Search

Vid Dev

Musings of a music student

Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar

Harikesanallur Muthiah Bagavathar (1877 – 1945) was a 20th century carnatic music composer, and a ra’ga creator. Let us call him HMB for ease from now on.

HMB learnt from Padinaindumandapa Sambasiva Iyer for 9 years and made his name as a Harikata Vidhwan. (harikatha is an art of story telling infused with music) He was also adept at playing the chitra veena and mridangam.

Works

He had to his credit almost 400 musical compositions, the largest among the post-Trinity composers, that included many different types of Varnams as well as Kritis and Thillanas.  His inventions included ragas such as  Vijaysaraswathi, Karnaranjani, Mohana Kalyani, Niroshta, in which the trademark songs were “charanam vijaya saraswathi”, “vanchathonuna”, “bhuvaneshwaria”, “raja raja radhite”.

The famous English notes made popular by Madurai Mani Iyer was actually written by HMB himself. Though the Trinity composed many nottuswarams in their period, this is the one that first comes to our mind.

Until the invention of Niroshta, all the audava ragas (with  notes per scale) had at least PA or MA in its grammer. This raga is sans PA and MA, the only two swaras which are pronounced by closed lips (bilabial). Leave it to the genius of HMB to also compose a song whose lyrics are devoid of bilabial sounds.

Listen to… TN Seshagopalan singing mathe malayadhwaja, a dharu varnam in raga Khamas. A speciality in the last chitta swaram of this varnam is it is fully a swaraksharam (same syllables denote swara and lyric) praising the Goddess. Also to be noted is that TNS was the disciple of Sankara Sivam, who in turn was the disciple of HNB.

Mudhra Harikesa after his birth place

Disciples include Sankara Sivam (as mentioned above), Madurai Mani Iyer. HNB also opened a music school called the Tyagaraja Sangita Vidyalaya in Madurai in 1920 on the lines of a gurukulam.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

GN Balasubramaniam

Gudalur Narayanaswamy Balasubramaniam (1910 – 1965), popularly known as GNB, was a vocalist in the Carnatic tradition. He did diploma in music with Madras University (first batch) where Tiger Varachari was the principal. He gave his first concert in 1928. He was also a tamizh movie actor and performer, but we are concerned about the composer here, aren’t we.

His unique style, regulated tempo and masterly delivery were the delights of performances. His mellifluous voice would traverse the three octaves and the three speeds with ease. His brugas were infectious and he kept his ears and mind open to receive what was best in other musicians. This style probably reflected in his compositions too.

Works

He composed over 250 compositions krithis in Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu. He invented ragas too viz., Chandrahasita, Sivasakti, Amrita Behag. I am listing a random few compositions here:

  • sonnadhai seidhida sahasama a Ragamalika
  • ni padhame gathi in Nalinakanthi
  • ranjani niranjani in Ranjani
  • samana rahite in Saranga Tharangini
  • sadapalaya in Mohanam

Listen to… Sikkil Gurucharan sing unnadiye gathi in raga bahudari. My memory and stealthy concert recordings reminded me of this song 😉 Though this video is just a sample, it has almost until charanam, so enjoy listening.

 

Disciples

He had many students, most of them popular in the Carnatic Music industry, such as M. L. Vasanthakumari, Radha Jayalakshmi, Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman, Trichur V. Ramachandran, M. S. Subbulakshmi, T. Balu.

On a parting note, I would like to leave a line from an article on GNB: “…did not agree with those who maintained that the last in composing had been done by the Trinity and that it was a sheer waste of time to attempt to produce anything that may be greater than the works of those three great masters.” I agree.

References: Wikipedia, Karnatik, the Hindu

my ‘F’ather, Devanathan

I’m not sure if everyone will accept my choice of composer with F – I am going to write about my Father, Sri S. Devanathan.

Appa is mostly a self – learnt musician, through concerts and cassettes. There were times when his rendition of songs would be exactly like Maharajapuram Santhanam, his maanaseega guru. He has taken formal training from OS Thyagarajan and TN Seshagopalan, in the later years.

Works

Appa has written over 70 plus songs in Tamizh, most of them on specific gods and goddesses as and when he visits the temple.  He started using the mudhra Devan in his later songs.

My first memory of Appa composing was when we had been to Namakkal temples and that night after we were back home, Appa had written a song on Namakkal Narasimhar in Desh, .

Some interesting works of Appa that I write off memory now are:

  • Navagrahangalai naam in ragamalika (one graham in one raga)
  • Soolam endhi nirkum soolini in Deva Manohari, on Dharmapuri Kottai Kovil Goddess Soolini
  • Kodai nagar kumara in Lathangi, on Vallakottai Murugar
  • Ennalilum unnai ninaindhu, a varnam in Varamu
  • Thillana in Karnaranjani on Lord Dhanvantri
  • Anjanayin pudhalvane in Durga on Lord Hanuman
  • Rathadanam seivadhu in Mohanam, a song about blood donation
  • En manam endrum nin vasantha, 2 ragamalika in Vasantha and Kalyana vasantham
  • Raga arimugam, a 30 raga song about the ragas (he set this to tune, while his friend Suryanarayanan wrote it)

Listen to… Appa sing a song written on Muthuswamy Dikshitar and rendered by himself in raga Reethigowla.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

ES Sankaranarayana Iyer

Kallidaikurichi Dr. ES Sankaranarayana Iyer (1881 – 1947) was a medicine man and a carnatic music composer. A large part of propagating his works was done by the Maragatham Sankaranarayana Trust. They conducted annual concerts of exclusive ESS Iyer compositions by various eminent musicians. The recordings are held by the trust and you can contact and them here.

When the top sabhas hold competitions about ESS Iyer, the trust helps by giving cassettes to prepare. The winners of the competion are invited to the trust’s annual concert, and their Guru is given a ‘Bodhaka’ award (probably one of the very few proud moments I could make happen to my father, who taught me these songs).

Works

There are over 150 songs written by him, in languages Tamil, Telugu and Sanskrit. I am going to list down the ones I know, here.

  • Ekadasa rudra keerthana rambe in Yaman Kalyani
  • Bhakthi illadha sahithya sangeetham in Aarabhi
  • Deva devam in Saranga
  • Mahavishnu in Bhairavi 
  • Sharadhe chandranane in Saraswathi
  • Kamaladhala kannan in Behag

It is said that after his demise, few (balance) of his compositions were set to tune by family members.

Lyrics

My all time favourite Behag composition is Kamaladhala kannan, which is about the lady describing to her thozhi, how much she misses Kannan.

There are no videos or audio tracks of ESS Iyer’s compositions available online, I’m not sure if it is due to copyright issues. I wanted to post Sanjay Subramaniam singing Behag from the cassette, but in vain. Nevertheless, I can give the lyrics here.
Ragam: Behag / Thalam: Rupakam

P: Kamaladhala kannan inimel karunai seiguvano thozhi 

A: Nimala manathodavar paadham ninaithavar mel nesikkum

C: Oruvarum ingillai endru oru murai kanna endren

Oodi vandhu enna endran ondrumillai endren naan

Varundhi inimel azhaithittalum varamatten endru solli 

varundha vaithu maraindhaan – madhi mosam ponenadi thozhi

Update on 25th Apr:

Thanks to Subramaniam Krishnan‘s thoughtful gesture, I now have a brilliant song to share:

Listen to Parasala Ponnammal sing ESS Iyer’s composition “muladhara kshetra mooshika vahana” in mayamalava gowlai…

References: http://essfamily.tripod.com/ess.html

Dharmapuri Subbarayar

I took the liberty of choosing Dharmapuri Javali Subbarayar for the letter D (his mudra was Dharmapuri after all!). He was a composer of the 19th century. His name has been prefixed with Javali (which has sringaara themes, is fast paced and used in dance performances), as most of his compositions were of this type.

Works

Subbarayar composed mainly in Telugu language and his mudhra was Dharmapuri, after his birthplace. Some of his compositions include:

  • Parulanna maata in Kaapi
  • Adhi neepai marulu in Yaman Kalyani
  • Sakhiprana in Senjuruti
  • Smara Sundara in Paras

It seems Sakhiprana and Smara Sundara were composed for Veena Dhanammal, in whose house he composed most of his Javalis.

Listen to…

My favourite song in Kaapi is a Subbarayar’s Javali that goes parulanna maata. In my opinion, the raga was approached with a very different outlook than the usual compositions in Kaapi. Listen to Ramnad Krishnan sing…

Lyrics

rAga: kApi
tALa: rUpaka
Composer: Dharmapuri subbarayar
Language: Telugu
Pallavi
parulanna mATa namma vaddu prANa nAyaka
Charanam 1
mOmu cinna pOyinadi marmamEmirA mAyalADi bOdhanace pAya cEsErA
Charanam 2
dharmapurini sthiramugA nelakonna sAmi nI dharmamuna nElukOrA nIku mrokkerA 

 

Until next,

Vid 🙂

 

Chowdiah

Tirumakudalu Chowdiah (1895 – 1967) was a Carnatic classical violinist and he has also composed a handful of songs. He was of Kannada origin and thus his compositions were in Kannada. He was home schooled by his violinist uncle initially and then he learnt from Sri Bidaram Krishnappa.

Chowdiah devised a unique method of enhancing the sound of the violin. He crafted a violin with seven strings. What the additional strings did was to resonate along with the string being played upon. This gave the Carnatic violin a greater volume in sound. He also developed a technique of playing it.

The Chowdiah Memorial Hall was constructed in memory of the violin maestro Chowdiah. It is located in Bengaluru and provides a home for musical and theatrical performances as well as competitions. The auditorium is built in the shape of a gigantic seven stringed violin, complete with the strings, keys, the bridge and the bow.

Works

The way I came to know Chowdiah compositions, like most other rare composers I know, was through competitions. The sabhas hold composer-wise competitions every year and I remember most of my high school days went running from one sabha to another for the same. The mandatory number of compositions to apply was 2 in case of category Chowdiah, hence I know only 2 of the list of the 31 songs (kritis and thillanas included) that were there in the book we bought. They are:

  • Prasanna Parvathi in Bilahari
  • Seshachala Vasa in Kedara Gowla

He used the Mudhra trimakuta after his birthplace (the T in T. Chowdiah).

Lyrics and Notation

I learnt these songs from the notations given in the tamil transliterated book of Chowdiah’s compositions. Hence I am presenting here one such kriti’s notations – prasanna parvathi, in Bilahari. The crisp chittaswaram is something to be noted.


Listen to… Chowdiah playing the said composition in Bilahari. I am assuming this is the 7 string violin as it sounds different from the regular violin carnatic solos I have heard.

Disciples: Prof. V Ramarathnam, HS Anasuya Kulkarni

References: Wikipedia, BM Sundaram’s book of Chowdiah’s compositions

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Balamurali Krishna

Carnatic musician, violinist, veena player, playback singer, actor Mangalampalli Balamurali Krishna (1930 – 2016) is a multi-faceted genius, but this post is only about the composer in him.

The young Balamurali Krishna started his music training under his father Pattabiramayya. Then he went to learn from Parupalli Ramakrishna Pantulu and took music full time from the age of 15.

Works

Apart from composing varnams, thillanas, krithis in languages including Sanskrit, tamil and Telugu, Sri Balamurali also invented ragas and thalas, and also composed songs in them. Some of his ragas had the most unconventional combination of only 4 (Mahathi, Lavangi) or 3 (Trisakthi) swaras in the raga, when the traditional ragas had 7 / 6 / 5 swara scale at least.

He has to his credit, over 400 compositions; he has composed in every melakartha raga; and I would like to list a few interesting compositions here.

  • Chalamu chesina varnam in Ramapriya
  • Gana sudha rasa in Nattai
  • Gana sudha rasame in Ragavardini
  • Uma Sutham Namaami in Trisakthi (own raga)
  • Omkara Kaarini in Lavangi (own raga)
  • Varuga varuga in Pantuvarali
  • Bruhadeeshwara Mahadeva in Kaanada
  • Dhimnanana Thillana in Brindavani

I think a musician will be able to do a full fledged concert just with a set of songs like the above list.

The signature (mudhra) in his compositions was Murali… narcissism probably 😉

Since I said this post is about Balamurali’s composing skills, let’s not leave out film music composing. He has got a national award as best music director for the film Madhvacharya (1986).

Listen to… Nookala Chinna Satyanarayana singing Balamurali’s composition ‘Bruhadeeshwara Mahadeva’ in ragam Kaanada. The interesting thing is Balamurali himself is playing the viola for this particular concert / recording.

Disciples – Aswati Tirunal Prince Rama Verma

As an ending note, I wanted to highlight this. Balamurali was once asked what he cherished most about his life. He replied, “it was the pleasure of seeing his compositions sung by others in his lifetime, an honour that was not given to the great composers of yore, such as Thyagaraja or Purandara Dasar.” That was the essence of the man, proud and happy.

Sources: Wikipedia, The Hindu, Devanin Kaivannam

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Theme Reveal – A to Z 2017

To those who don’t know the significance of yesterday’s post on Ambi Dikshitar, yes, it is the start of a series of posts, for which I am doing the ‘theme reveal’ below.

The last few years I have been watching my fellow CBC blogger friends do the AtoZchallenge in various interesting themes. Though I have been wanting to participate all the while, I really couldn’t muster as much time and effort to get it started all these years, let alone complete it.
The closest I came to doing an A to Z challenge was writing a series on Ragas – believe me, it was one per alphabet, though I did not propagate it then. And I did not follow the timeline either.

I have finally started writing for this year’s AtoZ blogging challenge 2017; now that I have successfully posted for the first alphabet (A for Ambi Dikshitar), I can reveal my theme. As you might have guessed, I am trying to write about Carnatic Music Composers / Vaggeyakaras. The emphasis will be on vaggeyakaras (the same person writes lyrics and tune for songs). I am not taking up well known names like Trinity or Papanasam Sivan. I think this will be a good opportunity for me to read on and learn more about not so well known composers.

I hope I go all the way till Z successfully. Wish me luck!

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Ambi Dikshitar

Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s adopted son, Subbarama Dikshitar named his son also as Muthuswamy Dikshitar, after his father and revered composer. The kid later came to be popularly known as Ambi Dikshitar (1863-1936), in the same lineage.

Works

Ambi predominantly helped propagate his grandfather’s songs during his stay in as court musician in Ettayapuram and later when he migrated to Madras. However, he has also composed a few songs which include:

  • gananathaya in gowlai
  • ganapathi sodaram  in arabhi
  • varasidhi vinayakam in nattai
  • sri venkatesam bhajami in kalyana vasantham

Listen to…

Sri Venkatesam Bhajami in Kalyana Vasantham in the voice of Maharajapuram Santhanam who made this song popular by singing it in many of his concerts. Though I haven’t listened to one in person, I remember the cassette recordings and my dad’s splitting reproduction of this song, as I grew up. The YouTube video title is ambiguous and says Muthuswamy Dikshitar, but sources confirm this is an Ambi Dikshitar composition.

 

Disciples

Ambi Dikshitar initiated the music learning of DK Pattamal, S Rajam, Ananthakrishna Iyer, to name a few. He and his disciples made it their life mission to preserve and propagate Muthuswamy Dikshitar kritis in their pristine purity. The Dikshitar lineage was followed by Ambi’s son Baluswami Dikshitar.

References: google images,sreenivasarao’s blog, karnatik

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Romantic Ragas

I believe that ragas elicit certain emotions in you when you listen to them and each one has one emotional trait that is predominant. I am not well read when it comes to carnatic music theory, hence here is the disclaimer that whatever I write below is exclusively what I think from my experience.

For this love themed jodi posts by CBC, I thought I should write about ragas that I think are the most romantic, for various reasons. By romance, here I mean the “a feeling of excitement and mystery and happiness that might or might not be associated with love”.

Reethigowla

The reason I chose Reethigowla is hugely influenced by its usage and identification in tamil film music.The carnatic compositions were of no help due to its religious / spiritual context. Whereas in films, right from Chinna Kannan to Azhagana Rakshasiye to Sudum Nilavu to Kangal Irandal, most of these famous romantic duets are set in this raga. Maybe the GaMaNiNiSa phrase gives that lilting beauty when sung; or that the very structure of the raga is not flat and boring but mystical and interesting.

Here is a playlist of only movie songs in Reethigowla for you.

 

Kaapi

Kaapi I believe lives up to its name. If coffee is believed to be an aphrodisiac, then the name sake might as well be one. It oozes love, and at the same time manifests in many forms – be it Bharathi’s love for Kannamma in Chinnanjiru Kiliye or the Javali (composition type generally conveying sringaara) Parulanna Maata, or the motherly love of Yashodha in Enna Thavam Seidhanai, or ARR’s Kadhal Rojave. It seems to me that, like the various types of coffees from each part of the world, the various songs in Kaapi have a unique flavor and each have to be dealt with, different from the other. You might want it black, or with milk or cream or sugar, but each type (song) has to be savored in the way it has to be.

Behag

This is my favourite raga of the three. But not many would agree with me for even adding it in the list of romantic ragas. That might even be the case; but then I learnt this song Kamaladhala Kannan in Behag. I don’t know what ESS Iyer imagined when he composed it, but that part “madhi mosam ponenadi” does something to me, every time I listen to it. The context of the phrase is thus: (I am giving the text in Tamizh as the essence seems lost when I translated it to English, sorry)

… ஒருவரும் இங்கில்லை என்று ஒருமுறை கண்ணா என்றேன்
ஓடி வந்து என்ன என்றான் ஒன்றுமில்லை என்றேன் நான்
வருந்தி இனிமேல் அழைத்திட்டாலும் வரமாட்டேன் என்று சொல்லி
வருந்த வைத்து மறைந்தார் – மதி மோசம் போனேனடி…

(knowing none is around, she calls Krishna – he appears – she gets tongue tied – hence he leaves saying don’t expect me to come next time you call – and that is when she loses her mind).

Malargal keten from OK Kanmani and Aalapanam from Gaanam are the only two movie songs I can think of in Behag and both are abstract in a way. Maybe it is that abstractness that this raga embellishes, that is lovely.

If you have a difference of opinion, or think I’m incapable of writing about this topic, or got anything else to say, do leave a comment. I’m not really a fan of bouquets, so that and brickbats are equally welcome 😉

This post has been written for the ‘love theme’ contest by The Chennai bloggers club in association with woodooz and Indian Superheroes.

Having read my take on romantic ragas, please also read what my team mate Divya Narasimhan of Sayuri has to say about how music inspired her to create jewellery designs. Here, she has taken the natabhairavi sounding song “Vaseegara” and interpreted it in her necklace.

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!!

11377281_1065707413442739_7574555961533087323_n

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 🙂

 

The Inner Self Awakened

Inner Self is the English word for Agam, which is also the name of a carnatic rock fusion band based our of Bengaluru. And ‘the inner self awakens’ is the name of the band’s first album.

A few years ago, when I was sitting at home on a sick leave day, browsing Facebook, a friend had shared Dhanashree Thillana. I clicked and listened to this new interpretation of Swati Tirunal’s composition – and ended up binge watching all of Agam/Harish’s footage on  YouTube. Which is when I traced back to the same finalist of Season 1 of super singer whom I had supported.

I might not be this crazy fan who travels to wherever my favourite band performs, but I have listened to 3 of their concerts, live. One on a balcony seating in Egmore Museum theatre, one at the open air portico of Phoenix Mall; but my favourite was in a small pub in Bengaluru. I still remember what happened. A man who was standing right behind me and rolling a joint, was explaining this to this friend: “Did you know that Swans of Saraswathi is actually a Thyagaraja keerthana. Saint Thyagaraja is a Carnatic music composer of the 18th century; he has written hundreds of songs on Lord Rama”. And then he went ahead to talk more on the song. For a girl who is still getting out of the grasps of the orthodox/religious side of Carnatic music, this was a huge culture shock.

Agam has released solos, cover versions, songs featuring famous artists from Shreya Ghoshal to Aruna Sairam. Still, I love their original  compositions better than their cover versions.

Malhar Jam – a fusion based on raga Malhar / Brindavana Saranga

Boat Song – malayalam boat song Paadhira Poo Venam 

Lakshiya Padhai – is a Tamil composition that sounds like Jog / Nattai

The other amazing thing the band did was to make lay people go gaga over Carnatic music – yes, I said that. To see the crowd yell, go wild and sing along your favourite Dikshitar composition is a dream come true for me. Especially when the song is something as hardcore carnatic as Ranga Puravihara. I just hope that atleast now the count of those using the “this music is boring” phrase reduced a bit.

The band plays a fusion genre called Carnatic progressive rock. Here’s what Harish Sivaramakrishnan has to say about it…

P.S: Harish, I’m a huge fan of your work… huge fan ❤

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Darbari Kanada

When OK Kanmani songs were released and I made my dad listen to Naane Varugiren, we started discussing how every few years one hit song in darbari kanada comes out somehow. And we were wondering what is so special about this raga that makes it a music director’s favourite. That is how I came up with this playlist of 12 movie songs in the raga, from then to now… from chinnan chiriya to katre en vasal, ennai konja and the recent one from OKK.

I haven’t learnt any Kriti in Darbari Kanada and it is only through movie songs do I identify this raga till date. Either it is attractive enough as is, or because it isn’t possible to meddle with – whichever reason be, I have found all the movie songs set in this raga unadulterated so far.

This post features a guest performance by my dad, Shri Devanathan. Please listen to chandra chooda siva sankara parvathi, a composition of Purandara Dasar.

Govardhana giridhara by Narayana Theerthar and varuvai varuvai varuvai kanna by Bharathiyar is sung in this raga. But nobody from the Trinity seemed to have dealt with it. Wikipedia says the raga was taken from the Carnatic world to Hindustani by Tansen (its called Darbari after the court of Akbar). Whereas, we call it a Hindustani raga. My hunch is the North India got influenced by our Kanada and created Durbari and then we brought back Durbari to Carnatic and named it Darbari Kanada. The raga is the descendant of 20th melakartha Natabhairavi.

Concerts to watch out for today, Dec 7….

6:45 PM Sanjay Subrahmanyan, R. Raghul, Tanjore Murugabhoopathy, Thirupunitura Radhakrishnan @ Narada Gana Sabha Main Hall, TTK Road, Alwarpet (Kartik Fine Arts)

6:45 PM Sikkil Gurucharan, B.V. Raghavendra Rao, Bombay Balaji @ Youth Hostel, 2nd Avenue, Indira Nagar, Adyar (Margazhi Maha Utsavam)

Until next,
Vid 🙂

Where you listen matters

A few years ago, I had been to a concert of Sikkil Gurucharan, where he sang a scintillating marukkulaviya thiruppugazh as sub main. Unfortunately we were not able to continue listening the concert in peace, owing to the light music songs blaring through the speakers from the next building which turned out to be a marriage hall. No offence to cine music, but shouldn’t we choose when to listen what?

I believe that the structure, sound and ambience of the concert hall should be good enough in order for one to have a good listening experience. I’m not a sound engineer, nor do I know architecture. But I can recognise decent Carnatic music. And even the best music produced, will reach you as it is, only if you listen to it in the right place.

Only when the mike arrangement is good, can singing in lower octaves be enjoyed; a Kaarvai (sustaining at a swara for a length of time) be heard without distortion; and the lyrical beauty be appreciated. For the very same reason, I would choose a closed A/C hall to attend a concert any day, over open air (kottagai) kind of locations.

I found this study done by an M.Arch research scholar from IIT Madras on “The Acoustics of Concert Halls Through a Subjective Evaluation”.

http://www.informedesign.org/Rs_detail/rsId/2331

The study identified that:

  • Consider surveying regular concert attendees during the design of music halls, as regular concert attendees may be reliable and effective judges of concert hall acoustics and surveys may be sufficient instruments for rating concert halls.
  • Be aware that clarity, liveliness, and definition may be preferred acoustic qualities for Carnatic music and that a lower Reverberation Time (i.e., 1.3 to 1.6 seconds) may provide for this quality.
  • Be aware that the ability to see the performer may be important to most regular concert attendees.
  • Be aware that most concert attendees may prefer a venue specifically designed for Carnatic music.

Well, that was their findings; however it does emphasise on one thing – where you listen, matters.

Below are my picks of sabhas / halls where listening would be bliss, here in Chennai. It would be double whammy for the listener, if the performer is also top notch 😉

1. The Music Academy

2. Krishna Gana Sabha

3. The hall in TTD, Venkatnarayana Road

4. Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium

Concerts to watch out for today, Dec 4….

6:00 PM Trichur Brothers, L. Ramakrishnan, Trichur Mohan, D.V. Venkatasubramanian @ Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, MCTM School, Alwarpet (Brahma Gana Sabha)

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Begada

The next raga in the series is Begada, a raga whose scale doesn’t conform to order. I always imagined ragas like Kamas and Begada to be these rebellious kids refusing to stand in line during school assembly. Nevertheless, they stand out, don’t they.

The below song is probably the reason why I wanted to do this raga. I first chanced upon the cover version by Agam band. The original is from a 1970 Malayalam movie, Sthree which has two solo versions sung by Yesudas and Janaki respectively. Below link is the female solo of Innale neeyoru. The song uses two ragas, and the first part is in Begada.

I wasn’t able to find any Tamil movie songs in Begada – let me know if you do.

The scale that I was talking about for Begada goes thus…

S G3 R2 G3 M1 P D2 N2 D2 P S

S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

Below is my attempt at singing Vaa Muruga vaa in Begada, a Spencer Venugopal composition.

Few other notable kritis in this raga include

  • Thyagaraja namasthe and vallabha nayakasya by Dikshitar
  • naadopasana by Thyagaraja
  • Elle ilangiliye, a Thiruppavai
  • Veenai Kuppaiyar’s varnam inta chala

This raga was a specialty of Patnam Subramanya Aiyyar and earned him the name ‘Begada’ Subramanya Aiyyar.

Concerts to watch out for today, Dec 3….

10:30 AM S. Karthick – Lec Dem – ‘Appreciating the role of Ghatam, Khanjira and Morsing in a concert’ @ Ragasudha Hall, 85, 2, Luz Avenue, Mylapore (Parivadini)

6:00 PM – Mysore Brothers (V), Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman, S. Karthick @ Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, MCTM School, Alwarpet (Brahma Gana Sabha)

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Tambaram V Sundaresan

Learning music is predominantly experiential and practical (as opposed to theoretical). And so Guru is the most important part of your education. This post is a part of guru vandanam, where I write about each Guru I learnt from.

Tambaram V Sundaresan, or Sundu mama as he is fondly called by his students and circle, took up music full time after he left the postal service. He is a student of DK Jayaraman and propagates the DKJ style of Carnatic music through his students.

I learnt from Sundu mama when I was in high school and early years of college. He was tolerant to the breaks I took in between due to public exams and was the only teacher from whom I had one on one training. He used to drive to each student’s house in his TVS moped, then. He is nearing 80 years of age and even today, he teaches music at his home in Madambakkam.

I had discovered the greatness of Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s compositions by then and requested to learn as many MD songs as possible. He has taught me around 15 major compositions of MD, all the Nava Varnams, a couple of Navagraha kritis and Lalgudi Jayaraman’s thillanas. Kamalamba nava varnam is a bunch of 11 songs (including dhyanam and mangalam) on Kamalambikai, the goddess of Thiruvarur. Check out the below playlist sung by DKJ and his students, for more on nava varnams.

Sundu mama was a very friendly person with a unique sense of humour. His ‘apadiya sangathi’ jokes and guffaws are well known. For those who don’t know, Sangathi is pun for improvisation in the song lyrics.

Speaking of improvisations, he was the guru who introduced me to manodharma sangeetham – which means extempore singing. Though this is supposed to be creative music, he gave me the basic understanding to aalapana, neraval and swara singing.

Thanks for everything, Sundu mama.

Concerts to watch out for today, Dec 2….

4:45 PM – Ramakrishnan Murthy @ Youth Hostel, 2nd Avenue, Indira Nagar, Adyar (Margazhi Maha Utsavam)

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Keeravani

I started writing a series of posts on Carnatic Ragas, a few years ago. We did 16 ragas then, and having been inspired by a few requests to continue, here I am kick starting the second set of ragas. The phase one started here.

The format usually is to give an explanation to the raga (with any specialty of it), the scale, a song in the raga (usually a sound cloud recording), how movies dealt with the raga and a youtube link of a film song or two. This time, you might find a few tweaks, which might include guest performances (this post does feature one). Without further ado….

Keeravani is the 21st melakartha ragam in the 72 raga chart and its scale is:

Aarohanam- S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N3 S

Avarohanam – S N3 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

In western classical music, this corresponds to the  Harmonic Minor scale. There are some classic kritis in Keeravani:

Kaligiyunte by Thyagaraja,

Devi neeye thunai by Papanasam Sivan,

Varamulo sakhi by Patnam Subramaniya Iyer,

Innamum sandeha padalamo by Gopalakrishna Bharathi.

The song that is featured in this post, however, is a relatively new one on Paramacharya by Swarna Venkatesa Dikshitar, set in Jampa thalam.

Instead of the usual YouTube link I give to popular movie songs in the raga, this time we have a mashup sung by fellow blogger Sriram

http://www.smule.com/recording/keeravani-medley/862022072_807299211/frame

Apart from the songs in the above mashup (i.e) Paadadha paatellam, Raja Raja Chozhan, Kannale Pesi Pesi, there are lot many film songs that adopt or are influenced by this raga. I found a forum discussion on Ilayaraja and Keeravani.

Concerts to watch out for today, Dec 1…

6:45 PM – Malladi Brothers @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Main Hall, East Mada St., Mylapore (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan)

6:45 PM – Abhishek Raghuram, Akkarai Subbulakshmi, R. Sankaranarayanan @ Youth Hostel, 2nd Avenue, Indira Nagar, Adyar (Margazhi Maha Utsavam)

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 🙂

Prince Rama Verma

This is the third post of the series of Guru Vandanam. The post is about Prince Rama Verma, from the royal family of Swati Thirunaal Maharaja and Raja Ravi Varma, and the disciple of Dr. M Balamurali Krishna. Though He does vocal and veena concerts, he is a true blue teacher at heart and does workshops in Chennai and Bengaluru and also music residential camps in a village in Karnataka, Perla.

It was in one such workshops that I started to learn from Prince Rama Verma. It is quite possible that we might not have a teacher – student bond (he might not even know I exist), because these workshops always have intermediate organizers and are one of type. Nevertheless, I did learn and understand a lot from these workshops.

He used to give rational explanations or historical stories to things Carnatic, in between teaching songs, some words of wisdom which I share below.

“Silence is very under-rated. The performers don’t give the importance to a long ‘kaarva’, instead think that heavy, fast brugas establish our superiority over music. The lay people who appreciate old Tamil classical songs, say that these classical concerts are drab and annoying. We in turn brand them illiterates gnana shoonyam). In reality, the gnana shoonyas are us! In case you give a half aavarthana of silence and your accompanying artiste might not follow the same, please warn him before hand in the green room!!” He means that certain Carnatic music performers fill a song/concert with such heavy detailing to just show their prowess and this could possibly be a reason why Carnatic music isn’t interesting enough to a lay person.

It seems there is a logical reason as to why Mayamalava Gowlai has been the incontestable starter raga for Carnatic music beginners all along. Since one of the instruments our music is based on is the Veena, and for a kid to handle a veena and play the initial lessons would be difficult, MMG with swaras coupled next to each other was the perfect choice. (i.e.) [SR1]-[G2M1]-[PD1]-[N2S].

Few of my favourite songs learnt – Omkaarakaarini in Lavangi (by Balamurali Krishna), Pankajamukha nottuswaram by Dikshitar, Aliveni in Kurinji by Swati Tirunal, Karuna Cheyvan in Yadukula Kamboji by Irayuman Thampi.

Here is a lecture video link to give a sneek peek into his classes.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Three Hundred

When your BFF publishes a book that you have already read, re-read and heard about during the making, that too a quadzillion times, how do you review it? No this is not a review.

Author Sir (AS): Did you read the draft I sent?

Vid Dev (VD): You know I don’t read love stories, right. Will do it over the weekend.

AS: Did you complete it? It has been more than a week already.

VD: OOPS! You know I was working late… Let me do it this weekend.

AS: Hmmm……………….


 

VD: AS! I read the first chapter… It is full of typos.

AS: Yes ma. The part I have given you is the unedited version. I have sent it to the editor, lets see.

VD: Oh okay.

AS: Ignore that version, I am sending you an epub convert. Try it out on your phone and tell me how it looks.

VD: Okay………………………

VD: AS!! Ayn Rand, Fountain Head, and that train scene. The story actually took off brilliantly!! And then ended at the same pace – duh when are you giving me the next part?

AS: Haha, you liked it? Wait… How long you took to read what I sent. Wait for now.


 

VD: Hey! This other girl who comes in your story. I have read the story somewhere. Isn’t it the “the Girl with the Tattoo” from your blog?

AS (smiling): Yes, it is.

VD: So these incidents are real? They actually happened to you? Are you that Jai?

AS: Hmmm… I wouldn’t say so. I just drew inspiration from characters I have met.

VD: Finding addresses and sending flowers – don’t you think that is nauseatingly romantic?

AS: Well Jai is blindly in love. What else can you expect?

VD: Fair point.

AS: Did you read that book I lent to you? Do you remember the seven stages of love? I am basing my novel on the same concept.

VD: Oh yes! That was new to me. So your book has 7 parts, one for each stage eh? That’s cool!!


 

AS: Did I tell you? I am changing the title to simply 300 days. How far are we with the reading now?

VD: Close to completion. I like this Chilakamma character, you know. Well portrayed. Not like this strong willed feministic make-believe women in many books. She is strong in her own way, but so real; so relatable, with all fears and indecisiveness, wanting to be nice to all, facing the hardships that life throws at her. I have even portrayed a mental image of how she looks like.

AS: I wonder how she looks like.

VD: Let me see if I can do an illustration.

AS: Speaking of illustrations, the other one you drew – the physical copy got lost in the floods. All I have is a digital version right now.

VD: Oh no 😦 But, come on, we know what all you went through during the floods. Let’s hold on to what we have.


 

AS: Congratulate me!

VD: Congrats!!! What’s the occasion?

AS: The n-th publisher rejected my novel. Way to go, right?

VD: Ohhh! AS, those publishers are not the only ones who can judge your story. Look at it this way – you want to tell the world your story; the world (universe) will conspire a way to get it done.

AS: I am worried that the book might not see the light of the day.

VD: Please don’t talk that way. Look at all that you have accomplished. All that research and effort that you have put in creating this will not go waste. We should’t let it.

AS: Hmmm…

VD: You are an amazing story teller AS. It is time everyone gets to know it.


 

AS: Vid! 300 days is available for pre-order now!!!! It will be up for sale from the 18th of this month. You know that is Anya’s birthday?

VD: You and your way of remembering dates. Yaay! I am super excited. All the best to you!

AS: Thank you 🙂

VD: I shall “keep spreading” word about the book. I am sure you will go places buddy. “Keep smiling” 😉

300 days book trailer:

A little something I drew, a couple of years ago (the branch has 300 in it and chilakamma means parrot):

13239166_10208068337359082_4619066403428152045_n.jpg

Grab your copy of the book here.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: