Dec 15, 2010

Innovation vs Tradition

This next post of mine is inspired by one of the comments about 'boundaries' in Carnatic Music and its interpretation. Today, we hear a lot of discussions about tradition and innovation. What exactly do these terms mean with respect to the Carnatic Idiom? Do they go hand in hand or are they two separate entities where one ceases to exist when the other begins?

Your Thoughts...


  1. Well, I don't want this to sound like clichéd rhetoric (!) - but I think that innovation turns into tradition after many years since its introduction - for example, the concert format set by Ariyakudi is now tradition..

  2. There are chances of Innovation becoming a tradition, i think

  3. This was in The Hindu like 3 days ago...

    Anyway I agreed more so with what Mythili Prakash and Sikkil Gurucharan said in that article, that yesterday's innovation is today's tradition.

    There is no 'tradition' in our style of music anyway. I expect that last statement might bring on some responses... =)

  4. Tradition or Innovation... any thing that is appealing to the ears and soul is good.

  5. @Priyanka: Yes. What you say about the concert format is true. But not every innovation becomes a tradition

    @Revathy: Yes... Check out this link -

    @Sandeep: I disagree that there is no tradition in our form of music. There is a tradition but something thats dynamic and changing with time. We still have traditions from the past which we follow! :)

    @Saranya and Gokul: Just because it is appealing and good to the ears, we can't accept everything that one presents in a 'Carnatic Classical Concert'... :)

  6. @Rithvik - Thats what I was implying by putting tradition in quotes. I think we are in agreement. More or less.

    Except I don't use phrases like 'carnatic idiom.' =)

  7. @Rithvik - that was great :)
    one thought that was put forward today at the Academy's lec dem was presenting varnam at the middle of a concert and giving it equal importance as any other krithi, so that many rare unique varnams can also be rendered. i think this deserves some serious consideration..

  8. One will never be able to present anything that is neither appealing nor good to ears nor unacceptable in carnatic music. It is divine and unalterable. Any innovations, that we may think of today, might have been already defined earlier somewhere. Just my thoughts!

    @Revathy: Yes definitely. In dance performances, varnam is considered as main. And music and dance will go hand on hand. This will come one day for sure.

  9. In my opinion, what tradition ends up being is the parts of the past that we like. Tradition becomes a convenient label for whatever practices of the past people think sounded good. And "innovation" becomes a similar label for things that weren't necessarily done in the same way in the past, but sound good when done today.
    I think that is it. There are only two things. Things that sound good and things that don't.

    For example, suppose I sing a very 'traditional' phrase in Sankarabharanam and it is very appreciated. People say "this guy is following his tradition/musical lineage very well etc" I wouldn't fully agree with that. That's because - I'm singing it because it sounds good and not because it is "traditional." I think sounding good is the only question to be asked of any music. If it sounds beautiful, there is a good chance it will become tradition some day. Because ultimately, that is what people care about and come to concerts for.
    Like Tanjavur Sankara Iyer always says "Kaadhe Nambu" (trust your ears) haha!

  10. @Sandeep Narayan: Lol Carnatic idiom!


    This appeared in Sruti also...

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  13. @Rithvik,

    I feel "acceptable" and "unacceptable" cannot be defined at all! These depend on the individual. Hence it would be wise to chose what one feels right (to listen to or sing) and convince oneself that the choice is the best ("acceptable") for him/her.

  14. I have always noticed one thing about the discussion on " innovations vs tradition" regularly taken up by the "semmangudi mafia". I seriously, think, these guys are too much immersed into textbooks and never care to explore anything beyond it. The common underlying fact about this mafia is something like communist doctrine in India. It all starts in the early 19th century and its some what remnants still keep popping up here and there.

    Sorry to say this, Britishers and Theosophical societies have had deep influences over this school of thought. For e.g.: You can read all of TMK columns, I bet you wont get the what he is trying to say and also what he wants to say. you can take this for an example:



    The JK schooling has made him just like how JK was during his old age, Lost, Philosophically bankrupt and confused. I just don't simply understand, how TMK and his shishyas have successfully managed to negate divinity from what they sing to merely perceiving it as an Art-Music, how they could get this commie mindset? Initially, everyone saw TMK with a Iyengar Naamam, and now its not anymore, his shisyas also religiously follow the same !! LOL !!

    ps: Tradition & Innovation are terms applicable to Materialistic objects. Music can only Evolve or Devolve !!


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