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The Pensieve

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

Month

April 2016

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.

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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 🙂

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