Monday, January 31, 2011

Bhubhaneshwar Tamizh Sangam - 16/1/11

This concert was part of the Pongal Festival at Bhubaneshwar.

Accompanists were :
V.V.Ravi - Violin
Poongulam Subramanian - Mridangam

Chief guest for the occasion was Chief Secretary of Orissa, Sri.B.K.Patnaik. Guest of Honour was Sri.K.V.Rangaswami of L&T.

Photos taken with rasikas and office bearers of Tamizh Sangam:


Lecture Demonstration at Music Academy - 23/12/10

The topic I took up was "Textual Aspects in Margadarshi Seshayyangar's Compositions".

Margadarshi Seshayyangar was a pre-Trinity composer who lived in the mid-17th Century. He was a Sri Vaishnava Brahmin who lived in Srirangam and composed largely on Sri Ranganatha.

There were three pioneering composers who lived around this same time. Virabhadrayya left his mark on the musical form called Swarajatis, Govindasamayya on Tana varnams and Seshayyangar on Kriti form. All three were hence referred to as "Margadarshis".

The Muhanaprasa Antyaprasa Vyavastha of Maharaja Swati Tirunal is the primary reference that we have,regarding Seshayyangar's compositions. This treatise talks about Sabdalankaras in Sanskrit and there is a reference to 13 of Seshayyangar’s kritis by way of examples of prosody and alliteration. About 40 Kritis of Seshayyangar are available as on date. 13 others are unpublished and exist in manuscripts.

When we look at the melodic content in his compositions, we notice that most songs are of the pallavi-anupallavi-charanam type though some also have a pallavi followed by multiple charanams. There are some songs in which the melody of the last two lines of the charanam is the same as the anupallavi. A few Kritis have the anupallavi in madhyamakala. An example of this kind is rangapatE in Karnataka Kapi. Seshayyangar appears to have been an expert in Sanskrit for his songs indicate a vast vocabulary.

Seshayyangar was perhaps the first composer to modernise the previous structure of Kirthanas to Kritis and bring in the pallavi-anupallavi-charanam format into Kritis. There is also an extensive usage of Sabdalankaras in his compositions. These could have the reasons for the prefix "Margadarshi" to his name.

SabdAlankArAs and arthAlankArAs were taken up in detail for demonstration.

His compositions follow rules of
rUpaka alankAra,

These were illustrated through the kritis Rangapate (Karnataka Kapi), Ranganayaka Bhujangasayana (Kedaragowla), Vande Vakulabharanam (Mukhari), Sarasadalanayana (Surutti), Anjaneya Paripaalaya (Mohanam).

Seshayyangar seems to have had an influence on later composers like Maharaja Swati Tirunal and the Trinity too.
His compositions offer huge scope for musicians and musicologists to understand the grammar and language to a great extent.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dasavani 2011 - 12/1/11

This concert was part of a series jointly organized by Sri LalithaKala Academy Foundation, Mysore and Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Chennai.

Theme was Dasa Sahitya Compositions.


Akkarai Subhalakshmi - Violin
Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan - Mridangam
Sreesundar Kumar - Kanjira

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

1.Dhyana Sloka, followed by saranu janakana - bilahari - Adi - purandara dAsa (S)
2.pAlisamma muddhu shAradE - sriranjani - Adi(tisra) - purandara dAsa (S)
3.innudaya bAradE - kalyANavasantam - kanta cApu - purandara dAsa (R,N)
4.rAmAnujarE namO - pantuvarALi - Adi - kanakadAsa (R,S)
5.neenE dayALO - Anandabhairavi - misra cApu - purandara dAsa (R)
6.bhUshaNakke bhushaNa - shankarAbharaNam - kanta cApu - sripAdarAya (R,N,S,T)
7.chandrachooda - rAgamAlikA - Adi - purandaradAsa
8.tirupati vEnkataramaNA - hamsAnandi - Adi - purandaradAsa
9.ugAbhOga followed by yamanelli - sivaranjani - Adi - purandaradAsa
10.mangaLam - surutti - Adi - purandaradAsa

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi (RTP)

I have always had a great passion for singing Ragam-Tanam-Pallavis (RTPs) in my concerts.

The Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi is a musical form that is very unique to Carnatic Music. It is a form that offers a lot of scope for creativity. Anyone can compose a Pallavi line (with proper adherence to its grammar) and elaborate on it. Some Pallavis that past masters have composed and sung have become very popular and each artist portrays an elaboration of the same line in different ways, according to his or her own imagination.

I would neither claim myself to be an expert nor to be doing anything new. I would just call it my passion and courage (probably also weakness !!) to take up tough Pallavis, make an earnest attempt and present them to the best of my ability in my concerts.

(@ Mahesh - It is your comment on my previous post that has triggered off the idea of writing this post now :-))

Musicians of yesteryears have been a great source of inspiration in the kinds of Pallavis that they have taken up and the way they have handled them.

One of my greatest source of inspiration has been my Guru, Padma Bhushan Sangeetha Kalanidhi, Madurai Sri.T.N.Seshagopalan. The plethora of innovations he brings in, while singing Pallavis, the way he develops the alapana and the tAnam has always amazed me ! A true genius of this century..

Contemporary musicians (young and senior) have been exemplary in their presentation of RTPs and listening to each of them has always been a learning experience, according to me. I am not taking any names here, as the list would go on and on :-)

I always believe that a RTP should be aesthetically appealing and pleasing. I would never to go into too much of mathematics, which would make the ear "tired". I always try to maintain a good balance. Even the calculations that are done should be appealing and done with a lot of poise. According to me, an artist who can present a complex Pallavi and at the same time, make it sound easy to the listeners is the real artist.

It is a misnomer that Pallavis always have to be complex. Easy pallavis can definitely be taken up and the individual's numerous ways of interpretation of the same can go on and on. This is precisely why we call it a creative art form.

Just to name a few Pallavi types - Nadai pallavis, KaLai pallavis, Pallavis in multiple Talas,Nadais and Ragas, dwi-Avarthana Pallavis, madhyama Kala Pallavis, Pallavis with the raga names intelligently woven into the lyrics - such varieties are numerous.

I would personally internalize every RTP that I sing and make it my "own" before I present it on stage. It is not always true that musicians practise a RTP for weeks or months together before presenting it on stage. Internalizing its structure is the key. Once we get this into our system, the vast scope that each RTP could offer can be mind-boggling !
Each of these three components - Ragam, Tanam and Pallavi is a vast subject by itself.
Ragam - If we take the Raga Alapana, the raga exposition can be done in different stages. Recordings of past masters like GNB, Alathur Brothers,MLV,DKP,SKR (to name just a few) are excellent examples of how to develop the Alapana stage by stage. This area,by itself, offers a vast scope for creativity.

Tanam - Tanam singing is another art by itself. Syllables to be used while singing the Tanam, the permutations and combinations of these syllables used - all play an important role and at the same time,it should be appealing to the ear.

Pallavi - The Pallavi line is sung 2 or 3 times, for the accompanists and the audience to first get familiar with the particular line. Then a detailed Neraval is sung.
Neraval singing for Kritis is different from singing Neraval for a Pallavi. The words of the Pallavi should always fall at the same place in the Talam without deviation while singing the neraval. At the same time, the musician has to give a lot of varieties - by filling in the gaps and singing neraval at different speeds to avoid monotony. Singing an appealing Neraval is an art by itself.

After this, the Trikalam, Anulomam and Pratilomam are done. This is followed by Kalpanaswaras. This again is an area which offers a lot of scope. And of course, the Ragamalika Swaras sung towards the end is something that everyone looks forward to !

I am not going into the technicalities of these here. I am just reiterating the fact that any RTP should be complete, with proper focus and time allotted for each of the above aspects.

Earlier concerts used to be for a minimum duration of 4-5 hours. This gave the musician to sing the RTP at a very leisurely pace, giving ample time for the raga alapana to be sung and explored in various stages, sing an extensive Tanam and develop the Pallavi in all possible aspects.

I suppose singing a RTP these days can be more challenging, because one tries to bring in all these above mentioned aspects within the limited time available. For instance, in a 2.5 hour concert, I would personally set aside a clear 50-55 minutes for the RTP. Giving all the ingredients within this timeframe as a capsule requires a lot of mental planning. One must know where to stop ! I try singing as many varieties as I can while developing the pallavi and bring out as many possibilites as I can.

Role of Accompanists while presenting a RTP : I give a lot of importance to this aspect. When all artists take up the challenge and present the RTP, it is a very enjoyable experience. It is never a one-man show. I have been very fortunate in the sense that, all my accompanists play very earnestly for the RTPs that I sing. We share a lot of ideas on stage. If one of us comes up with a flash of an idea, the other artist takes the cue from there and we instantly improvise on it. On the whole, I find it very enjoyable. For instance, while I am singing the Neraval or Trikalam, I really like it if the Mridangist fills the gap with interesting patterns or flourishes without disturbing the flow of the lyrics.

One particular senior accompanist whom I have always admired and drawn inspiration from, is Sri.Mannargudi Eashwaran, for the kinds of replies that he gives while following a pallavi. I have heard him accompany my Guru on several occasions and his approach always amazes me. (This doesn't mean that I don't acknowledge other great percussionists or violinists - its just that I have had the opportunity to listen to Sri.Eashwaran on more occasions.)

While singing a RTP, minor mistakes do happen (atleast in my case!). We are after all humans, not robots ! A missed Karvai or an extra Karvai somewhere can result in the entire thing going haywire.
Earlier, maybe 10 yrs back, if I made a minor mistake somewhere in the calculations while singing the pallavi in a concert, the night after the concert would be a nightmare. I would keep tossing this way and that and the mistake used to haunt me for days together. To get rid of this, subsequently, with more experience, even if I made a small mistake, I always try and quickly calculate while the violinist plays his/her turn and attempt the same thing again and ensure that I get it right the next time! Of course one's aim would always be to present a flawless Pallavi, but at times we find ourselves in a tight spot and it requires a sharp, smart and alert mind to quickly wriggle out of such a situation !

I think it is the duty of every musician to educate the audience about the nuances of what we present in a RTP and to pass on this wonderful creative form to the future generations, in its purest form. I personally have never been able to accept RTPs sung and done away with, in just 15 or 20 minutes.

I have just quickly keyed down whatever ideas came to my mind now on this topic. I can go on talking about this subject but let me stop for now :-)

In every concert that I sing a Pallavi, I just take a deep breath and embark on this wonderful, musical journey of singing RTPs :-)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Newspaper Reviews (Part 1/2) - December 2010

Concert at Vani Mahal : 26/12/10 : Review in Tamizh Daily DINAMANI:

Concert at Nungambakkam Cultural Academy : 11/12/10 : Review in Tamizh Daily DINATHANDHI:

Concert at Shanthi Arts Foundation : 10/12/10 : Review in Tamizh Daily DINAMALAR:

Saturday, January 1, 2011


It seems like I wished everyone just a few days back at the dawn of 2010 and I just can't believe that one more year has gone by !

We are now into the next year - with a lot of dreams and goals for the forthcoming years.

Wishing all my friends a very bright and prosperous New Year :-)

A quick recap of my concerts during December Music Season 2010:
The first 10 days of December were dampened by the never-ending rains in Chennai.

My concert that had been scheduled on the 5th got cancelled due to the rains. The first concert was on the 7th at Meenakshi College - jugalbandi with Smt.Lakshmi Sriram. This is the first time I am doing a jugalbandhi at this venue. The previous years there have been with Padmasri Haridwaramangalam A.K.Palanivel accompanying me on the Tavil. Rains didn't deter the Rasikas from attending the concerts and our Jugalbandhi concert had a very good attendance inspite of the rains lashing 24*7.

After this were concerts at venues like Sastri hall, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore Fine Arts,Vani Mahal, Music Academy, to name a few.

For the first time I gave a lecture Demonstration at the Music Academy during the Music Season and it was a great experience.

The Sangeetha Sandhippu - informal chat with Rasikas was great fun.

I sang two complex ragam -tanam -pallavis - one at the Mylapore Fine Arts and the other at the Music Academy.

I must thank all rasikas who attended all my concerts and gave me their valuable feedback. Personally, it was a very enriching December for me.

I didn't realize when December began and when it ended :-) - time has just flown by !

I eagerly look forward to a great musical 2011 :-)

The Music Academy - 31/12/10

Ended the year 2010 with this concert.


Smt.Anuradha Sridhar - Violin
A.S.Ranganathan - Mridangam
Papanasam Sethuraman - Kanjira

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

1.varNam - kAmbhOji - ata - vadivElu
2.EkAmranAthEshwarENa - caturangiNi - Adi - muttuswAmi dIkshitar (R)
3.anudinamunu - bEgadA - rUpakam - rAmanathapuram srinivasa Iyengar (S)
4.mAl marugA shanmugA - vasantA - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
5.tanayuni brOva - bhairavi - Adi - tyAgarAja (R,N,S)
6.sadAnandamayI - hindOlam - sankeerNa matyam - UthukAdu vEnkatakavi
7.RTP - latAngI - tisra triputa (4 kaLai) followed by Tani
8.rAgamAlikA slOkam followed by pravisha rAdhE - ashtapadI
9.ponnAr mEniyanE - tEvAram

Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha - 26/12/10

Concert at Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Auditorium, Vani Mahal


Dr.Hemalatha - Violin
A.S.Ranganathan - Mridangam
Papanasam Sethuraman - Kanjira

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

1.vAtApi gaNapathim - hamsadhwani - Adi - muttuswAmi dIkshitar (S)
2.mA dayai - vasantA - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
3.sri vEnkata girisham - surutti - Adi - muttuswAmi dIkshitar (R)
4.ammarAvammA - kalyANi - kanta cApu - tyAgarAjA (R,N,S)
5.mAyamma - Ahiri - Adi - syAma sAstri
6.saravanabhavA - pasupatipriyA - Adi - muthiah bhAgavatar
7.sri subramanyAya namastE - kAmbhOji - rUpakam - muttuswAmi dIshitar (R,N,S,T)
8.chuttum vizhi - rAgamAlikA - tisra Adi - subramanya bhAratiyAr
9.virutham followed by kalyANagOpAlam - sindhubhairavi - kanta cApu -nArAyaNateerthar
10.tillAnA - nirOshtA - Adi - Padma Bhushan Madurai Sri.T.N.Seshagopalan

Shringeri Sharadha Temple - 25/12/10

Accompanists were Melakkaveri Thyagarajan on Violin, B.Sivaraman on Mridangam and Alathur Rajaganesh on Kanjira.

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

1.varNam- bEgadA -Adi (S)
2.nAdasudhA rasa - Arabhi - rUpakam (S)
3.kalyANarAma - hamsanAdam - Adi - Uthukkadu vEnkatakavi
4.telisirAma - pUrNachandrikA - Adi - tyAgarAja
5.sukhi evvarO - kAnadA - Adi - tyAgarAjA (R,S)
6.pAdamE tuNai - valaji - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
7.endhuku pedhala - shankarAbharaNam - Adi - tyAgarAjA - (R,N,S,T)
8.ArabhimAnam - rAgamAlikA - Adi
9.tillAnA- rEvati - misra chApu - lalgudi Jayaraman

Sangeetha Sandhippu - Coffee chat with Rasikas

Carnatica had organized a Sangeetha Sandhippu - Coffee chat for artists with rasikas.

Smt.Vasundhara Rajagopal and I had an informal chat session with rasikas on the 20th of December at Sangeetha Restaurant, R.A.Puram.

One hour was too short :-)

It was very lively with a lot of participation and questions from the audience.

Nisha Rajagopal (Vasundhara's daughter) joined Vasundhara for a song and on a request from Nivedita(anchor for the program), Vishruthi came on to the stage and we sang a song together.

A good, novel concept by Carnatica for artists to interact with Rasikas :-)

Valayapatti Nadhalaya Trust - 24/12/10


V.V.S.Murari - Violin
Bangalore.V.Krishna - Mridangam
Nerkunam Shankar - Kanjira

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

1.varNam - pantuvarALi - Adi (S)
2.I vasudhA - sahAnA - Adi - tyAgarAjA
3.yArO ivar yArO - sAvEri - Adi - aruNAchala kavi
4.azhagA azhagA - sudhdhadhanyAsi - kanta cApu - ambujam krishnA (R,S)
5.bhuvanEshwariyA - mOhanakalyANi - Adi - muthiah bhAgavatar (R)
6.chakkani rAja - karaharapriyA - Adi - tyAgarAjA (R,N,S,T)
7.kAkkai chiraginilE - brindAvanasArangA - Adi - subramaNya bhAratiyAr
8.tambUri meetidava - sindhubhairavi - Adi - purandara dAsar
9.tillAnA - madhuvanti - Adi - lAlgudi jayarAman