Traditional Karnatik Vocal Concert: Headlining

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Mani, Charulatha
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Brisbane Multicultural Arts Centre, Main Stage, Kangaroo Point, QLD


Research Background: It is not often that traditional Karnatik music of South India is showcased in itself to audiences outside of the diaspora; it is usually presented in a fusion format to global audience. This full length performance that I presented for Sangeet Mela presented the key elements of Karnatik music, namely, Raga (melody), Tala (rhythm), and Bhava (emotion) using voice, language, and traditional gesture as tools thereby directly addressing the aforementioned lacuna in current global concert practice. The 55 minute performance responded to the research question: "How can conventional elements of Karnatik music be conveyed to a global audience without giving into the popular assumption that it may not be understood?" and in doing so the lateral question "How can traditional artforms be sustained outside of their lands of origin in an ethical manner?" was also explored. Research Contribution: New insights into the creative processes in Karnatik music were effectively shared in real-time through this performance. Each of the pieces was introduced in English with translation of key Sanskrit and Tamil phrases to present the listener with a nuanced understanding of the subject matter. The Karnatik mridangam and Karnatik violin collaborators worked with me within the space of performance to improvise across melodic phrasings and motifs and together we have demonstrated the creative processes the underpin the philosophy of "manodharma" (improvisation from the heart) in Indian Classical music in a decontextualised cultural atmosphere. The innovation in this research lies in the challenge that it overcame in regards to communicating culturally special moments to a diverse group of audience members. Research Significance: This performance showcased one of the most challenging ragas in Karnatik music, Thodi. Sangeet Mela is one of the country's well-respected performance festivals exclusive for Indian performing arts and my performance was the headlining act.

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Music performance

Musicology and ethnomusicology

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Mani, C, Traditional Karnatik Vocal Concert: Headlining, 2019