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concert review

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 Gowlaiand 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 🙂

The Same Old Sanjay

Thalaivar mania

There is a kind of Rasika that goes to concerts whenever they find time and there are others who would not want to miss a concert of their favourite musician – this is what the article in Times about Sanjay starts with.

I wouldn’t want to be tagged to either of the categories, but I enjoy listening to Sanjay. And I avoided his concerts for 2 years due to his stardom and the maniacs that go with it. What better way to get back to a Sanjay concert than at the 74th year Isai Vizha at the Tamizh isai mandram!

The concert I am writing about happened on 30th Dec, and the accompanying artists were the usual Varadharajan and Neyveli Venkatesh.

What had changed 

For a fan listening to him for the first time after he attained the “Thalaivar” status , nothing much had changed.

  • He still is not that clear on diction
  • His style of singing and voice was just the same
  • Stuck to the concert template
  • His ever best long standing kaarvais
  • His choice of ragams at the end of RTP (we even managed to guess 2 right, beforehand)

One thing was new though – the popular song request for the one on demonetisation? Looks like it is a song about money that made waves in this season, thanks to you know who.

What was sung

I have sweet memories of having listened to an hour long Hindolam at Vani Mahal, an illuminating Rasali at Krishna Gana Sabha. What I will remember from this concert are 2 main pieces, Simmendra madhyamam (pasuram on thirukurugur followed by a song, maya vamanane) and RTP in Valaji.

The RTP lines that were Bharathi’s, brought a smile in the so-called feminist in me 🙂

“Aanum pennum nigarena kolvadhal – arivil oongi vaiyam thazhaikkum” 

Even though the conception of this RTP can be attributed to the brilliance of Sanjay, Varadharajan beat him by narrow margin in the execution with his violin. What a Valaji it was!!

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Disclaimer: Bloggers who had ACT subscription are permitted to write reviews one month (or later) after the event happened. Oh but wait, this is not a reivew 😛

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

 

Trichur Brothers

Kalpadruma Arts & Artists Annual Festival held a Carnatic vocal concert on Sunday evening at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, by Trichur Brothers, who was accompanied on the violin by L Ramakrishnan, on the mridangam by the vocalists’ father Trichur Mohan and on the ghatam by Venkat Subramaniam.

The concert begun with a volume and bass adjustments using Kamalaptha Kula – grapevine has it that this is one of their favourite mike test songs 😉

Kamboji ata thala varnam in normal, thisram and second speeds set the pace of the concert. This was followed by Namami Vighna Vinayaka in Hamsadwani and Aadi Tisra thalam, a song by Krishnaswamy Ayya / Krishnayya. Crisp mel kala kalpana swaram ended in what I think was the song’s chittaswaram as korvai.

Then it was the Sun slokam jabakusuma sankasam in Sowrashtram followed by the Navagraha kriti of Muthuswamy Dikshitar for the Sun god, the song for the day of the week, sooryamurthe. The song was ornamented with one avarthana swarams in dhuruva thalam.

I would say that the sub main in ragam Hamsanadham, was the song of the day. A very unconventional start of aalapana and with seamless transitions and a confident dialogue of raga phrases, it seemed as though one person was singing. The raga Aalapana was very impactful that during the technical timeout (again), pinnadi irundha mama and pakathula ukkandha maami were still humming hamsanadham. A snippet of the same to listen and enjoy 🙂

Other songs performed were

Pantureethi kolu by Thyagaraja,

Om namo Narayana by Ambujam Krishna,

Krishnam Kalaya a Theerthar’s Tharangam.

The main number  was a Ragam-Thanam-Pallavi in Kaapi, “hare Rama Govinda murare mukundha sowre murahara”. When the violinist played some standard Kaapi, the duo was again as unconventional as possible. However, the pallavi was sung in various ragas viz., neelambari, kedaram, dwijavanthi and maand – each artiste took up a different raga to improvise instead of the monotony of playing the same raga in cyclic order.

What I liked: a variety of thalams, apt and new compositions brought to the table.

What could have been better: less time spent on mike adjustments, maybe.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Dr. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam

As said in my earlier post Guru Vandanam, this is my first post in the series.

Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam, or Viji aunty as we call her, is a carnatic music performer and teacher and a Doctorate and the disciple of Rajam sir, and of course my guru! You can read more of her bio on the link above. Because here I am going to talk about my learning experiences under her.

It is said that a place that is surrounded with music all the time will have a certain vibrating effect. Though I have heard many say it, the first time I experienced this was in aunty’s house – the room where we learn. The ambience is that vibrating and musical. Even Casper, their dog would attend our classes regularly and he was always seated in the front row! I even have a recording of us singing bhairavi varnam and Casper’s howl exactly at upper Sa in the background.

I have learnt many dikshitar kritis from her to my heart’s content (I am a huge fan). Vaaya tharandhu padanum is a general advice given to music students. But she showed me how to open up and sing at the same time not sound loud. I also learnt how to put the tambura – it ain’t easy as it looks for sure.

Ksetra Sangeetham is the series of thematic concerts she does. The format is thus, each episode concentrates on a particular religious place (kshetram); there is a initial speech by a historian or a religious person on the Gods and Godesses and other specialities of the kshetram, followed by aunty’s concert of songs exclusively sung on the same place.

I had the opportunity to be a part of a few episodes such as Kanchipuram, Nagapattinam, Swamimalai, Guruvayoor and others, in helping her in primitive research and preparing presentations for the concert. This outside-classroom experience gave me a whole new outlook to the way songs might have been conceptualised, its religious and political setup.

Aunty’s way of teaching / singing a raga is more ingenious than traditional, something I had observed even as a fan of her concerts before I started training under her. Hopefully I retain and reproduce whatever I have imbibed.

Below is one such Dikshitar’s song being taught by Viji aunty in the paatu class broadcasts. Parvathi kumaram bhavaye in Naatakurinji…

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

An Expedite Exploration

Yesterday at Chennai Cultural Academy was the first time I listened to this young chap perform; and man, I should say I was completely besottled by his music. It is very true that he has a lot to prove,  and he is doing just that.

Abhishek Raghuram was accompanied by biggies like Thiruvarur Bhakthavatsalam on the mridangam,  Vaikom Gopalakrishnan on the ghatam and Mysore Srikanth on the violin – and I realized that the accompanying artistes do play a significant role in lifting up the concert to higher standards.

He started off with Saveri varnam followed by a crisp Kedaram. Infact, all the ragams he handled were crooked (read as vakram) and he did them with a very good control. In list were Dharbar and Varali followed by a rare Malavi. The last mentioned was rendered by all with such frenzy that it sounded like the pitter patter of rain drops we can hear on our terrace asbestos sheet on a rainy night.

Be it Karuna ela in Varali or the RTP in Purvikalyani (Mathurapuri nilaye manivalaye), my only qualm was there might have been more vilamba kala phrases. But Abhishek did compensate on the exploring new things front and mastering the micro sangathis to general liking.

Thanam was relatively a safe bet. Thani avarthanam made you sit on the edge of the seats, no wonder given their experience. And the entire stage seemed so happy throughout the concert 🙂 Why wouldn’t have the audience enjoyed!!

Pic courtesy - Herve Blandin
Pic courtesy – Herve Blandin

Find the artistes and sabha details here.

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

The Concert Preference

Another year has gone by and its December again. To a music enthusiast and a Chennaiite especially, this is the time of the year of concerts, Classical music, and much more! In short, it is the season!!!

So if you are new to the overdose of music that happens at this time, here are a few pointers. There is something called the concert life cycle that any singer/performer must undergo. Let us say it comprises of three main phases, though some might say five.

First is the juniors slot which might be at 12 noon or at 1.30 pm, most likely comprising of some Sabha’s competition winner or disciple of some prominent musician who is already in her/his peak. Then comes the peak slot which might be at 4 or 6 in the evenings and the most famous of the famous get a weekend or holiday invariably. Then is the retirement slot at 9 AM, which is free, but has some of the best in the field singing here. Only common thing, all of them would started greying. (Psst timings are flexible I am more concerned about the category)

So we get to choose from this repertoire of musicians to hear from. Whom all do we choose in the end? A question that has been crooning at the back of my mind time and again these days – the art or the artiste: what or whom is appreciated?

Why do you go to to a particular concert? The acoustics of the auditorium – Previous performances listened to – Patantharam (this is one of the most important things in history of Classical music) – intention to innovate.

This intention to innovate against an artiste’s choice of rendering an already popular song is another topic of discussion. Does the famous singer make a song popular? Or does the popular song make the singer famous?

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

TM Krishna @ Bharat Sangeet Utsav ’13

Here is my thoughts on the concert, or should I say that song of the concert; even better that piece that was performed in the middle of the concert, that I actually happened to listen to after my office hours.

Artistes were T.M.Krishna, Vittal Ramaurthy on the violin, Manoj Siva on the mridangam and Anirudh Athreya on the Kanjira. When I entered the hall, the vocalist (Krishna) was starting the raga aalapana of Bhairavi. This was followed by aalapana in Suruti, both of them having weird phrases; followed by thanam (only) in Varali wherein crisp 3 swara combinations were aplenty. To be noted that the violinist gave some good yet most expected traditional phrases while playing the raga to compensate the craziness.

A note to the readers: In case you listen to this concert on TV and think that the editors have cut the song, beware – there was no song, no lyrics! What actually followed the thanam was a thani avarthanam in chatusra jadhi matya thalam (2) to appease the so-long-simply-sitting percussionists. Anirudh should have got 200/200 in Maths public exam, I thought 😛 He was too good!

There was a virutham which had Kalyani – Kamboji – Vaagadheeswari and ending in the song Sogasu jooda in Kannada Gowla. It didn’t sound like Vaagadheeswari (to me atleast), though he announced thus.

If Krishna was trying to woo his audience by the surprise element on what is going to be sung next, then I was completely swept off my feet! The concert was completely patternless, and I loved every minute of it 🙂 🙂 🙂

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

Impressions from a TNS concert

It is not fair if  I call this a review, me being the novice. I am writing down my impressions on the concert I attended this evening, at the Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha. A full bench with vocalist TN Seshagopalan, M Chandrasekar on the violin, Mannargudi Eashwaran on the mridangam, and B Purushothaman on the kanjira.

Kamas…

I was as usual late to the concert and he had finished a couple of songs by then. When I entered, he was singing swaram in raga Kamas and thalam Chatusra Jadhi Jampa. No idea what the song was. But I just felt – if God can take away one very important ability, sight, and instead bestow you the power to control the world with the music, then so be it! – on listening to Chandrasekar playing.

Aarabhi…

Aarabhi ragam started, and I was so very sure, it was going to be “Oongi Ulagalandha”, today’s Thiruppavai. It turned out to be a virutham emphasising “Kodhai Tamizh”, supposedly one of Aandal’s pasuram. Extensive phrases made me wonder, what next. That is when he takes you by surprise yet again, by singing “Oongi Ulagalandha” in Kanta Chapu thalam. Now, the tune I observed to be very similar. Maybe… maybe he modified the thalam so that there might be more space between words to do his usual gimmicks on brighas.

Link to the recording of this song… Aarabhi – Virutham + Oongi Ulagalandha :

Subapanthuvarali…

Then he sang Subapanthuvarali, ragam notes ranging almost 3 octaves – from high Da to lower Pa. The song was Sri Sathyanarayanam by Muthuswamy Dikshitar. For the swara kalpana, he started with a casual vilamba kalam with combinations of “SRG SRG S… PDN PDN P… SRG SRG S…” this phrase as the basis. There was almost a sportive-competition happening between vocalist and the violinist, and they played nearly 20 minutes of 2 avarthana korappu.

And then it happened – TNS was in such a frenzied mode with ideas flowing, that Chandru simply put down his violin and let him sing uninterrupted. What a man!! The tani avarthanam was way beyond my comprehending abilities, so I give it a pass in this narration.

Varunapriya…

After the thani got over, he started singing ragam for the next piece. And I began guessing the ragam. Manirangu… no, it is Needhimathi… ah no, sounds more like Kaapi… a little wierd, probably Kaapi from yesterday’s decoction!?… hindustani/masala Kaapi… Lol 😛 TNS relieved all of us of the tension and announced the raga name as Varunapriya and gave a brief – the exact stuff I found on Wiki a couple of minutes later. Woah!!

The lyrics was customised to request rain, enhancing the raga’s qualities –

“Tharunamidhu Karunai Pozhi Varunapriya

Aazhi Mazhai-k Kanna… Nee” (repeat)

And the raga shifts were done in Amrithavarshini (more rain request), Subapantuvarali (water from eyes as well), Kaapi (he did sing the ragam finally!) and back. The piece was set in kanta jadhi thriputa thalam.

I was so engrossed in the concert, that I just did not bother to even unlock my phone and check – something we do always these days! Plus, I am so going to take my rain jacket to office the next day, just incase 😉

Glossary:

avarthana – a cycle of thalam

brigha – faster rendition of a phrase in aalap

chapu, thriputa, jampa – types of thalam

chatusra – 4 beats

full bench – all the necessary accompaniments are present (violinist, and 2 percussion instrumentalists)

kanjira – similar to tambourine

kanta – 5 beats

Kaapi, Needhimathiand Manirangu – are names of the ragas I guessed, wrongly 😉

Kamas, Aarabhi, Subapanthuvarali, Varunapriya, Amrithavarshini – are names of ragas of the songs performed

korappu – a pattern of swara singing

Swara, neraval, thanam, aalapana – various forms of showcasing the skill, improvising the raga on the spot

tani avarthanam – is the phase of the concert when the percussion instruments alone play

vilamba kalam – slow pace

virutham – format of singing a verse (/sloka) improvising, usually without thalam

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

The Concert Phenomenon

As I was seated in the concert hall listening to the first concert I attended this season, I thought I should vent out all my pent up thoughts and long observed findings into this write – up that I would like to call “The Concert Phenomenon”.

Come December, and it is margazhi music festival in Chennai. And thus, as the diversity of our place has it, we can find various interesting phenomena in and about a concert.

The oft – repeated one is about the culinary versus the artiste’s popularity. Sometimes we will not be able to distinguish which ‘Kesari’ is being praised.

Also most of the performers have taken up to talking at length in between their songs. Many of these talks are borne out of care for the music students / listeners, no doubt. But it pains when you see someone dozing off amidst audience – people, you don’t go unnoticed.

I think each person in the audience would exhibit one or more of the characteristics from the below categories –

  • There are the Maami’s sitting in the front row in new silk sarees and asking “yen maami, neenga indha pearl set evlo ku vaanginel? Unga saree color ku nanna suit aardhu…” (Where did you buy this pearl set? It goes well with your saree color) Excuse me, is someone listening to what is being sung.
  • Then there are these geeks who carry a book to the concert to read – a timepass for an entertainment is it? Reminds me of a tamil movie dialogue – “rest eduthu tired agi rest edukkaren”.
  • Next in list are the over enthusiasts whose interest in putting thalam is commendable; however, their boisterous nature and the fact that the thalam goes off beat, is not.
  • A special mention is needed to the youngsters who record the entire performance and thus miss out enjoying on the live one, and instead, spend the time in messaging.
  • Speaking of messages and mobiles, I forgot to mention the BGM providers! Uncles and aunties, who use mobiles to the barest minimum, feel uncomfortable having a silent profile. What ensues is a variety of ringtones as background music.
  • The most interesting ones however are those who carry a note book and pen in hand making a note of the song, ragam, thalam and composer for each of the item performed. Is this list going to be catalogued for historic reference by future generations?

Also available as aid to the above mentioned people are the ‘Ready Reference’ books. RRR (it has a nickname too!) has a collection of popular kritis and an abbreviation index in the glossary that you need to map to in order to use it. Reminds me of old schooldays where we used to do dictation – copy from book into notebook as the ‘recital’ goes on.

When the ‘aalapana’ goes to the madhyama kalam / higher notes, when the korvai is finished, when any frenzied manodharma piece is over, it is generally followed by a ceremonial clapping. If you do not clap or nod, you are bound to get a few quizzical glances. Excuse me, but I will definitely acknowledge the phrase that I personally relish.

The behind the stage scenes are yet another spectacle! It is regular to hear “excellent Kamboji it was”, “Thani pinnitel pongo!” and similar praises, backstage. But when someone comes and introduces themselves as the artiste’s “neighbor’s grandma’s onnu – vitta chithapa’s sammandhi’s second son; gnabagam irukka” (neighbor’s grandma’s second cousin uncle’s in – law’s second son; remember me?) or the likes, the artiste’s expression would be priceless!!!

Once the ‘mangalam’ has been sung, the wait is on for the next day newspapers / magazines to bring out the reviews about the concert. The expectations are not fully quenched sometimes owing to an extensive play of English vocabulary.

I have described above a few instances of interesting things that happen at a concert. The rest are left to the imagination of the readers!

–          Vid 🙂

 

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