Pearls

March 29th, 2018

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Premiered at the Salzburg Mozarteum, May 2018, with generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Recorded for Volume 3, Voices of the Pearl, forthcoming summer 2019.

Created at IRCAM, Paris, with Marta Gentilucci during her composer’s residency there in fall 2017, this piece sets the early Kannada vachana of Akka Mahadevi, the Shaivite ecstatic poet and mystic of Southern India, who lived in the 12th century.

Program Note

At its center, the historical figure of Akka Mahadevi, a saint and poetess who lived in South India in the twelfth century. She is considered one of the most significant writers of vacanas. Vachanas are short poetic compositions in the Kannada language, which is still spoken in Southern India, primarily in the state of Karnataka.

Akka Mahadevi broke all the social norms to pursue her spiritual path: she left her family and her husband to devote her life to  Channamallikarjuna, an avatar of the deity. During her lifetime, she wandered to many locations in South India, joined a guru, and followed the religious practices of the Viraśaiva movement. Finally, she retired to a cave to meditate,  and, in profound solitude and devotion to the Beloved, found enlightenment. Her poems describe her steps on this spiritual path. In poem, she tells of her passionate search for God in nature.

 

Texts and translation:

Pearls: I

Vachana # 144 by Akka Mahadevi (c.1130-1160)
(with great thanks to Prof. Sajjan G. Shiva for translation and pronunciation help)

 

ಅಳಿಸಂಕುಲವೇ                    O swarm of bees

ಮಾಮರವೇ                        O mango trees

ಬೆಳುದಿಂಗಳೇ                      O moonlight

ಕೋಗಿಲೆಯೇ                       O cuckoo bird

ನಿಮ್ಮನ್ನೆಲ್ಲರನೂ                    all of you

ಒಂದ                                 for just one thing

ಬೇಡುವೆನು                          I beg of

ಎನ್ನೊಡೆಯ                         my master

ಚೆನ್ನಮಲ್ಲಿಕಾರ್ಜುನ ದೇವರ   my lord Chennamallikarjuna

ಕಂಡಡೆ                               if you see

ಕರೆದು                                call me

ತೋರಿರೆ.                            and show him to me.

 

  • We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.
  • Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien. L’an dernier, le Conseil a investi 153 millions de dollars pour mettre de l’art dans la vie des Canadiennes et des Canadiens de tout le pays.