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The Pensieve

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

Month

December 2016

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 🙂

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