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The Pensieve

If you have something to say, I might be saying something as well

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 🙂

Thrika the Nosering

You might be wondering what on earth does this title mean. Well I didn’t know until I read the book Sivappu Kal Mookuthi (the Girl with the Red Nose Ring) written by Nandhini. Technically it is a graphic novel created by Nandhini and her team at Make Believe. What starts off in the story as a ghost story something in the lines of Darling and Kanchana suddenly takes off the flight to Hollywood and ends as the the aliens-space shuttle-crystal containing power (thrika)-scientists researching ET. The readers however are left back in their seats completely taken by surprise.

Along with giving my usual disclaimer that I don’t review books, and these are just my thoughts after reading a new book, I would like to say two more things. This was the first picture book I read after Chacha Choudary and Tinkle. This is also the first Tamizh book I completed after high school.

The best parts: The ghost to alien story transition was smooth. The characterization is maintained throughout the plot with subtle differences, say, an attire change for the next day. Emotions are captured beautifully on the faces of the characters, and they supplement the words for sounds like grrr, crash, aaaa and the likes.

On the flip side: Varun’s past could have been explained or eliminated. There could have been some description about the hair-like things that kills the villans.

image

Oh how I wish this book is made into a Tamizh movie… or an animation film… All the very best to their future works.

Until next,
Vid 🙂

UnWarp – the Induction

The story takes over from here, an amazing first part written by Dhivya. Read on…

Priya was standing in the same beach, but something else seemed totally out of place. This is not the Marina stretch where she goes for her usual morning jog. There were no boats, no remnants of stalls, no laughter therapy group, and no cricket playing guys too. Above all, the beach sand and shore actually looked clean! She turned to face the new lady who was wearing a sparkling white and blue gown and accompanied by a man in a formal suit of similar colors.

“Welcome to our land – your kin has called it by many names, Middle Earth, Alagesia, non-Muggle world, to name a few. I am Vas and this is my husband Gop. We are the elves responsible for welcoming and inducting those who are visiting us for the first time. In fact, had it not been for Gop’s mistake, you would have come here during your last jog itself,” Vas gave a quick glance at Gop, before pressing her Bluetooth headset-like appendage and walking a little afar to talk into it.

“The vortex malfunctioned”, Gop smiled sheepishly. Priya thought the couple looked cute together, though it seemed that Vas was in charge.

“You don’t look anything like the elves I know – long ears, pale skinned… You both look as much human as I do!”

“Haha! That is a serious misinterpretation your kin has made. We all are just differentiated by the work we do and the responsibilities we take. For instance, we Elves and Wizards are the knowledgeable ones. Dwarves and Goblins take care of all the physical and mechanical work. Knights and dragon riders are responsible for our safety and security. And finally, men deal with money related transactions and trading.” Gop noticed that Priya gave a surprised look as he spoke, as though she had had a revelation. “Yes, this is the same as your varna caste system”, he smiled at Priya again.

“I was about to ask that…” Priya warmed up to the friendly Gop, “It is amazing to see our caste system being used elsewhere and not misused like we do.”

“Hold your thought lady, you might never know. Why don’t you come into the settlement and freshen up; then we could probably give you a short tour of what we do here, followed by an induction ceremony based on your preferences.”

Settlement… Ceremony… What on earth are they talking about? A gazillion questions pirouetted her mind, but something about Gop made her trust and walk calmly beside him, while Vas led the way in a stride.

“Did you realize you guys have abducted me into this… this land of yours without my consent? Who are you guys? What is this place? Who is she talking to over the headset? Where are you taking me?”

“You know you ask a lot of questions…” Gop was laughing.

“Well, I have been called a Pochemuchka”, Priya nodded, “But tell me why am I here?”

“Don’t panic, you will get your answers real soon.”

gop_vas.jpg
Gop and Vas – the Elves

I pass the baton for the next part of the story to Megha Sreeram. Read the next part of the story here.

Until next,

Vid 🙂

Padma Chandilyan

Padma mami aka Padma Chandilyan, daughter of the writer Chandilyan and disciple of Palghat KV Narayanaswamy, has produced many musicians of the upcoming generation. The entire family is also musical with mridangist Srimushnam Raja Rao mama and their son Raghavendra Rao who is none other than music composer Sean Roldan.

Let me start off with the first time I met mami. I had auditioned for a TV show, where I met an old music friend of mine, who was learning from mami then. She offered to introduce me to mami and took me to her house. It was 2 PM and mami had just finished her house chores and was lying down. She said, “paduthunde kekaren… oru paatu paaduma…” (sing something, I will lie down and listen). I started singing Dikshitar’s Ranganayakam in Nayaki raga, and she was up and sitting straight by the time I started singing Anupallavi. She said that is the respect one needs to give to music. Whether I sang that well or not, it did give me a good feel and a nice lesson. She used to refer even a younger musician as ‘avar’ stating the same reason. In a world where musicians spoke ill of their contemporaries, this was a value to learn and adopt.

We have learnt quite a few songs in detail – to the extent that whenever I’m singing that phrase / line of song, I would unconsciously recollect all the mistakes, corrections and advices she gave and a faint smile would creep up my face, every time. One such best memory is with Bhairavi ata thaala varnam, viriboni.

Usually as a warm up during the start of the class, we sing a varnam. That fateful day it was viriboni in bhairavi. Maami came running from the kitchen when we were in Anupallavi, and asked us to stop our shoddy singing. Then she went ahead to re-teach the same, and explaining how and when to use the two dhaivathams – when the next swaram is ni use the second, if its pa use the first. I then realised how wrongly I had been singing the same song for years together! Simply singing at the right note does add to the song’s beauty 🙂

We used to sing kalpana swaram, neraval and aalapana (these are extempore ways of expressing the raga while a song is being rendered), like a relay. Ten plus students sitting in a semi-circle and singing when their turn comes, secretly plotting how to excel than the others (while waiting for your turn). A mere aha from Maami was all needed; a healthy competition it was.

Raja Rao mama used to take a few classes instead of Maami. During one such class when I learnt the only Harikamboji song I know till date – “Muruga Thirumaal Maruga”. There was a second sangathi for the Anupallavi – “Thiru ulaavum Then Pazhani Deivame”. Maama used to say how the sangathi should be sung if the ones carrying the Lord in veedhi ula were singing it – not on the landing of the beat, but in a whimsical way, matching their footsteps. He used the tamizh phrase kaalara ulaathara maadhiri. And then guffaw at his own imagination!

There are many more songs and great moments to talk about… “Meenakshi memudham dehi”, “Ninne nammithi nayya”, “Bala gopala”, “Aazhi mazhai kanna” – each of it worth a post’s length. But I sign off here with a smile in my face, reminiscing…

Until next,
Vid 🙂

P.S: This is the second post in the Guru Vandanam series.

Kanthaa…

Remember the scene where Parvathy goes to meet Dulqer in the malayalam movie Charlie? Its a festival called pooram a.k.a thiru-aadi-pooram.

Pooram is a festival held at a temple in Thrissur on the day of the pooram star. This year it falls on April 17th, that is today. One of the major events in the festival is the pancha vadhya melam performed by more than 200 artists.

One of the songs sung during the festival is Kanthaa njanum varaam… Below is a link that I believe is how the original folk song is sung. (very feeble, raise volume and listen).

During an interesting conversation with a friend, who blogs at https://devadhaithozhan.wordpress.com/, I learnt the meaning of this song. It is about a person (probably a girl) pleading Kaanthan to take her to the Trissur Pooram festival. She lists out the reasons as to why she wants to make it to the festival and what she would do there. She says, she wants to see pooram; wants to be with Kaanthan in the pooram crowd; wants to listen and play the percussions of pooram; wants to see the fireworks, et al.

I just wondered why a song about a girl talking to her guy, be sung and performed by a bunch of men. Weird. If only someone could explain.

Enough wondering about the meaning, this post is about the chronological versions this folk song has evolved to; though my story started the opposite way.

There are a couple of malayalam movie references to the song, though I have not seen the song been fully used.

Then came the Masala Coffee band which was started two years ago, which did a cover for this song. The song starts off with the lead vocalist Sooraj Santhosh playing an intro in a kazoo. The entire song sounded to me like a fusion of classical and rap, there is a bit played in esraj, and the flavours brought out of the same old song are so refreshing and scintillating. (do I sound like a cook-off’s judge here :O) The folk song took a good turn at this juncture – the Masala Coffee version remains my favourite to the day.

 

This song which typically has flair of ragas Sankarabharanam and Yadhukula Kamboji, got a language variant that was released in Tamil. A movie Uriyadi, that was released earlier this year, had music composed by the very same band, and they have used one of their trademark compositions and made a tamil version out of it. The song, also starting Kanthaa, was written as a funny take on the middle class challenges. However, I wasn’t sure if the lyrics did fit into the existing composition. That being just my opinion, the tune does seem to have stuck on and created the magic. Listen to the same in the link below.

 

Wondering where would Kantha go from here?! Hopefully to somewhere nice 🙂 Kanthaa njanum varam…

Until next,

Vid 🙂

P.S: Esraj and Kazoo are musical instruments, whose name I learnt only while reading up for this post!

Acceptance from understanding

How to go about describing a book that I just haven’t read, but knew about right from the days of its inception? Well, a couple of years ago, it was merely a hypothetical story telling after a concert I went to with this author, Tee Kay.

Today the book has been completed. Waiting to be edited; and published for the whole world to be read and enjoyed. Well, I mean when I said the book is for everyone. You are familiar with the phrase “family entertainer” being used for movies, right? This book I would say, is on those lines – drama that appeals to anyone in the family.

At the outset, it is another love story, of course. But if you ask me, the myriad of emotions and relationships it portrays, makes it atypical and special. You could relate it to each character Sa, Ri, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha and Ni, and the bond between each and everyone of them is composed brilliantly.

Beyond all this if there was one thing I understood… more say realized after reading this book, it was the caption – accepting by understanding.

As a music student myself, I have always been urged to understand the meaning of what I am singing as it would enhance the singing; bring out the right emotions. But either because I was interested more in the musicality or because remembering lyrics by heart itself has been an ordeal, understanding the writing always escaped me. Until now.

But when a song’s lyrical beauty is linked to the movement of a story narration, that is when the true nature of what it means… what it should have meant when the song was written… what it means to the listener … and how it got linked to the happenings in the story… A whole new dimension to the very same song emerged.

I should not talk only about lyrical understanding here. The book also also talks about how understanding helps in accepting a situation, however traumatic it might be. You can deal with loss, anger and pain, and come to terms with it, not by resolving it; just by comprehending what happened.

There is a lot more to say about SaRiGaMaPaDhaNi by Tee Kay, but I would probably get back with another post when it is being published. All the best and looking forward to it coming out real soon!!! And here is to all his creative efforts coming to fruition (Y) Happy Birthday 🙂

image
one of my favourite part – excerpt from the book

 

Until next,

Vid 🙂

As Jazzy as it gets

It was the closing day of the five day Spring camp at Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music (called SAM henceforth) and I got the opportunity to experience the same, thanks to Chennai Bloggers Club. Five of the bloggers got together and travelled for over a couple of hours to reach SAM located at Seekinankuppam village on the East Coast Road.

@ SAM

We reached the location at 1 pm and Diane, our host at SAM made sure we had lunch before giving us the campus tour and explaining about the various happenings. Vayitrukku unavu, piragu dhan sevikku – but the food was good, a common one for faculty, students and guests alike. The ambience for music was set right here when I picked up a conversation in the neighbouring table where its occupants were humming and discussing some technique over lunch.

Campus Tour

During the campus tour we visited the various floors, practice and recital halls for various instruments, the open arena. We came to know that the entire campus is designed in the shape of a piano, though we couldn’t get an aerial view of that. The recital halls are named after eminent musicians. All practice rooms are sound proof. Students are allowed to use the practice halls to sing or play in groups or solo any time. The open arena on the terrace is used for jamming sessions by students every Thursday.

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In fact the entire college atmosphere is filled with music, and I am sure it would be a stupendous experience studying there. It seems the longest term degree that could be had is the Bachelor’s degree programme which is tied up with McNally Smith College of Music in the USA. Apart from that there are also smaller courses, diplomas and workshops conducted in music production, live performance and such themes.

Konnakol Class

We got the opportunity to sit in one of the classes happening at that time, which turned out to be Indian Music – Konnakol class by Ghatam Karthik. At least I sat the class’s length, and the experience is worth a post by itself. He built the class from the basics of “tha dhi thom nam” and the various nadais, rhythmic rests and kaarvais. From there we (everyone present in that class) gradually went on to recite in sync, complex set of jathis in sankeernam (represents nine). A sample of the patterns that were explained, below:

Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Tham tham tham tham tha||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|| Tham tham tham tha tham||
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Thaka dhimi thaka thakita|
Thaka dhimi thaka thakita| Tham *pause* tham tha tham||

(in Lavangi scale – S R1 M1 D1 S :: S D1 M1 R1 S)

S,; R,; MDM R; M; DSD M, D, SMR SRMDRS||
;; ;; RS,D,; SD,M,; DM,R,; MRM||
;; ;; thari kita thaka thom; thari kita thaka thom;  thari kita thaka thom; thakita||
And it went on…

The class extended into an extempore ensemble of all the faculty members performing rasikapriya for us. It was euphoric, listening to Mili Vizcaino for Vocals (Western), Sid Jacobs on the Guitar, Pablo Lapidusas on the Piano, Fabio Bergamini on Drums, Johann Berby on Bass Guitar, Sreyas Narayanun for Vocal (Indian Music), Dr.S.Karthick  on the Ghatam all perform together!

L Shankar’s Speech

There was a special lecture by violinist L Shankar who spoke on various topics from his musical journey, his PhD in Ethnomusicology, his electronic dance music (EDM) band, Shakthi and his invention, the double violin. Certain words of wisdom from his speech, below:

  • Never comment on a piece of music unless you are asked for an opinion. You can even perform with them, but do not comment unless asked.
  • Practice to make your music perfect; do not practice for a performance.
  • Do not take music as a second profession – you either take it up full time or you don’t.
  • The importance of breathing and not using drugs, to youth in general, to musicians in particular.
  • I play the same way for ten people or for a huge crowd of thousands (though I wondered if this is as easy as said)

Interesting Interactions

During break, we had some interesting conversations with the students and faculty. While speaking to Karthik sir on his Lavangi korvai, he said that he had composed a whole thillana in the same raga and I was free to learn and sing it anywhere 🙂 I also got to try playing an instrument that looked like morsing – Sid said it looked like the Jew’s harp which should have been a distorted word for ‘jaws’ harp because we place it between our jaws to play. Whereas the student who had it said that she purchased it in a Tibetan shop in Pondicherry.

Thanks again to Sai from the PR agency, Diane, Rahul and Vinay from SAM. Watch out for the performance of the SAM faculty at the Egmore Museum Theatre on Apr 8th. I have attached a snippet of the kind of fusion that happens when they perform together (this is just a recording of them warming up before performance). The day’s events came to a close by a performance by the jazz fusion band playing what I understood as Hamsadwani.

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

The Real Show

We know there is so much drama, hype and emotions in a reality show, right. All for a TRP rating one would think. Midnight shoots, contracts to sing whenever summoned and capturing you weep on TV – is probably lesser known. But the real show starts much earlier than all this.

I was talking to this friend when she narrated an incident that took me to nostalgia (not in the nicer memory sense).

Eight years ago – me in yet another popular TV studio auditioning for a then popular TV competition. I got till the third round where I had to sing something of a genre I wasn’t comfortable with – I thought I did a decent rendition of thoodhu varuma when I walked out. An uncle from the audience with a familiar face walked up to me and said, “you did pretty well, they were talking about putting you in already. Why don’t you call me once you are selected; I am looking for someone to sing the title song of a serial that I’m producing? Maybe we can use your voice…” It was then I realised he was a serial actor from the same TV.

No calls came and so I called this actor / producer back after 3 days. He asked me what I had sung. Then he asked me why I wasn’t selected. How would I know? “Did they ask you anything else?” I blinked. “Well, if they had not called you yet, then you should have been rejected”, he said and cut the call.

Getting back to current day, this is the story my friend had shared.

She went to the auditioning grounds of yet another popular TV music show and stood as the third person in queue. But 150 of them got selected much before her and they were double promoted – owing to the fact that they learnt from the judge there.

Poor girl had sung every song she was asked before she was rejected. When she came out, a well wisher had suggested her to take a detour and go meet the voice specialist there. She had to repeat sing the same list of songs before the guru asked what was her result in the panel. Then he said same goes here, and rejected her. When she came out, this is what the well wisher said: “If you had offered donation or else asked to learn from them, you would have gone through easily!”

I didn’t have words to console her when she shared the story, but having listened to her sing in person, I know she has a beautiful voice and is very much capable of going places.

Comparing the two instances, I just thought… Had I figured it out that day itself, at least I wouldn’t have doubted my ability to perform.

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

A tribute to Thyagu

The Composer

Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Syama Sastri are regarded as the carnatic music Trinity. All three of them were born in Thiruvarur, and were carnatic music composers, but their music, lyrics and favourite God were distinctively different. Saint Thyagaraja (let me call him Thyagu in this post) in particular, wrote about, sang and worshipped Lord Rama in telugu. They say that out of 24,000 songs said to have been composed by him in his lifetime, only about 700 songs remain now.

The Tribute

In order to pay respects to the genius works of Saint Thyagaraja, the Thyagaraja Aradhana festival is held at Thiruvaiyyaru. On the day of bahula panchami (the day when he left his mortal self), musicians from all over sing/play the Pancharatna krithis in unison.

The Format

The event starts with a prayer to Lord Ganesha, Sriganapathi nee sevimparare in Sourashtram, followed by a song for the teacher Gurulekha etuvanti in Gowri Manohari.

Then ensues the pancharathnas, also known as the gana raga pancharatnas. Thyagu wrote them in nattai, gowlai, arabhi, varali and sree ragas. They are:

Jagadhanandha karaka – Hail the one who brings happiness to this world
Dhudugugala nanne – Rama, please save me from my sins and arrogance
Sadhinchane o manasa – I achieved, O mind!
Kana kana ruchira – It is an endless pleasure to see you
Endaro mahanubavulu – A salute to all the great people out there!

This is generally followed by individual song offerings of musicians showcasing their talent.

Finally, we conclude by singing a Thyagu’s song on Lord Hanuman, a fellow worshipper of Ram, and then the mangalam.

Thyagaraja
Art by Deva

Going Global…

As it was not feasible for every musician in the world to both go and sing at the same venue on the same day, and still out of love for Thyagu’s music, people from various regions started conducting their own aradhanas for Thyagu, preferably around the same period. To name a few – Cleveland AradhanaStree Thyagaraja Pancharatnam, Chennaiyil Thiruvaiyyaru and every sabha conducting one on its own.

And also Local!

That is how we also started. When we were out of Chennai, and not connected to the musical frenzy here, we decided to call friends who share the same interest and sit at home and sing. This started happening every year and we started getting audience as well. But when we moved to a town (more like a big village) and conducted the aradhana there, more than half the locality turned up for the performance, in a place where I had thought none really cared about carnatic music. And thus we are back here continuing tradition for the past 17 years and all set to perform this year, this weekend. Fingers crossed.

Endaro mahanubavulu; anthariki vandhanamu _/\_

– Until next,

Vid 🙂

Dr. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Until next,
Vid 🙂

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