Monday, 23 April 2018

Saint George Bay

by Anne Marie Ene

Today 23 april we celebrate Saint George birth. In the Romanian language he is called Saint Gheorghe. There are many legends about him and everybody knows he is the patron of England, but I think less known is that Saint George is the patron of Beirut too. It is said that Saint George killed the dragon in Beirut, before the dragon could kill the daughter of the Emperor. The place where the dragon lived it is believed to be Bay of Beirut called The Saint George Bay. It is said that about 30 minutes drive from the slaying site there is a cave where Saint George washed his spear and that the waters in the cave have miraculous power for some ill children.
  Some Muslims call him Al-Khadr.
It seems that the well from where the Dragon used to come out is now in the playground or a Muslim primary school and that the ground where the dragon was slain is near the school and the Crusaders built a chapel over the spot and since 17 th century the place alternates between a chapel and a mosque.
While in Beirut, last December (2017) some Romanian friends took me there, to the Beirut Bay, for a walk.  I did not know why I felt so joyous. At that time I had no idea about all this. Tonight I told my friends from Beirut about Saint George Bay and they where surprised,they had no idea about this!

Here are some photos from that evening



 





 

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Choices We Make Are Really Just a Matter of Taste?

By Cleopatra David


I had this discussion we some sahaja yogis in the past: what good music is, what quality is and so on. I affirmed that bad choices are a matter of awareness: many people never heard classical music, for example, and this is why they don't "chose it"; they were never exposed to it and they believe it is for rich people, while my opponents said it is just a matter of taste. If people like house, rap, etc. it is their business. 
Well.....I discovered something more in the last days. I made some experiments on myself. Sometimes work exhausts me physically and mentally so I chose different kind of relaxation: watching a movie, watching a stand-up comedy show. Of course, my meditations are not so good when I am like this. When I have deep meditations and above my Sahastrara the vibrations are really strong, I can't bear cheap fun anymore. My Spirit demands something else: classical music, Indian classical music, reading a book. So our "choices" are made by who is dominating our being: the Spirit or the other parts. 
Because art has vibrations and whatever has light addresses directly to the Spirit. Whatever has darkness, addresses to the dark side of the people. 
Whatever is cheap and excites the body (like some dance music, for example) it is more related to our animal part. 
Art is art, is culture, is carrying vibrations and elevates also the not realized people. Entertainment is another kind of business. 
Yes, sometimes we all need to shake a little bit the animal inside us through a tribal dance. But we all should know what all is about and that is not the "pure joy" moment.



Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Spring of Spirit Festival in Romania at 3rd Edition, Dedicated to Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi's 95th Birthday

In Romania, the celebration of Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi's Birthday by public programmes was never interrupted. For the 3rd year already we are organizing a festival dedicated to this special event, called The Spring of Spirit (Primăvara Spiritului).
This year the festival has international guest artists: Pandit Subramanian Bhaskar and his student Shubham Andheryia. 

A series of concerts, recitals, workshops and conferences will be organised to celebrate our Mother's birthday. Four cities announced their participation to this event: Bucharest, Ploiești, Cluj, Brașov. 
The 3rd edition of the Spring of Spirit Festival is organised by two sahaj NGOs (Nirmal Art and Sahaja Yoga Romania) in partnership with various cultural institutions from Romania.

Artists in festival: Subramanian Bhaskar (voice, harmonium) and Shubham Andheryia (tanbla) Anne Marie Ene (violoin), Avadhut Kasinadhuni (violin, tabla), Cleopatra David (soprano), Cristina Popescu Stănești (piano), Toma Verly (piano) Sorin Bundă (voice),  Mihai Lupoaie (harmonium, tabla, voice) and Victor Beliciu (sitar)

Calendar:

18.03 Natinonal Museum of Romanian Literature, 17.00 Hrs - Indian music recital with Romanian musicians
19.03 National University of Music Bucharest, 18.00 Hrs - workshop with Subramanian Bhaskar
20.03 Romanian Broadcast Corporation 14.30 Hrs - Radio show with  Subramanian Bhaskar here
20.03 Metropolitan Library, 18.00 Hrs - chamber music recital with Sangit Chamber Ensemble
21.03  Metropolitan Library, 18.00 Hrs, conference: Beyond theories about freedom and Moksha
22. 03 Elisabeta Theater, 19.00 Hrs -  sahaj public programme with  Subramanian Bhaskar
23.03, Ploiesti Philharmonic  19.00, c19.00 Hrs, sahaj public programme with Subramanian Bhaskar
25.03 Music aAcademy in Cluj 19.00 Hrs, sahaj public programme with  Subramanian Bhaskar
27.03. Brasov University 19.00 Hrs, sahaj public programme with  Subramanian Bhaskar

More here



Friday, 2 March 2018

“Authenticity is devotion expressed in the simplest form.” Interview with Leela Omchery


Cleopatra David


I had the privilege to study a few years ago in India the art of Carnatic music (South Indian classical music) under the guidance of a real guru, a great personality:  Padma Shri awarded Prof. Dr. Leela Omchery, author of no less than 19 research books and former head of Music Department at Delhi University. In our last meeting, she accorded me this interview.

 Cleopatra David: What is the place of music in your life?


Leela Omchery: My whole life is music, my music. That is my life. My life is my music.Music is not only singing, only one. It has two other major components. These  are dance and instrumental music. The whole is called sangeetam. It is not just geetam, which means song. It is sangeetam: plus something. And thatplus” it is instrumental music and dance. That is how the ancient scholars have divided music:
"Geetam vadyam tatha nrityam trayam sangeeta muchyate"[1]

C.D. When did you realize that you want to be a musician, or that you will be a musician?

L.O. The real musician came later, but I always have been a part and parcel of music. I hail from a family of musicians. And so, in our family there have been lots of musicians, dancers and experts in instrumental music. At that time in golden age, we used to, we were given training, sound training, by able masters to vocal, instrumental, including dance also. So we were experts. I was taught in all these things by able gurus. These gurus at that time used to come to our house and used to teach. We were not going to their Gurukulam. They used to come.  This is because at that time, during those days, orthodox ladies were not allowed to step out of their houses. So the teachers will came there, they teach and then they go. I learned like this also.But the unfortunate part of this is that though we were given sound  training in music, dance etc., we were not allowed to practice, to sing it before the public. We were to satisfy our aim within the 4 walls of the courtyard. The aristocratic houses had an open court yard and there it was water from the rains, they stored it. And there the ladies were sitting outside the courtyard. It is full of water, rain water, and it gives coolness around verandas.And there we used to sit and used to perform, but not to anybody outside the ladies. That was the unfortunate restriction.As an artist one would like to express the ability before others. But aristocratic orthodox ladies were not allowed. So that the disappointment was strong, I used to cry, I used to do a lot. Nothing! The fact is that even the ladies were not allowed to come to house to this course and learn, the teachers may come there. Sanskrit, Malayalam, they would teach. I didn’t know even English, whereas my brothers were boys and they were allowed to go to the public schools and learn, but not the orthodox ladies. We were not given any freedom of expressing the art in any form

C. D. But the situation has changes in our days

It has changed very late. I was not allowed to go to schools. Teachers would came and teach. And so my brother used to go to various schools and learn and in that frustration ….I was not allowed to sing, to perform. And this situation has changed when my mother, who belonged to a city, Thiruvattar, and she was educated and when my father married her, she brought a lot of brightness to the house. She was a good musician, dancer, etc., and she used to teach me also and to teach all the people around and she used to encourage these people to perform. We were allowed to practice only inside the house. It was like this for years. I was the first girl in an orthodox family who could go out of the limitations and learn not only Sanskrit and Malayalam, but English also. I was put to English medium school. I was allowed,because my mother was a teacher and she encouraged me. And so I learned all these things from the my native place, but also, luckily, my father started an English school, where so many people from all over the village came and learned and I was also put in that school. After that I was sent to Thiruvattar, to study in their medium college, intermediate college. There I took music and stood 1st with first rank and distinction.

After that I could not take MA in my native place. I got married, I came to Delhi. My husband also encouraged me, so this narrow circle was changing and so I was put into brightness by various gurus,so many, from whom I learnt Sopana music and other types of music also. I reached the state where I could differentiate between the classical music and the Sopana music, so my immediate attention was towards the Sopana music. I tried to find out what the Sopana music is and what the distinctions of this particular type of music are. There were lots of controversies: it is not music at all, it is just average folk music…And so many critics were there regarding it. So it took all my attention and I reviewed the whole section, the whole framework of that particular system.It is different from the classical traditions. One is Natyam music, dramatic music; the other was classical music, which grew to its present status. Theatrical, kacheri, classical music, concert form, after rejecting the dramatic element of the music. I connected Sopana not with this raga music.Raga music is the earlier stage of classical music, around 2000 years ago, Christian era. But this particular music is older than the classical, than the raga music, because it is connected with the jati music, jati music of the epic times.If it is not related to the classical music, what is the specialty of this jati music? There are 30 types of lakshanas[2] and all these lakshanas were still practiced by the gurus of the Kerala temples. They don’t know much about it, but they used to practice it. And I went deep into the field and I found out it is the successor of jati music. Jati music was in vogue during the epic times. Jati means a swara[3] combination. You can’t say it is complete. Maybe only arohana (ascendant scale) or avarohana (descendant scale), may not be together. And so there are sancharas (rules). Jatis have sancharas, typical prayogas (motives).Now when we see it, we cannot differentiate between classic and between other secular music and other types. Sopana is the only tradition which came down without break, without any change, the temple music we have depend up on.Ramayana kalam, in the time of Ramayana[4] there were jatis. It is not the raga music, but it is the Sopana music, which has certain special sancharas. For example, if you take folk music, we only have a few sancharas, not form of pallavi, anupallavi, charanam, (structures of a Carnatic composition) nothing like complete sections. It may have one or two lines. The music is necessary for interpreting a particular mode of a situation. They take only that much.

For raga music, the rule is that it should be complete, it should have arohana, avarohana, it should have a certain type o swaras, should follow the grammar rules. But this jati music is not like that. It was enough if one or two sancharas which are capable of expressing one simple meaning. That is jati music, this Sopana music. This was early, marga sangeet, of epic times.For expressing one particular situation, that particular tune  is enough.Then you change to another fashion of emotion, then you change over to slow tempo, high tempo, top voice, down voice, as per the mode of the song. So shortly that is the difference between the classical music and the jati music. Sopana music is still following the principles of the old jati system.And without knowing, unfortunately, so many musicians say: oh this is out of tune. That doesn’t mean that the music is out of tune. There is a lakshana; there is a grammar of jati music. I consider sopana music to the jati system, and not only me, even the ancient pandits, they call pann. Pann means a raga (Tamil).May or not be complete, a sanchara. But pann is full raga. Janya may not be in the sopana music, sometimes there could be also, but it is not particularity that you should sing all these swara jati. You take some tunes of a particular raga and elaborate it to express the feeling of the song. Because it is bhava[5] music, natya[6] music. Whereas the other is concert music.In the concert, the norms are different, the ragas are complete, the arohana- avarohana should be there, the rules and regulations should govern over it, all things, vadi[7] samvadi[8] so many things and rules are there bounded by the raga. Raga are bounded by so many rules you have to practice, whereas sopana and the religious, devotional music have some simple framework giving full support to the feeling, emotion of the raga. You have listened  Deepti (N. her daughter) the other day. Deepti said: there are no fluctuations, it is even.

This sopana music, gayakas of the Kerala temples, even now Thrikkampuram KrishnanKutty, as soon as he starts singing, he is 90- 96, but when he starts singing his tone is very clear and it enters into the heart, into the soul. It is the real music so it is simultaneous. It is classical, but you cannot be compared to it. They are totally different. Classical should be all traditional purified, controlled by the norms, the rules, regulations, should have sections and they should have embellishments: vinyasa, niraval, etc, All the kacheri norms should be there.The most important instrument of the sopana music is idakka (iadakka); it is the wonderful instrument. All the notes can come out of this. It is the accompaniment both rhythmical and melodic. So the sopana gayaka follows the idakka, which is damaru[9] type, like udukku also iadakka is a bigger form of udukku, the drum of Lord. Shiva. At iadakka, the sound is controlled by a rope which the player is tightening and loosing. This is how the notes were up and down.Then the songs are also different because they are very simple. We call them dhyanam, dhyana means concentration (meditation), and so all these songs which are used in the temples by the temple gayakas are called dhyanis. Dhyanam – dhyanis. Still there we walk (N. if we want to listen). It doesn’t come out of the walls of the temple because of it is orthodox (tradition).Because of this, people don’t want to practice it, nobody is getting any recognition, nobody is paying for it, nobody gets any benefit, any fame. They are told they should sing these songs within the 4 walls of the temple. So they (the musicians) come out, they want to practice as classical musicians the concert forms and they get money, fame also, so they are out. This singing is dying. The tradition, the school is dying. I try to elevate it, keep this spirit. 

And there are so many forms of music in the sopana, it has got various dhyanis, and then there are other shlokas, then are others pallavis, pallavam: only two lines. All these are there, they sing in a very, very simple way. Sometimes they get this jalra, cymbals, ghungroo and elathalam[10] and they accompany the music before the God. They don’t come out, and because they don’t come out, they are dying. People don’t understand them. The tradition is orthodox, but the amount of feeling it is inimitable. And when these musicians sing, I just forget myself. Even now I weep, even I don’t know why I cry. It is so much feeling there in the sopana. The simplicity and the purity of notes.When people sing classical, they often deviate from the real swarasthana. And often commit mistakes because they don’t have time to concentrate. They live in touristic climates and they are coming down. 

Here it is not like that, it is an endless silent ocean.Thomas Gray in his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard has wrote:“Full many a gem of purest ray serene/The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear/Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,/And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

Like that are the aspects of sopana music. Sopana rhythm is interpreted as ladder, step by step going and going down just arohana-avarohana. But there is a difference: it is sthayi raga, Sthayisangeeta. Sthayi means when you tune your music to one sthayi that is Sa (the fundamental) Stayi means one note on which the musician keeps his elaboration and goes up and goes down. That is stayisangeetam

Leela Omchery elaborates an alaap, ending by dividing the long notes in various ways (binary, ternary, composed) 

Again the speed can be increased. So this is the alaap, totally different from Carnatic. This is not the way in which Carnatic music is in the concept. This is a typical of Kerala sopana music.  Then they practice the ashtapati, dhyanis.

CD. Carnatic music is considered the most authentic Indian classical music form. What do you think about the way it is perceived in the contemporary world?.

L. O. Typical modern musicians say it is the most authentic form. To Hindustani musicians, Hindustani is the authentic form. Sopana music is the authentic form. So it depends upon the practitioners who believe in their style to be the best. I don’t say Carnatic music is that. Both are. It depends upon the ability of the musician and the emotional impact of the music. That also because sopana music is very impacted. Carnatic music is mixed with shastra. All nuances and all the gamakas and so many are there, grammars of concert norms are mixt. Whereas the sopana music, in the devotional music is not. It is devotion, expressing of devotion and so it should be the simplest form. It should appeal on the soul of the devotee. How well it can appeal it is the most important. Maybe there is one kala[11] if a musician is able to transform the listener’s mind with what he sings. So it is what the musician feels, the ability of entering into the deep emotions of the listener. The music should appeal the listener. In what way? There may be so many ways, slow tempo, medium tempo, fast tempo, etc. Whatever on appeals, you follow it.

C.D. You have visited many countries and saw samples of other cultures also. What impressed you the most in other cultures?

L. O. I visited Java, I visited Singapore, Malaysia, England, America, but I have been a narrow visitor so I saw only the worship centers of Indian communities. There is one thing I have seen in Malaysia.I think there it was this huge cave, more than 100 feet. We were at a level place and on the ceiling was a small hall and from there sunlight was come and giving illumination to all the places at that cave. A very small ray that gives full brightness to all. One other thing that struck me. If you strike one wall of that cave, it will give a tone. If you strike another side, will give you another tone. So I was told at that time that, without anybody’s effort, one can get more than 22 sounds by touching or striking various places of that cave Maybe this was the basis of the musical pillars.In Trivandrum there are pillars made out of a huge single stone with maybe 22 shafts or maybe 44 or 66, which can produce different sounds. They were used for accompanying some music, samasangeet. By that time, there were not enough instruments and most of instruments and many were not allowed in the temple, like nagaswaram[12], because playing them would produce a lot of saliva, which is not allowed inside the temple, so the music was accompanied with the musical pillars. But unfortunately afterwards the people were not careful, so they damaged them. With one craft in the shaft, the whole pillar is useless, it will not vibrate. It is the principle of Tansen. Because in the darbar[13] he never allowed any instrument to follow his song. All the instruments were kept out. And he used to hum and that purity of his nadam it went and strike one note and it vibrates all the other. So pure vibrations.There are 4 musical pillars 44, 22, 66 shafts in one pillar and it was used for singing sama music. And  now they are out of use and are kept for museum purpose

C. D. Do you think that in our days it is possible to keep the traditions of the gurukulams?

L. O. Yes, but it is difficult. With great training I manage to keep this gurukulam. Because I never take remunerations from anybody and when the students come, as far as my limited means, I provide them tea and food, whatever. This is possible only because my children are well placed, I don’t have to look after them and then I have the pension. With that pension it is more than enough to cover the simple needs. So with the rest of money I provide and we enjoy together.

Then I never shown I am so great. Anywhere, anybody can meet me, anybody can talk to me. My teacher used to teach me humility and that is my weapon. That respect is my work Developing your career,   nature, you develop that nature, straight, simple, straightforward with affection.  Don’t have any restriction. That will be well in our life. What was your greatest professional achievement?It is my music. I got the luck in learning from great, great gurus, but in the same time I never got the opportunity to express my talents also. It was a restriction in my orthodox family. My parents used to tell me: you are a girl, you can’t go out of the courtyard and sing. You teach. So finally I turned myself to the teaching. If I cannot sing, let me teach them. So I produced a lot of students, a student community, so many. Wherever you go you will see one or two of my disciples. That produces the fraternity. Because I was not allowed to sing and remark in the performing field, I turned towards teaching and research. In the field of research, nobody is a match to me. I can proudly say that, because day and night I did nothing else other than study. I used to go to various libraries, places, collecting materials, palm leaves. I have the best collections.

IC. D.  India the relation between music, dance, drama and spirituality is unbreakable, the person who learns only one of these topics can understand the Indian art and culture properly?

L. O. It is different kind because our music starts with alaap form, starts with the triad concept: vocal music – instrumental music – dance. All the triad is described taking the example of the child: when he is happy, he will clap, shout and move in the same time. And here we have rhythm, music and dance. So right from the birth these are tight together. And growing trough the idea of Geetam vadyam tatha nrityam trayam sangeeta muchyate. So the triads are within. And you cannot separate one from the other .Nowadays thinking became mechanical. Because of that the harmony is gone, the melody is gone. When they are together they will have that unique quality.

C, D. I would like to know about your prizes and distinctions and the books you have written.

L. O. I have 19 books published and 4-5 translated. Some of them are price awarded. Most of them are based on music and dance and they are unique, based on my research. In some of them my daughter is also involved.

C. D. What is the proper age for student to start learning Carnatic music?

L. O. There is no age. Because many things depends on talent. Even if one starts at the age of 1, if he is t not talented what is the use? If he is talented, at the age of 50 he can. I know Pannalal Gosh he was a famous flutist and he started learning late but he could make a mark. He was a great musician. And there are so many others. My brother who is no more now, he was a playback singer and an outstanding musician and he was in the 50’s – 60’s, around 20 years he was the crown prince. He came late but he was an outstanding scene singer and classical singer also .All India Radio said his record nobody can compete. 

C. D. An advice for the young students

L. O. First quality: humility. Respect for art and the elders who teach you. Respect for your guru is your wealth that will be the protection against anything.

Guru Saakshaat Para Brahma Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha[14] 

Nowadays I see in the news students beating the teachers. The relationship between the teacher and the taught should be maintained then there is nothing, if that is over.Nowadays, because of the bad climate, there is no proper guru, there is no proper disciple also. Things should change. We are an old folk so we are able to continue.You came to me. Somebody told me that I am a good teacher. I don’t pretend I am a guru. In Tamil there is a saying. Whatever Bhagavan (God) has given to me, it is more than enough. Why people develop miseries? Because they forget. Whatever God has given it is more than enough, it is anand, it is joy. Then there is a way of go deeper and achieve something. Whatever God has given, it is bliss. I don’t want anything more. I am a lucky lady also, because my son is very well settled and my daughter also in this line, a good dancer, and my grandchildren also are talented. They have taken their own way, but they are all in the family.

 I have only one pray to God: let me have the same birth again and again. Let me be born here again and again with the same husband, with the same children, with the same family and relatives and the same students.


[1] definition in Sanskrit language from Sangeeta ratnakara treatise: geetam (song), nrityam (dance) and vadhyam (instrumental music) make the sangeetam.
[2] basic structures and characteristics
[3] notes
[4] About 8th- tenth millennium BC
[5] emotion
[6] drama
[7] fundamental
[8] dominant[
9] drum
[10]Idiophonic instrument
[11] speed, division. It actually means time
[12] Woodwind reed instrument
[13] court
[14] Guru mantra, meaning “Guru is the absolute Lord himself, Salutations to that Sri Guru”







Thursday, 1 March 2018

Shri Ganesha in Lebanon, the Country of Khalil Gibran

by Anne Marie Ene



I visited Lebanon near Beirut for some work. Two days ago I have been to Bsharri, the place where Khalil Gibran's museum and tomb are, after praying to Shri Mataji with a bandhan because it was difficult to find transport on a small budget.

Since the moment we climbed on a bus till the moment we returned to our city everything went on perfectly.

When we reached closer to Bsharri I had a feeling that the mountain covered in snow resembled Kailash and when we reached Khalil Gibran's museum I had a very big surprise while taking photos. One of the rocks has the shape of an elephant!



You can see the photos bellow