“Open your voice: the sound should come from deep in your gut, not from up in your throat or nose like a frog,” my strict teacher chides to me in her thick Indian accent. Although she has spent years attempting to instill a fear into her students to drive them to practice, I cannot help but smile at the passive-aggressive criticism. As I close my eyes and attempt to sing the line yet again, I feel the music envelope me. My natural vocal cords are able to explore the intricacies of the music, as I take the notes my teacher has taught me, and personalize it, adding my own curves and twirls.
Indian Carnatic music is a part of me that rarely finds its way anywhere outside my
Sunday morning classes. My love for it comes not from showcasing my talent or performing in large auditoriums, but instead from the inner peace I feel growing in my soul, as I sing to my teacher, concealed from the public eye.
Making my way through the song, the various composers I’ve learned float though my mind: Lalgudi Jayaraman, Thyagaraja, and Dikshitar, all specializing in different raagas, taalas, and jathis. The beauty and contrast of their music astonishes me; although they all use the same 16 notes and basic foundations of Carnatic music to compose, they each have built their own distinct and easily identifiable characteristics. Regardless, I adore how each of their notes fit together like perfect puzzle pieces. Having such accomplished models to base my own music off of allows me to traverse my creativity in a way that not only grants me a level of personal satisfaction and connects me with some of the most relevant aspects of my cultural history.
Looking up as I finish the piece, my teacher refuses to lose the opportunity to impart a fragment of wisdom to her students. “There is an ocean to learn out there; not just in music, but in whatever passion you choose to follow. Never stop learning. There’s nothing more important.”
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Blue Valley Northwest High School