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Today is my B’day. Time flies, huh! Google has this nice doodle celebrating my co-birthday boy, the great augmentative French composer Claude Debussy. The doodle had the soundtrack from the famous composition Moonlight (aka Clair de Lune). Such a soothing track, first up on a day, a birth day for sure! I had woken up at about 5am to do some stuff and the first google search at 7am had all this refreshing melody and an awesome, animated doodle of the moonlit night!

I honestly think Bombay Jayashree and Michael Danna did a great job in creating this very soothing track for Life of Pi. However, this caught an unexpected plagiarism controversy while the Oscar nomination is on and a potential felicitation is ringing at the door.

The controversy is surrounding a portion of the lyrics of this track. Apparently, a couple of lines are taken or adapted from the very very famous Malayalam lullaby “Omana thingal kidavo… nalla komala thamara poovo….”, which almost all Malayalaee mothers recites to their babies at bedtime. The slow pace at which this being sung would draw even the crankiest of babies lulled into sleep. There is a sense of nostalgia and cultural belonging this song evokes to all Malayalees and in that sense it is not entirely surprising that a question being posed when a few of the lines of Life of Pi echoed resemblance to Irayimman Thampi‘s masterpiece. Some argue that the lines under dispute are literal translation of the original, from Malayalam to Tamil, but others refute with the claim that it is a common feeling any mother could have and Jayashree only scripted it in her own words. Whether a segment of the song was adapted from somewhere else, still a lot of work had to be done to make this to a wide awakening one and to something like an Oscar nomination. That way, it is touch unfair to simply brag the artists as copycats. At the same time, if there was a genuine adaptation pooled into the song, then it is only fair to respect and give credit to where it belongs. It is a bit sad that this had to be drawn to a public bashing. Getting an Oscar will be a real delight since that also will take Carnatic music trace to the world stage reaching to a broader audience, hitherto unheard of its rich and classical history.

Since we are on this subject, I thought it is a good time to read up a little on the history of the Omana thingal kidavo song. This song was supposedly written by the famous Travancore king Swathi Thirunal‘s uncle Irayimman Thampi. When Swathi Thirunal was born,  his maternal uncle himself a trained Carnatic musician composed this and was apparently sung by the mother Gowri Laksmi Bhai and the royal ladies to put the baby to sleep. The princely baby was all the more special since he was born after a prolonged wait at a time the Kingdom itself was at threat of being dissolved with the British empire having had no foreseeable replacement of a male successor to the King. Swathi Thirunal went on to become a famous King, who being  an ardent Carnatic music follower also produced several masterpieces, some of them are popular even today. Irayimman Thampi as well produced many more compositions including Karuna Cheyvan enthu thamasam.

Besides the rich and soothing music, the lyrics of Omana Thingal Kidavo are knitted with superlatives comparing the baby to the most wonderful things one can see in nature such as nectar in my sight or the bright and charming crescent moon. It doesn’t utter a word about the sleep, but just has many questions posed by the mother to baby as to which among the greatest wonders will match the priceless baby grandeur.  For any mother, none will match her baby and the lullaby carved into the minds of mothers of many generations. Whether they gave credit to Irayimman Thampi or not, the lullaby echoes in several hearts, even today.

Some interesting information on this composition is here. Further information on Irayimman Thampi and his contribution to Carnatic music is discussed by Dr. PP.Narayana Swamy. Renditions of some of the famous compositions can be heard here. A page on Swathi Thirunal is also maintained here. I am not sure whether it is the most comprehensive of his contribution, but has several useful links there.

The IEEE plenary (I was largely following only 802.11 variants, more specifically ac, af and ah alone) was here in downtown San Diego and was largely busy with that. Syria trouble, Rajesh Khanna’s passing away and the horrific theater shooting at Colarado were the other prominent news of this week.

At the IEEE front, 802.11ac draft 3.0 passed the motion. That is the main milestone in terms of ac progress. 802.11af also will have a first draft soon, which is good.

Rajesh Khanna, the super star of yesteryear passed away. I was never into serious Bollywood watching (especially while growing up), but heard many stories of how the young girls worshipped this Bollywood hero in his hay days, writing love letters with own blood etc. Recently, I’d met an Armanian born (now may be in the 50s) Piano teacher  who fondly recollected her teenage days worshipping the hot Indian hero. Well, if you think that is interesting, her mom, now a 90 year old grandma in silver has tears when she saw the Indianness in me; You know why? She was a Raj Kapoor fan!  Anyway, Rajesh Khanna (kaka as he is fondly known as)’s charm had crossed the boundary far lands away from Bombay.

I leave you with a nice view of the Coronardo island and San Diego bay from the Manchester Hyatt.

The news from Syria and the Colarado shooting made the week all the more disturbing.

Just heard about the 2010 Hay festival was held last week in Thiruvananthapuram. Although I couldn’t have gone there, it felt nice to have had such a great global art and literary event in my own home state in India. The official website hosted some amazing scenes from various parts of Kerala, which to an ardent Kerala fan like me wished to see  all times. The Hay festival of arts and literature has become quite prominent in the public media, recently and what better place to have it, than the beautiful and literary rich Kerala!

Thanks to Youtube, I could gather glimpses from the event. Part of Vikram Seth‘s Storypooja is captured here. The one session, I would have liked to attend is Marcus du Sautoy on “The Number Mysteries: A Mathematical Odyssey Through Everyday Life“. I hope to see a video tape of this program online sometime soon! After all, Marcus claimed to have had a reason for everything, including why bend it like Beckam! Another of my favourite is ONV Kuruppu. His candid and lively talk is an anytime favorite of mine. He was supposed to have had a conversation with poet Sachidanandan. And, how much I missed Bob Geldof‘s conversation, let alone his concert!

The Jnanapith award for the year 2007 was announced in 2010. What a coly cow is this? What on earth is going to be the explanation for this 4 years of delay? Anyway, the 2007 Jnanapith award (for 2007 – Jnanpith Award Announced on 24th September 2010) quite deserving went to one of the great poets of India. This year’s Jnanapith award went to ONV. I am sure, the first reaction many of us had was “it came late. But better to be later than never”.

Growing up in Kerala, ONV was very much a house hold name. Who can forget his poem “Bhoomikkoru Charamageetham” (A Requiem to Mother Earth), which we were exposed during high school Malayalam language class. The poem was written 30 years or earlier and it is in Malayalam. I am not sure whether there is an English translation out there somewhere, but the poet’s pain is in much similar pain as echoed by the girl who presented a thought provoking talk at UN summit in 2008.

One of my friend pointed me to some of the recent Malayalam documentaries, which included one on Bhoomikkoru Charamageetham. Unfortunately I never got to see them. Hopefully, one of these days, I will get access to them. If any of you have access please don’t forget to share.

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