Friday, December 19, 2008

Sriram V is blogging actively

In case people have missed it Sriram V has been blogging quite actively especially about the morning lec dems.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Chrompet has been an active centre for promoting Carnatic among the many Chennai suburbs. In the eighties the prominent music promoting suburbs were Nanganallur, Chrompet and Tambaram. Several small organisations were running annual and monthly music programmes typically for the local population who found it difficult to make the trip to Mylapore and T Nagar. My personal attachment to Chrompet goes back to the mid eighties. Chrompet had a sizeable young musician community. Led by the dynamic mrudangist, laya aficionado and TNS fan, Venkatavaradan, the Vasanta mandapam in Radha Nagar had a Tyagaraja Aradhana every eyar. Mr Seshandri as well as the Chrompet Cultural Academy also did their bit in organising concerts on a regular basis. There was also a financial nidhi company owned by musician Dr MBK and an auditorium there where concerts were held.

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

Kartik Fine arts

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
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Thursday, December 4, 2008

DR MBK's take on tradition - Interesting stuff.

MM Dandapani Desigar

My first introduction to Dandapani Desigar was through the film Nandanar. Though I had not seen the film, I did listen to the songs and enjoyed them, especially songs like Kaana vendaaamo, Pitham teliya, Iyye methakadinam. I had also heard the naamaavali 'Ennappan allavaa' being sung by Sethalapathy Balu at the bhajan sessions around the Kapali temple, but realised it was from Nandanar much later when I saw the film finally. My Guru Shri KSK always spoke highly of Desigar and his musical abilities. KSK introduced me to the compositions of Desigar like Unnai andri in Bhavani, Arulvaai angayarkanni in Dharmavati and Ennai nee maravade in Amrutavarshini. I came across a book of Desigar's compositions in my Guru's house and got intrigued by ragams like Tandavam and started singing it in ragamalika swarams etc. I was also introduced to the ragam Komalangi and a tune of Desigar's of the words Narayananai tuthippaai written by Raghava Ramanuja Dasar. Nearly 20 years back I heard a superb rendition of this song by Shri 'TAFE' Mahadevan, in a concert for the Rama Nama Yagna Mandali in Sastri hall. Incidentally Shri Mahadevan's grandson is cricketer Abhinav Mukund, who opens the batting for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji trophy and is in the Chennai Superkings team in the IPL - Just some trivia on the side! If I remember right, Shri Mahadevan also song Bhavani ragam followed by Unnai andri in that concert. I also started singing Komalangi in viruttams and ragamalika swarams. I even did an RTP once in Krishna Gana Sabha. Once after a concert in Bharath Kalachar, the stage and film actor ARS (remember the police IG who begs Kamal for help in the tamizh film Nayakan!) came up to me and said he liked Komalangi very much because it was the name of a drama character from an old historical play he had done! The next few times he came to my concert he kept asking me if Komalangi was on the agenda!

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 rishabha gandhara for some time. GNB hummed the phrases and found it had enough to be a ragam of its own and composed the song Samana rahite. Since the raga name was not known GNB decided to christen it Ramaasadani and TR Balu sang it on the radio. Desigar, after listening to the radio programme immediately called GNB and congratulated him and also said that the raga had an older name called Saaranga tarangini.

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.

The season has begun!

Ah! The season has begun yet again. I think this time I will try and write a bit more about whatever happens. Also maybe a couple more episodes of the podcast if I can just get myself the time I need for that. Definitely one more episode.

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

The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 9 - Chat with Subashri Tanikachalam

Chat with Subashri Tanikachalam, the producer of the highly successful Margazhi Utsavam on Jaya TV

Click below to listen

The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 9 - Chat with Subashri Tanikachalam