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AKAR, a traditional approach to effortless singing
Interview mit Amelia Cuni von Birgit Kratz
Vor einiger Zeit veröffentlichten wir hier im Spirituellen Portal ein Interview mit Amelia Cuni über Dhrupad (Hindi: ध्रुपद), den ältesten überlieferten indischen Gesangsstil. In einem Workshop - ein Erfahrungsbericht ist unter dem Menüpunkt 'seminar-tests' nachzulesen - durfte ich 'am eigenen Leibe' erfahren, dass die Gesangstechniken des Dhrupad durchaus geeignet sind, einen sehr natürlichen und anstrengungsfreien Zugang zum Singen zu schaffen, von dem auch westliche Sänger unmittelbar profitieren können.

In diesem Interview geht es um Akar, einen Zweig des Dhrupad, in welchem das Singen des Vokals 'A' kultiviert wird. Da Ende Februar ein Akar-Workshop in Berlin stattfinden soll, interessiert es mich natürlich, schon vorher ein wenig mehr über dieses Thema zu erfahren (auch dieses Interview wurde in englischer Sprache geführt)...
                  
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Amelia Cuni
Birgit: Dear Amelia, I would like to know: What is Akar?

Amelia Cuni: The litteral meaning of the Sanskrit term AKAR is: form, shape, image. In the field of traditional Indian music, this term has come to mean the sustained singing of the vowel „A“. It is considered the fundamental vocal techniques of dhrupad music and a most effective exercise to train the voice.

Traditionally, the practice of AKAR is introduced before anything else so that the student may learn to open the voice in a natural way and to understand the process of sound production within his/her own body.

The principles on which this technique is based are easy to grasp: „A“ is an open, resonant sound which can be produced just by simply opening the mouth without changing the shape of the oral cavity (as we are required to do for the other vowels). Moreover, it is a sound which is experienced as central and balanced. If we compare it with the other vowels, we may immediately feel this difference in our body. In some mystical traditions such as Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism, it is used for spiritual practise, cleansing and well-being.In many alphabets, it is the first letter. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita affirms: „I am the A“.

By concentrating on the production of just this one sound, open, effortless and well-balanced, we can learn to clearly feel the movements of the voice and its resonance in the body. We may thus become aware of subtler aspects of our vocal production which would be coverd up by the articulation of additional vowels and the complexity of words.

In some way, singing A is like exposing one’s own voice naked or viewing it through an X-ray. We also learn how to do it with grace and love while making use of this close up for refining our emission. For this, we need the guidance of an expert teacher, sensible enough to detect the finest inflections and able to suggest ways to improve by becoming aware of habits and unnecessary tensions.

The support of a suitable body-work, weather Hatha Yoga, Feldenkrais or a similar physical discipline focuses on awareness, is very helpful to achieve a full understanding of the singing process and to learn to develop our potential. This is why I always include it in the training I offer during my seminars.

Birgit: Participating in your dhrupad workshop I noticed, that you found your own unique way of teaching this style of traditional indian singing. How would you describe your way of teaching?

Amelia Cuni: The dhrupad voice training is rooted in an ancient musical tradition and the techniques and philosophy of nada-yoga (yoga of sound).

My teaching method focuses on voice production, aiming at an unhindered delivery which has the speaking-tone as its base. I will guide the participants through a variety of exercises integrating body, mind and emotions through the use voice, offering an interpretation of its purpose and functions according to the knowledge of dhrupad. My approach is aimed at the development of awareness in the act of singing, taking into account physical and mental posture, imagination and intuition.

While practising traditional Indian structures (raga/tala), singers will experience the shades of drone-related intervals and the laws of cyclic rhythms and receive an introduction to the manifold world of Hindustani music.

This Akar workshop explores some very basic aspects of voice production and music making which can be applied to different musical contexts. It shows ways to cultivate awareness of the voice and it contains very practical and effective techniques to develop one´s own musical abilities.

No previous musical skills are required, the seminar will interest anybody using the voice in musical and theatrical activities and whoever wishes to discover more about the workings of his/her own vocal expression through a systematic approach.

Birgit: Thank you very much, Amelia, for this very inspiring interview.



P.S.
Der nächste Akar-Workshop wird am letzten Februar-Wochenende im Ethnologischen Museum Berlin-Dahlem stattfinden. Näheres auf Amelia Cunis Info-Seite hier im Spirituellen Portal
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