The Music Academy, in association with the TAG Corporation and Ramu Endowments, has been conducting the raga identification competition for Carnatic music rasikas. This event, held annually, is the brainchild of R.T. Chari. His personal quest to understand ragas led him to arrange this competition. Initially, it was meant for school children but subsequently was extended to rasikas of all age groups. He worked with musicians to encapsulate ragas in just two lines of sahitya with the name embedded in it. In fact, Muthuswami Dikshitar possibly embedded raga names in his compositions so that even centuries later they would continue to be sung in the same raga.
From 2016, this competition is held every year in October at the Music Academy. From lay rasikas to ardent music lovers, the event sees many enthusiastic participants. However, this contest is not open to musicians or students of advanced level of music.
How do we differentiate a tune from a raga or songs from a raga? There may be many songs in the same raga but the tune or musical setting will never be identical. Over the years, musicians including S. Sowmya, R.S. Jayalakshmi, Neyveli Santhanagopalan, Sriram Parasuram and Amrita Murali have been invited to explain these nuances and interact with the participants.
What is a raga, and how important it is to Indian music? A raga is a melodic entity. It is the singular most characteristic of Indian music. Ragas are elaborated step by step by the artiste until they reach a crescendo. In fact, treatises mention a specific format or raga alapana paddhati. Years of sadhana or practice is involved before a musician can present a reasonably mature raga alapana. But as a rasika, one does not need to have a sound knowledge of how ragas are essayed or framed by an artiste.
At the competition, audio clippings from the Music Academy Tag Digital archives are played and participants are required to identify the raga, and write it down against the number provided on a sheet of paper. The answers are announced at the end of the contest, and the person with the highest number of correct entries wins the prize. While many ragas may seem familiar, getting the right raga name within the given time is a challenge. Details about the competition will be posted on the Music Academy website. Since it is not an online event, participants are required to be present at the venue. For further information email [email protected]
The writer is a musician and musicologist.