Me: What exactly constitutes the art form
VBRS: (Laughing) You can’t have a voice that sounds like a buffalo and render Konnakkol. So, you need to have good voice texture with melodic aspects to it. Your voice should be appealing. The syllables need to be said clearly and with good modulation. A Sanskrit text states that an artist cannot make funny face while reciting the syllables. Similarly, a Yogic text mentions the manner of enunciation to get ‘Manashakti’; reciting certain syllables in a certain way has its own effects on the body. Konnakkol is beyond materiality.
Me: What constitutes a good Konnakkol performance?
VBRS: a good Konnakkol performance is brief, appealing and vibrant. It should be enriched with a lot of modulation ans alteration between frequencies. People will get an artist’s tone only if he/she emotes with Konnakkol.
Me: Is brevity a boon or a bane?
VBRS: It is not a problem for the art form as it is always bigger than the artist.
Me: Who are some of the figureheads of Konnakkol?
VBRS: Shri Mannargudi Pakkiriah Pillai was one of them. . Pakkiriah Pillai was an exponent of Thiruppugazh. he was known for his complex rhythmic pattern and therefore was a nightmare to fellow artists.
The living legends TK Murthy, Shri Trichy Thayumanavan, Shri Vikku Vinayakram and Shri Trichy Sankaran are well known Konnakkol exponents. Following in their footsteps there are artists in India and abroad who have been contributing to the growth of this art form.
Me: Is there any routine or discipline you have to follow in order to be a practitioner of Konnakkol?
VBRS: Nothing in particular but I believe that one very important thing is to enunciate properly. For instance, ‘Ta Di Gi Na Thom’ can never pronounced as ‘Da Da Gi Na Dum’ or replaced by syllables of one’s choice. That being said, a lot depends on the creativity and caliber of the artist.
Me: How has the art form sustained itself over the ages?
VBRS: Man has always loved mimicry through the process of evolution. Ze has considered anything other than the normal as magical. Konnakkol has always provided the astonishment factor for audiences.The art form has enjoyed a loyal fan following among audiences despite the tensions among artists. In the 18th and 19th century, Konnakkol was nothing but the imitation of mridangam sounds but it is not so today. The vocabulary of Konnakkol is so large that it can imitate anything including flamenco. A lot has evolved in the last hundred years and Arunagirinathar’s efforts elevated it to a great extent.
Many thanks to Vidwan Shri Somashekar Jois for all the insights he has given me. I wish him all the very best for his Doctorate and future endeavors. For those of you interested in some Konnakkol lessons, do click this hyperlink to take Shri Jois and Shri BC Manjunath’s lec-dem series for Shaale.com.