A yearful of masterclass

Carnatic vocalist and musicologist Radha Bhaskar’s project of 365-day short video capsules aims to demystify classical music for enthusiasts

author_img Aruna Chandaraju Published :  14th November 2021 01:54 PM   |   Published :   |  14th November 2021 01:54 PM
Performing at the Mudhra Fine Arts festival Mudra Arts Festival

Performing at the Mudhra Fine Arts festival Mudra Arts Festival

It was sometime in 2015 when at the conclusion of a music-appreciation programme (MAP) in Chennai that an elderly participant walked up to Dr Radha Bhaskar backstage and expressed her gratitude. Radha, a well-known classical musician and musicologist, recalls it as one of her most cherished compliments. “She shared how she was hesitant to attend this course as she wasn’t well-versed in English. She said, ‘I am thrilled to say that I may not understand English well, but I understood Radha Bhaskar’s English because of the sheer simplicity and clarity in communication’. It was a moment of pride,” she says.

It is moments like these that Radha looks out for in her role as a music guru. And to reach out to a larger and more diverse audience as an educator, she has now launched CM 365, or Carnatic Music 365, which is a three-minute video to be streamed once a day for a year, where different aspects of music like ragams, thalams, compositions, aesthetics, etc, are discussed. The information capsule is being webcast daily, since last month, on YouTube and Facebook, and the first episode garnered one thousand hits on the video sharing channel.

Radha’s objective behind CM 365, or her lecture demonstrations, is to demystify classical music. She wants to reach out to people who enjoy classical music but are unable to appreciate the nuances due to a lack of formal music training. “I realised that everyone who attends a concert does not have formal music training. So how does one educate them? It resulted in designing MAP (between 2004-2016) which received excellent feedback.” 

Last year, when the pandemic broke out, Radha was busy with Insight, a half-hour, weekly, 25-episode programme on YouTube. “But I realised that people’s attention span, in general, was reducing and so a half-hour duration programme was too long for most people to assimilate the content. So I decided to spread the information using a shorter span of time without losing the essence of what I wanted to convey. That gave birth to CM 365.”

Radha is a first-generation musician. “My mother never got the opportunity to learn music, so she ensured I received the same. I was barely five and my mother used to pack two tiffin boxes, one for school and one to eat before the music class. I would go directly from school to attend my music class. I often used to fall asleep while singing and my teacher would tell me to wash my face and return to class,” she recalls. With a doctorate in music from Madras University, Radha continued her musical journey professionally. While her mother prodded her to be a musician, it was her husband Mudhra Bhaskar, an acclaimed percussionist, who continues to be her support system.

Putting together CM 365 hasn’t been devoid of challenges. It’s not easy to choose a topic of possible interest to both rasikas (music lovers) and students. Keeping the content listener-friendly is another crucial task. But anyone who listens to the first few episodes knows that Radha has transformed her musical notes into crisp and meaningful communication. “I have kept my attire, accessories and the background simple so that my listeners feel that they are having a conversation with a friend in their living room,” she says. The lessons can be accessed through the Samudhra Fine Arts Facebook page or in the Mudhra Bhaskar channel on YouTube.

Topics covered under CM 365
✥ Patterns in Carnatic Music
✥  The Silence in Accompaniment
✥  Use of  Panthuvarali Raga by Thyagaraja
✥ Five-note Ragas
✥  Discipline in Learning Music
✥ Mudras or Signatures of Composers
✥ Thyagaraja’s Approach to New Ragas
✥  Handling Fundamental and Derived Ragas