Carnatic music and deadly mispronunciations


You will be seemingly surprised to see how many of legendary Carnatic singers mispronounce words in a well defined lyric. The well-rehearsed and well-educated legends are where you do not expect the disregard of the inherent meaning of the classic, and the lyrics been around from ages.

Also, It is even more surprising because some of these are ubiquitous words in day to day conversation. The sad part is, this is not limited just with junior artists, seen this with senior singers as well. For example, sharanu is being pronounced as charanu; not sure if they realise this gives a totally different meaning how intended initially. Sharanu is surrender and charanu in feat!

The charanu might still be harmless change. Sharanu siddhivinayaka… if changed charanu siddhivinayaka…; is like changing ‘surrender to Lord Ganesha’ into ‘feat of Lord Ganesha’. It gives different meaning, but still fits the purpose of praising the Lord. But, all such word mutations don’t end so well. Take this example: If you know the song ‘gajaananam bhotaganaadisevitam…’; there is a ‘Phalasaara bhakshitam…’ in-between. A lot of people sing it as ‘palasaara bhakshitam…’; which is about a changing ‘fruit enthusiast’ to a ‘meat eater’!

I thought there will be some heated discussion over the internet. For my surprise, even by the fans of a very conservative art form, this phenomenon is being forgiven by those who noted it. Music might not have a language, but your lyric does.

There is no question on the achievement in this field and dedication, generations of artists have maintained and enriched all attributes of this form of music. Still, if lyrics are ignored, that is one purpose failed. Decades spent on learning music, why not pay a fraction of it to understand the meaning as well?

On a separate note, there is a famous quote in Sanskrit “api mAsam masam kuryAt chandobhangam na kArayet”.  This was perhaps written much before Carnatic music became classical. This translates to “you can change, if required, from mAsam (beans) to masam (month) but never ever should break the rhythm of a poem“. In other words, this is the famous poetic licence taken (instead imposed) by pretty much all poets till last century. But note, that was a provision rather than freedom.