music and say one style is wrong or right. I feel that Carnatic music is that which pleases the ‘karn’ (ear) and touches our heart,” says Bini.

And it is the ability to touch the hearts of viewers that will decide the fate of the contestants as the viewers vote through SMS. “However, 50 per cent of the marks will be decided by our judges. So, it will not be completely SMS-based voting that will select the winners. The next round will have nine singers (Navratnas) as six participants will be eliminated. This round has been divided into different segments such as Keerthanams, Drishyasangeetam, Swararaga Swati pravaham and Thillana. More innovative rounds are in the offing,” promises Sohanlal.

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