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Bani Beyond Borders II:
Art in the pandemic

Although the Karaikudi Bani has spanned three centuries, our world of sound (‘nadam’) remains in its prime beauty. The art of ensuring the continuity of the tradition is a daunting task if we don’t continually breathe fresh into its survival. The ideas of old and new, the gray lines and the esoteric mix of myth and reality into words, thoughts, tones, and the hues therein serve as powerful inspiration for action.

When a global pandemic hit in 2020 and brought the world to a standstill, humanity was forced to pause, think, and act responsibly. The questions brought on by multiple overlapping catastrophes, both natural and human: ravaging wildfires in the West Coast of America, flooding and hurricanes in the Midwest and East, and the tragedy of the continuing societal trauma of racial, social, and economic injustice inspired a composition in Shubhapantuvarali set to Adi Talam by Chandramouli Narayanan.

மாநிலமா? மானிடனா?
மூதுரை மனிதாபமா?
ஊணுடை உறக்கமா?
உன்னத வீதி ஊர்வலமா?
சந்தம் கேளவா! தாசன் கூறவா?

Is it the state [or the land]?
Is it the individual?
Is it the age-old wise saying of humanitarianism?
Is it food, clothing, or sleep?
Or is it the procession on the coveted walk of fame?
Come listen to the meter of Dasa!

Replete with questions, we must metaphorically and literally dwell on the rhythm of thoughts to act for our future. At the time of composing, Covid vaccines were in the making, and the hard hit reality of losing many poured forth as Chandramouli’s composition in Anandabhairavi on Kalabhairava set to Ata Talam. The inspiration for this composition was our dog, Laddoo (an English Labrador), who has always been the core of love and affection whatever the circumstances be. The hues and colors of the composition are reflected in the painting below through the eyes of Kalabhairava and the dogs surrounding him. Shiva, with his Veena, exudes the love of life, dance, and meditation.

ஆனந்தமே, பைரவா!, உனையென் சித்தம் கொள்வதோ?
தான் எனத் தனது எனக் கூத்தாட்டம் செய்வதோ?
தானத்திலே உன்னையே தன்னிலே வைத்தாலே
கானகத்திலே மோனத்தவமும் பேண வேண்டுமோ?

Bliss, Oh Bhairava, is it holding you in my mind?
Or is it in the celebration of the ‘I’ and ‘mine’?
After clasping your image unwaveringly to my heart,
Is penance in the forest still necessary?

These two poems subtly provoke questioning the hierarchy we as humans impose on ourselves through the societal constructs of the world. Working and composing in and through the space of tradition give time to reflect on these elements and existential queries. The idiom, genre, and modes are plentiful, germinating into poetry, art, and music.

A sample of our new works can be found here along with more content on our YouTube and website.
Credits: Article & Paintings: Sreevidhya Chandramouli, Poem: Chandramouli Narayanan. Audio clips: Chandramouli Narayanan, Kapila & Sushruta Chandramouli

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