Friday, October 14, 2005


Well, I suddenly found a review of my book at the website of Sruti. One year after publication. OK, never mind, it at least showed up and it was not bad.

WHAT THE RAAGS TOLD ME. By Vasudev Murthy. [Rupa & Co. Pp. 128. Rs. 295].

Music affects listeners in different ways. But, to an extent, the effect on informed rasika-s can be said to be uniform or at least similar. However, most listeners do not stop to analyse the mental picture created by any particular raga. True, there are events where an artist puts on canvas the emotions apparently aroused by a concert in progress. But one can say with reasonable certainty that no two artists will present the same picture under identical conditions. There are differences in perception even within a broad spectrum of emotions that may be shared by most.

Vasudev Murthy, a management consultant by profession, is also a violinist trained under both the Carnatic and the Hindustani systems. In the latter, he has trained under no less an artist than the late V.G. Jog. The book shows the profound influence that music has had on Murthy. He has fantasized to the extent that he lets his spirit roam and fetch him the persona of this or that raga. The form the raga takes is the personification of the emotions created by it in the author. Thus, he likens Jaijaiwanti to a mature, beautiful, loving woman, a mother, in fact. Jogiya becomes a half-crazed, ill-clad, frenetic man, impatient to be absorbed by the absolute. Raga Bhairav is Lord Siva. Chandrakauns brings to the author his daughter as she was in her younger days. And so on, covering 20 raga-s in all. And each of the raga-s tells the author about itself, its swara-s and its relative importance.

To appreciate the pictures presented by the author would of course require that the reader have a basic knowledge of the raga-s discussed and their swara-s and sanchara-s. Given that, the reader will be able to evoke in his mind what the author has projected and perhaps agree with it. But there are bound to be differences in the feelings created in different minds but this does not matter. For instance, this reviewer would have thought of a somewhat different representation for Jogiya, one more given to a plaintive appeal and near despair. But Murthy's word pictures certainly make one think about what exactly one or the other raga does to him.

Not an 'easy' read but surely a thought provoking one.



david raphael israel said...

Vasudev --

delighted to see this description of your book. I want to get a copy (in USA), and possibly also send a copy to a friend (in India). Will search internet for ordering info; but you could also perhaps give me pointers in this regard? [davidrisrael AT]


Pragya said...

And I would like to add that it was an easy read as well.

David, I ordered the book at Amazon.


vijayaraghavan said...

I too have read Vasu's 'What the Raags told me.'As a lover of both schools of music I have enjoyed the book a lot. It served to subtly equip the reader with the nuances one needs to have to appreciate the work of this particular genre. Yes, the book is a lovely blend of art and meticulous craft. The production is also excellent. To understand a chapter I wrote a poem in Kannada that said what I found in it. Vasu liked it, much to my chargin.

I would wait for another book from Vasu where there is Anusandhana between Sadhaka and Sadhane.