Performance Woes

I had resolved to turn in early today but sleep is elusive. In my mind I keep practicing a show tune that I am learning to play on the violin called – “Old Man River”. I have been practicing it, listening to the CD and then trying it again but it is the most challenging thing I’ve come across in my two years as a beginner violinist. The song requires a frequent switching of the strings and nimble fingers. It also needs to be played at a very fast tempo; metronome setting for quarter notes at 158! I can barely manage 100.

But it is managing to keep me up at night, I am almost tempted to throw off the covers and saw away at the violin, so what if it is 2:00 AM. But sense prevailed and I am writing about it instead.

But before I started writing about it I was also thinking about the ragas that I’ve been learning and how my guru has asked me to perform the one raga that I found the most challenging, at an upcoming concert. I have been going over the composition, the alaap, vistaar and taans in my head as I try to summon sleep. Instead I find my mind wandering off to transcribing Raag Purvi on a staff….wondering if I could play it on the violin if I was able to write it down…how would it go…B C# E F# G G# B C…ascending and C B G# G F# E F E C# B…descending would that be right? Would I then be able to play it? Once again…the thought wants me jumping out of bed and giving it a shot…but here I am writing instead; not sleeping at all. Brain bugs!

Then I start thinking about the upcoming Purvi performance and my tendency to forget what comes next and the ensuing nervousness. Except, in this instance I probably won’t forget the lyrics, the words are quite memorable, as you’ll see in a minute. Especially memorable since I remember practicing in front of my parents once and recalling how they were barely able to suppress their chuckling whenever I poured my heart into it and sang it. They ruined it for me for good. Every time I come across a particular phrase in the song I find I can barely keep a straight face, and I am sure laughing during a performance, or trying to suppress laughter during a performance would not be conducive to a flawless performance. So here are the words, followed by how it translates for me:

Eri maika saba sukha dino
Doodh poot aur anna dhana lachchmi
Piya payo govind rang vino
Eri maika saba sukha dino

Adhama uddharana jas bistarana
Kripa Karan dukha haran sukha karan
Ajij ke sab layak kino
Eri maika saba sukha dino

So it translates as:

Oh my girlfriend, He gave me every happiness in the world
Milk, sons, grain, wealth and prosperity
I found a mate like Govind himself
Oh my girlfriend, he gave me everything

He lifts me up to righteousness and helps me spread grace (?)
He is merciful, takes away sorrows, brings happiness
He made me worthy of my loved ones
Oh my girlfriend, he gave me every happiness in the world

What’s laughable here you ask? Well it is hard for me to picture a conversation of this nature with a girlfriend, telling her about all the milk and the sons he gave me! That is the chuckle inducing part…it starts deep belly laughs that are so very hard to curb. Wouldn’t you agree?

I need to forget every bit of rustic Hindi I’ve retained in order to do justice to these elegant Prof. Bhatkhande compositions.

Another Raag I recently learnt was Raag Todi, it is beautiful I love humming it, singing it, except for the unfortunate lyrics again. They go like this:

Langar ka kariya jin maro langar
Ka kariya jin maro langar
Angwa lag jaye langar
ka kariya jin maro langar

Sun paye mori saas nanadiya
Daudi daudi ghar aaye langar
ka kariya jin maaro langar

Now, “langar” to me means lame, someone who limps…so this song, so full of pathos, translates as follows:

What is the lame one to do, the one that has been struck lame
She has no choice but to stumble into her lover’s arms

But then she’s fearful of her ma-in-law and sis-in-law
listening in
So she runs/limps back home

That is in essence the song. When I learn more then I guess I will be taught how to sing the lines “langar ka kariya” in the development of the sthai (first stanza) and the words “sun paye mori saas nanadiya” in the development of the antara (second stanza)…but how will I ever do justice to the songs when I can only picture shrewish mother-in-laws and sister-in-laws hiding behind bushes, spying on the poor lame one, ready to jump her! I think the song needs to be delivered with oodles of karuna rasa (pathos), it would not be right to treat it as a hasya rasa (laughter), but …it’s more like “Singer ka kariya…” (What’s the singer to do)

Trying my best to forget the lyrics, but the visuals refuse to let go!

And now I need to try for that elusive sleep again.

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