February 12, 2014

Insights From A Long Innings

Interview : M.L. Vasanthakumari

Insights From A Long Innings

Renowned Carnatic vocalist M.L. Vasanthakumari is presiding over the annual festival and conference of the Indian Fine Arts Society this year. SRUTI Editorial Associate V.S. KUMAR elicited her views on Carnatic music today and several related subjects. Excerpts from the interview.

To start off, what do you think is the state of Carnatic music today ?

Carnatic music as I see it today has shown tremendous improvement. There still are quite a few takers, quite a few people wanting to learn and practise it. And a significant percentage of the newcomers is reasonably good. There are of course more of them wanting to learn and perform on instruments while vocal music does not have as many adherents. Still, I should think there are a sufficient number of votaries for South Indian classical music, and a sufficiently high standard is being set and maintained by these.

In the last 15-20 years particularly, many youngsters have shown a lot of interest. Cinema and light music have been strong pulls in the opposite direction, yes. But I must say that these days even cinema music is not so bad. In the last decade there seems to be a return to the classical motif and film music composers do seem 10 be picking up ideas from the classical mode. Before that, in the mid- 1970's it was black—hopeless, you know.

You said there's greater interest on the part of aspirants in instrumental music as opposed to vocal music. Why is it ?

Frankly, I think it's because vocal music is more difficult. I'm not saying that handling and mastering an instrument is easy ; but in vocal music, you need many factors to be in your favour: the throat, that day's voice, the accompaniments, your own mood, the mike, the atmosphere, the audience. The hall and its acoustics matter a lot ; you must even choose the raga-s and the kriti-s to suit the hall. What will succeed in Sastri Hall [in Madras] can be disastrous in Shanmukhananda Hall [in Bombay]. The vocalist has to know so much: how to 'give' the voice, when to soften the pitch and when to give it 'out', what his or her adhara sruti is, and so on. And, most importantly, which of the reputed critics are sitting in the audience, which ones among them will say what.

Vadya sangita is not any less difficult, mind you. Don't get me wrong on that. In fact, getting a bani in vadya sangita is very tough and since getting a style identification is important from the viewpoint of individuality, it's harder for an instrumentalist to make an impression. Young people like Ravi Kiran and Srinivas have done remarkably well and deserve a lot of approbation and appreciation. They have carved out individual niches of their own and created high standards of musical excellence with distinctly different styles.

But in vocal music, the voice is everything. It has to be brought under one's command and the vocalist has to make the voice do what he wants it to do. He needs health, strength, the brain to use the voice effectively. The human voice is so sensitive that he might have an allergic reaction to even mild dustiness in the air and the concert can go kaput. The mental and emotional atmosphere is equally important : he may not strike a rapport with the accompanists for instance.

Would you say vocal music is fading out, slowly ?

No, no. How can I say that ? But I can't help noticing that among today's brighter stars and top performers, there are probably more instrumentalists and fewer vocalists.

What can be done about it ?

Very little, I think. It depends upon trends and tastes. In the case of men, the voice breaks and changes at some stage of their adolescence, as you know. If at this point they lose heart and feel that the voice is gone for good, that's the end of what could otherwise have perhaps been a good career. Moreover, unfortunately, they also have to study, in order to fashion their livelihoods. People find it difficult nowadays to consider music as the sole means of livelihood. The fear of failure bothers them enough to keep it as a second string to the bow. And students these days want more and more knowledge, to deal with people. In the circumstances, gurukulavasam or learning by staying with the guru is decidedly tough to practise. But —and  I want to stress this—whatever may be the practical difficulties of today's world, whatever may be the level of IQ today, there is no parallel to what one can iearn person-to-person from a guru. Observing the guru while he prepares for a concert, watching him while he judges the hall and the audience and decides his table of songs, seeing his handling of the listeners and the accompanying artists—that's where a disciple obtains a great deal of knowledge. And the public is also made to know that a sishya is getting ready.

A further benefit is when the guru relaxes into one of his easier moods and thinks aloud on what could've been done better in that concert. Today, if a full-time residential course is not possible, at least concentrated learning even two days in a week should be. An aspirant can choose his own guru, perhaps, but it would be desirable to help him decide that so-and-so's style is best suited to his own endowments, especially his kind of voice. You may know that ITC [India Tobacco Company] is helping with this in Calcutta. It has set up a research centre—the Sangeet Research Academy — for Hindustani music where there are musicians from different gharanas. An aspiring student can apply and get tested through an audition to find out which gharana he or she is best suited for.

The main objective of the Academy is to ensure that old styles or bani-s of music don't just disappear without a following. I visited this place once. Its staff are quite professional and mature. If they find from the tests that an aspirant doesn't have the necessary aptitude, they tell him firmly and don't mince words. Without such institutional help, the best an aspirant could do is to shift and decide for himself who would be his ideal teacher. The would be guru can also play an important role here— he can tell the disciple whether his [the guru's] style will be appropriate for that student's endowments and aptitudes.

The institutional approach appears an excellent alternative. Some major industrial house should perhaps come forward to sponsor such a school for Carnatic classical music too. That would be beautiful. But who will bell the cat ? Industrialists are so unapproachable that all such ideas have to remain merely as figments of imagination. The money, the position, the status— these are great dividers. That near-impossibility of getting near them makes you weaken and say : "What to do ? Let's be content with what we've achieved."

Approaching the government and governmental bodies and agencies is no easier. Can a simple poor vidwan — however good a musician he may be—approach the Prime Minister, for instance ? When there's so much of level differences to contend with for relatively simpler things like seeing a person in authority, one feels hopeless. While the audience for Carnatic classical music is essentially middle class, for sponsorhip, for staying afloat, we also need money and the support of the moneyed people.

Coming back to the learning of music ...

Yes. I'm afraid I digressed. The essence of teaching and learning is to know what is good and to be taken ; and what is bad and to be avoided. Not only the musical aspect but the behaviour, the conduct, everything. And that can be best done only personally, face to face. If the guru you approach does not talk to you or is even hostile, you don't have to run away and forget him but you can and should try again. But there's no need for you to learn and reproduce that behaviour yourself with juniors! When senior musicians of today learnt music through the gurukula system, they went through so many difficulties. But thev retained their guru-bhakti. That has, I would say, been an important reason for their success today: their gurus' blessings. Without the guru's goodwill and good wishes, no concert can succeed. Similarly the failure to give credit to one's guru is an unforgiveable sin.

So learning through taped music ...

How can it ever equal the power of learning personally from the guru ? You can learn only the body, the lifeless body of a composition that way. We do it sometimes, we who have been through many years of experience. But we don't learn it by rote ; we absorb the essence and bring into it our style, our bani. It becomes ours after we've learnt it. That's the secret. It's more than just memorising and repeating the composition parrot-like. Someone must be there to correct the young, to redirect him if he slips up when he learns from a record—to say, for instance : "While he has sung this sangati, it wouldn't suit your voice and so don't attempt it." That's the essence of gurukula.

Gurus should also be open-minded. They should of course follow a patanthara, but not keep asserting that their style is the best or the only style. The sishya naturally will follow and absorb the guru's style. How can a disciple avoid the musical manner and style of his guru ? True, he should develop originality as he goes along but why put him down on that score early in his career ? Original ideas will emerge by and by ; maturity will set in later, to sift and absorb the essence of the style without the frills and mannerisms.

Taking your own bani, your school, one unusual feature we want to clarify with you is the singing of Mohanam with the sa-da-pa and pa-ga-ri being sung with a distinct suggestion of the ni and the ma (respectively)—two swara-s not used in Mohanam. Your school is otherwise very grammar-strict and lakshana-bound ....

It's basically a case of what are called anuswara-s. Anuswara-s are used to allow some tilt, some gamaka, for the music could otnerwise become rather flat. So we sing sa-sa-da or pa-pa-gawith the middle swara being just suggested, no more. You take it as ni or ma, but we sing it only as sa and pa. The prayoga has to be heard carefully. When I sing a phrase ga-pa-da-ri-sa-sa-da and shake the sa just before the end, I'm singing it only as sa-sada, but to some it sounds like sa-ni-da. One point is crucial : one should do this with the knowledge that the shake is to be given carefully so that anya swara-s [notes foreign to the scale of the raga] are not suggested. If someone hears me doing it and blindly follows it, thinking the usage is permitted, he could easily blunder.

And since it's the human voice, one has to be doubly careful—an instrumentalist could probably avoid the swara more easily. But I repeat : one can do it only so long as he knows what he's doing. He shouldn't do it because he heard someone doing it.There's the case of poetic licence too, as in Saravana bhava enum tiru mandiram of Papanasam Sivan in Shanmukhapriya. It distinctly carries the chatusruti da at the point ; the raga does not allow it. But the usage sounds musical, pleasant. So that's it.

You talked about a musical aspirant distinguising between what's good and what's to be avoided. How does one do it ? What is the system or method to do it ?

It's largely while practising that you've to learn this. Wrong practice is more harmful than no practice. The thing to do is the most natural thing—you must shun everything artificial and contrived. I would say that's the basic tenet. Take the voice for instance.The sound, the 'sabdam' that voice produces. Of these sounds, akaram is the most, pre-eminent, the most musical. Then comes eekaram. Sounds like 'oo 'ye' are not good for music and have to be avoided. Through improper practice these sounds can come about and unless the aspiring singer is properly guided, he'll end up giving out these unmusical sounds in the concert.

Similarly, there is a great deal of science involved in the method of 'giving' the voice. What we call 'vallinam' and 'mellinam' (thick and thin shades)—the bhava with which some sangati-s must be sung.

Can you elaborate ?

'Mellinam' is essentially softening the voice and 'vallinam' is stressing a phrase with a firmer voice. A performer should know when to employ which. Youngsters sometimes don't know how the voice should be 'given' or modulated. Now that there is sound amplification all over, the musician has the confidence that the precise tone he wants to suggest can get across to the listener. Of course, sometimes the improper amplification can produce the opposite result ! The speaker system has to be good and the person managing it must have some essential grounding in the technique of sound and maybe music also. All that is difficult to come by. Madras city has so many marriage halls but the acoustics aren't very good in even one of these halls. The manner in which the amplification is handled is also pedestrian in most cases. In this regard I must add that the junior artist suffers all the more, because no one really bothers about the mike and the audio system for a junior's concert and the result is that the performance gets affected.

Different songs are suited for different halls. Yes, it's true. Some kriti-s and the sthayi-s in which they have to be sung are meant for women singers and some are not. For instance if a woman singer starts off the concert in a large hall with a song starting in and hovering around the madhya-stayi sadja, the concert can become dull and colourless. A truth I've gathered from many years of concert experience is that a vocalist especially must have a quick brain and a presence of mind to gauge the hall, its acoustics and the sound effects and decide which raga-s and which songs will come across and which won't.

Can this be taught ?

I'm afraid a lot of it has to come by experience.

Many musicians do not like criticism and one or two have openly said that they prefer critics not to review their performances. We in SRUTI believe, however, criticism has a role in promoting excellence, preserving valuable traditions and encouraging innovation. Do you agree ?

Of course, I do. But I deplore critics who are caustic, downright harsh. A person like me can probably take it in her stride. I'm nearing the end of a long career and it doesn't matter so much if a critic chooses to carp on a particular day. But youngsters, up-and coming musicians who need encouragement, are often put down so hard by critics that they become terrorised and this in turn affects their music too.

Everyone's not a great singer and the critic doesn't have to say [wrongly] that so-and-so sang very well when he or she was only average. Mind you, quite a few critics do say nice things about good performances and give a tremendous fillip to the youngsters concerned. But when the critics pan an up-and-coming musician in categorical terms, the artist loses heart and, what's more, his future performances are always tinged with fear, especially when he sees the same critic in those performances. Psychologically this can wreck a musician with good development potential. The artist may even say to himself: "Oh dear, so-and-so has come for this concert. I remember his derisive comments about my singing. What should I sing ? Should I change the fare prepared ?" This can be nerve-racking and can curb and distort his free musical expression. You know, it's quite natural for a performing musician to want a good report about his performance.

I remember one case vividly. Some 25 years ago I recommended a singer for a programme in Bangalore and pat came the response from the Sabha officials : "But you know, ma'am, the newspaper reports about him are not very good." Luckily this musician's progress was not affected and he is now a major performing musician. Many are less fortunate. As I said, not everyone can be a great singer or a great performer. Each has his strengths, his weaknesses. It's God's will and it's not in our hands. So why pick on a hapless performer's weakness and grind him or her down ? If a critic has nothing good to say, then let him not write about the concert at all. He may have a prejudice, he may dislike one school, one guru, bani. Then why review a younger performer from that school and put him down elaborately. Wouldn't it be better to refrain from reviewing the programme itself ? But isn't there a middle path, what can be described as 'constructive criticism' ? Isn't that better than keeping quiet ? Yes, but there's a way to do it. Decencies must be maintained— on both sides. If I don't like a critic or I dislike something he wrote about me, I can't pounce on him or his paper or journal and shout: "What's all this ? Why have you done this ?" I must preserve the decencies of debate. I can put across the same point politely.

This is one human value which I cherish more than anything else in this world—the peaceable approach to even matters of disagreement. The world today has become more belligerent, more offensive, a far more difficult place to live in than ever before because we are forgetting this important human value. Unfortunately we're inculcating in our children—the citizens of the next generations—this cult of intolerance, of violence. They're slowly learning to oppose anything they don't like, to disregard elders' advice. Why have violence at all ? Even more so, why violence in a fine art like music ? It doesn't stop sometimes with the critic unleashing his attack on a musician. From the musician there is a rejoinder, sometimes even more scathing. And it goes on.

But when a well-meaning critic sees a musician breaking all the traditions and doing some damage to the traditional values of our musical system ... What, pray, is tradition ? Who's to decide what's traditional and what's not and which one to retain and which to discard ? When I was very young, there was a tradition that women should not sing raga-s or kalpanaswara-s but only kriti-s. Will that be accepted now ? Has it not changed ? Change has to be seen, has to be examined and has to be accepted to the extent it's good. Do you mean to say nothing has changed ever since the days of Tyagaraja ? As a matter of fact, some of Tyagaraja's own kriti-s have changed with the years. For some Tyagaraja kriti-s there are 10 different patanthara-s. Why go into research on which is the correct one ? Why not accept any of them which is good ? When you listen to a newcomer singing a known kriti very differently, don't you feel like correcting him or her ? Why should I ? It's his or her 'vazhi', her patanthara. If it's hopelessly unmusical, well. I might take the liberty of saying so to the performer. But then that's rarely the case. More often than not it's just change and change is an integral and inevitable part of life.

Take for instance this feature that one notices increasingly in concerts, of the singer keeping notes in front of him or her. Traditionally this is wrong, you might say. But look at the repertoire today. To masier any kriti you need some 20 concert performance of that kriti. But who's allowed to sing the same song 20 times ? The critic mercilessly lashes out that the singer is repetitive and has no variety. Stalwarts of yesteryears sang the same songs again and again over 20 years and got away with it, but today's musicians can't do it. Those who criticise this practice of keeping notes in front are unaware of the variety of factors that a singer today has to co-ordinate and control to make his concert a success.

Accompanying Artists : What do you think is the role of accompanying artists in a concert ?

I would like to share with you my guru GNB's approach on this. He was very particular about evolving full understanding between himself as the main singer and the accompanying artists. He would meet all of them well before the concert and ask for opinions about what should be sung that day. He would decide taking their suggestions into account even though sometimes he would make changes as the concert proceeded. He used to settle many items in the concert with the help of Palghat Mani Iyer and he used to make special sangati-s to suit Mani Iyer's vidwat and style. And even more important, he would have elaborate group discussions after the concert about what were the plus and minus points of the recital, on what else could have been done and so on. The discussions would sometimes go on upto three or four o'clock in the morning.

That kind of co-operation and understanding between performers doesn't exist any longer—this is a feeling I often get. In my own case I do it aplenty with [my violinist] Kanyakumari—we have our code language which will not be apparent to outsiders, in which we'll discuss and analyse a concert both before and after. She came to me as a small girl with double-plated hair and look at her now, how accomplished an accompanying violinist she is ! She has grown with me and she translates my thoughts nonchalantly now. A lot of it is because of this method of ours, of exchanging ideas. With my mndangam accompaniments also I have had no problems, never. Because we exchange ideas openly, clearly. In a similar way, after a concert, I encourage people who have a lot of vidwat and who are musically well-enriched to come and tell me what they think of it. But this happens less and less often now.

You said that the kind of co-operation and understanding between the main artist and the accompanists which GNB cultivated is no longer to be seen now. Did you mean that today the musicians in a kutcheri think of one another as competitors or rivals, rather than as co-operators in a joint venture ?

No, I didn't mean that. But taking your point, what's wrong in a violinist or mridangam player thinking that way ? He is justified in taking the position : "I've learnt so much and practised so much, I'd like to show what I've got. It's upto you, the main artist, to make use of my superior skill and turn it to advantage." The main artist in such cases has no option but to take the challenge. Instrumentalists these days have become very, very good. They try to keep every known trick at their fingertips—how can we stop them from doing what they want to ? Of course, one aspect of this competition is rather ugly and unhealthy—the 'fight' over the level of amplification—you know, the violinist getting it set above the singer's level and the singer asking the level to be increased further and so on, until what results is just noise. This should be avoided. But the level of musicianship of the accompanists should not be suppressed even if it were to be greater than that of the main artist.

But won't that spoil the balance of the concert ?

If it does, the answer is simple : it's probably a case of wrong accompaniments. The singer or the organisers should therefore think this out clearly, well in advance, and make sure the team is going to fall together. The main singer must after all know his level and should pick only accompaniments that'll suit that level.

How has it been in your own experience ?

In my case and I think generally in all female singers' concerts, there is almost always a ready, known 'set' that performs. So I don't think we have this problem. It exists more with the male singers.

If an organiser unleashes an unknown accompaniment on you, how do you respond ?

If I know the person even though he or she has not played for me, and I know him or her to be good, then I don't mind. But totally unknown accompaniment can be very risky. I would plump any day for a known person who understands me and whose cooperation I can look forward to. In fact the co-operation improves both my quality of music and that of the accompanist.

We all know about the refusal of many male musicians to serve as accompanists to female singers. Do you think one reason for the refusal by male accompanists is that the female sruti is high and the accompanist cannot come across with his musical ideas with equal felicity in it ? It is true that as the pitch to which you play goes up it becomes more difficult and as the tempo rises the hand may sometimes falter. It's also true that, in the same circumstances, the mridangam sound also gets somewhat distorted. But at a sruti of 4 or 4 Vi kattai, there should be no difficulty or distortion.

Do male accompanists play for a female vocalist with pitch in this range ?

Many don't. Therefore, high pitch is not really the reason ; it's only an excuse. The reason is the age-old prejudice on the part of men—male chauvinism if you want it put that way. They don't want to play to a lead woman. Everything else has changed in this world but not this. It's rather unfortunate. I hope that at least the future generations of accompanying artists don't entertain such prejudices. Open-mindedness is very important—it is crucial not to let the mind be clouded by needless inhibitions.

Art vs. Commerce :Can you comment on the problem of balancing artistic and commercial considerations in a kutcheri ?

Professional musicians are not quite free to sing for themselves. Even when an artist has prepared a programme carefully on the basis of artistic considerations, he might be asked suddenly to sing a particular raga and kriti. He can't refuse, really. He can't get angry either for, all said and done, his livelihood depends on being accomodating. There's an old time story about a concert of Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar with Tirukodikaval Krishna Iyer playing the violin accompaniment. Some big shot said : "Iyengarval, Hindustani music is becoming popular. Sing a Hindustani piece." Poochi Iyengar demurred, saying : "I don't know. I'm sorry, I haven't learnt Hindustani music." The worthy was reluctant to leave it at that and insisted that Iyengar should try. Whereupon Krishna Iyer put the violin down and asked this listener : "Why don't you speak some French ? English of course you know, but what's the use ? France as you know is pretty close to London and you should be well-versed in French too." Of course you can't talk like that today even under the worst provocation. In fact these days even harmless remarks you make are twisted out of recognition and you're made to look like a criminal.

It's all very well to talk about 'atmartha' sangita but, while the effort on our part should always be to present atmartha sangita, to pursue art for arts sake, it can't be denied that we're doing it for money and that has its own constraints and compromises. There's no use ignoring this aspect. Subject to this, there still are quite a few who strive to stay as close to atmartha sangita as possible. My parents used to tell me : "Even in a concert for a marriage reception, don't take your musical commitment lightly. Even there there may be someone in some corner who will be listening. Stick to your profession and its discipline without any dilution." I've found this excellent advice.

Respect For Old-Timers

I regret that respect for seniors, for the older musicians, is fast-vanishing [among the youngsters]. I may be great, I may have achieved a great deal, but the senior musicians in the field for several years—maybe decades — have won«nd retained audience acclaim right through this period. They deserve and should get a lot of respect. They must be having some unique strengths—for otherwise how could they have stayed on and shone in the field for such a long period ? So a relatively new entrant, however good he or she may be, must not say : "Ah, but what do these old fogeys know ?" I see this happening very often nowadays and I think it's a bad sign. The thinking should instead be : "But why and how have they been so successful over such a long time ? Let me learn the secret and see if I can apply it too, for my success."

Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi :Has ragam-tanam-pallavi a place in today's concert format with all the limitations of time ?

I think pallavi has a distinct and unsubstitutable place in a Carnatic music kutcheri, whatever may be its duration. It's a very important aspect of our music and we should give it a pre-eminent status. If the concert is a short one, you can make the pallavi short. True, you may be a specialist kriti-singer or an alapana specialist, but just as you study all branches and then specialise in one, so should you learn all the aspects of our music fiist—and pallavi is foremost among these. In fact North Indians often criticise us Carnatic musicians on this point. They say : "You sing kriti-s beautifully. But what about raga singing ? It's so short and breathless. Why don't you ever sing a really detailed alap the way we do ? Sangita for both our schools is mainly manodharma, kalpana. And by shortening the alap-s you give short shrift to the kalpana aspect." A few Hindustani musicians have even wondered aloud whether Carnatic musicians do not have enough imagination. One of them who once travelled with me spoke, however, like a moderator and said to me : "We should find some via media between the very slow style of ours and the rapid-fire raga essays of yours.'

Jugalbandi : What is your opinion about jugalbandi ?

I think it's a good idea and should be encouraged. It helps plenty of exchange of ideas. You know that we, Carnatic musicians, very often feel [and say]: "Hindustani musicians and music-lovers never hear our music; they don't try even." Jugalbandi-s serve to bring some broadening of mind. But, of course, there are the attendant risks, especially in vocal music. The voices have to match, the sruti-s have to be reasonably close. You know that female singers in Hindustani music sing at much higher pitches than their counterparts in Carnatic music. Therefore trying to level the pitches for a jugalbandi could prove abortive. Instrumental music is probably preferred for jugalbandi-s only for this reason, though, of course, male voices can be matched more easily.

Musicians' Associations :What do you think of the musicians' forums or associations that have sprung up recently ?

I think these are very important bodies which should work for all musicians, forgetting personal career plans of their prime movers. And I don't think there's anything wrong in there being more than one association. They can be complementary, they can carve out different areas of functioning. I'm a member of both the Carnatic Musicians' Forum and the All-India Carnatic Musicians' Association, for I have no prejudice, no fancy theories of my own. So long as I don't create hostility between the two and as long as I don't use either of them for my personal ends, I feel there's no harm in being a member of both.

AttractingTheYouth :Youth today appears to be getting more enchanted with the 'melody' of Hindustani music and the sounds of Western music than the strains of Carnatic music. Shouldn't anything be done about this ? Who should do it and what should they be doing ?

SPIC-MACAY is doing a tremendous job of getting youngsters interested in classical music and dance of both Northern and Southern styles. There is also the new Youdi Association for Classical Music. These show that there is wide recognition among youth itself for our traditional cultural heritage and values. Institutions [run by adults] and pre-eminent people interested in music have roles too. They can create opportunities for youngsters to present Carnatic music and other youngsters to hear. But how can anyone say our music lacks melody ? I would say there are as many singers on this side of the Vindhyas as on the other who know how to present the music with bhava, flow and melody. On no account will Carnatic music disappear—that's for sure. Resurgence will always take place at the right time. Look at Ravi Kiran, look at U. Srinivas. And I've seen so many excellent young mridangam-players come to the fore in recent years. And I see quite a few young people in my concerts.

One problem is of course that, generally speaking, we lack sruti suddham, the clarity and precision with which swarasthana-s are grasped by Hindustani musicians. We somehow don't give this aspect the necessary time, show the necessary patience. I try to teach youngsters at Rishi Valley [where I am a professor] the importance of voice culture and sruti suddham. Personally I would say that, in our students days, we didn't practise and perfect our voices well enough—we got on to the performing platform too soon. As  teachers we should try and correct that tendency now, but who  gives us the kind of time needed for it now ? It's in fact much worse. But even with the limitations, I think a guru today should underline this aspect when he or she teaches—the aspect of the voice and the sruti. Sruti is far too important to be glossed over. Our feeling, exactly!

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