If I wasn’t paying close attention, I would have missed it. The nuances are subtle and the music is striking sans the frills. I am listening to Carnatic vocalists Brinda and Mukta singing the padam Ososi in raga Mukhari. The opening notes of the song are in the higher octave and the tonal quality is resonant. One voice is hoarse yet it blends beautifully with the melodious timbre of the other voice. The pace at which the song is presented is unhurried. Every musical note conveys the hero’s (poet) despair. He laments that he has to go to Kashi (Benares) because of the heroine’s indifference. The attributes of raga Mukhari comes through when every phrase has a refreshing take from the earlier ones. I am reminded of my own music lessons with my first teacher N.S.Chandrashekhar of Mumbai. He was a student of the Kanchipuram Naina Pillai school along with Brinda and Mukta and a perfectionist. I sense the same perfection when I hear the padam now being sung. With clarity and passion, the sisters demonstrate their mastery of this genre of music – the padam.
A padam is a musical composition that is romantic, even erotic in nature. The words of the padam are like banter between lovers. Whether it’s the hurt or pathos from a lover’s departure or jealousy over infidelity (imagined or real) the lyrics invoke a gamut of emotions from the listeners. From a classical musician’s point of view, learning and singing a padam becomes an important part of the training. It imparts a better understanding of the rhythm and the melody.
This padam in Mukhari continues to be one of my top three favourites of the genre. Every note is touched upon with reverence and the gamaka allures and overwhelms the senses often rendering one bereft of words. As Victor Hugo says, “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” and this padam rendition does precisely that.