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atozchallenge 2017

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 🙂

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 🙂

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

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 🙂

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