November 2008


Note: Opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.  Some of the ideas expressed here are controversial and question some established notions. I advise you to think this through and draw your own conclusions.

Certain songs by muttusvAmi dIkhsitar are labeled as tiSra tripuTa (3+2+2) or miSra Eka (7) in  authentic texts like the sangIta sampradAya pradarshini, but are sung in miSra cApu (3.5*2=7) nowadays. Similarly many songs of Tyagaraja are labeled in older texts as jhampa, implying miSra jhampA (7+2+1), but are sung nowadays in khaNDa cApu (2+3). There are also some songs in Adi tiSra gati (8*3=24) which are sung in rUpaka cApu (3*4*2), or tiSra Eka (3*4*2).

Now some questions.

  1. Is it really not right to sing a tiSra triputA song in miSra cApu as many rasikas may believe by default? Is it a corruption as some claim? Or is miSra cApu really the same as tiSra tripuTa?
  2. From a carnatic music classicism and tradition point of view, it would be pointless to argue about the “corruption, not right” sentiment, as it can be personal and subjective. But let us ask this from a more scientific standpoint: Does the tala itself impose a mandatory, unavoidable, influence on the melody? Thus, does changing the tala as above affect the melody itself?

I have not always answered as such, but my answer now is No.

I used to think that talas like tiSra tripuTa and miSra cApu are really two different animals in terms of their effect of melody, and while they can be equated only in some cases, any equivalence beyond that is contrived.

However,  now I think that from a strict rhythmic standpoint, they are fully equivalent, and thus cannot affect the rhythm and the melody of the rendition itself.  While I do not deny that the concept of tala may have helped people to come up with sophisticated rhythmic concepts, I do not think it is the only means to sophisticated rhythms, even the precise ones we find in carnatic music.  I think that may shock many 🙂 ! I will at least try to explain why I think so by first elaborating on why I think tiSra tripuTa and miSra cApu are fully equivalent and hence equally effective in keep time for the same song.

Read on (warning: gets technical)

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Today, is truly a new day.

Today, America is awake.

Today, America has wiped a stain.

Today, the light at the end of that tunnel is no longer a dream.

Today, that light is real, and it shines in America.

Today, there is a new dawn in America.

I am not a citizen of America, but I live here. Echoing what someone close to me said, I am proud to be an American today even though I am not a US citizen. It was indeed so special, so overwhelming to watch the US election results, and the ensuing celebrations of thousands of people of all ages, colors and races – particularly the clouded eyes and tears of joy in so many African Americans. Even though I was physically not there in the midst of it all, and this was all on TV, I could sense the gravity of the historic moment. I also take strange pride in the fact that the epicenter of the celebration was in the city I live in. I wish I was there in Grant Park yesterday and soaked in the good vibes up-close and personal. But I shared it with my wife – and isn’t that the best way to share an historic day?

As Obama himself said, he won’t be perfect, and I am sure that America will not set everything it wants to set right today, tomorrow, or even in four years. I just hope that in four years, we can say that he moved America palpably in the right direction – the direction that so many people are longing for. He would be a successful president just for doing that. In fact, even if he turns out to be a less than spectacular President, this still is a huge step for America. People did not want to deal with the issue of race in society, and in this election too much prior to today, but there is no question that it is huge. It is a very persistent, thorny cancer that continually pricks at the society’s conscience. Although this cancer has been steadily pruned over the decades by the progress African Americans have made in society, it still definitely hurts the society. Even after today, the cancer remains, and it would still hurt, but definitely less. More importantly, after today, many people may truly believe that this cancer could be gotten rid of.

The step that US took yesterday in electing a  black leader was a mandatory step that it just had to take. The de facto belief amongst most folks prior to yesterday was “This country is just not ready to elect a black president. I don’t know when it will be ready – probably not in my lifetime”. Today, that belief has been proven as dead wrong! And its decimation was done by one man in a span of just 5 years in national politics! I just cannot get over that fact – just incredible! Yes, the political climate helped him a lot, but so did his charisma, his clarity of thought and expression. US did not elect him just because he is African American. However, at the same time, it is very well aware that he is African American, which definitely was a factor (reflected in the polls as well).  In the end, he is an extremely charismatic, inspirational, intelligent, African American.  I for one, think that he is the right man in US today for all those reasons.

Everywhere I turn today, there is talk of joy, motion, and pride in the step that America has taken. It is easy to ignore that there are millions of people who did not vote for Obama – a significant % of the populace (almost half).  I wonder about them. How many of them are angry, and repulsed by the nature of the celebrations of the “other half of the country”?  I know there will be many such people  (one cannot make everyone happy), but I hope there will be a lot more people who are happy that America matured yesterday, and for that sake are willing to give this man an honest chance. I hope they realize why America had to take this step.

Note however that just taking this step does not guarantee greatness, peace and prosperity as many other nations have taken similar steps long ago (although the case of African Americans in US society is quite unique, and if one looks at it close enough, one can begin the understand the streaming tears we saw yesterday). However, without this step, secure comfort about a nation’s social and moral compass would either be not possible, or would only signal ignorance.  In fact, even after this step, there is at least one more as equally important step – a woman president (which also has already been done by many nations). I am confident, this next step, will also happen in my lifetime.