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Musings of a music student

Anandabhairavi – Ragapedia 12

A soothing raga in Carnatic Music, Anandabhairavi is a janya ragam of Natabhairavi. The pann equivalent of it is Kausikam.

Aarohanam – S G2 R2 G2 M1 P D2 P S

Avarohanam – S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S

Carnatic Compositions

Syama Sastri has composed so many types of compositions in Ananda Bhairavi including gitam, swarajathi, varnam, part of ragamalika and a host of krithis. Makes me wonder if it was his favourite ragam. The list includes O Jagadhamba, Marivere, Himachala Thanaya, Pahi Sri Girirajasuthe, Mahilo Amba, a swarajathi, Samini Rammanave (varnam), Parvathi Janani (gitam), Amba Ninnu Nera (first of the Ragamalika).

On the other end of the spectrum is Thyagaraja who stopped composing in Anandabhairavi as a gift to a theatre performance he enjoyed watching which had a number in Anandabhairavi. The artist apparently wanted his name to be synonymous with the raga’s name he seems to have made history like he thought! Hence there are just a couple of compositions in Anandabhairavi by Thyagaraja, including Nike Theliyaga.

Other compositions by other composers are:

  • Manasa Guruguha, Kamalamba Samrakshathu (1st Navavarnam), Thyagaraja Yogavaibhavam by Muthuswamy Dikshitar
  • Ramabhadra Raa Raa, Paluke Bhangara by Bhadrachala Ramadas
  • Samagana Priye by Periyasami Thooran
  • Ayyara by Aanayya
  • Ni Mathi Chellaga by Kavi Matrubhoothaiyer
  • Poomel Valarum by Mazhavai Chidambara Bharathi
  • Raveme (swarajathi) by Veerabhadrayya, who is said to have composed the first known swarajathi
  • Karpagavalli Nin by Jaffna Veeramani Iyer – first raga of the Ragamalika

Listen to Marivere Gathi a composition of Syama Sastri in Anandabhairavi.

Drama and Anandabhairavi

Kathakali performances uses an amalgamation of ragas, one of them being the characteristic Anandabhairavi. However, the raga used is entirely governed by the mood and character of the story. Kathakali music has no qualms in using one allied raga after another, if the mood demands the same. Where as in Carnatic music an Anandabhairavi or Huseni or Mukhari would not follow a Bhairavi rendition. (source)

Listen to a Kathakali padam, Sukumara Nandakumara, as a part of Poothana Moksham (story of a rakshas Poothana being killed by baby Krishna), which is sung more fluidly, unlike the krithis in the raga.

Yakshagana, a theatrical form of the West coast, also uses Anandabhairavi to perform stories from Ramayana, Mahabharatha.

Use in Movies

Here is a hilarious song from the movie Thooku Thooki where “Sethji” Baliah and Lalitha sings a duet in Kapi – Anandabhairavi, “pyari nimbal mele namki mazaa”, that definitely brought a smile to my face. The Hindi-ish portions are set to Kapi, while the Tamizh portions starts with Anandabhairavi.

Well, not just for wooing as in the above song, but Anandabhairavi has been extensively used in one aspect – baby shower songs in movies, I noticed.

  • Poi Vaa Magale from Karnan
  • Sri Janaki Devi from Missiyamma
  • Sittu Pole Muthu Pole from Iniya Uravu Poothadhu

Nalvazhvu Naam Vaazha from the movie Veetuku Veedu also seems to be some marriage related song, though there is no way to know for sure, it was not pictured in the movie.

Of course, other famous songs in this raga include Konja Naal Poru Thalaiva from Aasai, Anbendra Mazhaiyile from Minsara Kanavu.

 

P.S: I am adding some random facts here because I didn’t know where else to put them!

  • Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s Thyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam has this famous prosody pattern in the Pallavi.
    • Thyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam
      • Agaraja Yoga Vaibhavam
        • Raja Yoga Vaibhavam
          • Yoga Vaibhavam
            • Vaibhavam
              • Bhavam
                • Vam
  • Syama Sastri’s Himachala Thanaya was initially sung in Misra Chapu, in a thalam that he frequently used.
  • The movie Ananda Bhairavi does not have any song in the raga titled.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Chakravakam – Ragapedia 11

Chakravakam, whose equivalent in Hindustani is Ahir Bhairav, has the same scale as the former and it is only the usage of the notes and the gamakas applied to it that would differentiate the two ragas. Chakravakam is the 16th melakartha ragam of the scheme and Dikshitar called it Thoyavegavahini.

Aarohanam: S R1 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S

Avarohanam: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S

Carnatic Compositions

  • Varahim Vaishnavim, Veena Pusthaka and Gajananayutham, Dikshitar compositions are in Vegavahini – assuming both Thoyavegavahini and Vegavahini are the same ragas, as there is no specific song in the Dikshitar book in the former.
  • Eesane Indha by Papanasam Sivan
  • Perinbam Ver Ariyen by Ambujam Krishna (not to confuse with song starting in Atana by same composer)
  • Sarojanabha by Swathi Thirunal
  • Pibhare Rama Rasam by Sadasiva Brahmendral is sung in Ahir Bhairav

Listen to Eesane Indha, a Papanasam Sivan composition in the ragam Chakravakam.

 

 

Use in Movies

This is yet another popular ragam used in film music and I shall list a few songs here.

  • Ullathil Nalla Ullam from Karnan
  • Pichandi Thannai from Ganga Gowri (1973)
  • Nee Paadhi Naan Paadhi from Keladi Kanmani
  • Poojaikkaga from Kadhal Oviyam
  • Vidukadhaya from Muthu
  • Karpanaikku Meni Thandhu from Paatum Bharathamum (sounds more Ahir Bhairav)

However, I wanted to share this song from the movie Achamundu Achamundu, Kannil Dhagam, which comes in parts through the later part of the movie; as an extension parts of the background music played in the movie is also Chakravakam, which I though was effective.

Azan and Ahir Bhairav

Adhan / Azan (i.e) the Islamic call for worship is invariably in shades of Ahir Bhairav; so are songs in the Muslim culture. Though it is not a representation, I would like to quote Allah Allah song from Mohammad Bin Thuglak as an example of Ahir Bhairav.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Kuntalavarali – Ragapedia 10

Kuntalavarali is a light raga – in carnatic music, one could classify a ragam that does not involve much gamakam in its grammer as light. I would even call it breezy. It is sung mostly with Madhyamam as base sruthi. A child raga of Harikamboji, it has a zigzag scale thus.

Aarohanam – S M1 P D2 N2 D2 S

Avarohanam – S N2 D2 P M1 S

Carnatic Compositions

  • Sankadame Jagam, Patiyil Pasuvinilave by Lakshmanan Pillai (I know the first song, but the second one is merely mentioned in an essay on the composer; there are no recordings I know of to corroborate it)
  • Kandavarkku Kanavilum by Swarna Venkatesa Dikshitar
  • Ninnupogada Tharama by GNB
  • Sara Sara Samarai by Thyagaraja
  • Bogindra Shayinam by Swati Thirunal
  • Thillana by Balamurali Krishna
  • Shivaya Namavendru by Papanasam Sivan
  • Antharyami by Annamacharya – set to tune by Pinakapani

Listen to Kandavarkku Kanavilum in Kuntalavarali ragam, a composition of Swarna Venkatesa Dikshitar.

 

Use In Movies

If I have to talk about movie songs in this ragam, I have to talk about this song in the malayalam movie, Manichithrathazh – Oru Murai Vandhu Paarthaaya. The tamizh portion of the song is a beautiful Kuntalavarali.

Other movie songs in this ragam are:

  • Raja Vaada Singa Kutti from Thisai Maariya Paravaigal (by MSV)
  • Maname Nee Eesan from Ashok Kumar (the movie, not actor), music by Papanasam Sivan

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Kedaragaula – Ragapedia 9

Kedaragaula, another janyam of Harikamboji, has a very brisk characteristic to it. Probably why it is attributed as a morning raga or said to be apt to start concerts with. Also a ragam more frequented in ragamalikas in viruthams and RTPs.

Aarohanam – S R2 M1 P N2 S

Avarohanam – S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

Carnatic Compositions

  • Thulasi Bilva by Thyagaraja
  • Nilothpalambikaya by Muthuswamy Dikshitar (4th vibhakthi)
  • Samikku Sari Evvare by Papanasam Sivan
  • Jalajanabha by Swati Thirunal
  • Saraguna Palimpa by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar
  • Seshachala Vasa by Chowdiah
  • Antha Rama Sowndharyam by Arunachala Kavi
    • I learnt this song from Padma mami who used to explain the meaning when she taught the charanam; it compares each body part of Rama to something very picturesque. While singing the song, I used to visualize a cartoonish effect of the whole charanam. I was amazed to find that musician+painter S Rajam had made an illustration of the same. (Check featured image)

Listen to a Chowdiah‘s composition in Kedaragaula, Seshachala Vasa sung by me.

Kedaragaula and Kathakali

Kathakali, is an art form that enacts a story during its performance. If you remember, the act starts with a large screen being drawn in front of the audience, behind which the decked up dancers would get into position. This is when the act is also inaugurated (invocation) by the vandana slokam, which is sung in Kedaragaula. Of course, in certain performances, I did find it being sung in ragamalika too. Below is a recording of the musicians rendering the said song in Kedaragaula. I wasn’t able to find a decent recording with dance included though.

Use in Movies

The last line Satre Sarindha sung by Ambikapathy (from movie titled the same!) in the song Vadivelum Mayilum, (supposedly the 100th / 101st) when his lover appears on the upparikai, that is Kedaragaula. So is Aanandha Nadamidum from Nandanar, sung by MM Dandapani Desikar.

Image credits: carnaticmusicreview.wordpress.com

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Niroshta – Ragapedia 8

Niroshta is a relatively new age ragam, with a pentatonic scale. What is unique though, it doesn’t have either PA or MA as a part. How does it matter? It does because if you cannot smack your lips in between your singing for a long time, you might end up drooling.

The name of the raga roughly means “without the lips” and it follows the parent raga Sankarabharanam. Hence the scale would be:

Aarohanam – S R2 G3 D2 N3 S

Avarohanam – S N3 D2 G3 R2 S

Carnatic Compositions

Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar invented Niroshta (sans P and M) and composed a song, Raja raja radhithe. The speciality of the song is, even its lyrics with no bilabial syllable in it (i.e) udhadugal ottadhu; and it has a crisp chittaswaram to add to the beauty of the composition. It is said that he composed this song when the Mysore Maharaja was unwell with swollen lips!

There is another interesting theory I read in Rasika forums, and I quote, “The word sin or papa comes from the first sound of the pa-group repeated twice. The sounds in the pa-group are called papa-pankti and avoiding these sounds is Niroshta. Avoiding papa-pankti is indicative of reminding ourselves that we are trying to avoid the papa and punya for the good of our extended self.”

Here is my attempt at singing the song.

There is a thillana in the same raga, composed and rendered by the genius TN Seshagopalan.

Use in Movies

Though there are no movie songs in Niroshta, the song Raja Raja Radhithe has been used in the Malayalam movie Ananda Bhairavi. I wonder at the Malayalam music directors who aptly place such unusual Carnatic compositions in their movies. Another such instance I quoted in my post for Andolika.

Related Ragas

When I was reading about Niroshta, I found that there is a similar raga called Banupriya with the swaras in the scale the same as Niroshta. There is a composition by Aalathoor Vijayakumar in Banupriya, called Banupriyasani. (I am writing this here, because I don’t know much about this ragam to make a separate post). The flow of the song sounds a lot like Ganamurthi.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Natabhairavi – Ragapedia 7

Natabhairavi has equivalents everywhere; Dikshitar literature is Naririthigowla, Hindustani is Asaveri, Western Classical is natural minor scale, Greek is Aeolian mode, Tamizh music is Padumalai Palai. It is the 20th melakartha raga in the system, and it seems to have started out as a synthetic raga, and then post Trinity vaggeyakaras should have composed krithis in it much later.

Aarohanam – S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S

Avarohanam – S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

 

Carnatic Compositions

  • Sri Valli Devasenapathe by Papanasam Sivan
  • Parulaseva by Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar
  • Nalina Nayana by Balamurali Krishna

I have not added Sri Neelothpala Nayike in Naririthigowla by Muthuswamy Dikshitar to the list of compositions. All the renditions I find of the song sound more like Reethigowla; the scale is also slightly different.

Listen to Sri Valli Devasenapathe, a Papanasam Sivan composition in Sanskrit.

Also listen a composition in total contrast to the above, sung by Balamurali Krishna himself.

Use in Movies

You will find so many movie songs cast to this ragam, but it is not really that popular in the Carnatic scene. I think this is why. Natabhairavi is the parent raga for a huge list of popular ragas such as – Anandha Bhairavi, Abheri, Sudha Saveri, Hindolam, Saramathi, Darbari Kanada are a few among the lot. Music directors who score for a movie are obviously not carnatic grammer bound. But our obsession to label every movie song, to a raga probably made us go for the obvious parent raga Natabhairavi, which could justify most tunes. One more reason could be that the interval / gap between these notes follow exactly the same pattern of the natural minor scale notes under western music. (Source: link)

Having said that I will list out a few movie songs in Natabhairavi here.

  • Maniye Manikkuyile from Nadodi Thendral – sounds more like Jonpuri
  • Mandram Vandha Thendralukku from Mouna Ragam
  • Andhi Mazhai Megam from Nayagan
  • Aasaya Kaathula from Johnny
  • Oh Butterfly from Meera
  • En Iniya Pon Nilave from Moodu Pani
  • Snehithane from Alaipayuthey
  • Vaseegara from Minnale

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Karnaranjani – Ragapedia 6

Karnaranjani’s (Karaharapriya janyam) unique identifier is its phrase “SRGMGP” and hence the scale is thus,

Aarohanam: S R2 G2 M1 G2 P D2 S

Avarohanam: S N2 D2 P M1 G2 R2 S

The ragam was a creation of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar, and he has aptly named it Karnaranjani which literally means “pleasant to the ears”.

Carnatic Compositions

  • Vanchathonuna by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar, the man who invented the raga itself
  • Om Namo Narayana by Ambujam Krishna
  • Deena Sharanyane by Nila Ramamurthi, daughter of Papanasam Sivan
  • Thillana by Lalgudi Jayaraman

Listen to a beautiful verse in Nachiyar Thirumozhi set in the ragam Karnaranjani (tuned by Devanathan).

Also listen to Seshagopalan singing a pasuram “Kulam Tharum” of Periyazhwar followed by Kamba Ramayanam verses in this raga, as a part of a 12 hour concert he did in January 2001 on Vaikunta Ekadesi in Ayodhya Mandapam (according to the below link). What is interesting is, even the group chanting at the end of this song is done in the raga.

Use in Movies

I was not able to find any tamizh movie song in Karnaranjani, but this Malayalam song “Harnakshi Janamoule” from the movie Kaliyachan is…

I have my own doubts about “Theertha Karai Thanile” from Thai Pongal being Karnaranjani, because it doesn’t use “SRGMGP” as clearly as the above Malayalam song.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Saraswathi – Ragapedia 5

Saraswathi, the raga shares its name with the Goddess of Learning – and that is probably why that almost every song I know or have heard in this raga, is sung on Her. Corollary: if you listen to a song that starts “Veena Pusthaka” or “Saraswathi” or the likes, take a quick guess that it is in the raga Saraswathi, you will almost always be right.

Technically, it is a ragam sans Ga & Ni ascending and only sans Ga descending. The parent raga is Vachaspathi. The Hindustani equivalent raga goes by the same name, Saraswathi (the raga is said to have been adapted from Carnatic by Hindustani).

Aarohanam – S R2 M2 P D2 S

Avarohanam – S N2 D2 P M2 R2 S

Carnatic Compositions

  • Anuragamule by Thyagaraja
  • Saraswathi Dhayai Nidhi by Papanasam Sivan
  • Saraswathi Namosthuthe, Kavalai Ellam by GNB
  • Vageeshwari Vani by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar
  • Kalaimagale by MM Dandapani Desikar
  • Kodu Bega Dhivyamathi by Purandhara Dasar – I know of the one in Vasantha, but I am not able to find any rendition online in Saraswathi
  • Sharade Chandranane by ES Sankaranarayana Iyer

Listen to Saraswathi Dhayai Nidhi by Papanasam Sivan.

 

Use in movies

The song Ilakkanam Marudo from Nizhal Nijamagiradhu sounds like Saraswathi in only some phrases. There is also a Malayalam song in the raga, Saraswathi Yaamam Kazhinju from Anavaranam. Yet another classical song in this raga is Yaanai Mugane from the 1947 movie Kannika, composed by Papanasam Sivan; irony is, this song is on Lord Ganesha 😉

This song Veena Vaani (again on Goddess Saraswathi) from the movie Pon Megalai rendered by Kalpana Raghavendar and Madurai Srinivasan is a classic in this raga.

P.S: You might already know this, but just clarifying – Swans of Saraswathi by Agam the band, is based on a Thyagaraja krithi, Bantureethi Kolu, a song on Lord Rama, in the raga Hamsanadham. It has no relevance whatsoever to the raga Saraswathi.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Panthuvarali – Ragapedia 4

Panthuvarali is also called Kamavardhini as per the katapaya nomenclature and called Kasi Ramakriya as per Dikshitar literature. It is the 51st of the 72 melakartha scale system.

Aarohanam: S R1 G3 M2 P D1 N3 S

Avarohanam: S N3 D1 P M2 G3 R1 S

Apparently Panthuvarali and Kamavardhini were not the same originally. What is now Subhapanthuvarali was called Panthuvarali or Shivapanthuvarali; what is now Kamavardhini was called Ramakriya. (Source: Sanjay’s blog) However, thanks to evolution, now Panthuvarali and Shubapanthuvarali are two different ragas.

Carnatic Compositions

  • Sambo Mahadeva, Saramegani, Aparama Bhakthi, Shobaane, Siva Siva are few of the many krithis by Thyagaraja
  • Ramanatham Bhajeham, Senapathe Palayamam by Muthuswamy Dikshitar
  • Sarasaksha Paripalayamam by Swathi Thirunal
  • Neeye Pedhai Mugam (varnam) by Papanasam Sivan
  • Enna Ganu Rama Bhajana by Bhadrachala Ramadas
  • Varuga Varuga by Balamurali Krishna

Listen to me singing Sambo Mahadeva, a Thyagaraja krithi.

Used in movies

When I was reading about movie songs based out of Panthuvarali, I observed that there are 3 or more songs in various Bala (director) movies – Piraye Piraye from Pithamagan, Om Sivoham from Naan Kadavul, Or Aayiram Yanai and Amma Endrale from Nandha. Probably because the raga fits the intense mood of his genre of movies.

This raga has been extensively used by other music directors as well. Amba Manam (a Papanasam Sivan composition in Sivakavi), Deviyai Poojai Seivai from Savithri, first part of Ezhu Swarangalukkul (in Apoorva Ragangal by MSV), Rojavai Thaalaatum /  Kanal Neer Pol (two versions with the same tune in Niniaivellam Nithya by Ilayaraja), Macha Machiniye (in Star by AR Rahman), and many other popular film songs exists in this raga.

I shall leave you with this song Deviyai Poojai Seivai from the 1941 movie Savithiri, where MS Subbalakshmi dons the character of Naradha and acts and sings the said song; enjoy listening.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Kalyana Vasantham – Ragapedia 3

Kalyana Vasantham, a janyam of the melakartha Keeravani, is a pentatonic-septatonic raga with the scale…

Aarohanam – S G2 M2 D1 N3 S

Avarohanam – S N3 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

Carnatic Compositions

  • Sri Venkatesham by Ambi Dikshitar (there is a conflict if the composer was Muthuswamy Dikshitar; as grandfather and grandson usedthesame signature guruguha)
  • Nadhaloludai, Kanula Thakani by Thyagaraja
  • Innudaya Bharathe by Purandaradasa
  • Deva Jagannatha by Gopalakrishna Bharathi
  • Annalin Aanai varnam which can be found in Panchapakesa Iyer’s varnam book (there are articles that claim this song to be Panchapakesa Iyer’s own, but the varnam book does not list a composer name for this varnam)

 

Listen to Sri Venkatesham of Ambi Dikshitar in Kalyana Vasantham. This krithi was popularized by Maharajapuram Santhanam.

 

Used in Movies

Bharathi’s song ninnaye rathi endru is presented in the raga Kalyana Vasantham in the movie Kanne Kaniyamudhe; so is the song Kanchi Pattuduthi from Vayasu Ponnu. However, the biggest challenge in identifying movie songs in this raga is to not mis-identify songs in raga Chandrakauns as Kalyana Vasantham. Note that Kalyana Vasantham’s ascending swaras if used in the avarohanam too, makes it sound like Chandrakauns.

l am leaving you with Kadri Gopalath’s saxophone play at the start of the movie Duet, which is an obvious Kalyana Vasantham.

 

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Andolika – Ragapedia 2

The raga Andolika is a janyam of Karaharapriya with the scale as below. It is a creation of Thyagaraja and also goes by the name Mayuradhwani.

Aarohanam – S R2 M1 P N2 S

Avarohanam – S N2 D2 M1 R2 S

Andolika vs Mayuradhvani

The raga’s evolution seems to have two possibilities, and either or both could have happened in course of time.

1) Andolika was previously called Mayuradhvani – Here is Kittappa’s rendition of “Raga Sudha Rasa” which sounds exactly like how we sing today, and the record has Mayuradhvani written on it (look at the image on the video).

2) Raga Sudha Rasa is mapped to Mayuradhvani in the Thyagaraja literature – meaning it was sung in Mayuradhvani and somehow came to be sung in Andolika in the recent past.

Karnatik has a list of janya ragas where Mayuradhvani is featured 4 times with different scales, one of it being the same as Andolika, which doesn’t really help drawing a conclusion either.

Carnatic Compositions

  • Raga Sudha Rasa by Thyagaraja
  • Sevikka Vendum Ayya by Muthuthandavar (said to have been tuned to Andolika most likely in the later part of this century; obviously the ragam wouldn’t have been in vogue in 1600s when Muthuthandavar lived.)
  • Mahishasura Mardhini (varnam) and Vajreshi Maathe by Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar
  • Nee Dayaradha (varnam) by GN Balasubramaniam

Listen to a rendition of Raga Sudha Rasa, a classic krithi in the raga, below.

Also listen to the Muthiah Bagavathar varnam sung by Professor K. Venkatraman, a disciple of Nellai Krishnamurthy, who in turn learnt from Muthiah Bagavathar himself.

Use in movies

We are again talking about Raga Sudha Rasa, in this section, because I am not able to find any other movie song even vaguely influenced by it. The song features in the movie Sargam (Malayalam) / Sarigamalu (Telugu) and is sung by Yesudas and Chitra. There is a swara dialogue between Vineeth and Ramba at the end of the song that highlights phrases from the raga. Below is the link for the song from Sarigamalu.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Ganamurthi – Ragapedia 1

Ganamurthi is the 3rd melakartha raga in the Carnatic Raga system in vogue right now. Since the first two ragas on the 72 melakartha list aren’t that known, Ganamurthi was my best shot at kick starting Ragapedia. A close second choice was Mayamalava Gowla, the ragam we learn first in training, but more about that raga, much later. For now, read along about Ganamurthi.

Aarohanam – S R1 G1 M1 P D1 N3 S

Avarohanam – S N3 D1 P M1 G1 R1 S

Ganamurthi is also called as Ganasamavarali in the Muthuswamy Dikshitar literature.

Carnatic Compositions

  • Ganamurthe by Thyagaraja
  • Bruhadheeshwaro by Muthuswamy Dikshitar (has the raga signature, Ganasamavarali)
  • Indu Chakra Mein by SD Batish, a Hindustani musician and composer, who has composed Hindi songs in each melakartha raga, that beautifully describes the raga lakshana of the raga. Listen to Prince Rama Verma explain and then perform the song, here.

Listen to  Ganamurthe in the raga Ganamurthi, a Thyagaraja krithi.

Use in Albums

I doubt there are any film songs composed in Ganamurthi. However, there is a song tuned by Ilayaraja in the raga, in his devotional album Geethanjali – “Vetrigalin Mudhar Porule”.

What is Ragapedia?

As it is my first post in the series, I want to tell you a bit about the background. I have had partially successful and unsuccessful attempts at the AtoZ blogging challenge earlier (the one that happens throughout April).  This year too, I was planning to write for a month at first. Then I chanced upon this movie Julie and Julia, where Amy Adams takes up a challenge to herself that she would try out French recipes and blog about it for an year, that piqued my interest. Actually, she wanting to take up a challenge and see it through to completion, piqued my interest, and I wanted to do something like that. Only difference is I am trying out carnatic ragas instead of French recipes 😉 Tick tock!

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Pancha Pancharatnam of Thyagaraja

With the 171st Thyagaraja Aradhana coming up at Thiruvaiyyaru, and many other musicians gearing up to conduct Aradhanas at the same time in different cities, I tried to understand more about this tradition and its link to the Pancharatna Keerthanas composed by the Saint.

The Five Pancharatnams

Pancharatnam literally means “five gems”, in this case, precious gem of a composition. When we talk about Pancharatnams, most with Carnatic Music awareness attribute it to the archetype, Ghana Raga Pancharatnam, but in fact there are five such groups of compositions. The first four pancharatnams have Pallavi-Anupallavi-Charanam or Pallavi-Anupallavi- upto 3 Charanams structure, akin to a typical keerthana format.

Thiruvottiyur Pancharatnam: Composed on Goddess Tripurasundari of Thyagaraja Temple, Thiruvottiyur at the request of Veenai Kuppaiyer. The krithis are:

Kanna Thalli – Saveri
Sundari Ninnu – Aarabhi
Sundari Nannindharilo – Begada
Sundari Ni Dhivya – Kalyani
Dharini Thelusukonti – Sudha Saveri

Kovur Pancharatnam: Composed on Lord Sundareswarar of Kovur when Thyagaraja was visiting Kovur Sundara Mudaliyar. Four of the five have only one charanam. The krithis are:

Ee Vasudha – Sahana
Kori Sevimpa – Karaharapriya
Sambo Mahadeva – Pantuvarali
Nammi Vachchina – Kalyani
Sundareswaruni – Sankarabharanam

Lalgudi Pancharatnam: Composed on Saptharisheesar / Pravutha Srimathi, deities enshrined in Lalgudi at the request of his disciples. The krithis are:

Gathineevani – Thodi
Lalithe Sri – Bhairavi
Deva Sri – Madhyamavathi
Mahitha Pravutha – Kamboji
Eesa Pahimam – Kalyani

Srirangam Pancharatnam: Composed on Srirangam Ranganathar. Four of the five have only one charanam. The krithis are:

Joothamurare – Aarabhi
O…o rangasayee – Kamboji
Karuna Joodumayya – Saranga
Raju Vedala – Thodi
Vinaradhana – Devagandhari

Ghana Raga Pancharatnam: Composed on Ghana Ragas such as Nattai, Gowlai, Aarabhi, Varali and Sri. More details in the ensuing sections.

When there are the other group of compositions (Utsava Sampradaya, Prahladha Bhaktha Vijayam, etc) and other Krithis on various Kshetras (Thirupathi, Nagapattinam, etc) by Thyagaraja, there is not much clarity on why and how these krithi sets got the title pancharatnam. Is it only because of the number?

Ghana Raga

Before understanding the Ghana Raga Pancharatnam, let us first look into what a Ghana raga is – it is not just a heavy (gamaka filled) raga as the name implies. Among types of ragas (such as Ghana – Naya – Desi), Ghana raga is characterised by its grandeur and majesty; it is used at the beginning of concerts. The ten Ghana ragas are: Nattai, Gowlai, Aarabhi, Varali, Sri, Kedaram, Reetigowla, Narayanagowla, Saranganattai and Bowli.

Ghanam singing is said to be a type of improvisation, done by the nasal articulation of the humpita gamaka, with the mouth closed and the sound emanating from the naabhi. Ghanam is also said to be the dhuritha kala (fast paced) Thanam singing. I tried to find recordings to help differentiate the two improvisation techniques, but nothing much exists online. But we know that musicians were titled based on their expertise in this technique, like Ghanam Krishna Iyer. Ghana Ragas lend themselves well to Thanam and Ghanam singing, and hence the name.

Ghana Raga Pancharatnam

The other four pancharatnams were composed during specific visits to specific Kshetras – they have at least that much in common. However, I don’t think Thyagaraja composed the ghana raga compositions with the categorizing in mind.

Below is a list of what I presume are the characteristics of each Ghana Raga Pancharatna Krithi for having been grouped together (assuming the grouping happened in the later years).

  1. Being composed in a Ghana Raga (refer above section)
  2. Rich in Laya and well structured having no or few stretched (vilamba) sangathis – thus making it easy for coordinating while singing in groups (similar to a varnam).
  3. More than 5 charanams (Sadhinchane is an exception, it has sub-charanams instead). Here is a graph of # of Thyagaraja Krithis composed vs # of charanams in each.
  4. Swara Sahithya in the charanams (as mentioned in a Sruthi magazine) – however I have my own qualms if Thyagaraja wrote plain charanams and it was notated and sung with swaras much later.
  5. Not composed on a specific Kshetra or its residing deity. When all the other Pancharatnams are attributed to a specific deity in a specific location (kshetra), only the Ghana Raga Pancharatnam are on generic Gods like Rama, Krishna, Vishnu and not on a specific temple location (though they were all composed when Thyagaraja was in Thiruvaiyyaru).

That be the case, it is a wonder who would have compiled them into a category? Even more a wonder as to how Ghana Raga Pancharatnam became the classic category to be performed in chorus on each Aradhana.

Thyagaraja Aradhana

It is safe to assume that the grandson and various disciples of Thyagaraja would have been performing the Aradhana as a simple musical tribute on his death anniversary since his demise on 6th Jan 1847, as this year is the 171st Aradhana. Then the disciples seem to have split and continued doing separate tributes to the guru.

There is one story that says the Thyagaraja Aradhana (as it happens today) is said to have been started by Bangalore Nagarathnammal of the Thyagaraja disciple lineage in the early 1900s, who also built his shrine at the place he attained samadhi. She was also the one who put the said krithis together.

There is another source which says Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar selected the five krithis (Nattai to Sri) as being best suited for group rendering, so that a common homage by all musicians became possible. This idea was adopted and the choral rendition of the five songs was made an integral feature of the Aradhana.

One thing can be concluded for sure – it was the Thyagaraja Aradhana that brought the Ghana Raga Pancharatnam into existence, and the two have been tied down to each other ever since.

Endaro mahanubhavulu, andariku vandanamu _/_

References

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Rabindra Sangeet

A post of mine that has been sitting in the drafts for more than a year, and the irony, it was a guest post. I am sure Dr. Madhubanti would have even forgotten she wrote this, but how could I leave a beautiful post such as this from seeing the light of the virtual world! Here, she talks about her roots, poetry, music and specifically Rabindra Sangeet. Read along!

“Watching me rattle through words at a million miles an hour, it may surprise you to learn that I learnt to sing before I could talk. Today, my music collection is eclectic, ranging casually through genres and across the world.

But my deepest and most abiding love remains for the two types of Bengali music that permeated the very walls of my family home in Kolkata. On the one hand, there is Bengali folk music – evoking the rivers and mountains of a lush, green region and the loves and losses of the people living on and off that land. (Yes, I can hear you thinking: how on earth is a city childhood conducive to imbibing folk music? But bear with me: I’ll come back to this shortly.)

On the other hand, there is Rabindra Sangeet – the uncategorisable musical oeuvre of a literary genius in whose writing there is solace for loss, balm for pain, encouragement for overcoming challenges, the celebration of joys and successes, reverence for nature and humanity, as well as a deep, ineffable relationship with the forces of the Divine, however one conceives of it. (This affinity is more easily understandable: my grandfather, an award-warning professor of literature probably had Tagore songs and poems eddying in his bloodstream, and he passed this on to my mother, and to a far lesser degree, to me.)

When you start to unpack Rabindranath Tagore’s musical – as opposed to lyrical – influences, however, something emerges that makes my urban taste for folk seem a lot less strange. On the one hand, there are the incredibly westernised ‘Purano shei diner kotha‘ – bearing more than a passing resemblance to Auld Lang Syne – or ‘Kotobaro bhebechhinu‘ – designed for piano accompaniment. But the other side of the coin contains pure classical notations of a complexity that puts off most but the most intrepid and skilled vocalists – E Ki Labonye Purno Praan would be a good example – but also beautifully sympathetic renderings and reworkings of traditional folk music from all across undivided Bengal.

The Tagore family were zamindars (landholders) in Shilaidaha in modern-day Bangladesh, and especially in his early writing life, the long journeys there and back from Kolkata, as well as the time spent in his Zamindari allowed Tagore plenty of exposure to both the natural elements he wrote about so eloquently his whole life, but also the folk music that was around him everywhere. With the help of Gagan Harkara on his estate, he began the work of collecting the scattered, oral gems left behind by Lalan Fakir, one of the most legendary peripatetic folk poet singers.

Tagore’s efforts also led people to rediscover the Sylheti folk poet Hason Raja – it would be absolutely fair, to the breadth of imagination and thought of both parties, despite their different languages, to compare him to the great Sufi poet Kabir – but also brought the music of the fisher folk and peripatetic tribal communities into the mainstream. It is not uncommon, to this day, to find Tagore’s folk-based songs being performed at folk music festivals and celebrations, and these days, being ‘digitally remastered’ to the accompaniment of electric guitars and zippy chords.

Since, even today, no self-respecting Bengali family would find itself without a complete set of Tagore’s works, my taste for folk music – to which my introduction was through Tagore himself – doesn’t seem so outlandish any more.

The song I want to leave you with is ‘Amar praaner manush achhe praane‘, whose beautiful lines remind us of why we talk about ‘folk wisdom’ – knowledge and realisations that never quite go out of date.”

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Saketharaman – interesting and rare

Five years ago, I attended my first Abhishek Raghuram concert as a TMK concert at the same time, different venue, was overflowing with rasikas. Yesterday (27th Dec) the same happened as tickets sold out for AR, and thus I ended up at the concert of Saketharaman, a disciple of Lalgudi Jayaraman. He was accompanied by Mysore Nagaraj on the violin, Bengaluru Praveen on the Mridangam and Guru Prasanna on the kanjira.

I don’t believe in blindly listing all the songs performed, hence I directly move to highlight the best parts of the concert. I would call Muthuswamy Dikshithar’s Arthanareeswaram the sub-main song of the concert, even though there were other songs with equal improvisation(manodharma). It is set in the raga Kumudhakriya (a child of Pantuvarali raga), and Saketharaman performed crisp neraval – swaram to the madhyama kalam.

The other best part of the concert was pulling off a weird concept as Ragam Thanam Pallavi. If someone takes two polar opposite ragas such as Vasantha and Behag and sing a Pallavi in misra (7) jathi triputa thalam, that has similar lyrics for Lord Siva in Vasantha and Lord Vishnu in Behag, that alone requires an applause.

lolanai, gana lolanai (sama / venu) gana lolanai, (haranai / hariyai) sadha ninaindhidu

That was the pallavi lyrics for you; read before the slash for the uttaranga and after the slash or the purvanga. The pallavi was also presented in ragamalika where ragas such as Sama (sama gana lolanai) and Patdheep were well chosen and handled.

What could have been different

Sharavana Bhava in Pasupathipriya (Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar) was unintelligibly fast. Uyyalaluga Vaiyya’s (Thyagaraja) aalapana in Neelambari was also hurried than what you would expect as the raga’s comfort.

What I liked

The choice of songs at the start of the concert were from rare composers like Aanayya (Intha Paraka in Mayamalava Gowlai) and Pallavi Sesha Iyer (Palimparavathe in Arabhi). The korvais at the end of kalpana swarams by Saketharaman embellished the Lalgudi style. The fillers / arudhi played by Bangalore Praveen for each song was bang on.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Hello World ;)

I remember the first post I wrote on my blog. It was a challenge to myself on how lengthy a post I could cough up without it being about anything. The writing might have started silly, but it has helped me research and learn a lot as much as it has helped me express what I think and explain what I know.

Which is why I am delighted to announce the movement of my blog from viddev.wordpress.com to my very own domain, viddev.com. I hope to continue posting on carnatic music and other topics of interest. You might also have to endure posts of my singing in this space, real soon! 😛 You will continue receiving emails for my posts if you have subscribed already.

Thank you all for your continued support!

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Standing Up

For having a blog with tagline “If you have something to say, I shall be saying something as well”, I have not been saying what I have wanted to say for a long long time, I realized. It was a conscious decision because I decided to write only about music in this space. Though it was a good choice with respect to the music, it also dawned on to me recently that even when I had other things to say, I did not have a space to say it, thanks to my choices.

So here I am breaking out of confinement (my own though) and writing stuff. If you think you are not here to read this, there will be other music posts coming up. So adios!

I have been lucky enough to have a circle (/gang) of friends wherever I go. In one such gang in a girls school I studied, a topper-leader-teacher’s pet girl spoke ill about a fellow average-scoring girl for her marks. I remember the rest of the girls in the gang taking it up to the topper and when things got hot, we isolated her from our circle. Now, I do know how wrong isolating someone was, and I am sorry for that. Nevertheless, the idea had been to stand up for a friend being discriminated.

Another incident that came to memory on similar lines was something that happened in college (though there may not be many nice things to say about my college). We had a weird-looking drools-while-he-talks professor, and a guy drew a cartoon of him and passed it around in another class. Needless to say, the paper got caught, and the issue went up to the management level. For those who don’t understand the repercussion of this, kindly google “Chennai engineering college atrocities”. But even with a threat of everyone being beaten up for a silly prank one played, all the boys stood up and refused to give away the name of the “doodle artist”.

And then there are these multiple instances we see online – #metoo posts by people from many different walks of life; campaigning for a fellow blogger whose content got plagiarized, and the likes. Though they are commendable gestures, it came as a result of a cry for help. What if someone around you has been targeted and bullied? What if they are a victim of falsely asserted defamation triggered by revenge? What if they did not plead for help? What if this happens in the realms of a virtual social circle? Above all, what if apart from the victim and the perpetrators, the others in the social circle are mere onlookers?

If I was in the place of the victim, I am sure I would start questioning why my friends didn’t support me, when they see what is happening. I could even go to the extent of blaming them for being opportunistic. But then I thought if I had ever been that friend who raised my voice for support. And my answer was, yes, maybe a couple of times. Not always though. Why? There could be various other reasons apart from being opportunistic. Maybe we never realize that bullying happened; maybe we did not want to unnecessarily get involved (namakku edhuku vambu); or simply because of the magnitude of the social circle (meaning number of facebook friends) our non-involvement is justified.

It could mean one of the two things – either increased online living has diluted the humanity in us; or I need to seriously revisit my understanding of a “friend”.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Koteeswara Iyer

The two contestants for the letter K were apparently grandfather – grandson, and I chose the grandson Koteeswara Iyer over Kavi Kunjara Bharathi. Koteeswara Iyer (1870 – 1936) studied music under Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar and Patnam Subramania Iyer both of whom were eminent composers.

Works

Koteeswara Iyer was one of the first composers to compose in all the 72 melakartha ragas. Implies, he should have given life to many of the otherwise synthetic ragas in the melakartha scheme. These compositions included ragas which were vivadhi, a classification of ragas considered taboo to be sung in concerts.

His compositions were mostly in Tamizh and his favourite god of praise was Lord Muruga. His songs had many variations (sangathis) as in a Thyagaraja’s but had chittaswaram, raga and composer mudhras as in a Dikshitar’s.

Other literary works of Koteeswara Iyer includes Siddhi Vinayakar padikam, Shanmukha Malai, Sundareswara Padikam, Kayarkkanni Paditrupattu, Meenakshi Andadi.

All India Radio conducted a series of concerts in 1950s, rendered by S Rajam and G Vaidehi – detailed rendition of one sudha madhyama and one prathi madhyama kriti.

Listen to…

Listen to Dr. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam singing ‘arul seyya vendum’ in Rasikapriya which is the last melakartha ragam of the chart. My guru, Dr. Vijayalakshmy is the disciple of S. Rajam “who did learn them from RM Sundaram, a relative of Koteeswara Iyer. Rajam Sir has published all his compositions in a very neat volume.( Earlier, he would give xerox copies of the book– covering only photocopying charges!) He has also rendered all the 72 , with raga niraval and swaras.” (words of my guru in this thread).

Disciples

N Ramakrishnan (also PA to Kamarajar) published the melakartha kritis with notations

RM Sundaram, who in turn spread the KI tradition through his disciples and family

T L Venkatarama Iyer, D K Pattammal, Parur Sundaram Iyer, V V Sadagopan, S V Parthasarathy

Mudra

Kavi kunjara dasa was Koteeswara Iyer’s mudra; not to be confused with “kavi kunjara” which is his grandfather Kavi Kunjara Bharathi’s mudra.

References

carnatic.net, Wikipedia

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Lalgudi Jayaraman

Consider this a double post on (L for) Lalgudi (J for) Jayaraman (1930 – 2013), the violinist, vocalist and composer. I grew up listening to recordings of yester year singers, mostly accompanied by Lalgudi. There was a time when I had the entire dancing thillana cassette by heart, but didn’t know lyrics for even one. Even the featured image for this post was a sketch drawn by artist Deva the day after the demise of the violin maestro.

Okay, enough about my love for his compositions, and more about him and his compositions. Young Jayaraman started learning from his father Gopala Iyer and took to performing and accompanying concerts at the age of 12. Like I said earlier, he has accompanied all the leading musicians of his age. He created the Violin, Veena and Venu, and formed a formidable trio comprising himself, Ramani and Venkatraman. The trio had given a number of concerts across the country. His biography, An Incurable Romantic, by Lakshmi Devnath, was released posthumously in 2013.

Works

He composed the lyrics and music for the operatic ballet Jaya Jaya Devi, which premiered in 1994 at Cleveland, Ohio (US) and was staged in many other cities in the United States. He also conducted five orchestral pieces for the All India Radio’s famous “Vadya Vrinda”.

Famous for his dancing thillanas, Lalgudi has composed in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit. I am listing down a few favorites:

  • Desh thillana on Lord Muruga
  • Maand thillana on Kanchi Kamakshi
  • Neeve gatiyani, varnam in Nalinakanti
  • Innum en manam, pada varnam in Charukesi

Listen to…

Well, for a change, why not listen to a violinist’s composition being rendered in Mandolin by a friend Vidwan Aravind Bhargav, who is the disciple of late Sri U. Srinivas. Here is a video of Dwijavanthi thillana from the artiste’s facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Faravind.bhargav%2Fvideos%2F1352838848131481%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I am not sure if he used any mudra, but it is relatively easy to narrow down his composition using his pattern brilliance, if you know what I mean. If you don’t, listen to a few compositions of his, then you would understand what I meant by “pattern brilliance”.

Disciples

This is another musician who has taught a list of more renowned disciples, including his children Lalgudi Vijayalakshmi and Krishnan, and Bombay Jayashree Ramnath, SP Ramh, Saketharaman, Visaka Hari and the likes.

References: Wikipedia, the Hindu

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Irayimman Thampi

Irayimman Thampi (1782 – 1856) was a carnatic musician and composer / poet from Travancore. He had his initial lessons from his father Shastri Thamban, who also belonged to the royal family of Chertala. Even as a kid, he wrote a shloka and submitted to the then king, Karthiga Thirunal Maharaja. He was later made the court poet in 1815 and he wrote poems for the Anantha Padmanabha swamy temple during auspicious occasions.

Works

One of Irayimman Thampi’s noted compositions “karuna cheyvan” was set in ragam Shree, but later made popular by Chembai Vaidyanadha Bagavathar in raga Yadhukula Kamboji. Another padam of his, “aarodu cholvene” features in the movie Gaanam in the raga Nadanamakriya. He has composed keerthanas and shlokas in Manipravalam and Sanskrit.

His works also include Subhadraharanam kaikotti kalipattu, Murajapa pana, Keechaka vadham, Uttara swayamvaram, Daksha yagam – to me they all looked like musical interpretations of the said legends. Only then did I learn that these are attakathas, which are the songs / poetry used for kathakali dancing.

Listen to…

You might have heard this composition as an interlude between charanams in the song “Kulu Valley le” in the movie Muthu. Listen to KV Narayanaswamy singing omana thingal kidavu in raag Navroj. In the video, he also gives a brief about the simplicity of the lullaby and its lyrics. This song was composed as a lullaby for Maharaja Swati Tirunal.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

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