Book Review | A refreshingly original fiction on power of ragas

The short easy read is a mere 137 pages, but laudably, refreshingly original.

Very few performing musicians have ventured into the writing space, and that too, fiction. Dharwad based Pravin Godkhindi is a renowned flautist who has come up with his first book about music and the time theory of performing Ragas, in a fictional format. Prolonged travel inactivity during the pandemic spurred him to ponder on his life experiences and pen them down. The original in Kannada was released in 2022, the English translation is available now.

The short easy read is a mere 137 pages, but laudably, refreshingly original. The story revolves around the creation of an old fashioned wall clock that plays pre recorded music at every hour. The music is the Raga enjoined by tradition to be rendered at the time; a theory that is today not followed rigidly by classical music proponents. In the Carnatic idiom it was totally abolished decades ago, and is today not followed at all. With the onset of music performances in urban spaces, time constraints being the primary factor, certain early morning or afternoon Ragas were never performed at all, so in the interest of preserving them, a decision was taken to do away with the time theory. In the North Indian tradition too, the practise is slowly eroding, with several prominent musicians verbalising its irrelevance today.

Godkhindi’s book is centered around the efficacy of the theory, and its practical uses. A comatose patient is introduced to the appropriate Raga every hour under medical supervision and within 24 hours, his condition significantly improves. The author makes it clear though, that the rendition of the Raga has to be superb, and masterly; merely enunciating the Raga notes will not achieve any result.

Another telling incident outlines how a wonderful Raga rendition by a master Ustad, is not received as well by the audience as the time of its rendering is wrong; whereas the same audience instantly goes into raptures when a correctly timed Raga is sung! Godkhindi conveys that the singer himself subconsciously cannot immerse himself in a Raga sung at the wrong time; if he has been trained in the time theory tradition.

The book weaves in a charming love story as well into the main story, bringing in the authentic flavour of simple rural life in the South. The book is a compulsive page turner as the suspense of the story skilfully dominates the narrative.

Prahar: The Singing Clock

Pravin Godkhindi

Garuda Prakashan

pp. 137; Rs.349

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