Friday, December 19, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
Shri MA Venugopal, the younger brother of MA Kalyanakrishna Bhagavatar, was a big teacher who conducted music classes. Some of his disciples included CB Ramanarayanan (currently known as Shreyas Narayanan) and R Suryaprakash. There was another singer called Vasu, a disciple of TNS who later moved to the States. Of course there was violinist Kanchi Janardhanam, who has produced the outstanding S Varadarajan. Varadarajan's brother Raghavan, another guy called Easwar (who later moved to Hong Kong) and several other mrudangists would join in the Aradhana proceedings. Venkatavaradhan also got several of us younger musicians from Mylapore. I was quite a regular, along with Arun Prakash and Sriram Gangadharan. Many times we would take my old and rusty Bajaj M 50 and ride all the way from Mylapore. Sometiems I would meet up with Arun at the Mambalam station adn take a train. The Aradhana was an all day affair with Pancharatnams in the morning. Tanjavur Sankara Iyer was a regular. So was Nanganallur Ramanathan, Karur Krishnamoorthy, Visalur Gurumoorthy and V Sundaresan (a disciple of DKJ) from Tambaram.
I will never forget an incident with Tanjavur Sankara Iyer there. We were sitting and listening to someone sing. The violinist finished the Kalyani alapana with the very popular phrase 'g g r s ri , s' with a slight extension on the ri at the end. Sankara Iyer leaned over to me and said " This final sangati that he played is a Soundararajan sangati. Have you heard Sinthanai sei maname. He finishes with maname and the g g r s ri , s in akaram! Have you ever heard Ramanuja Iyengar or Madurai Mani Iyer sing this sangati??" Many years later I was at a concert in Coimbatore. That afternoon in the hotel room I narrated this incident to the violinist. That evening I sang Kalyani and the violinist finished his alapana with the exact same sangati! As I smiled he realised what he had done and sheepishly grinned and we had a good laugh later. On another occasion Shri VL Janakirama Iyer the younger brother of VL Vedagiri was singing. Easwar asked him to sing Marubalka and he sang a superb rendition with multiple kanakku versions of the word 'ramana' in different speeds to land on Marubalka.
Yesterday I sang on Chrompet after a few years and Varadarajan and me were talking about all this when he told me that the Vasanta Mandapam was under renovation and that was why the concert was held at the current venue. As I was singing the concert there were continuous disturbances with fire crackers. Seshadri who gave the vote of thanks said that he was reminded of the film Tillana Mohanambal where the Nadaswaram player walks out of a concert because of disturbances from the fireworks. Fortunately for me the Chrompet crowd stayed to listen to the music and I also am not as skilled or as sensitive as Sikkil Shanmughasundaram to get up and leave!!
Photos of the Chrompet concert by Sriram Guruswamy
Thursday, December 11, 2008
1987 was the first year when I sang in the formal music season in December. Kalarasna and Karthik Fine Arts were the two sabhas that gave me a chance to perform in the season. These thoughts went through my my mind as I sang my annual Karthik Fine Arts concert at the Narada Gana sabha last week. Karthik Fine Arts used to have their concerts in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, especially the junior slots. Once they started organising the main slots at the Narada gana Sabha, it was the goal for most of us to move there. KFA also was the sabha with multiple venues. At one point they had concerts at Narada Gana sabha, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, RR Sabha, a solitary KJ Yesudas concert at the Kamaraj Hall and their Tamizh Isai festival at the Valliammal college in Anna nagar. KFA was also one of the first organisations to honour younger musicians with their Isai Peroli title. The sabha has been growing from strength to strength spurred by their dynamic secretary Shri Rajagopal and a dedicated team he has built up. Shri Rajagopal was one of the pioneers of the Mylapore Fine Arts before he moved out and got involved with KFA. Rajagopal's team also has a number of sabha veterans who have been active in this unique culture that promoted music, dance and theatre in Chennai and revolutionised the way Chennai developed into the cultural capital of India.
I have had a very personal relationship with the sabha for over twenty years. Much before that, my father, a member of Cho Ramswamy's drama trouple had very close friends in the sabha and this was responsible for me even getting a chance in 1987. To this day, after every concert several members will come up to me after the concert and casually mention that they met my father at the concert and that they share a long time relationship with him. Many years back, I had decided to take a break in the season and sing in only the Music Academy because I was preparing for my ACS exams, which i never wrote! My dad actually chastised me for that and said that I should have sung atleast in Karthik Fine Arts!
I used to have a small notebook where I wrote down song lists for my first 15 or 20 concerts before I got bored of it. One of the several times I had begun and stopped this exercise. Anyway here is an image of the KFA songlist for 1987.
Photos of the Kartik Fine Arts concert by Sriram Guruswamy
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Coming back to Desigar, my Guru wanted me to sing some of his compositions and I sang Arulvaai in a radio programme. Palghat Raghu who played mrudangam for me that day enquired about the song and was quite impressed with the quality of the composition and its classical nature. A few years back I had travelled to Cleveland with Shri AKC Natarajan and he sang Oho kaalame ( a composition of Vedanayakam Pillai and set to music by desigar) and said that no one sings it these days and that I should sing it. I kept bugging him time and again for the notation and could not get it. Later I found a recording of Desigar's rendition and learnt it up immediately. AKC also mentioned about Tirumagale in Todi, that Desigar had set to music and how AKC wanted to learn it so that he could combat the Tamaden swami rendition of Karakurichi Arunachalam.
My guru also narrated an interesting story about the ragam Saranga tarangini. GNB upon once being told that Rajarathnam played Kalyani and did an expansive vinyasa omitting the
A few months back I got a call from Shri Muthukumaraswamy Sarma a disciple of Desigar and a very close associate of guru asking me if I could write something about Desigar for a small magazine in Tamizh that he was editing. It was he who told me that this year happened to be the birth centenary of Desigar and he wanted to have a special programme on that occassion. I mentioned this to Sriram V and he immediately got Sruti to write a special article. Sriram V gives annual talks during the music season to an invited audience every year on various music related topics especially personalities organised by Mr Chari of Tag centre. This year one of the talks is to be on Desigar. Since this is not an open event I hope to get some clippings of that recording and play it on the next episode of the podcast and talk to Sriram about Desigar and the info that his 'historian' mind managed to dig up.
As I was sitting and thinking about a suitable theme for this year's Jaya TV concert, I decided MM Dandapani Desigar would be a good theme especially in the context of his birth centenary. The Jaya TV concert every year has been a good forum for me to concentrate on programmes with specific focus on different themes. I have particularly enjoyed the experience of sitting down and preparing for the concert and it has been a challenge to remain fresh every year. Fortunately the presence of so many different composers and poets helps me in my efforts. This year I have mentioned MM Dandapani Desigar as the theme and and intend to sing some of his compositions as well as a couple of songs that he has set to music. A book of his compostions "Tamizh Isai Paamalai" and some help from Shri Muthukumaraswamy with musical notations of Shri Desigar's tunes has been invaluable.
Perusing the 60 odd compositions of Desigar and another 50 odd songs that he set to music, it is evident that mainstream carnatic music missed out on a real classy vidwan with a firm grounding in traditional values and a rebellious mind that dwelt into the realm of the unfamiliar and novel. Apart from the innumerable rare ragams that he has employed, he has also been at ease in his setting of Tirumagale in Todi or Ezhisai aagilum in Kalyani cascading the pallavi with many beautiful sangatis. Today I can only say that it is sad that Desigar has not been given his due mostly due to the politics of his time more than anything else.
Here is an interesting article by Sriram V on what could be called the 1st Music Season!
A Tale of two Advertisements
A few had posted on the reasons for blacking out the header on the blog and what it can do. Well some go and light candles, some say a silent prayer and I black out the header on my blog. Just a symbolic way to express my personal anger at the perpetrators of this act. That's it.
It has been a week now, life returns to normalcy, Cafe Leopold has reopened in Mumbai and the blog gets back some color on its header. More soon.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 9 - Chat with Subashri Tanikachalam
Saturday, November 29, 2008
1. It is the singular most looked forward to event in the carnatic music world. Much like a world cup that is held once in 4 years or the Wimbledon championships that happen every year in June, December is very very significant.
2. An event of this magnitude can never grow to its current proportions if there wasn't support from the public. This really means that the people have spoken! They throng the concert halls and create the atmosphere that we have all experienced and look forward to every year. Most of the major sabhas especially during the period of 20th - 31st December do draw huge crowds for the premier performances. Yes there are a lot of other concerts that do not get a crowd but so what. When I first sang in 1987 in Kalarasna I had a record audience of 21! But then 21 people brought in 81 in 1988 and we did not even have our photographs printed on the newspaper back then. Newspaper reviews in the Hindu for instance did not carry photographs of carnatic musicians till the early nineties. The power of the 'word of mouth' is such that a good performance will immediately create attention around the city.
3. Season is also financially very successful. Sponsorship money comes in. Corporates are looking to cash in on the publicity that is generated at a fraction of the cost they would have to incur for a single 20-20 game. Musicians also benefit with more concerts and hence more money, so I am not complaining there.
4. Media and its obsession to sensationalise everything is a big plus especially for the 'young and upcoming' as well as the 'old and downgoing' crop. A number of younger musicians can just have their say, get themselves written about and have their pictures plastered hoping that it will help accelerate their success. While their performance on stage will be the final factor to decide, this will definitely give them a big push initially that needs to be capitalised. On the other side of things there are a number of fading seniors who can again go to the media with stories of nostalgia, decry the current state of music and say that they still have something to offer and try and revive a failing career.
5. Chennai traffic can be a nightmare. The once famous internal bus system is not exactly preferred the way it used to be especially for attending concerts. Urbanisation and extended suburbs are making it difficult for rasikas to make the trips to Mylapore and T Nagar every day during the season. This where the localised sabhas have got into the act seizing an opportunity to recreate the season magic in their own locality. Tiruvanmiyur, Villivakkam, anna Nagar, Nanganallur, Chrompet, KK Nagar have all managed to draw their own crowds for concerts.
6. Television, especially Jaya TV with its Margazhi Utsavam is also hyping up the season in a big away. All the news channels are scouring the sabhas to get a 'byte' from musicians or rasikas. Internet sites and blogs are flooding the web with information. More and more artists are joining the blogging bandwagon to 'connect' with the rasikas. People use cell phones and mp3 recorders to save and upload stuff like pictures, audio and video.
All this points to a great music season all round. Even as Mumbai slowly picks itself up yet again after the innumerable attacks on its flourishing life, we in more sober Chennai hope the rains will stop soon so that we can welcome our own special music season! Here's to another great music season!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
1. Is the season very special to musicians?
2. What will be the highlights in your concerts this year?
3. What is your favorite venue?
4. Are concerts in the season different to others?
5. Do you think more youngsters are attending the concerts these days?
6. Is there an overdose of music in Chennai during the season? Could it not be cut down and staggered throughout the year?
7. How do you take care of your voice?
8. Any special moments from the season that you can recall?
And some typical answers
1. The season is the most important period in a carnatic musician's performing schedule. The sheer no of concerts, the pressures of performing before the very knowledgeable Chennai audience and the hype created by the rasikas and media makes it special in more ways than one.
2. I am planning to add a number of new songs to my repertoire. I have also been working on some special items, the details of which I cannot disclose at the moment.
3. The Music Academy
4. They are very different for some of the reasons said earlier.
5. Definitely this is a very welcome and positive trend. After all it is the youngsters who will take this art form forward.
6. Definitely not. It is the volume that makes the season what it is. But it would be nice if the sabhas can come together and get into some sort of understanding but it is very difficult.
7. I rest my voice adequately, do not answer too many phone calls, and have strict control over my diet.
8. Many moments among them the visit of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer to my concert in the Music academy.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Once I was in Tambiraju mama's house watching a cricket match (we never had television in our house for a long time) and Venu mama just walked in. He asked me "What song are you learning now?" I said "Maa ramanan" in Hindolam. He asked me next "Ah good. Have you heard TMT sing this?" I said no but the முந்திரிகொட்டை (eager beaver) that I was, I immediately said I have heard of a GNB recording. He just brushed it aside and gave me a stellar demonstration of how TMT had sung it. It was terrific and his voice intonation also sounded exactly like TMT. Many years later I got a recording of TMT singing that same song and realised what he had meant then.
Another day he walked in and asked me if I heard the Mali radio program that morning. I said no and he immediately sang a few choice phrases of Pantuvarali (or the original Ramakriya as some should call but do not do so) and said that was what made Mali such a genius. He once said about a renowned Justice of the High court who was also a much sought after 'chief guest' in music functions, "I don't know which is worse his knowledge of English or his knowledge of Law!"
Once there was a detailed discussion about Ramnad Krishnan and how he was one of the most underrated musicians of his time. Venu mama insisted that Ramnad Krishnan suffered from a weak voice that was unsuited for concert performance especially in the times when people still considered volume an essential ingredient for a good voice. If one's voice was softer (பூஞ்சை) then they were asked to take up an instrument. This was why Krishnan was never too popular with the masses, though he was musicians' musician. I was sitting next to Venu mama when Ramnad Krishnan's portrait was unveiled at the Music Academy for their 'Hall of fame' and TMT gave a stirring and emotional speech. As we came out, Venu mama proceeded to sing a delectable Sahana in true Ramnad style and said "you should listen to his rendition of Shri kalamambikayam!"
Once I was at home practicing when Venu mama dropped in. I was singing the Todi kriti "Nee dayaravale" and he just sat and heard it. Then he said that the alst time he heard anyone sing the sing was GNB many years back and immediately sang a brilliant GNB sangati in the charanam line. He then asked me to sing Kambhoji ragam. As I began in the style of my then favorite Alathur Subbayyar, he just stopped me and said "Chi Chi! Don't sing like this!" when I protested saying this is how Subbayyar sang, he just brushed it aside saying "Subbayyar can sing what he wants. You sing normally." He then launched into a terrific Kambhoji alapana and I understood what he meant. But then even today when I dig out some of those Subbayyar phrases in a concert I remember Venu mama!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 8 - Happy Deepavali!
Moving away from music just a bit, the first thing noticeable this morning is the very very limited amount of crackers being burst. The noise is just picking up but it really is nothing compared to the days we were growing up. Yesterday a group of over 40s at my son's swimming pool were recalling the cracker types like the unpredictable aeroplane, the train that moved on a piece of string, the paper snake that swirled ahead on the ground, the 'vengaya vedi' that you could smash on the floor and that ugly black tablet called a snake that when lit up grew in some obscene shape with an even more obscene smell! My dad went some decades earlier to recall thing like the 'olai vedi' which I have never seen but only heard of.
Finally whenever I sang an alapana at home in clas with my grand aunt Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan, she would aske me to sing an 'out sangati' and I never understood the meaning of it. Apparently the 'out' was a type of firecracker that just lit up like a flower pot and burst suddenly. She explained that GNB always sang some sangatis like the 'out' but then can we mere mortals even dream of such 'out' sangatis! Like the 'out' vedis the sangatis have also gone out of vogue. Happy Deepavali!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 7 - Answering some questions
Disclaimer: These answers will be deemed as inspiration for other musicians to use when answering such similar questions. Any strong resemblances will not be considered coincidental.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Note: I have closed the comments on this post. I think I have enough questions for the moment. Thanks to everyone who posted immediately. Meanwhile you can still email me with questions and hopefully I'll take them up in future episodes. Am off to record the next episode and get it online soon.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
One of the main reasons for the revival of the RTP in modern day concerts was the efforts taken by Sruti. In the eighties a series of RTP concerts were organised and it sparked off a trend with sabhas like the Academy insisting that musicians sing a pallavi in all the senior concerts. Sometime in the nineties Pattabhiraman got fascinated with the concept of 'raga' music whereby he felt that every aspect of carnatic music sought to portray the raga primarily. He wrote extensively on this and wanted to establish that even though kritis with their rich lyrical content emphasising on bhakti were performed extensively, they still used the raga as the main vehicle for exploration. The kriti was just another method for raga exploration. Unfortunately this concept did not take off in a very big way as Pattabhiraman expected.
In his last years Pattabhiraman concentrated a lot on his pet project Samudri. He had a mega vision to create a big one stop destination for all things carnatic. The plan was grandiose and Pattabhiraman with his long experience with the UN went about it in a systematic manner, planning and executing his vision. Unfortunately his death kind of put a stop to that completely and one doesn't know what happened to all that was collected including money and material like photographs, recordings, books etc.
Today, Sruti still enjoys a premier status as an English magazine dedicated to carnatic music. Its modern look and feel under the new management is definitely more impressive that its earlier avatars. Hopefully the content will also come upto scratch soon.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The second instance was a concert at the Kasturi Srinivasan Hall for the inauguration of the S Kalyanaraman Trust in memory of his 1st death anniversary. I had sung Todi as the main piece. After the concert my guru told me "The beginning stages of the alapana you did well. But later you realised that you are a performer and had to do a few things to please the audience. I don't blame you for this." Again I never got what he meant. Several years later I realised it was probably the "Gentleman" in him chiding the "Player" in me!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The first day featured Prasanna Venkatraman with RK Shriramkumar and Neyveli Venkatesh. He is a talented youngster who was trained by Smt TR Balamani in Mumbai. He moved to Chennai and has since also had training with Shri TK Govinda Rao.
The next day featured Sandeep Narayan with MA Krishnaswamy and K Arun Prakash. Sandeep was born and brought up in Los Angeles. He learnt from his mother Smt Shubha Narayan. He also took a year long break from school and spent the time in India learning from my guru Shri Calcutta Krishnamurthi. The last few years after completing his studies he has been living here in Chennai.
The third day was V Bharath Kumar with MR Gopinath and Trichy Harikumar. Bharath is the son of musician Smt Suguna Varadachary. He has also learnt from my Guru besides learning the violin from Shri M Chandrasekharan.
The fourth day featured B Swarnarethas with S Varadarajan and P Satish Kumar. Swarnarethas had early training from Smt Indira Ramanathan. He also learnt the mrudangam from Ramanathapuram MN Kandaswamy Pillai.
Overall it was a satisfactory experience for me. It has been a long time since I went out and sat through four complete concerts on consecutive days. I must specially thank each and every one of the accompanying artistes who did a wonderful job to inspire these youngsters. I spent some thought into putting together the list of accompanists for these concerts. I wanted musicians who were popular, skilled and experienced. They also had to be people who were accompanists in the true sense of the word. They would not be big names with bloated egos who wanted to constantly remind these musicians of their stature. Instead the accompanists all played with sincerity and exuded so much warmth on stage. Everyday I could see the tension in the youngsters' faces at the beginning of the concert. Everyday I could see that as the concert progressed, they loosened up to relax and give their best. This is the inspiration that youngsters seek from senior accompanists and I am so happy that they got it from them.
Special thanks to Jaya of Ragasudha hall for giving the right ambience and to all the rasikas who came in to support this venture. Thanks are also due to Suresh and Charu of Charsur. They have recorded these concerts and will be putting them up online for people to download.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
17 concerts in 35 days can be quite exhausting but my experience has been more on the lines of a great workout at the gym. Am feeling so refreshed and ready to get back home and start looking forward to more activity. US tours have a way of rounding off one's music. I always felt that my first tour in 1995 was the one that convinced me that I could take music as a serious full time career. After several such tours today my mind is already thinking about the things that I tried here, managed to pull off, flopped here and there. I am already excited about taking them up in India especially in the music season. For instances I sang some RTPs in ragams that I had not done in past like Desh and Dwijavanti. I was particularly happy with the latter as I had struggled with it in the past. I must say that a recording of TNS that I found and some help and encouragement from Nagai Muralidharan helped me along more than anything else.
It felt good to catch up with a few old friends from previous tours and things have hardly changed. Yes the price of gas has gone up, so has the cost of food in airports not to mention Starbucks. But I made a start by getting used to some of the black coffee served on the planes especially Southwest and this basically took care of my daily quota of caffeine. The disappointment was not being able to keep up with a thirteen year tradition of visiting Dayton, Ohio this time.
So after all that the last concert was probably the longest day of the tour. On saturday last we had just wrapped up the concert at Austin, TX and went to sleep only by about 1 am. We had a flight to catch the next morning at 7 am. So we got up on Sunday at 4 am. We reached the airport only to discover that the flight was delayed. As it is we were due to arrive only at 1.40 pm in Boston and they had already postponed the concert by an hour to 5 pm. By the time we landed in Charlotte to catch our connection it was 12 noon.We had to traverse the entire airport in Charlotte to reach our gate and the walk was a good 25 minutes even at a brisk pace and I am reasonably fit at the moment I tell you. We just had time to grab a bite before we boarded the flight especially given that it was lunch time and there were long queues at all the food joints. We landed in Boston at 3 pm and had to wait 35 minutes for our baggage to arrive. US Airways yesterday put the Indian Airlines of old to shame! We finally managed to reach the venue directly from the airport experiencing a bit of the famed 'Boston dig' and missing our way as the GPS got as confused as everyone else.
We still managed to start the concert on time after a few visits to the restroom who's location was the farthest I have seen on the tour from the performing stage. Thankfully the concert went well and the audience was in a more forgiving mood to tolerate what I managed. The saving grace was that I pulled off the Dwijavanti in the midst of all this. I think the adrenalin was pumping more because it was the end of the tour. After the concert we reached the hosts' place only to find the outside temperature at the lowest since we landed 5 weeks back! So in what was the longest day of the tour we had so many different varying experiences that more than made up for everything else to give us the usual well rounded US tour experience that we may have missed!
Things haven't stopped because I reached the airport and found an attendant telling me that my reservation has been canceled and I cannot get back home! So finally after more talk and explaining etc etc I am here at the gate waiting for the announcement to board the flight. I am probably writing more of this because things have gone like clock work and a special special thanks to Bhargavi Sundarrajan for planning and executing things to perfection.
Ps: Sitting in Brussels airport with access to the net I think I can finally post this today.
Friday, October 3, 2008
The reason I bring this up today is because such a distinction also existed some decades back in Carnatic music. My guru and grand aunt Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan, who was also an A grade artiste at the All India Radio always called herself an amateur (in a cricketng parlance that would make her a Lady!) and she identified several such people like her in the musical community. These amateurs were all either family women who sang mostly only on the radio or corporate executives who also performed regularly on the radio.
As far as performing skill goes there was not much of a dividing line between these amateurs and the successful professional concert artistes. But the main difference was that the amateurs were very very happy being just that. They never aspired to sing in all the major sabhas or music festivals. They were very happy singing their radio concert once every 2 months. Those were the days when the AIR was not yet privatised. The managed made a concerted effort to present classical music very regularly. The top artistes gave atleast 5-6 concerts a year. These amateurs also would sing probably at the odd family kalyanam maybe after the muhurtham before lunch is served or just during or after the nalangu or after the nischayathartham and leave the main reception concert to the pros.
In today's time also there are a number of such amateurs all over the world. Many of them live in places like the US for instance. They spend every minute of their spare time practicing. They teach a number of kids here and bring them upto a decent level before the more ambitious parents decide to send them to the pros in India. Some of these amateurs are involved in community activity also musically. The get a group to organise say a Tyagaraja Aradhana or a Composers day. They definitely get involved in the committee f some of the musical organisations and provide the expert angle when discussions happen regarding selection of the artistes for the next spring or fall season.
Some of them do try and compare themselves with the pros and know that they are so much better. I for instance know that there some excellent musicians who can sing an elaborate Narayanagowla or Balahamsa and put any pro including myself to shame. I have heard them and felt so depressed at my inability to sing as well. The only difference is that the pros took the plunge. They sacrificed a lot to take up music as a career. They may not be as good sometimes but they can definitely hold an audience. The challenge to a pro more than anything else is to get people to pay money to come and listen to them. So if the pros are dominating the concert scene it is because they are performers. They entertain. They keep people occupied for 2-3 hours. People are willing to spare time and money to come and listen to them. Afterall carnatic music today is competing with so many more alternate forms of entertainment including reading my blog at this moment or playing on the Nintendo Wii or watching a tear jerker on Sun TV. As I Player I take my hat of to all those Gentlemen and Ladies!
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
One of the big pluses in a concert tour of the US is the frequency of the concerts and the work that we have to put in continuously. Also the concert time space in which we operate is much more relaxed and it gives us the freedom to experiment and play with so many different facets of the music. Secondly when I look back on the different tours that I have made my mind still goes back to the first tour in 1995. This really was a sort of coming of age tour for me. I gave close to 25+ concerts all in excess of 3 hours. For an upcoming musician who had been used 2+ hours of singing concerts in India this was a significant step up. You start setting small challenges to yourself. No repetition of songs until the RTP, no repetition of RTP ragams etc etc. This then makes you dig into your repertoire and start singing songs that you normally were not singing in concerts back home. Again when coming up with song lists back then there was the additional challenge to balance between the familiar and unfamiliar songs. Back then there was also this big discussion forum on the usenet newsgroup rec.music.indian.classical and posts would come up giving song lists details etc. Atleast the statistical value of song lists helped in keeping up the pressure of not repeating songs more than anything else.
The times when the bulletin boards in Sangeetham were active, there was frequent updates of song lists and multiple posts discussing the value of the concert just based on reading this. For instance the presence of Trinity compositions or Tamizh compositions brought in different reactions immediately. Back in the pre internet days, when we went around attending concerts during the music season and elsewhere a song list was never considered important. Afterall we never noted down all the songs. We only remembered what stood out in a concert. Sometimes it was the main korvai, or a simple sangati in a ragamalika viruttam, or a gap being filled up by the violinist during a neraval phase or just a smile by the main artiste at a front ranking artiste seated in the first row after singing a familiar phrase with a secret history behind it.
Sometimes when I see internet reports of concerts and reactions and people emailing me or calling me to discuss the same I just say "Are you listening to the concert or to the song list???"
More coming up
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 6 - Chat with Charubala of Charsur Digital Workstation Part 2
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 6 - Chat with Charubala of Charsur Digital Workstation Part 2
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 5 - Chat with Charubala of Charsur Digital Workstation Part 1
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 5 - Chat with Charubala of Charsur Digital Workstation Part 1
Friday, August 15, 2008
Ramesh Swamy, the chief architect and driving force behind the SGBS is an old friend of mine. We have enjoyed a long relationship and I have been singing quite regularly at his festival. I still remember more than 10 years ago when he called met to ask me to sing as a replacement for Trichur Ramachandran, who had to opt out. It was my wedding anniversary and I was reluctant to travel. But he agreed to get my wife also along with me. The concert was even more memorable because it was the first concert that Nagai Muralidharan accompanied me. I called him the previous night and told him that it would be an honour to perform with him. His first response to me was "You remind me of S Kalyanaraman so much!" What more could I have asked for!
Anyway the venue has a lot of teething problems and things should get sorted out in the coming years. The first of course is the bad quality of the approach roads and the rain did not help things yesterday. Secondly like a lot of newly built venues it takes time for people to warm up and generate the kind of buzz and ambience that one is used at the SGBS venue in Ulsoor. This will happen in due course so it is not good to compare the two at the moment. For instance when the Narada Gana sabha was inaugurated it had a similar problem and people were unfairly comparing it to the Music Academy. Over time the place has managed to create its own ambience and acquired a character that is quite unique making it one of the premier concert venues in Chennai. Similarly I am sure the Unnati centre with sustained exposure to music concerts will gradually acquire an identifiable character and artistes and rasikas will start enjoying it much more.
Of course I am not taking anything away from yesterday's experience on the other hand. It was great and the numbers that turned up inspite of the nightmarish traffic and rain was so encouraging. I was not happy to stop after singing for 3 hours and 15 minutes! As I was just getting on to stage I joked with Ramesh Swamy's dad that I will not allow Ramesh to make his customary speech if he did not arrive in time when I started the varnam. As I began the Reetigowla varnam I was happy to see Ramesh stroll in! As the concert progressed and I was ending the main alapana there was movement in the audience as a couple of women took on a plate to pass it around for contributions. This is a huge distraction to the musicians on stage. This is more so in a compact environment like yesterday's. I am used to this in the old SGBS venue but then there is a very open feel to the place and the temple atmosphere also helps. So one is not bothered as much. But here the distraction a bit more. I hope Ramesh can look at putting 7 or 8 contribution boxes around the hall and people take the cue rather taking out the plate right in the middle of the concert.
The next was the interruption for the vote of thanks. Ramesh has a reputation of extending it to almost 20 minutes sometimes. I always feel that this really brings down the tempo of the concert and calls for a substantial effort to get it back on track especially if one wants to sing an RTP. I am happy if this is done after the pallavi. I actually had an extended conversation and succeeded in getting Ramesh to postpone his speech. The net result was that some sponsors who were waiting had to leave. My suggestion would be to honour sponsors in the beginning of the concert itself. And please allow me to finish my RTP before you can start your speeches. Semmangudi once told me that he had a deal with Palghat Mani Iyer. The tani avartanam would normally not take more than 10-12 minutes. He felt that his voice would get dry and he found it difficult to get it back on track quickly. That was why Mani Iyer also played a second tani after the pallavi. I am not making an appeal to mrudangam artistes to shorten their tani. I am only appealing to organizers to shorten their speechifyings!!!
Overall I am so happy that Ramesh has got his dream project running. He is an avid music enthusiast and has been working tirelessly for many many years. I have stayed at his place on numerous occasions and the entire family including his wife Valli, children and parents treat the whole festival as a family function. I am sure Unnati will take off to greater heights and I personally am looking forward to my annual performance for the SGBS at the new venue. An email I received this morning from a friend who was at the concert sums things up "don't you love the gentleman Ramesh Swamy; i looked him up in the dictionary and he was listed under kindness!"
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Firslty times have changed. Technology has moved into our lives so quickly that we are learning to do a number of things very differently to what we were used to. Let us take the case of microphones. Electronic audio has taken over music performance in a very big way and there is no way it can be avoided. Musicians in the early twentieth century were used to singing without the mic. These concerts were held in a temple atmosphere in one of those thousand pillared halls where even the echo of a snap of your fingers in amplified very well. Singers sang at a high pitch and continued to do so even after their voice broke. My personal theory is that if their voices broke they may have even been discarded as voices unsuitable for singing and asked to take up an instrument! This is not the case with musicians of a later generation. A number of musicians like Musiri, Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, GNB etc all started out at the end of the non-mic era with higher srutis and gradually as mics entered, they lowered their sruti.
The succeeding generations grew up completely with the mic. Classic case is a musician like Dr BMK, who born in 1930, made a highly successful, original and revolutionary style of singing, modulating his voice using the mic intelligently. Coming to our own generation we automatically grew up singing with the mic. Even a couple of songs at a Tyagaraja aradhana was sung with a mic. So can a concert take place in the modern era without mic and what are the challenges.
Firstly the auditorium must be acoustically designed to not have mics. If this is not so the sound will not carry and reach people, unless the audience is 3 people and the place is the drawing room of your house! Secondly, accompanists especially the mrudangam, will have to restraint hemselves completely to avoid dominating the voice. This is again difficult for them because they are not used to it, and their enthusiasm will definitely get the better of them in a concert atmosphere in front of a receptive audience. When this happens, the singer not used to this will have to shout more. It is like two people having a conversation in a marriage hall with noise all round. Each will try to be louder than the other without knowing if they can be audible or not! When singing with mic, the feedback that one gets helps musicians to judge the amount of volume of the voice as well.
In my personal experience I have given several non-mic concerts. The most recent being one in Europe. The best part was that they provided mics with monitor speakers just for feedback, whilst the audience listened to the true sound as they would like to call it. Since we had feedback we never bothered about the volume and the experience was very good for us. The audience also enjoyed themselves and the excellently designed auditorium was one of the main reasons for this. Sometime in the seventies Palghat Mani Iyer started a campaign to revive non-mic concerts. A senior musician once remarked "Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha had a micless Vina concert by Mysore Doreswamy Iyengar with Mani Iyer. We all heard a three hour Tani Avartanam!"
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
All this changed over time. Back then it was still only monthly concerts until they started having an annual series in 1993 to coincide with their 20th ( or was it their silver jubilee) anniversary. I still remember the occasion because Shri Krishnaswamy of Narada Gana Sabha presided over the function and my concert followed. Since then I have enjoyed going to Madurai every year to sing in their annual festival. The year I missed was when my son was born in August 2000. Since then microphones had entered the hall upon insistence from one particular star artiste specifically according to well informed sources! The said artiste also protested against the non clapping and got it changed. With the result things are as they are everywhere else.Years later Shri Kamalam Thyagarajan, former President of the sabha, flautist and designer of an electronic sruti box, came to me after my concert and said "Do you know that your grand mother never needed a mic to sing when she performed here." I quietly replied "Sir, I did not need one either, if you remember!"
Monday, August 4, 2008
Earlier the first concert to be uploaded was my concert sung at the TTD in Chennai in June. A number of people have already evinced interest in this venture and though there have been some hiccups, hopefully things are getting more streamlined. Yesterday's launch of course featured a concert by Swarnarethas a student of mine with V Sanjeev, Srimushnam Raja Rao and EM Subramaniam. I managed to get in an hour of the concert. Of course I am not going to review a concert of my own student, but I thought that it was a lovely gesture on the part of the accompanying artistes to support and encourage a youngster. I personally did benefit so much from many seniors (I continue to benefit!), and I am happy that Charsur has taken the initiative and soon more musicians will benefit.
An important aspect of this venture is a step towards making people feel worthy about spending money. The concert itself was only by invitation, but once it is made available online, it is an opportunity for paying rasikas to support the artistes. For instance it would be difficult to get people to buy tickets and line up at an afternoon slot concert during the music season. But then when the same artistes' music is available online it is a chance for rasikas to legally pay and download and encourage such artistes to take it up as a profession. Afterall unless their art is supported in this manner, how can they think of taking it up as a profession? Also the download system works on a micropayment method whereby people can download just a couple of songs if not the whole concert. The recording quality will also be much better and more in tune with the modern standards set by Charsur through their live releases.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 4 - Violin accompaniment and other stuff
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
A few years back I had the good fortune of spending about 10 days with AKC in Cleveland and it was most memorable in more ways than one. This was my first encounter with him and he came across as a very warm individual who hardly had any traces of arrogance or seniority. This is very rare as I have come across several senior musicians who were so full of themselves and more than eager to stamp their personality on you rather than their music! Nadaswara vidwan Seshampatti Sivalingam, had also come with us in that trip. I still remember at Chicago airport as we were waiting to clear our baggage, he came up to AKC and said "How is that when we hear you play, there is no difference in the sound between the clarinet and the nadaswaram?" He said that he had pulled out a few of the keys in the instruemnt and modified it so that he ppaid it mroe like a nadaswaram than as a conventional clarinet. Which is why he was able to reproduce most of the nadaswara gamakas and phrases.
During the entire week in Cleveland I was the honorary coffee maker at the Comfort Inn lobby at Cleveland for several musicians like AKC, Vina Venkatraman and Vellore Ramabhadran. In the afternoons I would just walk into AKC's room and have a chat with him about various things.After a couple of days he told me "Please come to room tomorrow and sing for some time. I want to warm my fingers and get ready for the concert!" So I went and he took his instrument and started playing along as I sang. After a while he got so enthused and put down his instrument and started singing himself. And how well he sang! I still remember a Karaharapriya alapana that he sang. Vellore Ramabhadran was also there and he joined in and there was a terrific imromptu jam session!
AKC also had an impish sense of humour. Once he said, "I'll teach you a song. Once you start singing it in your concerts, young girls will just be queueing up soon!" And guess what he sang for me "Oho kaalame" in Sahana. I asked him for the notation and he promised to give it to me. Later I found a recording of Dandapani Desigar singing that and song and learnt it immediately. AKC also gave me pointers to a lot of compositions that he ahd learnt and hoefully I will be able to get it all in soon. He told me that when he started out there was a lot of oppositeion among nadaswara vidwans. Whenever he came to temple festivals, the nadaswara vidwans would ask him to stay back as his instrument was only a "band vadyam" or an instrument from the European band and not a traditional temple instrument. But his hard work, dedication and efforts finally paid off and today he stands apart as an oustanding exponent of carnatic music who has proved himself to be bracketed with the best among the best in modern nadaswara music.
The Academy has also not been too kind to ndaswara vidwans. In fact in its 80 year existence only 3 nadaswara vidwans have been given the SK. It is also most fitting that this is given in the year of the centenary of SSI, because Semmangudi himself was one of the great fans of Nadaswaram and he would have been most happy withthis choice.
Monday, July 28, 2008
As I was going to the concert, I generally was thinking about what to sing etc. There was this pressure to sing a 'Semmangudi' list. Ideally I would have dug into my repertoire and come up with say
Entho prema - Surati varnam
Suryamurthe - Saurashtram
Gnanamosaga rada - Poorvikalyani
Appan avadaritta - Karaharapriya / Marubalka - Sriranjani
Chetashri - Dwijavanti / Shri ramam - Narayanagowla
Gajavadana - Todi / Amba Kamakshi - Bhairavi
Nee bhajan gana - Nayaki
RTP - Sankarabharanam / Kambhoji
Palayamamayibho - Khamas
aravinda padamalar - Kapi
Slokam - Ragamalika
Sapasya - Jonpuri
But then except for the Jonpuri piece I did not sing the above list. The reason I just came up with the above list is that concerts dedicated to muscians are generally song lists of the said musicians! This is just a more modern trend from the last 20 odd years. Now let us say for instance there was a Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer centenary concert about 30/40 years ago. Would musicians of that generation have thought about these things? For instance if Semmangudi had sung that concert he would have probably just sung the above 'Semmangudi' list rather than a 'Maha' list. Some years back I had gone to sing a Tyagaraja aradhana concert in Trichy. The organiser was Shri Alathur Tyagarajan who also happened to be the son of the late Alathur Subbayyar. So in tune with the trend I sang a typical Alathur list - Nenendu - Karnataka Behag, Rama nee vadu - Kalyani, etc etc with Evarimata in Kambhoji. I still remember violinist RK Shriramkumar remarking after the concert, "It is better to label this a Subbayyar aradhana than a Tyagaraja aradhana!"
The main reason for such lists appearing in such memorial concerts is the unbelievable influence that musicians like Semmangudi had on musicians and listeners. Also the availability of tape recordings in plenty keeps the rasikas minds fresh with the memory of their heroes. For instance yesterday I sang Parvati nayaka in Bhouli as the main piece. I got an email today from a friend/musician who heard a few old timers remarking in the auditorium "He is singing all this Hyder kaalatthu paattu!" The music of people like Semmangudi will linger for a long long time and was most evidenced yesterday, when Shri Kamalnath, the President of the Gayana Samaja, said "Sanjay sang Saravanabhava in Sanmukhapriya as a tribute to Semmangudi!" The power of Semmangudi and his music is so great that even after three hours of my singing, (Which also I personally consider as my own tribute to the great man!) the three and a half minute piece was the first to be recalled! This was only because Semmangudi's Saravanabhava was a huge hit in Bangalore. As an aside, Ramnad Krishnan was singing a concert at Bangalore the same day as Semmangudi also. A rasika in Ramnad Krishnan's concert got up and shouted "Saravanabhava please!" Ramnad Krishnan replied with a wry smile, "It is not too late. You can take a bus and reach the 'other' venue and hear 'him' sing it!!!"
Finally it was an amazing audience yesterday. I really felt one among everyone. Thanks so much and it was a pleasure to be there!
Friday, July 25, 2008
Today is the birth centenary of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, in my opinion, one of the most influential of all carnatic musicians in the 20th century. I use the term influential mainly because that is what I can remember. His influence through his singing, his teaching, his professional life, his wit, his stage presence, his wisdom etc etc etc. A complete and thorough run through of his life would give innumerable pointers to musicians like me to follow and emulate. After all what more can be more influential than making people of his ilk follow him!
His music has been analysed threadbare and so has his life and career by many many people. This will continue for a long time to come and so I am not going to add anything of great value except my own personal views. In the early eighties I was such a rabid GNB fan that Semmangudi was enemy no 1 in my list! My grandfather Tyagu was a huge Semmangudi fan and periodically admonished me for holding such a view. But then that view was partly mine becaue of some of the stories that Tyagu himself had narrated! Which is of course another issue. It all started changing in the late eighties and musical company friends widened out of my immediate family. One main guy to make change my opinion was KR Subramaniam, flautist, disciple of N Ramani and a very close friend of mine. He was a huge Semmangudi buff and had a great collection of tapes. His access to GNB tapes was much less and so began a process of exchanges that made the way for both of us to enrich ourselves.
The first tape that he gave me was a concert with TNK and Pazhani, an old Academy concert with Kalyani RTP, and a slick Narayangowla ragamalika swaram. The alapana and tanam was an eye opener to me about this great musician. We came to the conclusion that Semmangudi's music should not be judged with the recording of concerts after the mid seventies. Afterall the man was already 65+ by then! Sometime in 1988 I had gone to sing in the Sridhara Ayyaval Utsavam in Tiruvisainallur. This was a very very important festival and many great musicians had made their mark there. It also happened to be the native place of my great grandmother and I continue to go there as often as I can. I did get a chance to sing there first only because of my lineage than my musical abilites :) Anyway what I was coming to was that, after I finished singing a seventy year old man came up to me and asked me if I was Tyagu's grandson. He then said that he and Tyagu were childhood buddies and the streets of Tiruvisainallur withessed heated arguments between the Maharajapuram and Semmangudi bands of rasikas, the former led by him and the latter by Tyagu! Many years later SSI himself once asked me if I had any roots with Tiruvisainallur and said that the Ayyaval utsavam was quite prestigious in his times and he particularly enjoyed the audience there.
I had the opportunity to meet up with the great man on many occasions but there are just two stories that I want to say today. My guru Shri KSK had told me that narayanagowla was a dying ragam and the only person who could still do justice was Semmangudi. He recalled an elaborate Shri Ramam that he had heard in a concert in Bangalore. Once when I was at SSI's residence I casually remarked that I wanted to learn Shri ramam from him. He said no problems any time and we left it at that. It was January 1st 2000 and I ran into him at the Academy in the morning. He asked me if I was just threatening to learn that song from him or if I was serious at all! I immediately asked him if I could come then and followed him to his house. He taught me the whole song in about 45 minutes and it was most enlightening and inspiring. The man was already 92 but the energy, enthusiasm, power in his voice and the quickness to make any corrections of the silly mess ups that I was continuously making was remarkable! He even asked me why I did not bring a notebook with me to write down the lyrics not the notation mind you!! I went back home and came again a few days later to sing and show him if it was ok. He just smiled and went on talk about other issues.
The other longer story is the entire day I spent with him in December 2002, when I accompanied him to Mumbai. He was to receive the National Eminence award from the Shanmukhananda Award. It was the first time they had introduced this and it carried a one lakh cash award. I was also chosen to receive the Shanmukha Sangeetha Shiromani on that same day. A few months back, when I knew about this I asked SSI if he was going to Mumbai. He asked me what was the matter. I told him that he has going to get a lakh of rupees. He gave a mischievous smile and said that if that were so he has to go! I told him that I was also selected to go and he he was immediately thrilled and told me that I had to escort him. That plane journey and the day I spent there with him was most memorable and some of the stories are better narrated in a podcast that I'll probably do soon. But there were two things that were significant in that trip. One was his power of observation, the moment we left the Mumbai airport and entered Dharavi, he recognised the place and asked me if it was the same. Secondly after the function, he called me and asked me if what they had given was a cheque or a draft. He said "If it is a cheque we have to lose bank charges!"
Happy birthday Semmangudi mama!!!!
Monday, July 21, 2008
1. Govinda's Sangraha Chudamani gives the dhaivata of Abheri as a Trishruti which is higher than the suddha dhaivata and lower than the chatussruti dhaivata.
2. Coming to nagumomu Amy Catlin quotes two sources - The Walajapet manuscripts and Vina Kuppayyar's notebooks where the raga name is not mentioned at all. Sambamoorthy has identified a total of 83 such ragas where the names were not mentioned and Abheri is one of those.
3. The first known publication of nagumomu with swara notation was the Sangita sarvartha sara sangrahamu the raga for nagumomu is mentioned as Nagavarali a janya of mela 8. This is an 1885 publication. Tachur Singaracharlu in their 1877 publication also mention nagumomu as Abheri but without any swara notation. Chinnaswami Mudaliar's Oriental Music in Staff notation (1892) was to have had nagumomu as per a list of songs circulated in advance soliciting money, but was never printed.
4. The first known performer of nagumomu was Sarabha Sastri on the flute who was a disciple of Manambuchavadi Venkatasubbayyar.
5. The reference to Madurai Pushpavanam having sung Abheri is referred from an eyewitness account narrated in Rangaramnuja Iyengar's book. (This is probably the reference Ram was thinking about when he made the comment in the earlier post) Rangaramanuja Iyengar has also said that Pushpavanam sang the trissruti dhaivatam. (My personal view and more or less what Ram had echoed earlier is that this trissruti dhaivatam could have easily morphed into the chatussruti dhaivatam when Musiri sang it. But more practically a trissruti dhaivatam would have sounded more like an off sruti chatussruti dhaivatam to a modern ear!)
6. Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer was the next to sing nagumomu. He was inspired by Pushpavanam. He also borrowed from Hindustani music and consistently mixed Bimpalas in his renditions. This could be another direct result of nagumomu acquring its modern form.
7. By 1930 the modern nagumomu had become very popular. The raga lakshana discussions in the Academy were more conservative and ruled that Abheri was a janya of the 20th mela. But musicians like Tiger and Muthiah Bhagavatar commented that that d2 should be allowed in tune with times.
8. Among other things the conclusion of the article says "it is possible for two entirely different forms of the raga to exist today, each associated with different compositions, and for a variety of forms to be permissible in the performance of nagumomu"
The only thing missing in the above article is any reference or mention of Devagandhari.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Click below to listen
The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 3 - On Semmangudi with Sriram V
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
My source for this has been entirely Hema Ramanathan's Ragalakshnasangraha, fantastic work, that collects the raga descriptions from various musical treatises.
1. Sangraha Chudamani (SC) - Karnata Devagandhari - Born from Keeravani mela
2. Sangeetha Sara Sangrahamu (SSS) - Karnataka Devagandhari - Born from Keeravani mela
3. Mahabharata Chudamani (MC) - Karnataka Devagandhari - Born from the Keeravani mela
4. Raga Lakshana - Karnataka Devagandhara - No raga description but the verse on Malavi (under the 21st mela which is Keeravani) ends with the Andhra text version of three ragas one of which is Karnataka Devagandhara.
So this was probably a completey different raga as opposed to the Devagandhari of the 22nd mela! So now all musician has to do is sing an RTP in the scale s g m p n/ s n d p m g r in the Keeravani mela and call it the 'original' Karnataka Devagandhari!
Monday, July 14, 2008
Music Heritage and Music
Saturday, July 12, 2008
1. The raga I sang was S G M P N / S N D P M G R in the 22nd mela. The historical documentary evidence about this scale shows that this was called Devangandhari. Please not that originally it was not called Devangandharam or Karnataka Devagandhari as perceived by some. The scale is also the exact counterpart of the North Indian raga Bimpalas.
2. Abheri as per historical documentary evidence, is the same scale S G M P N / S N D P M D R in the 20th mela. Many musicians and musicologists have said in the past and continue to say that this was the raga in which Nagumomu was composed by Tyagaraja but the change to its present form was brought about and popularised by Musiri Subramaniya Iyer through his immortal 78 rpm record.
3. The 22nd mela janya scale could not be referred to by its 'original' name Devagandhari becasue of the presence of the more popular Kshirasagara and their like. This more popular Devagandhari was a completely different raga. So how could you have two different ragas with the same name?
4. The term 'Devangandharam' was taken only after finding that Dikshitar has used this word in his kriti 'Panchashat peetha roopini.' It is still a matter of contention whether that was a raga mudhra. Since the SSP (the last word on Dikshitar kritis and other issues for many) calls it only Devangandhari. Now it could be conveniently distinguished with two different names for the two ragas.
5. Now comes the term Karnataka Devagandhari - My take on this is that this was coined by Mysore Vasudevachar for his composition 'Bhajare bhaja manasa.' I cannot be sure about this but I remember people only referring to this song as Karnataka Devagandhari.
6. Since Bimpalas is a north indian raga it could be conveniently used for tukkadas and not kritis! So one found this being used to refer as the raga name for a song like say Vella tamarai.
Given this situation what can one call the raga I sang? I can call it Karnataka Devagandhari, Bimpalas or 'Xerox' Abheri if you like. The reason I choose to call it Abheri is that the most popular and well known song Nagumomu, sung in this exact same scale is referred to only as Abheri! Like Kamal Hassan said in the film Nayaka "Ask them to stop and I'll stop!" Let them stop calling the raga of the present day Nagumomu as Abheri and I'll do likewise.
Now let me present a different case and show that the parallel of what I have done is what the musical community has done over time. This is the case of the popular Pantuvarali. Almost 5 years ago I wrote and article on sangeetham.com asking "Is it really Pantuvarali?" I managed to hunt down that article and I am reproducing it below.
Pantuvarali is a fairly popular and well-known raga in Carnatic music. Just as G R Viswanath often went in "two down" in the Indian batting order, Pantuvarali has invariably been "one down" in a concert! That is the third piece after a varnam and a short, sharp piece.
But is the Pantuvarali that we commonly refer to the real Pantuvarali? A look at some of the historical facts surrounding this issue raises interesting questions. The common Pantuvarali that we all know is the 51st Melakarta - Kamavardhini. Now Kamavardhini found appearance only in the 19th century when the Kanakangi mela scheme was formed. Prior to that, this scale was always referred to only as Ramakriya. Also, as per the asampoorna mela paddhati, it was Kashiramakriya.
Now one proof that the current Kamavardhini was the old Ramakriya can be got from texts which give Dipakam as a janya of Ramakriya. The notes in Dipakam are exactly the 51st mela.
What happened to Ramakriya? Well Ramakriya, which has always been the 51st mela in the old texts, slowly got erased and replaced by Pantuvarali. For instance, some texts of Tyagaraja kritis give some songs as Ramakriya and some as Pantuvarali. 'Appa Rama bhakti' and 'Ennalu urage' are given as Pantuvarali whereas 'Vadera daivamu' and 'Shambho Mahadeva' are mentioned as Ramakriya.
Now coming to the other point in this whole issue. What was Pantuvarali? According to Venkatamakhi, Pantuvarali was the 45th mela or the current-day Shubhapantuvarali. According to the asampoorna mela paddhati, it was called Shivapantuvarali. So that probably explains 'Ennalu urage' being mentioned as Pantuvarali as it is sung predominantly as the current day 45th mela Shubhapantuvarali.
So, finally, we have a situation where Ramakriya has disappeared and become Kamavardhini. Pantuvarali has become Shubhapantuvarali. And Pantuvarali and Kamavardhini are the same today!
Thursday, July 10, 2008
The programme was a Live one and was scheduled at 7.40 AM and so I was there at the studios promptly at 7.00 o clock all excited. The only such previous experience as exciting as this was the morning of the first sub junior cricket match that I played for St Bede's against PSBB at the RKM ground! The entry was empty and I walked in to the lobby. There was a guy standing there, who asked me to fill up some particulars in a register and made me sit down.After about 10 minutes I got jittery and went up to him again to ask if some one was coming. He just motioned me away with a wave and I was back where I started on a chair in the lounge. At about 7.25 the mrudangist arrived and filled his name etc and sat down next to me. It was also his first programme and we hardly spoke to each other. At 7.30 another gentleman came in and motioned to both of us to follow him into the studio. We entered the studio and sat down. The AC was on full blst and the place was freezing. There was no Tambura artiste and I had brought along my sruti box. No electronic ones then and it was the old fashioned 'petti'. It was almost 7.35 and we were going on air in 5 minutes. I thought that there must be no violin for this because it was a youth programme. Just then the studio door opened and a disheveled old lady came walking in quietly with a violin box. It was Dwaram Mangathayaru. The clock was ticking and at 7.40 I looked up to see a red light flashing and an announcer just beginning to announce the programme details. As he was finishing up Dwaram madam quietly took out her violin. As I started Gajavadana in Sriranjani, she was just tuning her instrument softly and by the time the anupallavi started she had joined in enthusiastically!
After the program finished we walked to the duty room to collect our cheques and left, but not before being asked for 25 paise for a revenue stamp. I had no idea that this was required and I had no money on me. So I had to borrow from the mrudangist and that was that. After a couple of weeks I was at a concert and I saw this father of my mrudangist sitting and singing with another person. It was a concert of Tiruvarur Sethuraman and Kuzhikkarai Viswalingam and the man who's house I had been to was Viswalingam. The nadaswara vidwan's photo now made sense to me because it was that of Kuzhikkarai Pichayappa!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Charsur, the company for whom I have been exclusively recording my commercial and live albums, have today launched a new initiative. They will be offering select concerts as albums for download only. This means that these concerts will not be available as CDs, but rather as digital tracks only.
They have launched it with a concert of mine sung at the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), Chennai on May 31st 2008. The entire concert is now available for a download price of Rs 250/- or US$12.98. Individual tracks can also be downloaded separately. The concert is available at the link given below.
The speciality of this new feature is that Charsur are doing it entirely at just cost and sharing the complete revenues with all the artistes directly through a royalty system. This means that for every track downloaded, all the artistes, who participated in that concert will get a share of the revenue. This is a first as normally accompanists do not figure in the royalty scheme of things with most Indian carnatic music production houses. Charsur has also decided to forego their share of the profit and give it to the artistes. As and when they release further concerts of mine I'll put links up at the blog as well. Way to go Charsur!
Download Sanjay Subrahmanyan live at TTD
PS: When I began this blog, a few friends emailed me, saying that I should introduce a subscription model for the podcast, or atleast have a "Paypal donate" button like in most blogs, if not run Google ads. Personally I think this venture of Charsur is a sure shot better way, and if people who read this blog are genuine supporters of carnatic music, they will download legally distributed music by paying for it and ensuring that all artistes get their due.