Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Obeisance to the Sun-God : makara sankrAnti

Pongal or Thai (தை) Pongal, the harvest festival, is also called makara sankrAnti, since it is celebrated on the first day of the tamizh month Thai(தை) when the Sun leaves the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters the Makara rAshi (Capricornus). (sankrAnti means transmigration of the Sun from one rAshi to the next). This signals the end of winter and the onset of spring throughout the northern hemisphere. For the next six months, the days are longer and warmer.

According to the calendar based on the solar system the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun northwards and Southwards. The former is termed uttarAyaNa and the latter is dakshiNAyaNa. 

This period of Thai (தை) is referred to as uttarAyaNa puNyakAla and is considered auspicious.

The four day celebration of Pongal marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. There is a Tamizh saying "தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும்", which means that, with the dawn of the month of Thai, there will be peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness and harmony in the life of everyone. (Another interpretation of this saying can be given as follows: after crops are harvested in the month of தை, the "varappu" (வரப்பு) or vazhi(வழி) for the farmers becomes visible.) It is held to honor the Sun, for a bountiful harvest. Families gather to rejoice and share their joy and their harvests with others.

Since this festival is essentially an obeisance to the Sun-God, I thought it would be apt to give in this post, the meaning to the beautiful kriti, sUryamUrtE (rAga saurAshtra), composed by Sri.Muthuswami Dikshitar, which is in praise of the Sun-God.

सूर्यमूर्ते नमोऽस्तु ते
सुन्दर छायाधिपते
Hey Surya, Salutations to Thee ! , the one who is espoused to the beautiful chAyAdEvi.
(The choice of the word  नमोऽस्तु ते) in the first line looks very apt, since we always refer to sUryA as "namaskAra priyah" )
कार्य कारणात्मक
One who is the cause(कारण) and effect (कार्य) of all things in Nature,  the One who enlightens the world(जगत्प्रकाश) and the adhipati of simha rAshi.

मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)  
आर्य विनुत तेजःस्फूर्ते
आरोग्यादि फलद कीर्ते
One who is the personification of illumination, effulgence(तेजःस्फूर्ते) and worshipped by noble persons (आर्य विनुत).

sUrya namaskAr is one of the most effective methods to maintain good health and is a popular yogic exercise too (आरोग्यादि फलद कीर्ते)

सारस मित्र मित्र भानो
सहस्र किरण कर्ण सूनो

क्रूर पाप हर कृशानो
गुरुगुह मोदित
सूरि जनेडित सुदिनमणे

सोमादि ग्रह शिखामणे

धीरार्चित कर्म साक्षिणे
दिव्यतर सप्ताश्व रथिने

To You, the friend of the lotus(सारस मित्र), Hey MitrA (मित्र) !, Hey bhAnu (भानो)!
The One who is the source of a thousand brilliant rays (सहस्र किरण) and who is the father of karNA(कर्ण सूनो)
One who is the Fire (कृशानो) which can destroy even henious crimes (क्रूर पाप हर )
One who is self-effulgent (like the Pure Consciousness, citswarUpa brahman which is self-effulgent)
One who is worshipped by the Erudite (सूरि जनेडित) and One who is virtuous (सु) and the jewel of the day(दिनमणे)
One who controls the Moon and all the other planets (सोमादि ग्रह शिखामणे)
One who is worshipped by the Wise(धीरार्चित) and who is the witness to all Karma(कर्म साक्षिणे)
One who rides on a chariot driven by seven divine horses (दिव्यतर सप्ताश्व रथिने)

(मध्यम काल साहित्यम्)
सौराष्ट्रार्ण मन्त्रात्मने
सौवर्ण स्वरूपात्मने

भारतीश हरि हरात्मने
भुक्ति मुक्ति वितरणात्मने
Refers to the sUrya ashta akshara mantra and also the rAga mudra (सौराष्ट्रार्ण मन्त्रात्मने)
One who shines like gold, both in terms of mystical and intellectual brilliance (सौवर्ण स्वरूपात्मने)
One who is visualized as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva (भारतीश हरि हरात्मने)
One who instils devotion and imparts eternal bliss (भुक्ति मुक्ति वितरणात्मने)

Musical aspects of this kriti:

As per the sangIta sAmpradAya pradarshini, the rAga saurAshtrA is given under the 15th mElA mALavagowLa and not as a janya of chAyAvati (asampUrNa mELa equivalent of sUryakAntam, which is the way it is more commonly sung).

It is set to chatusra jAti dhruva tAlA, which has a 14-beat cycle and is one of the sULAdi sapta tALAs. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A peek into my concerts in December 2013...

Bharati Vizha - 8.12.13:

Though not part of the Margazhi season, singing at Bharati Illam, Triplicane is something that I cherish, year after year.

This concert was held on the occasion of Bharatiyar Vizha.

Sri.V.V.S.Murari - Violin
Sri.B.Sivaraman - Mridangam

As a tribute to the great poet Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati, I presented
karpaga vinAyaka (gowLa)
ujjayini nitya kalyAni (kalyANi),
Chandiran oLiyil (chandrakauns),
kAkkai chiraginilE (brindAvana sArangA)
chuttum vizhi chudar (rAgamAlikA)

Karthik Fine Arts - 11.12.13:

This was the first concert of the Music Season for me. At Narada Gana Sabha Main Hall.

Mysore Srikanth - Violin
Poongulam Subramanian - Mridangam
Sreesundar Kumar - Kanjira

This concert was webcast by CMANA, USA for rasikas in the United States.

This was the first time that I presented kumbhEshwarAya namastE (kalyANi, Muthuswami Dikshitar) in a regular concert. (I had presented it in one of the earlier episodes of the thematic series, Myriad Forms of Lord Siva.)

(A rasika, after the Karthik Fine Arts concert, expressed his disappointment that I had not sung any Tamizh Kriti in this concert.
Point noted :-) and I made ample amends in all my forthcoming concerts :-)

Chennai Cultural Academy - 13.12.13:
I took up punnagai onrE pOdumE in raga Hamsanandi (composition of Smt.Ambujam Krishna) for detailed elaboration and also presented nambikkettavar evarayya preceded by a virutham in raga HindOlam. Akshayalinga vibhO, shankarAbharaNam was taken up as the main composition in this concert.

Hamsavinodini - 16.12.13:

Venue : Arkay Convention Center, Mylapore.

This was the first time I performed at this hall. Nice, compact auditorium with excellent acoustics.

B.Ananthakrishnan - Violin
B.Ganapathiraman - Mridangam

Almost every December, I do an elaborate subhapantuvarALi at some sabha or the other. This time, it was here :-).
Also presented a detailed ShudhadhanyAsi (azhagA azhagA- composition of Smt.Ambujam Krishna)

Meenakshi Sundararajan Trust - 18.12.13:

It is a delight to sing for the Mambalam/Kodambakkam audience every year at Meenakshi College !

Sri.M.R.Gopinath - Violin
Sri.Tiruvarur Vaidyanathan - Mridangam
Sri. Sreesundar Kumar - Kanjira

Being the occasion of Arudra Darisanam, I began the concert with a mallAri in rAga gambhIra nAtai and presented many Kritis on Lord Siva. There were many requests from the audience and it is always a pleasure to sing them ! I took up shanmukhapriya(pArvati nAyakanE, pApanAsam sivan's composition) for a detailed elaboration in this concert.

Indian Fine Arts Society - 20.12.13:

Dr.Hemalatha on the Violin, B.Sivaraman on the Mridangam and Chandrasekhara Sharma on Ghatam.

nAsikAbhUshaNi (mAravairi ramaNi) and kIravANI(innamum sandEha) were taken up in detail.

Sri Krishna Gana Sabha - 21.12.13:

I did a thematic presentation " Compositions of Muthuswami Dikshitar on Lord Shiva" at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha.

Sri.V.Sanjeev - Violin
Sri.Mudikondan Ramesh - Veena
Sri.Poongulam Subramaniam - Mridangam
Sri.Trichy Krishnaswamy - Ghatam

On the same lines as the ongoing monthly series "Myriad Forms of Lord Shiva", I gave a powerpoint presentation of the same.

Sri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha - 24.12.13:

Mysore Srikanth - Violin, Poongulam Subramaniam - Mridangam, Sreesundar Kumar - Kanjira

After a long time, I took up mInalOchani (tOdi, harikEsanallur muthiah bhAgavatar) in this concert. harikAmbhOji(dinamaNi vamsa) was taken up for elaboration and I presented a short RTP in raga madhukauns. Also presented the kriti jambUpatE, a personal favorite !

Valayapatti Nadhalaya Trust - 27.12.13:

In this concert, I took up simhEndramadhyamam(ninnE nammitinayya - mysore vAsudEvAchAr) for elaboration.

Tried something new in the neraval, I think it came out well :-)


V.V.S.Murari - Violin
Toronto Gowrishankar - Mridangam
Madipakkam Murali - Ghatam

Every year as the music season draws to a close, I always end up with mixed feelings. Sometimes, euphoric at having delivered and sometimes wistful that I perhaps didn't do enough. This time around, I was disappointed that I could not present a detailed RTP anywhere. I could attribute it to paucity of time but paradoxically was quite happy with my rendition of the madhukauns RTP, even though it was presented in slight haste.

Now I look forward in eagerness to this New Year which I hope will be musically a very satisfying one.

And my mission, quest and journey continues......

Myriad Forms of Lord Siva (Episode 10) - 24/11/13

Venue: Tattvaloka, Chennai
The tenth Episode of the series was held on the 24th of November, 2013.

Mysore Srikanth - Violin
N.Vijayalakshmi - Veena
B.Ganapathiraman - Mridangam

Chief Guest: Dr.Prameela Gurumurthy, Head of Department, Department of Music, University of Madras:

Guest of Honor: Dr.R.Selvaganapathy, Tamizh scholar and Editor of Saiva Encyclopedia:

Sri.Kotilingam honoring the Guest, Sri. Selvaganapathy:

A section of the audience:

Forms covered in this episode: Nataraja and concept of Vishwarupa Ishwara (Lord Siva in the 5 elements in Nature, Sun, Moon and jIvarAsIs.)

Next episode will on January 26th, 2014, 5 p.m. Same venue.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Chennai Margazhi Music Season 2013

Posts and updates here have been pending for a long time, starting from Episode 10 of Myriad Forms of Lord Shiva till my concert on the 31st of December at Madurai.
Before I proceed with those updates, I thought I would write about the concerts of other colleagues of mine that I managed to attend during the December Music Season.
Amidst my own concert schedule, I attended concerts of Ranjani-Gayatri (at Narada Gana Sabha), Sanjay (at Krishna Gana Sabha), Gayathri Venkataraghavan (at Mylapore Fine Arts) and two of Abhishek's (at Music Academy and at Bharat Kalachar). Each one of them was wonderful. It always gives me great pleasure to listen to different styles and to different artists, who have worked really hard, to be what they are today.

The review in today's Hindu Friday review (3rd Jan 2014) of Abhishek Raghuram's concert at the Music Academy has prompted me to write this now:

Abhishek is an artiste with extraordinary prowess and talent. A genius. His presentations always have an astounding amount of freshness and uniqueness in approach (this is one of the reasons why I try and attend as many concerts of his that I can) and I have also written an earlier post here in December 2012 about his NGS concert.

  • I can firmly say that there was no ambiguity in the simhendramadhyamam that he sang that day at the Music Academy.
  • His immense virtuosity needs to be first understood. Remarks made in the review are in poor taste.
  • The kamAs AlApanA was definitely neither dragging nor repetitive. Hats off to him for the rAgamalikA swarAs that he presented - it is not easy to sing like that- I can vouch for it !
  • Mysore Srikanth- one of the most wonderful violinists that I have known. Has accompanied me in more than 100 concerts and I know from personal experience that he is very quick in responses, be it in a rAga AlApanA phrase or mathematical patterns and kanakkus that we sing. That he is one of the most sought-after violinists says it all !!
  • This kind of a review gives a very different picture of the entire concert for people who have not attended.
  • Reviews have to be more balanced and just - be it accolades or brickbats.

Finally, I truly believe that Abhishek Raghuram has richly deserved the Yogam Nagaswamy Award that he has got in December 2013, which is the highest honor that the Music Academy bestows on an artist in the senior category.