HFM REWIND – Music, Time & Happiness

“You should definitely join for the next webcast!’’ urged Suresh, calling specifically from Las Vegas to tell me this.

I smiled as I recalled previous interactions.  ‘’I sure will!’’

‘’I’m sure you will really enjoy it and have lots to say,’’ went on Suresh.

I was sure about the enjoyment part.  But…lots to say?

‘’Are you sure?’’ I said doubtfully.  ‘’You said Shankar is hosting it, right?  Well, he is pretty much an ocean with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Hindi Film Music.  I doubt if I will have anything much to say myself.’’

(For those who don’t know, Shankar is Suresh’s brother and I have often been taken by surprise by the siblings’ sheer depth of knowledge and especially Shankar who seems to have even the minutest of details on his fingertips.  Of course, that is what passion is all about.)

‘’Of course not!’’ Suresh was quick to respond.  ‘’Just be there – and you won’t be disappointed!’’

Suresh was right, of course.  I wasn’t disappointed – far from it.

I was delighted.

Before I proceed further, here is the link to the teaser for yesterday’s webcast:

 

‘’And that brings us to the end of today’s session on the Cloning Effect in Hindi Film Music…’’ wound up Archisman Mozumder who effectively co-hosted the webcast along with Shankar.

And I realized with a shock of pleasant surprise that 90 minutes had passed without me realizing it.  Wow!

Starting with an introduction to the selected theme, the hosts said they would be focusing this week on three pioneering HFM giants – Shankar-Jaikishan, OP Nayyar and RD Burman.  They would present how their work had been repeatedly “Cloned” during their times – underscoring the fact that each of the three was a truly a trendsetting archetypal thinker.

Presenting numerous examples, both popular and interspersed with a few not-so-well-known, Team REWIND HFM lucidly explained how other music directors took inspiration from these three.

The hosts in the beginning added the necessary disclaimer that while the subject may be ‘’cloning’’, on no account was this meant to be any disrespect to the directors who modelled some of their songs on the styles of Shankar-Jaikishan, OP Nayyar and RD Burman.

The webcast was packed with various nuggets of information.  The fact about Dattaram (intrinsically part of the Shankar-Jaikishan team) and how his style came to be known as the ‘’Datta Thekha’’ and how he incorporated this into one of the songs in the 1958 Raj Kapoor – Mala Sinha starrer Parvarish, was definitely a revelation.

Numerous other examples were demonstrated – how Madan Mohan, Roshan, Sardar Mallik, Sonik Omi, Khayyam (a *huge* surprise for me), Bappi Lahiri, Sapan Jagmohan (it was pointed out that Sapan Jagmohan was quite different from R.D.Burman’s assistant Sapan Chakravarty), Bhupen Hazarika, Hemant Bhosale (the redoubtable Asha’s son) and Jaidev have borrowed these styles.

Personally for me, the biggest surprise was the title song sung by Asha Bhosle in the film Yeh Nazdeekiyaan.  I was ready to swear it was R.D.Burman when my jaw dropped on being told that the music was by Pt. Raghunath Seth, a Hindustani Classical flautist of great repute.  I have heard Raghunath Seth’s concerts broadcasted by good old All India Radio as part of their much-awaited annual series of concerts – the Radio Sangeet Sammelan.  In my childhood, never would a Radio Sangeet Sammelan concert would be missed be it Hindustani and definitely Carnatic of course!  My father would be glued to the huge radio set all ready for the two concerts that would be broadcasted from 10:00 PM to Midnight.  On Sundays additional concerts would be from 10:00 AM to Noon.  The Radio Sangeet Sammelan fortnight during the latter half of November and the beginning of December was definitely an annual event much looked forward to.

Consequently I did initially have some difficulty in accepting that this seductive Asha number was done by Raghunath Seth!  Especially when I recall the slightly bold posters of Yeh Nazdeekiyaan featuring Marc Zuber and gorgeous Parveen Babi! 🙂  My cousin Neeraja would hum this song back then, all starry-eyed thanks to Marc Zuber’s appeal!

The webcast ended with the hosts Shankar and Archisman (affectionately he is naturally Archie to all!) introducing the rest of the Team REWIND HFM – comprising Suresh (Subramaniam Vaikuntam), K.V.Ramesh, his wife Sandhya, Subramanian Iyer and Balaji Ramachandran.

The punctually begun webcast was effectively and efficiently moderated by Shankar’s brother Suresh sitting across the world in Las Vegas.  Every effort was made to make the session smooth and as interactive as possible and happily the audience participated with great enthusiasm and gusto.  Everyone in the audience was given a chance to voice his or her feedback and some constructive suggestions were made and acknowledged.

Such a concept cannot be conceived without an overweening passion and to actually put it into action and execute it, calls for an extra high level of dedication quite different from the former.  Team REWIND HFM definitely needs to be encouraged, complimented and commended for this wonderful effort and knowing the sheer knowledge and depth of understanding and the devotion the team members have, it can be said with a great deal of satisfaction that there is a LOT to look forward to!

As Shankar and Archie said it yesterday, Hindi Film Music is truly an art form by itself.

Amen!

 

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kaddanuvAriki kaddu kaddanImOrAla nIDu!

Concert Photo – Trichur Ramachandran with M.Chandrasekharan, Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam and B.S.Purushottaman

Trichur Ramachandran’s concert on Saturday, June 24th for Madhuradhwani was easily a class apart and one of the most satisfying of concerts I have heard in recent times.  The veteran had a stellar team comprising virtuosos M.Chandrasekharan on the violin, Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam on the mridangam and the relatively younger star B.S.Purushottaman on the kanjira.

Ongoing whitewashing and repair works at home unfortunately ensured that I was late to the concert.  As I entered and settled myself sufficiently in the front, I realized that extensive niraval for the pallavi line marivErE dikkevvaru (Lathangi, Khanda chapu) was in full-flow.

Not without some dismay, I thought that this in all probability was the third or the fourth item in the concert.

What did I miss???

What did I miss?  Definitely a GNB composition… Was it the Gavati varnam (oh no!), perhaps a varavallabha ramana (Hamsadhvani), or nAkabhaya (Natakurinji)…

Trying to shut out such thoughts seemed impossible at first for a few minutes.  However the compelling niraval in the pallavi line drew my concentration to the concert.  Having always heard and having myself sung niraval in this kriti of Patnam Subramanya Iyer in the anupallavi line, niraval at this new place (for me) was refreshing.

Quick-fire rapid swaras followed to which M.Chandrasekharan responded with alacrity.  Trichur Ramachandran rounded off the swara segment with a short but delectable kuraippu by having the ending swara on M, P and D in succession, enhancing the interest considerably.  True to his wont, M.Chandrasekharan replied with his own imagination, proving yet again, that the maha-vidwan with an experience of eight decades (or more) behind him, is as fresh, alert, precise and agile as ever.

A brief but very attractive alapana of Begada followed and the kriti was the Muthuswami Dikshitar masterpiece tyagarajAya namastE.  For me the different pATHAntaram made the appreciation all the more keen.  My revered guru T.R.Subramanyam’s version, I realized, was quite different and as Trichur Ramachandran befittingly rendered the kriti in a calm and unhurried manner, I was taken back to the year 1990 when some of us students of TRS had had the fortune of sitting behind him as he sang the kriti at the sanctum sanctorum at Thiruvaarur.

It was evident that the kriti was very much a part of Thirvaarur Bhaktavatsalam’s musical system.  The way he played lovingly for each line especially in the charanam and in the madhyama kaalams of both the anupallavi and the charanam, accentuating the saahitya bhaavam ensured that the overall effect of the kriti was showcased in full glory.  A short swara segment at the charanam’s madhyama kala line ‘’sakalAgama mantra tantra’’ was a fitting closure.

After that involved Begada, personally for me, the bonus was the item that came next.  A very sweet raga sketch of Khamas by Trichur Ramachandran had me wondering as to what kriti it could be.  Probably sujana jeevana, but no that couldn’t be, we’ve just had a rupaka kriti, so maybe seethapathe?

Bonus – Mysore Vasudevacharya!!!

He started off in the taara sthaayi, ‘’Indiraa ramana…’’ making me sit bolt upright with delight.  Mysore Vasudevacharya!  And that too, the extremely rare and the third Khamas kriti of the peerless composer from Mysore!  Wonderful!!!

Khamas is synonymous with Mysore Vasudevacharya, thanks to brOchEvArevarurA.  If rendered in a concert either by vocalists or instrumentalists, the audience’s interest is sure to be pepped up.  A true ‘’kacchEri song’’ as my guru TRS would say.  The sheer charm, beauty and appeal of brOchEvArevarurA with its wonderful chittaswaram, remains as fresh as ever.

Vasudevacharya has composed two other kritis in Khamas plus two jAvaLis and a tillAnA.  One kriti is upEndramAsrayAmi santatam, a kriti that my guru TRS would revel in singing.  He is said to have started his concert in Tuticorin with this kriti since that day the mridangam vidwan was Tanjavur Upendran!  This was actually corroborated to me by vidwan M.A.Sundareswaran recently.

The third kriti of Vasudevacharya is indirAramaNa, also set to Adi tala.  As Trichur Ramachandran rendered the kriti and I listened enraptured, the realization yet again, what a fertile imagination and genius for composing Mysore Vasudevacharya had been endowed with.  All the three kritis of Vasudevacharya in Khamas begin on the taara sthaayi shadja and yet there isn’t an iota of similarity between any of them.  As Trichur Ramachandran ended the short kriti, I could only sigh in contentment and happiness.  Another kriti to learn!  The obsession with his creations became only stronger!

Todi – Infinite, Inexhaustive, Bountiful

A neat EmanipogaduturA in Viravasantam (a favourite of GNB and MLV) set the stage for the main item.  As Ramachandran began his Todi alapana, sitting as part of the audience I didn’t quite know what to expect.

As musicians and rasikas, we hear Todi quite often.  It’s perhaps one of the most commonly rendered ragas, so much so that a few rasikas actually feel that it could become an overdose.  I have personally had an organizer telling me before I began my concert, that if I dared to sing Todi, he would switch my mikes off !

Having said all that, the true reality is that Todi is a raga that can never EVER sound stale!  Trichur Ramachandran’s Todi was an attestation to this.

As he unravelled Todi in his presentation, it became quickly evident that this was not going to be a superficial presentation of the raga.  On proceeding to the portions above the Madhya sthaayi panchamam, a few phrases rendered with the plain gaandhaaram won spontaneous appreciation from M.Chandrasekharan.

I would like to think that that was the catalyst!  There was no looking back after that in my opinion – Trichur Ramachandran literally unleashed sanchara after sanchara, replete with plain gaandhara and nishaadam notes and took Todi to an astonishing and exalted level.  As I have written in some of my previous experiences of listening to concerts, words are truly inadequate to describe the glorious exploration of the Todi that evening and the effect it had on the audience.

As Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam joined Trichur Ramachandran when the latter commenced with the scholarly kaddanuvAriki of Tyagaraja, it was evident that like the previous tyAgarAjAya namastE, this kriti is also part of the mridangam maestro’s being.  As Ramachandran executed the myriad sangatis that this kriti is replete with in all the three parts – Pallavi, Anupallavi and the Charanam, Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam literally made the mridangam sing along by perfectly joining in with all the sangatis.  It was sheer delight and pleasure to listen to the veterans.

After the niraval at the customary ‘’baddu tappaka’’, and the corappu at ‘sa’ was also executed at the ¼ eduppu as the entire kriti.

Before commencing his tani, magnanimous as ever, and completely mindful of the fact that the super-senior doyen M.Chandrasekharan was in full form that evening, the artist and the rasika in Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam made him deferentially request the violin ace to play the korappu segment.

M.Chandrasekharan, initially hesitated citing, ‘’nAzhi AyiDuttE’’ to which the mridangam maestro promptly responded with his broad characteristic grin, ‘’ungaLukku ellamE exempt!’’

Voila! And then we fortunate audience were treated to M.Chandrasekharan plunging into his version of Todi through swaras and korvai.

Thiruvaarur Bhaktavatsalam in his taniyaavardhanam went straight into a wonderfully executed Tisra nadai (it was nearing 9:00 PM and so he probably dispensed with the chatusra nadai) and his kuraippu with B.S.Purushottaman, when the latter responded precisely to his challenging one avartanams, half and then quarter avartanam teermanams was truly thrilling.  This thrill continued seamlessly through the entire kuraippu that finally ended with the mridangam and the kanjira exchanging just one aksharam with one another in the last segment.  The synchronization between them was marvellous – akin to an edge-of-the-seat denouement.

Post the main item, the GNB-MLV staple Kaaranam kETTu vADI (Poorvikalyani) and Muralidhara Gopala (Maand), ended the concert.

In Conclusion

To me this concert was a representation of what Kuccheris must have been a few decades ago.  It was verily the representation of another era.  However, the significant fact to be noted, as I’m sure the audience overall would have taken back with them, is that such concerts are STILL possible to be provided, savoured and talked about.   Life may have become fast; however good, aesthetic, non-fast food fare can definitely be enjoyed even today, depending upon the artists and provided it is presented well.

And most of all, provide inspiration for us.

Trichur Ramachandran’s concert for Madhuradhwani was definitely that.

 

 

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Shyama Sastri & Natakurinji

Facebook prompted me to post this as a memory. The actual fact is that Natakurinji and Syama Sastri’s Maayamma are so much part of me that I thought instead of merely posting this as a memory, why not reblog it! 🙂

Mohan Santhanam

Note: this article was published in the February 2014 issue of the bi-lingual journal Naadhabrahmam (www.naadhabrahmam.com)

Though Natakurinji is a very popular raga with instantaneous appeal, yet it isn’t characterized by a corpus of well-known kritis.  If a musician renders or plays a Chakkani Raja or an Endukupeddala or an O Rangasaayi or a Meenakshi Memudam, a reasonably knowledgeable rasika of Carnatic music would immediately identify these compositions with their respective ragas.

Natakurinji unfortunately doesn’t enjoy this luxury, so to speak.  Hence it can be said that it is a raga that has survived on its own intrinsic charm and attractiveness.  From a concert standpoint, it is more or less accepted that the more number of compositions that a musician knows in a particular raga, the better is the musician able to handle the raga in terms of raga-alapana elaboration in particular.  Examples of such ragas are all…

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Music Education Trust’s Currently Ongoing Dwi-Raga Festival

Music Education Trust (MET) is my guru Late Shri T.R.Subramanyam’s brainchild. The baton for running it is now in the hands of one of his prime students Dr. Radha Venkatachalam.

MET has always strived to conduct concerts and lec-dems with a purposeful view to engage and educate the most important factor for the success of a concert and for Carnatic music overall – the rasika.

From its genesis in 1989, MET has conducted numerous festivals each with a purposeful message and theme. To mention a few of them – the 10-day long Trimurthy Festival in Delhi in April 1998, four-hour concerts, concerts comprising only of Ragam, Tanam and Pallavis (RTPs), RTPs in Vivadi ragas, Eka-raga concerts (concerts with items being rendered only on one raga), composers’ based concert festivals and many more.

This year, the ongoing festival is Dwi-Raga. All the concerts will consist of the vocalist rendering items only in ONE raga and this raga will be a janya of either Shankarabharanam or Kharaharapriya. Each concert will consist of an RTP and the RTP will be in the corresponding pratimadhyama raga’s janyam. For instance, if the vocalist choose to render items in Sriranjani, a janya of Kharaharapriya, then the RTP will be in the corresponding pratimadhyama raga Hemavati’s janya raga.

My concert

Happily, I was given Begada and I accepted with alacrity! Begada is a raga that I simply LOVE. Having learnt the Ata tala varnam of Patnam Subramanya Iyer from Sanjay Subrahmanyam’s masterful rendition, with the notation supplied several

MET Concert Photo

Concert photo with Ambalapuzha Pradeep (vio), Kalladaikurichi Sivakumar (mri) and Shankar Lakshmanan (ghatam)

years ago so kindly by Shubha Ganesan, this was the first time I got the opportunity to render this varnam.

The rest of the items (R – raga alapana, N – niraval, S- Swaras):

2. Vallabha nayakasya – Rupaka – Muthuswami Dikshitar – S
3. Nee pada pankaja – Adi – Tyagaraja
4. Vaa muruga vaa – Rupaka – Spencer Venugopal
5. Gattigaanu nanu – Adi Tisra Gati – Tyagaraja
6. Manasa vachasa shirasa – Adi (2 kalai) – Mysore Vasudevacharya

This kriti of Vasudevacharya with its truly beautiful chittaswaram dripping with raga bhava deserves a separate post – will do that shortly!

 

7. Neevera kuladhanamu – Misra Chapu – Tyagaraga (R, N, S, Tani)

And finally, the RTP in the raga Sunaada Vinodini. This was set to Misra Triputa Tala, chatusra gati with the eduppu being 3 counts from the samam.

Being Sunday, the following was the pallavi:

sUrya dEvam padma mitram savitAram bhajE – sadA manasA shirasA

Kollam-based violinist Ambalapuzha Pradeep played enthusiastically the alapanas of Begada and Sunaada Vinodini and also the taanam.  Kalladaikurichi Sivakumar, as usual, played with understanding and the sensitivity to saahityam that he is known for – especially since many of the compositions were new to him.  The ghatam by Mumbai-based Shankar Lakshmanan was a last-minute inclusion and unsurprisingly, he rose to the occasion on both the days (my concert and for the preceding day’s concert) most admirably.

I ended the concert with Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Tyagarajaya Namaste followed by a slokam.

Another photo

Another photo

Sunaada Vinodini – & Mysore Vasudevacharya!

Sunaada Vinodini is a raga that is technically a janya of Kalyani, Shankarabharanam’s prati madhyama counterpart. However intuitively it appears closer to Hamsaanandi, which is a janya of Gamanasrama (the 53rd melakarta raga). Removing the rishabha from Hamsaanandi gives us Sunaada Vinodini and the latter can hence be considered as a janya of both Kalyani and Gamanasrama.

The composer who first gave ”life” to Sunaada Vinodini was Mysore Vasudevacharya. His compact Devaadi Deva set to adi tala is a very popular kriti that was extensively popularized by the maestro M. Balamuralikrishna. Several other vidwans like Flute N.Ramani and Mandolin U.Srinivas also revelled playing Sunaada Vinodini.

Once again in my opinion Mysore Vasudevachar’s genius for composing (as a vaaggeyakara) comes to the fore. It cannot be gainsaid that Hamsaanandi’s rakti and appeal is unmistakable. It is one of the most popular ragas particularly for viruttams, thukkada items and is also occasionally taken up for Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi by musicians. Compositions like Paavana guru (by Lalitha Dasar), the very popular Pahi Jagajjanani (Swathi Thirunal) and the evocative Srinivasa (Papanasam Sivan) are performed regularly in concerts.

That being the case, I have often wondered why Vasudevachar chose to compose in Sunaada Vinodini which is fairly close to the extremely well-known Hamsanandi. The raga seems to have existed theoretically in books containing treatises on Carnatic music. It is my surmise that Vasudevacharya when going through some of these treatises came across Sunaada Vinodini and after mulling over it for the period of time came to the conclusion that the raga has enough scope to hold its own against the better-known Hamsaanandi.

Hence he has started Devadi Deva from the mandhara shadja that removes all doubt and ambiguity and establishes the raga beyond doubt.  The presence of the powerful note of the dhaivata also puts paid to any shades of Amritavarshini creeping in.

Hence this concert was truly a celebration with Begada and Sunaada Vinodini!

Praanams.

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Garudadhvani!

Garudadhvani - Page 1

The first page of my article as it appeared in Shanmukha

Garudadhvani

Note 1:  I am happy to reproduce this article in my blog that appeared in the current issue of Shanmukha – a quarterly journal dedicated to the Arts brought out by Bombay’s Shanmukhananda Sabha.

Note 2: I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to Shanmukha’s editor Smt. Radha Namboodiri for her continued encouragement, insightful feedback and valuable suggestions.

Note 3: In this blog post, I have also added two tracks on Garudadhvani.  One is an absolutely sparkling rendition of Tattvameruga Tarama (Tyagaraja, Rupaka Tala) by my revered Guruji Late Shri T.R.Subramanyam (TRS).  There can be no way to express the way TRS has sung this, with the stellar team of V.V.Subramanian and Guru Karaaikkudi Mani.

Note 4: At the risk of some self-promotion (!), I have also added one of my tracks where I have sung an alapana of Garudadhvani, followed by Tyagaraja’s Anandasaagara (adi tala) with swaras and a corappu.  I have an excellent team of S.Varadarajan on the violin and Shertalai R. Ananthakrishnan on the mridangam.

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Introduction

Everyone knows Mohanam!  This classical pentatonic raga has eternal appeal over the connoisseur and the layman alike, and is a raga which almost anyone with even minimum exposure is likely to identify without any difficulty.  Mohanam is thus a universal raga as the scale is quite prevalent in other forms of music especially in Chinese and other East Asian varieties.

Currently Mohanam is regarded as a janya of the 28th melakarta raga Harikambhoji.  Since the madhyamam and the nishaadham are absent in Mohanam, it can be theoretically regarded also as a janya of Shankarabharanam, Vachaspati and Kalyani.  In fact, Subbarama Dikshitar, in his magnum opus Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini, has classified Mohanam as a janya of Kalyani (Santhakalyani).

Supposing we extend Mohanam by retaining its ArOhaNam, and substitute, instead of the usual avarOhaNam of S D P G R S, the avarOhaNam of Kalyani.  The resulting raga is, not surprisingly, Mohanakalyani!  And Mohanakalyani is one of the ragas whose name has been easily coined as the conjunct of Mohanam and Kalyani – Mohanam is the ArOhaNam and Kalyani is the avarOhaNam.  This is different from ragas that appear to be a conjoint of two raga names – for instance, Saraswatimanohari is NOT a conjoined result of the ragas Saraswati and Manohari.  Nor is Kedaragaula a conjoined result of Kedaram and Gaula.

Coming back to Mohanakalyani, being a derivative of the melakarta raga Kalyani, this is of course a prati-madhyama raga.  If we consider Mohanakalyani’s suddha madhyama counterpart, this raga would have Mohanam as its ArOhaNam and Shankarabharanam as its avarOhaNam.  Hence by the previous logic, we theoretically get the raga Mohana-Shankarabharanam.  Clearly, a bit of a mouthful to pronounce, this ‘’theoretically coined’’ Mohana-Shankarabharanam happens to be a very popular raga that is better known as Bilahari!

So from Mohanam, we have traversed to Mohanakalyani and then to Mohana-Shankarabharanam, which is Bilahari.  What about the ‘’reverse’’ of Bilahari – i.e. the reverse of Mohana-Shankarabharanam?   Exercising the same logic we get, by this process of reversal, the raga Shankarabharana-mohanam.

As the name suggests, Shankarabharana-mohanam has for its ArOhaNam, Shankarabharanam, and Mohanam for the avarOhanam.  Hence the structure is

S R G M P D N S’

S’ D P G R S

This is the raga Garudadhvani.

This can be viewed as:

Mohanam -> Mohanakalyani  -> Mohana-shankarabharanam -> Shankarabharana-mohanam -> which is –  voilà! => Garudadhvani!

 

Garudadhvani – A mirror image of Bilahari, but only theoretically!

Hence, Garudadhvani can be referred to as the mirror-image of Bilahari.  In practical application however, Garudadhvani has nothing to do with Bilahari whatsoever and they do not even sound remotely similar.  The arrangement of the notes and the intonation of the swaras of Garudadhvani are completely different as we shall see.

Garudadhvani is an example of a sampoorna-oudava raga.  This raga has all the seven notes in order in the ArOhaNa (S R G M P D N) and five notes in the avarOhaNa (S’ D P G R).  Examples of similar sampoorna-oudava ragas are Kiranavali (a janya of the 21st melakarta raga Keeravani) and Saramati (a janya of the 20th melakarta raga Natabhairavi).

Garudadhvani is a raga that acquires extra sheen when it takes more of plain notes and relatively less of gamakas.  This is not to say that gamakas are totally done away with – it’s just that the raga sounds better and less like its parent Shankarabharanam when it is sung with more of plain notes, especially the rishabham, dhaivatam and the nishaadam.

Tyagaraja!

As always, it is Tyagaraja who has given life to this raga in the form of two very beautiful compositions.  The first kriti is the very popular Tattvameruga tarama set to Rupaka tala.  This kriti has been extensively sung many musicians, notably by K.V.Narayanaswamy, T.K.Rangachari and my guru T.R.Subramanyam (TRS).  TRS in his heydays would sing this kriti at a relatively faster pace and sing many rounds of mind-boggling kalpana swaras that would span all the three octaves, even touching the taara sthaayi dhaivatam in the process.  With his clear and ringing voice superbly complemented by easy and facile brigas, TRS’ rendition of Tattvameruga Tarama would be sheer delight to listen to and experience.

Listen to TRS here!

Tyagaraja’s other composition is Anandasaagaramu eedani set to adi tala.  While not as popular as the rupaka tala kriti Tatvameruga tarama, Anandasaagaramu has nevertheless appeared in concerts every now and then.  The meaning of this song is especially interesting for Tyagaraja makes a very emphatic statement.  He avers that a human body, which does not swim the ocean of Supreme Bliss, called the knowledge of music, on which all vEdas are dependent, is nothing but a burden to the earth (dEhamu bhU bhAramu).

We can interpret this in the modern context by saying that people who do not enjoy music, particularly classical music are verily a burden to society!

Tyagaraja’s Raga Selection for Kritis on Music

It’s interesting to note Tyagaraja’s selection of ragas when it comes to making statements about music and musical knowledge.  We have the kriti Ragasudharasa where he exhorts the mind to exult by drinking the nectar of music which bestows all the benefits that accrue through vEdic sacrifices, through practice of yOga, through renunciation and through worldly enjoyments.  We have this song set rather unusually in the raga Andolika.

Another very well-known kriti is Mokshamugalada.  Tyagaraja rhetorically asks by addressing the Omniscient, omnipotent and the omnipresent (Saakshaatkaara) if in this world, whether emancipation is attainable for those who are bereft of the knowledge of music combined with true devotion.  This kriti as everyone knows is set to Saramati – again a raga that was popularized first by Tyagaraja alone.  Only subsequently have composers created compositions in Saramati but clearly heavy-weight Mokshamugalada’s emotive appeal, its sheer melodic charm and the unmistakable import of the lyrics remains unequalled and towers way above other creations.

In the same mode, Tyagaraja appears to have chosen the relatively rare raga Garudadhvani to make this statement of a human being without the ability to swim in the musical ocean of bliss is just a burden to Mother Earth!

As a professional performing musician, I have often wondered just why Tyagaraja chose to set this composition in the raga Garudadhvani.  The only conclusion that I can logically draw is that Tyagaraja himself must have been inspired by the potential of Garudadhvani despite is apparent awkwardness of having the Shankarabharanam-Mohanam structure instead of the ‘’easier’’ and ostensibly more navigable Mohana-Shankarabharanam (i.e. Bilahari).  Though this may sound like a truism, but really the Carnatic music world will be eternally indebted to Tyagaraja for bequeathing to us these wonderful compositions in such offbeat and charming ragas.

My rendition of Anandasagara…

Garudadhvani seems to have been used by composers very sparingly immediately after Tyagaraja’s time.  There is Emineramu of Garbhapuri Vasar in adi tala that Lalgudi Jayaraman used to play.

Muthiah Bhagavathar & Mysore Vasudevacharya!!!

It was left to the two most sparkling composers of the 20th century to input their creations – Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar and Mysore Vasudevacharya.  The latter has bequeathed to us Devi Kamalalaye – a beautiful kriti on Goddess Lakshmi.  This adi tala kriti in Sanskrit has a charming chittaswara-sahitya passage as well, in true Vasudevacharya style.

Muthiah Bhagavathar has created two compositions in this raga.  One is chanda munda shiras chhetri in rupaka tala.  This kriti is part of the Chamundamba Ashtothra krithis.  The ShrI chAmuNDeshvarI aShTottarashatanAmAvaliH are a set of 108 names on Goddess Chamundi and Muthiah Bhagavathar has composed a kriti on each of these 108 names and these make up the set comprising the Chamundamba Ashtothra krithis.  This kriti on Garudadhvani focuses on Chamundamba as the destroyer of the asuras Chanda and munda, one who is formidable, one who shines like a crore of suns, one who is attainable through the navaakshara mantram, one who delights in the Navaratri utsavam, and one who is the wife of Siva and is prayed to by Indra.

The second kriti that Muthiah Bhagavatar composed is Raja Rajeswari Raaja Parameswari set to adi tala.  When I saw the notation of this kriti for the first time I was totally captivated.  This kriti has a swinging gait to it almost akin to a mild gallop.  Rendered with appropriate plain notes with a mixture of minimum gamakas, thus giving a ‘’western music feel’’, this kriti has the potential to attract any listener – both the laity and the connoisseur alike.

And…Lalgudi Jayaraman (naturally)!

Considering Garudadhvani, one *has* to mention maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman’s tana varnam in adi tala.  I am taken back in time to February 1990 when my guru T.R.Subramanyam (TRS) organized a workshop of the violin virtuoso in New Delhi where we were fortunate enough to learn five varnams and five thillanas – all composed by Lalgudi, directly from him.  The Garudadhvani varnam was the first composition that he taught us and even the way he sang the swaras of the first line of the varnam is indelibly etched in memory.

‘’P, G, M, PDP, GRG,,,’’

The PGMP phrase is very characteristic of Garudadhvani and establishes the raga beyond doubt.

Lalgudi’s varnam on Lord Subramanya contains some beautiful passages.  Especially the third ettugada swaram in the charanam is worth mentioning.  This swara passage is made up of combinations of very short ascents and descents throughout, resulting a beautifully happy and swaying effect.

Garudadhvani is a raga that lends itself to swarakalpana with alacrity.  What about raga alapanas?

Ostensibly, raga alapanas would appear to be cumbersome give the distribution of swaras.   However on deep thought and reflection, it can be concluded that raga alapanas *can* be made possible without repetition, keeping the aesthetic appeal of the raga intact.

Hence Garudadhvani is not merely a raga that should be regarded as a ‘’filler-item’’ in concerts.  It is a raga that is worth exploring further.  This is a raga that holds its own and definitely occupies a place of pride in the Carnatic music firmament.

 

 

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Akshaya Linga Vibho!!!

Akshayalinga Shanmukha Page 1

akSaya linga vibhO svayambhO

Raga:shaHNkarAbharaNam / Tala: mishra cApu

Pallavi:

akshaya linga vibhO svayambhO

akhilANDa kOTi prabhO pahi shambO

Anupallavi:

akSarasvarUpa amita pratApa

ArUDha vRSa vAha jagan mOha

Madhyamakala:

dakSa shikSaNa dakSatara sura

lakSaNa vidhi vi-lakSaNa lakSya

lakSaNa bahu vicakSaNa sudha-

bhakSaNa gurukaTAkSa vikSaNa

Charanam:

badarIvanamUla nAyikA sahita

bhadrakALIsha bhakta vihita

madana janakAdi dEvamahita

mAyAkArya kalanA rahita

sadaya guruguha tAta guNAtIta

sAdhujanOpEta shaHNkara navanIta-

hRdaya vibhAta tumburu saHNgIta

hrIm kAra sambhUta hEmagiri nAtha

Madhyamakala:

sadAshrita kalpaka mahIruha

padAmbuja bhava ratha gaja turaga

padAdi samyuta caitrOtsava

sadAshiva saccidAnandamaya

 

  1. Introduction

It is well-acknowledged that SankarAbharaNam is a melody that enjoys great importance universally, in almost all the systems of music, from time immemorial.  A raga that is almost similar to the Major Diatonic scale, or the C Major of Western music, this rAga definitely enjoys a regal status in the realm of Indian music and particularly in Carnatic music.

Being the 29th mELa, SankarAbharaNam is one of the six mELas that can boast of possessing symmetrical tetra chords in the scale arrangement and it is one of those grandest of melakarta ragas that possesses samvAdi pairs (consonant pairing of notes) for all the svaras, like S-M1, S-P, R2-P, R2-D2 & G3-N3.  Almost as a natural consequence, it is not really surprising that the rAga is so appealing to the senses and that it instantly ushers in a mood of sublimity considering that there is so much of samvAditva or consonance inherent in its structure. Also, all svaras excepting the madhyamam, are tIvra svaras. This shuddha madhyama here acts as a bridge and balances the tIvra svaras of the pUrvAnga and the uttarAnga, thus sustaining the innate sublimity of the melody throughout.

Muttuswami Dikshitar’s akshaya linga vibhO  is one of the very popular kritis on the concert platform.

Without doubt one of the grandest compositions extant in Carnatic music, Akshayalinga Vibho is a brilliant testimony to Dikshitar’s genius.   The prosodic beauty of the kriti blends perfectly and is stunningly beautiful musically.  Dikshitar’s complete command of the Sanskrit language, the magnificent descriptions of the deity (this kriti is said to be based on Lord Siva at Kivalur, a town near Nagapattinam in Tamizh Nadu), and above all the really really beautiful Shankarabharanam that is showcased in full glory through this magnum opus of a kriti.

With reverence and humility this author has attempted to provide a glimpse into some of the eternal truths that have been symbolized in this kriti.

  1. Pallavi

akshaya linga vibhO svayambhO

Siva’s linga is symbolic of the Parabrahman and his swaroopa.  And generally in the temples dedicated to Siva – at least in South India, the form to which ‘archana’ is offered to, is the linga.

In Tamizh we say ‘uruvam’ (the swaroopam – that which is visible) and ‘aruvam’ which is the ‘archana murthi’, i.e. the form to which prayers are offered.

A combination of both ‘uruvam’ and ‘aruvam’ becomes ‘aruvuruvam’ and this is the linga.

Also the linga’s shape is basically elliptical.  Since the Earth is also elliptical the linga can be interpreted to be that Siva is beyond borders and shape (yellattaikkaDandavan).

‘vibhu’ – means the leader – and Siva is the leader of everything and consequently all the ‘vaibhavam’ (opulence) are his attributes.

And he is ‘svayambhu’ – he came into being by himself – no one was responsible for his birth or creation.

akhilANDa kOTi prabhO pAhi shambhO

It is immediately apparent that the word ‘akhilANDa’ is a ‘sandhi’ of ‘akhila’ and ‘aNDa’.

‘akhila’ – means all or everything  and ‘aNDa’ denotes the universe we live in.  kOTi of course is crores and Siva is the prabhu who rules over all the several crores of universes.

We all know that beyond this universe and beyond the Milky Way lie several universes – that we cannot with our limited knowledge, understand or comprehend.  What Dikshitar emphasizes is that Siva is lord of all those universes and more!

pAhi shambO – ostensibly is a vocative for ‘Siva, protect!’  The word ShambhO consists of the syllables ‘sham’ and ‘bhu’.  ‘sham’ is mangalam – all that is auspicious.  And ‘bhu’ means origination.  Therefore Siva’s origin is auspicious and he symbolizes all the good, auspicious things – happiness, peace and prosperity leading to bliss.  As his very name suggests (Sam karoti iti Sankara — “He who blesses is Sankara”).

 

  1. Anupallavi

akSarasvarUpa amita pratApa

ArUDha vRSa vAha jagan mOha

Moving on to the anupallavi, Siva is ‘akSarasvarUpa’.  ‘akSara’ means the alphabet and he represents the alphabet in order to communicate and the vehicle that he uses for this communication is also his own self and hence he is himself the ‘akSarasvarUpa’.

The mode of communication and the vehicle for all communication took shape by itself (‘swa-roopa’) and he is the embodiment of this and therefore he is the basis for all language.

‘amita’ is someone who is absolutely without any shortcomings whatsoever; and

‘pratApa’ denotes qualities.  Hence ‘amita pratApa’ typifies complete absence of shortcomings and blemishes with all the best qualities to the brim.

In the next line, Dikshitar changes tack slightly by describing Siva as ‘ArUDha vRSa vAha’.  ArUDha literally means ‘having climbed’ (or ‘seated on’ for a better contextual interpretation!) and the subsequent words ‘vRSa vAha’ is the picture of Siva on his mount, the Nandi or the divine Bull (‘vRSa vAha’).

Before Dikshitar embarks on the wonderful Madhyama Kala passage, he ends this particular portion with ‘jagan moha’ – which can be interpreted to mean that Siva creates all the illusion and holds the world (jagan) in his grip of illusion.

It would not be out of place to mention here that Siva represents constant action.  When we consider the structure of the basic unit, i.e. an atom and its structure, we see that the electrons around the atom are in a perennial state of motion and are eternally dynamic.  The nucleus is stable and Vishnu reclining on Adi Sesha represents the nucleus while Siva represents the electrons.  The electrons are constantly moving in a frenetic pace and this is Siva’s taandavam.  In complete contrast is Vishnu who is the epitome of calmness in his reclining yogic posture.

 

  1. Anupallavi – Madhyma Kala

dakSa shikSaNa dakSatara sura

lakSaNa vidhi vilakSaNa lakSya

lakSaNa bahu vicakSaNa sudha-

bhakSaNa gurukaTAkSa vikSaNa

Without doubt the madhyama kala that follows the anupallavi is truly mind-boggling in terms of the fluidity of language and the sheer ease with which Dikshitar has employed the use of the relatively rarer syllable ‘ksha’ as the ‘dvityaakshara praasam’.

Dikshitar begins the madhyma kala with ‘dakSa shikSaNa’.  The story of Siva’s notorious Father-in-law Daksha is well-known.  And Daksha represents the ego and Siva is destroyer of the ego, which truly is the cause for all conflict in modern society!

dakSatara

‘tara’ denotes the comparative in the three degrees of adjective comparisons.  Siva is better than anyone else in imparting to Daksha that the ego is the cause for all trouble and misery and he puts this most effectively with ‘dakshatara’.

‘sura lakSaNa’ – he has all the possible qualities that are embodied by the ‘suras’ i.e. the good people.  ‘Suras’ can be interpreted to mean the devas as well.  This expression basically denotes that Siva is the embodiment of beauty.

vidhi vilakSaNa – he will do everything in the straightest possible way – there is nothing roundabout or better still, no ‘beating about the bush’ with him!

lakSya lakSaNa – he is the ultimate aim of all aims and goals.

bahu vicakSaNa – he is superlatively intelligent and he is the one who consumed (“bhakshaNa”) nectar (“sudhA”) during the churning of the ocean in the Kurma Avatara episode.

gurukaTAkSa vikSaNa

‘vikSaNa’ means a side glance (a better and more effective word in Tamizh is ‘kadaikkan paarvai’ – here is where translation becomes woefully inadequate!)

The Guru is the adi guru which is Dakshinamurti; and Siva in the form of Dakshinamurti with his ‘kadaikkaNpArvai’.  This is also referred to and applied by Dikshitar to goddess Kamalamba in his in his meditative Bhairavi navavaranam (katAksha vIkshaNya)

 

  1. Charanam

badarIvanamUla nAyikA sahita

badarivanam denotes Badrinath – the well-known badari kshetram.

mUla nAyikA sahita  – he is always with the feminine form i.e. Lalitha

The famous stotra “… lalitA pumrUpA krsna vigrahA” implies that Lalitha’s masculine form is actually Krishna.  The feminine is Lalitha and it is with this feminine form that Siva is in eternal companionship.

bhadrakALIsha bhakta vihita

He is the lord of Bhadrakaali and he is always in such a state of tranquility that his devotees’ feel a calmness of stature especially with regards to the mind.  He is endowed with the quality to soothe the disturbed minds of his devotees.

madana janakAdi dEvamahita

He is honoured and praised by Mahavishnu (the father of Cupid – madana janaka) and other devas.

mAyAkArya kalanA rahita

He is the one who is devoid of, and beyond (“rahita”) the effects (“kalanA”) of activities of delusion (“mAyA kArya”).

sadaya guruguha tAta guNAtIta

‘daya’ means compassion and the syllable ‘sa’ denotes aggregation.  Hence Siva is ‘sadaya’ – he is the aggregation and therefore the epitome of compassion.

The word ‘sadaya’ could also be interpreted to mean his son, i.e. Subramanya denoted here by Dikshitar’s signature ‘guruguha’ and hence Subramanya is someone who’s an ocean of compassion and Siva is *his* father.  And he is beyond the three gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas.

sAdhujanOpEta

sAdhujanOpEta is the formation of two words – sAdhujana + upEta

‘upeta’ is the final abode (literally it means reaching) and Siva is the final abode of all the good people (sAdhujana).

shaHNkara navanIta hRdaya vibhAta tumburu saHNgIta

vibhAta here means melting.  Siva’s heart melts like butter on hearing the music of Tumburu (a celestial saint like Narada).  As a natural result, this leads to ‘hrIm kAra’.

hrIm kAra sambhUta hEmagiri nAtha

Thus this is how the holy ‘hrim kAra’ makes its presence felt (‘sambUta’ means making its presence felt).

hEmagiri nAtha – he is the lord of the mountain of gold (denoting ‘ponnambalam’).

Syama Sastri’s well-known Kalyani kriti ‘himAdri sutE’ has the anupallavi beginning with ‘sumEru madhya vAsini’.

The mountain that is denoted by ‘sumEru’ (higher than mEru) is said to be even higher and ‘above’ Kailasa.   ‘sumEru’ is also known as ‘hEmAdri’ and this is said to consist of four peaks.   Goddess as ‘ambAL’ or Sakti is said to be seated in the epicentre of these four peaks and this is the centre that is ‘srInagara’ (hence she is srInagara vAsini).

Since Siva and Sakti are really one, and the ‘hrim kAram’ is actually the representation of hEmagiri and the lord of this hEmagiri  is hEmagiri nAtha!

 

  1. Charanam – Madhyma Kala

sadAshrita kalpaka mahIruha

padAmbuja bhava ratha gaja turaga

padAdi samyuta caitrOtsava

sadAshiva saccidAnandamaya

 

sadAshrita = sadA + Ashrita

sadA – always;

Ashrita – taken or sought as a refuge or shelter

mahIruha = mahi + ruha;  mahi – the earth and ruha – originating and hence mahIruha means a tree.  Hence he is always the ‘kalpaka mahiruha’ – the wish-fulfilling tree to those who have taken or sought refuge in him.

padAmbuja – feet like a lotus

bhava is one of the eight names of the Lord as Rudra.  Hence his consort is Bhavani.

Here Muthuswami Dikshitar gets into the description of the Chaitrotsava – the festival that takes place in the month of Chaitra.  The magnificent festival consists of a pageantry of chariots, elephants, horses and the army.

ratha – chariot gaja – elephant and turaga – horse

padAdi – all the sentries, armies

samyuta – in confluence with

sadAshiva saccidAnandamaya

sadAshiva – he is always imparting auspiciousness.

saccidAnandamaya

sat denotes the purest form of sattva guna.  Chit is pure intelligence.  When ‘sat’ and ‘chit’ combine, ‘Ananda’ i.e. bliss is the result.  And he is the embodiment of this i.e. ‘maya’.

  1. A Few Additional Thoughts

It is common knowledge that the music of the pallavi especially the way the kriti begins is very similar to Tyagaraja’s well-known ‘manasu swAdhInamai’.

That apart, it is worthwhile to point out some of the very noteworthy points of this wonderful composition.  In the pallavi, when Dikshitar addresses Siva as akhilANDa kOTI prabhO, he comes to rest on the Madhya shadja, after he has painted a very convincing introduction to Shankarabharanam that traverses right upto the taara sthaayi madhyamam.  The coming to rest on the madhyama shadjam produces a wonderful effect of ‘visranti’.  And it seems as if he gets up again with an impassioned appeal for protection, ‘pAhi SambhO’!

Dikshitar indulges in a similar exercise in the Anupallavi – he effectively builds up a crescendo in the second line (ArUDha vRSa vAha…) by first preparing and constructing the base in the middle octave for the first line “akSarasvarUpa amita pratApa”.   The madhyama kala’s music is also built up in a similar fashion.

The relatively lengthy but thoroughly appealing and scintillating charanam is one of Dikshitar’s best and is also a testimony to two things – one being the limitless creativity of Dikshitar and the second being the limitless scope of the Emperor Raga Shankarabharanam.  Nowhere does the music of the kriti become repetitive or monotonous – it sounds uniformly fresh and sonorous all through the various descriptions of Siva as the almighty.

One can only conclude that by a stroke of great fortune, we all have currently the felicity of listening, enjoying and appreciating such a wonderful creation of a realized soul like Dikshitar.  Clearly with a creation like Akshayalinga vibho, Muthuswami Dikshitar transcended the mundane and proved and continues to prove to the world that the sole purpose of music is to make man perfect and help him realize his unity with God.  Akshayalinga Vibho is thus an eternal fragrance left by Muthuswami Dikshitar that shall never wither.

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R.R.Sabha Trichy – 100 Years Young & Still Going Strong!

On March 18, 2016 I was privileged to perform for Rasika Ranjana Sabha (R.R.Sabha), Trichy’s Centenary Year Concerts.  This is an organization that is not new to me, having performed there many times, but my association goes back to my MBA student days in the then Regional Engineering College (now National Institute of Technology, NIT) in the mid-1990s.  R.R.Sabha used to conduct concerts regularly with veteran L.Venkataraman (popularly known as LV) being in charge.

Along with classmate and fellow Carnatic music aficionado Arun Subramanian, we would make sure we never missed any concert that was happening in the precincts of Trichy and naturally it was usually R.R.Sabha where we attended the most concerts.

The first concert that I attended, I remember was S.Sowmya’s Eka Raga Concert and she took up Sahana.  Starting off with an unusual ata tala varnam, Sowmya rendered various items in Sahana including a very impactful and weighty rendition of the Kamalamba Navavaranam.  The piece-de-resistance was the dwi-nadai pallavi in adi talam that she rendered impeccably and most aesthetically.  The purvaangam (first half) was set in tisra gati and the uttarangam in khanda gati.

During my studentship at NIT Trichy, I got the opportunity to perform on the night of Sivaratri at the very hallowed venue of the Sri Tyagaraja temple in Tiruvarur.  The concert was arranged through R.R.Sabha by none other than LV sir.  Some of my NIT Trichy MBA classmates had also come for that concert from Trichy.  These included Babu Lourdu Raj, C.M.Srikumar, Anand Vaideeswaran, Amitabh Kant and of course Arun Subramanian.  We had a most privileged tour of the grand temple that included the celebrated Kamalaalayam and we were also taken to the Trimurti vaaggeyakaaraas’ houses.   As a practising Carnatic vocal musician, the temple of Tiruvarur and the Kamalaalayam without doubt has that extra special hold and all of this was made possible thanks to R.R.Sabha, Trichy!

After passing out from NIT, I next performed for the R.R.Sabha in 2002 as part of a festival dedicated to the Trimurtis – Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.  From then onwards, I have had the good fortune to be a regular performer at the FGN Auditorium.

Being the centenary year, I was honoured to have a great veteran team comprising of acknowledged stalwarts – T.K.V.Ramanujacharyulu on the violin, B.Harikumar on the mridangam and Alathur Rajaganesh on the khanjira.  The concert was held at the premises of the Mahatma Gandhi Centenary Vidyalaya, Tennur.  Throughout the centenary series concerts, R.R.Sabha has made it a point to honour prominent vidwans and vidushis based in Trichy.  The artist that was honoured on the day of my concert was mridangam vidwan Salem K.Srinivasan.  More about this later!

Established in 1914, R.R.Sabha has completed more than one hundred years of service in the promotion of Art & Culture.  A very tastefully designed souvenir has been printed to mark this exceptional and enviable milestone.

RRSabha Souvenir

R.R.Sabha Centenary Year Souvenir Cover – Featuring the landmark of Trichy – the Rock Fort and the Ucchippillayaar Temple

 

The spirit of Trichy and the camaraderie that various Trichy-based organizations have amongst themselves is clearly visible.  The number of good wishes and full page congratulatory messages from various sabhas, music schools and organizations that appear in the first half of the souvenir bear testimony to this, giving the impression that the Trichy bonhomie is definitely something unique and enviable!

The souvenir carries snippets of the first annual report of the sabha for the year ending in October 1915.  These have been painstakingly scanned and compiled by Gomathi Venkat and make for fascinating viewing.

As befitting a centenary year souvenir, it carries articles written by wide spectrum of distinguished scholars, drama stars, professional musicians (one of which happens to be yours truly, ahem!) and other veterans.  And this souvenir is a wonderful example where all the articles are extremely interesting in their own right and consequently becomes definitely a collector’s item.  Small wonder that I ended up reading through the entire compilation well into the night after boarding the Pandian Express the night after the R.R.Sabha concert!

Seetha Rajan’s ”The Making of a Musician’’ is worth pondering upon and the critical points she makes are valid like never before.  One very pertinent issue she dwells at length is when she says, ‘’With the rapid advancement of science and technology, today, education in general is viewed as an acquisition of technical abilities or specialisation in a field that can assure economic security.  Although this stance may be justified, the focus on cerebral developments sans the lateral mellowing influence of arts and literature, may eventually lead to a lopsided development in the personality of children.’’  This unfortunately is SO VERY true nowadays.  And even when children do take either music or dance classes, these are the first to be sacrificed when the dreaded word *exams* looms in the horizon!  I strongly am of the opinion that the frequency of the classes could be reduced – to once a week perhaps, but completely shutting out music or dance classes isn’t at all the correct solution.  It definitely seems to be easiest solution for most parents in the name of reducing distractions to intensive studying or swotting for exams.  But easy solutions never give the best results, do they?

On another point, underscoring the importance of parents in the process of identifying and nurturing the child’s innate talent, Seetha Rajan goes on to emphasize, ‘’contribution of a teacher in turning a raw entrant into a worthy musician is monumental.  A right blend of competence and commitment makes an ideal teacher.  The teacher-pupil relationship in the words of Sri Narayana Menon, ‘’is a communion of mind whereby the essence of a tradition is passed on to another generation’’.

This brings me immediately to my Guru, Late Shri T.R.Subramanyam (TRS).  I am right now re-learning and revisiting a composition that some of us students learnt from him many years ago.  The kriti is Syama Sastri’s creation in Punnagavarali, Kanakashaila Vihaarini set to adi tala.  The way he has conceived his interpretation of the kriti after learning it from his gurus like Musiri Subramanya Iyer and T.Brinda, is truly a joy – both to listen to and to learn it!

‘The Kriti as Evolved by Sri Tyagaraja’ by Dr. Radha Bhaskar is interestingly presented with insightful points.  She puts it extremely well when she says, ‘’in the music of Thyagaraja, we find a perfect blend of tradition and innovation.  Many ragas which were known only by their name during his time began to blossom with life by his touch.  Of each of them, he made a fit vehicle for conveying varied emotions which others may have felt but not able to express.  The fertility of imagination and variety, richness and grace in the formation of compositions has opened up endless vistas for the music explorer.’’  Dr. Radha Bhaskar points out how Thyagaraja was a trend setter in employing Sangathis and his profuse use of the Deshadi Tala.

Carnatic Vocalist Trichy K Ramesh’s article on Nadopasana emphasizes many truths and principles about one of the greatest of all arts – Carnatic music.  Rendering a kriti with full devotion is equivalent to chanting a mantra one crore times and consequently Yagnavalkya Maharishi says that Nadopasana is the best way to attend Moksha.  I am reminded of an interview given by Dr. M. Narmadha on her maestro father M.S.Gopalakrishnan in the well-known magazine Sruti.  She said that all their practice sessions would consist of, after the basic exercises were over, the day’s navagraha kriti and one of the Kamalamba Navavaranams of Muthuswami Dikshitar which would definitely be played before going on to practice the items for the next concert.  This in my opinion is definitely true Nadopasana and underscores what Trichy Ramesh has stated in his article.

There are two other articles that really caught my attention and kept me totally engrossed.  One is titled The Evolution of Rasika Ranjana Sabha by Smt. Padma Swaminathan, daughter of none other than F.G.Natesa Aiyer (FGN) after whom the R.R.Sabha hall in Trichy Town is named.  It’s interesting to note from this write-up that before staging full length plays in Tamizh, FGN actually achieved the required capability for staging full length Shakespearian dramas!  Padma Swaminathan’s descriptions of her early memories of the Sabha being a structure made out of tin sheets, the surface being in a slope so that back benchers also had a clear view of the stage, make for fascinating reading.  Her descriptions of the stage decoration which was one of the main attractions of R.R.Sabha truly stand out.  This article is a must-read for all lovers of art and is especially a lesson on the attention to detail which FGN would give to the staging of each play.

Prema Nandakumar’s article on FGN titled A Great Man’s Vision is easily one of the best articles on the person responsible for the genesis of the R.R.Sabha.  I have heard the Srirangam-based writer speak on the occasion of Dr. Raghavan’s Memorial Day in Chennai and while I have heard of her outstanding scholarship and writing skills, this was perhaps the first time I was reading something written by her.  She begins her article by quoting in turn, Suganthi Krishnamacharí’s article in The Hindu on the R.R.Sabha!  Proceeding to describe the enacting of English plays, Prema Nandakumar goes on to describe most engagingly how FGN, despite his passion for drama, never strayed into the film world barring one solitary exception which was Seva Sadanam (which incidentally launched M.S.Subbulakshmi’s film career).  A most interesting description of Seva Sadanam’s theme follows (I never knew it was based on an epoch-making Urdu novel by Premchand, which was in turn serialized in Ananda Vikatan when Kalki Krishnamurthy was its editor).  The article further describes how famed director K.Subrahmanyam’s imagination was caught by the Tamizh translation of Premchand’s novel and how MS was invited to take up the heroine’s role and Kalki’s subsequent review of the film.

Prema Nandakumar’s article is nothing short of brilliant.  Totally enraptured with her cogent and eloquent writing style, I called noted danseuse and critic Nandini Ramani and asked the latter how Prema Nandakumar was associated with Dr. Raghavan, Nandini’s illustrious father.

Nandini Ramani replied briefly, ‘’Read the Stuti Kusumanjali’’.

Immediately I fished out my copy of Stuti Kusumanjali (a garland of tributes to the one and only Dr. V.Raghavan) and true enough, it was sheer joy to read Prema Nandakumar’s write-up  ‘’The Hero as Scholar’’ – a sparkling tribute to the multi-faceted scholar.

Googling Prema Nandakumar’s name, one comes to know of her illustrious lineage and also that she received her PhD summa cum laude as early as 1961 and there are several books to her credit.  Being a die-hard book lover, it is truly gratifying to know that there is another wonderful world waiting to be explored, created by this extraordinary scholar-writer from Srirangam!

It was of utmost satisfaction for me that mridangam vidwan Salem K. Srinivasan was honoured on the day of my concert by R.R.Sabha.  I have had the honour of teaming up with Salem Srinivasan for numerous concerts both in Chennai and all over Tamizh Nadu, apart from Trichy of course.  A left-handed vidwan, Salem Srinivasan plays with utmost sensitivity to lyrics and truly enhances a concert.  His skills in his taniyavardhanam are something else again.  It’s definitely a joy to perform with him.

Coimbatore Tyagaraja Aradhana Photo with Salem Srinivasan

Concert for Sri Thyaga Brahma Gaanaanjali, Coimbatore with M.R.Gopinath and Salem Srinivasan

Veteran and senior vidwan B.Harikumar in his speech commemorating Srinivasan, remarked that the latter was actually ambidextrous – if he chooses to, then Srinivasan can actually play right-handed as well!

Salem Srinivasan with Harikumar

Veteran and senior vidwan B.Harikumar with Salem Srinivasan after the former draped a ponnaadai around the latter

 

 

Yours truly with Salem Srinivasan - apologies for the grainy photo...

Yours truly with Salem Srinivasan after the latter’s felicitation function – apologies for the grainy photo…

As a performing artist, to me it is verily a matter of great prestige and distinction to be a part of R.R.Sabha and its centenary year celebrations.  I offer my sincere thanks and gratitude to my former NIT professor and secretary of R.R.Sabha Shri N.Sekar for his constant encouragement and support and also for featuring my article ‘’Allied Ragas – Malavi & Chenchukambhoji’’ in the prestigious centenary souvenir.

Keep going R.R.Sabha!  You will without doubt celebrate most successfully, your bicentenary!

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