Thursday, April 23, 2009

"of near misses,of hop skip jump on a moving train"

Experience is everything- be it hopping on to a moving train, standing alone in an eerie platform or even hoping the flight I’m booked on is delayed- yes, you read it right-delayed because the traffic snarl near the airport has me sitting at the edge of the seat of my perfectly still car….My travel stories aren’t all tumultuous but I have to share a few interesting incidents that I’ve relived over the years,some with a smile and some with a shudder !

I think it was in 1992 or 1993.I had to board a train to Madurai one evening.I had a TV recording that morning which got delayed beyond unexpected time limits.I finally managed to finish the recording and rush to the station directly from the studios.It was a 200m sprint towards the platform !! I reached the platform,only to find the train just starting to move ! I managed to make a dash into the guard van :-). It took a while for me to recollect my wits. Had to hang around there till the train reached the next major station where I alighted from the guard van and went to my coach. A frightful experience that was !!

This happened after a concert near Vishakhapatnam in 1994 or 1995. I was traveling alone and reached the station around 11.30 p.m to board a train to Chennai. On taking out the ticket,to my horror,I discovered that the date on the ticket was wrong!! It showed that date, while it should have been booked for the next day,since I was going to board the train after midnight..I was at a loss,didn't know what to do. Thankfully,there was still ample time for the train to arrive.I rushed to the ticket counter(which was thankfully open at that late hour) and bought an open ticket. The train arrived and in the three minutes that I had, I pleaded with the ticketing officer for a vacant berth.It took him a full 40 seconds to check all his charts and finally find one vacant berth.In the next 20 seconds,I paid the extra amount and bought a fresh ticket.It was yet another 100m sprint for me within the next 120 seconds:-).This experience was a good lesson for me-after this incident,I have always made it a point to check the date and time of boarding the train. This midnight travel time can sometimes be very tricky:-)

This was again another concert trip to a small town in Andhra.I was traveling alone. I happily slept away and missed my station! This was in the "pre-mobile phone era" ! The person who had come to pick me up from the station got very worried since he didn't find me at the station. He called home to check if I had boarded the train and immediately everyone got perturbed!! In the meanwhile,I got up and on enquiring with a co-passenger,I was horrified to find that I had gone past the station where I should have alighted. The next small station came into sight only forty minutes later. Those forty minutes looked like 50 years to me!! There was no way of informing anyone what had happened. I got down at this sleepy small station and discovered that the next train(for me to take in the opposite direction to retrace my way)would come only after one hour. On enquiring further, I learnt that there were no buses either. So this seemed to be the only way out. I then went in search of a telephone booth,called the organizer, called home and explained everything to everyone!! Finally managed to reach my hotel room around noon !!

Taking connecting trains is always a risky proposition.But we are forced to do such things many times, since we are left with no other option after finishing a concert.Such a thing happened at Vijayawada station. We were a group of three.Our train reached Vijayawada station about ten minutes late and as our train entered the station, we found the last bogie of Pinakini Express(from Vijayawada to Chennai) just leaving from the next platform. It was too late and we stood on the platform wondering what to do..Vijayawada being a busy junction, we were sure that there would be some way out.Then some train from somewhere in the North happened to come a few hours later.We somehow managed to get three tickets on that train and reached Chennai safe and sound:-)

I can go on and on with such experiences but let me just recount one more experience:
After my concert at Udupi,we traveled by road to Bangalore and I had to take a flight to Chennai from Bangalore. The luxury bus had a flat tyre somewhere about three hours away from Bangalore.We took an auto to a taxi stand, managed to find a taxi that would take our group of four to Bangalore. By the time we reached outer Ring Road in Bangalore, traffic started moving at a snail's pace and I knew for sure that I would miss my flight. Mobile phones came to our rescue-the organizers immediately got my tickets changed and I managed to catch another flight in the afternoon to Chennai. So this particular travel had almost all modes of transport-by air, by bus, by auto and taxi:-)

These experiences have taught me various things- resilience, how to remain calm amidst chaos and probably most important of all- that travel is actually a lot of fun.I often think wistfully,that if only I had the time to explore the sights, sounds and the intriguing characteristics of every place I visit....

Bharatiya Music and Arts Society,Mumbai-19/4/09

Venue: Smt.M.S.Subbalakshmi Auditorium,Matunga,Mumbai


Sri.R.Madhavan - Violin
Sri.Rajesh Srinivasan - Mridangam
Sri.R.Venkatesh - Morsing

Song List:(R-Raga Alapana,N-Neraval,S-Kalpanaswaram,T-Tani Avarthanam)

1.varnam-tOdi-Adi (S)
2.saraseeruhAsanapriyE-nAta-Adi-puliyUr duraiswamy iyer
3.rAgarathna mAlikachE-reethigowla-rUpakam-tyAgarAja (R,S)
4.anjAdhE nenjamE-pAvani-misrachApu-kOteeswara iyer
5.eduta nilichitE-sankarAbharaNam-Adi-tyAgarAja (R,N,S,T)
6.lalitAmbikAyai-bhairavi-misrachApu-muthuswAmi dikshitar
7.RTP-simhendramadhyamam-kanta triputa (R,N,S)
8.chuttum vizhi-rAgamAlikA-tisra Adi-subramnya bhAratiyAr
11.tillAnA-rEvati-misra chApu-lAlgudi jayarAman

Friday, April 17, 2009

Arulmigu Kapaleeshwarar Temple - 16/4/09

Panguni Uthram Festival 2009.

The invitation card for this festival was the first indication of the grandeur that one could expect at the festival.It was a detailed brochure, and done very well. Something to be preserved!

One of my all-time favourite places to perform is the karpagAmbikai-kapAleeshwarar temple in mylApore. During my school and college days,I used to goto this temple atleast twice a week.

To sing inside the temple premises has always been a very special experience for me and this occasion was no exception. Given the choice,I would have sung for some more time (I guess its the divine vibrations inside the temple that always prompt me to do so), but then I had to finish by 9.05 pm:-)

Sri Raghavendra Rao - Violin
Sri.J.Vaidyanathan - Mridangam
Sri. Anirudh Athreya - Kanjira

Song list:(R-Raga Alapana,N-Neraval,S-Kalpanaswaram,T-Tani Avarthanam)

1.vallabhA nAyakasya-begadA-rUpakam-muthuswAmi dikshitar (S)
2.virutham followed by karuNAnidhiyE tAyE-bowli-misrachApu-pApanAsam sivan
3.nambikettavar evarayyA-hindOLam-Adi-pApanAsam sivan
4.chitham irangAdadEnayya-sahAnA-misrachApu-pApanAsam sivan
5.shambhO mahAdEva-pantuvarALi-rUpakam-tyAgarAja (R,N,S)
6.ambA neelAyatAkshi-neelAmbari-Adi-muthuswami dikshitar
7.karuNAkaranE-keeravANi-Adi-pApanAsam sivan (R,S,T)
8.sottruNai vEdiyan-kEdAragowla-Adi(misra and chatusra nadai)-tirunAvukkarasar tevAram
9.virutham followed by karpagAmbikai nee allavO-behAg-rUpakam-pApanAsam sivan
10.petra thAi-rEvati-Adi-Ramalinga swAmi arutpa
11.nAgendra hArAya-rAgamAlikA-Adi sankarA
12.tiruppugazh(kazhai muthu mAlai)-jOg-Adi

Vishruthi meticulously maintains a diary (labelled "Gayathri Amma's concerts") (!!), wherein,with some help,she religiously writes down the song list (with details like rAga,tAla,composer) of every concert of mine that she attends.Yesterday after the concert,she came up to me and said, "Amma,you sang a majority of Papanasam Sivan's songs in today's concert".

I was happy that she was able to make this observation.Papanasam Sivan and Kapaleeshwarar temple have always been synonymous.Papanasam Sivan has composed many gems of kritis on Kapaleeshwarar and Karpagambal.

As I finished writing this post, I read this beautiful article on Papanasam Sivan and Kapaleeshwarar temple in today's Hindu, written by my good friend Sriram Venkatakrishnan. Here is the link:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Nungambakkam Cultural Academy - 14/4/09

Sri Ramanavami Festival Concert series and on Tamil New Years Day. Hence I chose to sing all songs in tamizh at this concert.


Sri.B.U.Ganeshprasad - Violin
Sri.Ganapathiraman - Mridangam
Sri.Adambakkam Shankar - Ghatam

Song List:(R-Raga Alapana,N-Neraval,S-Kalpanaswaram,T-Tani Avarthanam)

1.Virutham (nanmaiyum selvamum) followed by mahimai ariya-mAyAmAlavagowLa-Adi-pApanAsam sivan (S)
2.kANbadeppOdhu-bilahari-Adi-Smt.ambujam krishnA
3.sAgA varam-varamu-misra chApu-mahAkavi subramanya bharatiyAr (R,S)
4.punnagai onrE-hamsAnandi-Adi-Smt.ambujam krishnA
5.nArAyaNa divya nAmam-mOhanam-Adi-pApanAsam sivan (R,N,S,T)
6.vandukEtpAr illayO-rAgamAlikA-Adi-uthukkAdu vEnkatasubbier
7.enna tavam-kApi-Adi-pApanAsam sivan
8.sundari en soppanathil-kamAs-rUpakam-Sri.Sankara Sivam
9.kAdi mOdi(tiruppugazh)-chandrakouns

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jugalbandi concert with Smt.Lakshmi Sriram - 10/4/09

Organized under the auspices of Hamsadhwani, Chennai.

Hamsadhwani is synonymous with RRC (Sri.R.Ramachandran).Started several years ago, (late)RRC Mama has done a lot in establishing Hamsadhwani as one of the leading sabhAs in Chennai and it is now his son,Sri.Sundar who is continuing his father's service in an exemplary manner.

When Mr.Sundar suggested that I do a thematic concert for Hamsadhwani this year I suggested the idea of doing a jugalbandi with Smt.Lakshmi Sriram and he readily welcomed the idea.


Sri.M.A.Krishnaswamy - Violin
Sri.B.Sivaraman - Mridangam
Sri.Suresh - Tabla

Lakshmi and I have done such concerts on three previous occasions.We share a great rapport and we really looked forward to this one too :-).It was,I think, around three years back,that we gave our third jugalbandi concert.

During our first discussion regarding this particular concert, we decided to have a few offbeat raga combinations,which would make the jugalbandi attempt more interesting and innovative.Hence we decided to avoid raga pairs like hindOlam/mAlkouns etc, since both ragas in such a combination are very similar in structure and there is really not much difference in the handling of these in the Hindustani and Carnatic styles.

We started listing out possible rAgA-pairs and finally arrived at about eight rAgA combinations.

RAgAs presented in the concert:

There are a few ragas which have very similar names in both the Carnatic and Hindustani traditons, but which sound drastically different. We took up such a pair as the first item.


I sang an invocatory Sloka on Lord Ganesha in raga kEdAram while Lakshmi sang a Sloka on Goddess Saraswathi in the raga kEdAr.(Hindustani kEdAr sounds a lot like hamIrkalyANi)

Subsequent to kEdAram-kEdAr, we took up raga combinations which sound very similar and allied,but at the same time, which have very distinct features in the two respective traditions.

AbhOgi-AbhOgi KAnada:

This was the second combination that we took up.Lakshmi sang a composition(in madhya lay,teen tAl,lyrics:manmOrA chAhath,composition of C.R.Vyas) in AbhOgi-kAnada and I joined in at a few places to show glimpses of raga AbhOgi.While she sang an AlAp during the sthayi,I joined in with AlApanA phrases of AbhOgi and similarly during the antara.


chakravAham is an ancient rAga in the carnAtic tradition and has been handled by the music trinity too. Ahirbhairav is relatively a newer rAga in the hindustAni tradition.

I started with an AlApanA of chakravAham and Lakshmi joined once or twice during the AlApanA and brought in phrases of Ahirbhairav.This,according to me,is a beautiful way of showing the contrast between the two rAgAs. Following my AlApanA, Sri.M.A.Krishnaswamy played a beautiful AlApanA, with alternating phrases of chakravAham and Ahirbhairav.This was again a very challenging attempt and he deserves full credit for the excellent job that he did.I then sang tyAgarAjA's composition suguNamulE. During kalpanAswarAs at the end of this kriti, Lakshmi again joined with swarAs from Ahirbhairav.


This was the major raga that Lakshmi took up in the concert. During her elaboration I joined in a few places with a few phrases of mOhanakalyAni.After her detailed exposition of two compositions(first one in vilambit Ek tAl: bOlana lAgE papIhA and the second one in dhrut teen tAl: bhAjOrE bhAjO), I sang harikesanallur muthiah bhAgavatar's popular piece bhuvanEshwariyA in mOhanakalyANi,with a few quick rounds of kalpanAswarAs.

madhyamAvati-madhyamat sArang:

madhyamat sArang is essentially an afternoon rAg in the hindustAni tradition.This being a jugalbandi concert and not a strictly hindustAni one,we thought we could relax a bit on the timing of the rAga and hence Lakshmi (after a lot of coaxing from me!!) agreed to make an allowance and sing it in the evening:-)
This was the major rAga that I took up.I sang a detailed AlApanA of madhyamAvati wherein again she came in with a few phrases of madhyamat sArang. MAK again gave a beautiful solo version interspersing both styles in his rAga elaboration. After this,Lakshmi sang a composition(bandish in madhya lay teen tAl:rang dE rang rEzvA) in madhyamat sArang.Subsequently I sang tyAgarAjA's masterpiece rAmakathA sudhA with detailed neraval. During kalpanAswarAs she again joined and we finished this combination with a tani by Sivaraman and Suresh.


I sang the jAvaLi parulanna mAta composed by dharmapuri subbarAyar in kApi and she next sang a tumri(pyArE rasiyA bihAri) in piloo. Tumri is again a shringAra-oriented musical form in the hindustAni tradition and is often featured in their dance recitals too.

Four contrasting ragAs bhairavi-shudhsArang-nAdanAmakriya-yamankalyAn:

We took up verses from krishnAshtakam and sri krishna karNamrutham and presented them alternatively.I sang Bhairavi,she then sang the next couple of lines in shudhsArang,I followed with the next 2 lines in nAdanAmakriyA and she finished with yamankalyAn.
Following this,we sang in unison two songs:
Firstly the song sri rangA kamalAkAntA in yamankalyAn.This is a nAtya pad(sung in the Maharashtra theater tradition).
Secondly we sang annamAchAryA's composition bhAvayAmi together.

We finished the concert with a mangaLam.

What Lakshmi and I enjoyed the most was the contrast that each one of us gave while the other was singing. We didn't plan too much about this- its more intuitive I guess between the two of us:-)In our previous concert we had meticulously planned as to where each of us would join the other. But what we did during the concert was totally different and interesting !! So this time we decided to do it as per our instincts on stage.While one of us sustained,say,at the shadja note, the other would pitch in at the same note and take on from there. This way, we were both in unison and also showed the contrast immediately after.

We had planned on another rAga combination to sing after mOhakalyAni-shudhkalyAN, but omitted it for want of time. We will probably take it up during our next jugalbandi concert:-)

A few lines about the audience at Hamsadhwani: We had a very good crowd and the rasikas really liked and appreciated our efforts and conceptualization of the entire program.

All of us went home with a happy and contented feeling :-)

Sri Rama Seva Mandali, Mysore - 4/4/09

This concert at Mysore was organized as part of their Ramanavami series.


Sri.C.N.Chandrasekharan - Violin
Sri.G.S.Ramanujam - Mridangam
Sri.V.S.Ramesh - Morsing

Song List:(R-Raga Alapana,N-Neraval,S-Kalpanaswaram,T-Tani Avarthanam)

1.varnam-pantuvarALi-Adi (S)
3.palukadEmirA-dEvamanOhari-Adi-mysore vAsudEvAchAr (R,S)
4.O rAma nInAmam-purvikalyAni-Adi-bhadrAchala rAmdAs
5.mAjAnaki-kAmbhOji-Adi-tyAgarAjar (R,N,S)
6.rAmachandrENa-mAnji-rUpakam-muthuswAmi dIkshitar
7.rAma rAma guNaseema-simhEndramadhyamam-Adi-mahArAjA swAti tirunAL (R,N,S,T)
9.sri mAdhava-behAg-Adi-pApanAsam sivan

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Shringeri Bharati Vidyashram-2/4/09

I sang at Shringeri Bharati Vidyashram as part of their Ramanavami series.

Adambakkam Shankar-Ghatam

Song List:(R-Raga Alapana,N-Neraval,S-Kalpanaswaram,T-Tani Avarthanam)
1.varnam-shudhadhanyAsi-Adi (S)
3.rAmabhakti jEsina-bEgadA-Adi-wAlAjApettai vEnkataramana bhAgavatar (R)
4.kulabirudunu-dEvamanOhari-rUpakam-tyAgarAjar (R,S)
5.rAjarAja-nirOshtA-Adi(tisra)-muthiah bhAgavatar
6.slOkam followed by O rAma nI nAmam-pUrvikalyANi-Adi-bhardAchala rAmdAs (R)
7.rAmachandrENa-mAnji-rUpakam-muthuswAmi dikshitar
8.enduku pedhala-shankarAbharaNam-Adi-tyAgarAjar (R,N,S,T)
9.rAma Nama-dEsh-Adi-tanjAvur sankara iyer
10.pibharE rAma rasam-yamunAkalyAni-Adi-sadAsiva brahmendrA

Friday, April 3, 2009

NSTSS-muthuswAmi dikshitar ArAdhanA - 30/3/09

muthuswAmi dikshitar's kritis have always been my all-time favourites. I really enjoy singing these kritis. The intensity of the sahitya, the inherent bhAva in these compositions transport us to a different plane altogether.

Nanganallur Sri Tyagaraja Sangeetha Samajam (NSTSS) has been organizing this ArAdhanA over the past few years, in an attempt to archive all the kritis of this composer and I got to learn quite a few rare kritis for the occasion this year.


Melakkaveri Tyagarajan - Violin
Madipakkam Suresh - Mridangam

Song List:

1.sundaramUrtim AshrayAmi-takkA-rUpakam
2.tyAgEsam bhajarE-rudrapriyA-Adi
3.sri suganti kuntaLAmbikE-kuntaLam-rUpakam

One elderly rasika at the end of the concert requested me to sing these rare songs often in my concerts. I have promised to do so:-)

School exams over:-)

I am back after a short two-week break. Vishruthi had her final exams (class 5) and hence I was busy teaching the kid. I have to admit that I am a "gentle" taskmaster with the kids when it comes to studying :-)

Vishvesh has completed Class 1 and he doesn't have exams yet. Bala Vidya Mandir school follows a slightly different pattern of examinations. Kids have periodical class tests, projects and assignments from class 1 for their assessment. Regular exams begin only much later. We as parents are very comfortable with the teaching methodology that is being followed in this school.

Today is the last working day for both and they are simply thrilled about the forthcoming summer vacation. :-). To keep them engaged all the time during their vacation is going to be another mammoth task. :-)

I am back now with my regular updates and posts.