Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dec 2003 concert available for download from Charsur

Charsur has made available another concert of mine from the December season 2003. This was held on 5th of December 2003 at Narada Gana Sabha under the auspices of Karthik Fine Arts. The concert had MR Gopinath - Violin, Mannargudi Easwaran - Mrudangam and S Karthick - Ghatam as the accompanists. Click here for a review of that concert that appeared on the Hindu dated 19th Dec 2003. Interestingly Suresh of Charsur called me up and said that he was planning to release this concert but did not know who the accompanists were. I did a simple search on Google and came with a link to the concert review! The internet is just changing the way we do things completely.

Here is the link to the download page for the concert.

Download December Season 2003 Live concert for Karthik Fine Arts

Please support legal downloads and refrain from uploading these concerts to free servers as Charsur is making special arrangements for royalties from these downloadable concerts to reach all artistes including the accompanists.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Season kick off and Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri

Another season kicks off today with a concert for the Margazhi Maha Utsavam. I have been silent these past months on the blog. A couple of reasons. Travel has been hectic and the creative juices are not flowing. This is just a note to say that I do intend to keep this going in whatever way I can. The Jaya TV concert annually has been my season beginner and I do enjoy it so much. It is a concert where I can tap into this huge library of music and come up with compsitions that go on to occupy a regular place in my concert repertoire. In the eighties when I was still in the process of learning songs, the biggest motivation came from competitions and thematic concerts. Everytime there was a competition one had to learn many songs of a composer and thus one managed to expand one's repertoire. Later when I started performing there was an explosion of thematic concerts in Chennai. This gave me another opportunity to learn songs. Some of those themes from the early nineties that I have sung included Songs on Devi by Tyagaraja, Harikambhoji and its janyas, Ambujam Krishna songs, Papanasam Sivan songs, Koteeswara Iyer (a special recording for Charangi, then run by Mr RT Chari of Tag centre), Gopalakrishna Bharati special concert at Anandatandavapuram, Swati Tirunal, Compositions of Annamacharya, Bhadrachala Ramdas & Narayana Teertha, several concerts of Dikshitar kritis by Guruguhanjali where a songlist was given to me in advance and I hardly knew a single composition!

Jaya TV gives me the perfect space to work out a theme, do some 'data mining' and come with a list of songs. The thing I like about these concerts is that because of the tremendous reach of television so many people listen and come back to concerts with requests of the same. This kind of ensures that these songs do not die prematurely as a one off effort as in some cases. Instead they enjoy a decent lease of life and I also get to keep singing fresh songs rather than repeated requests from some of my old recorded commercial albums. I have also concentrated a lot on tamizh composers and compositions. After all it is the language I am most comfortable with. I grew up speaking it everyday!

This year's theme is interesting in that I have chosen an almost forgotten composer. Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri was a vaggeyakara in the true sense of the word. I have heard a senior musiclogist once mention about the composer Tiruvarur Ramaswamy Pillai as a 'vidwan' who also composed. So also were composers like Patnam, Poochi, Muthiah Bhagavatar, Papanasam Sivan and Mysore Vasudevacharya from the early days for the 20th century. Mayuram Viswanatha Sastri was a brilliant composer who unfortunately did not enjoy the patronage of performing musicians like many others. Only GNB and later DK Pattammal sang some of his songs. In fact his most popular song, Jayati jayati in Khamas became well known mostly thru GNB's record. There is a story that Jayati jayati made it to the final round for selection as the Indian national anthem. Another sidelight on Viswanatha Sastri is that the Music Academy had organised a competition to encourage vaggeyakaras and Viswanatha Sastri won the first prize.

During the eighties Viswanatha Sastri's brother Shri Vaitheeswaran used to conduct concerts dedicated to his compositions annually. I have heard concerts of musicians like Kalakkad Ramanarayana Iyer and Manakkal Rangarajan in Sastri hall singing these songs. After that nothing much was heard except that I know Vidwan Bagalore S Shankar belongs to Viswanatha Sastri's sishya parampara and has sung many of his songs. During the Jayalalitha Govt rule in Tamizh Nadu, Semmangudi had publicly asked for musicians to take up Viswanatha Sastri's Tirukkural madura keertanaigal to increase the presence of tamizh songs in concerts. In this connection the then Chief minister had awarded a financial grant to the Viswanatha Sastri family for popularising his compositions. At that time, a close relative of Viswanatha Sastri met me in Bangalore and gave me several of the books with his compositions and asked if we could do a recording sometime. Somehow I never got the time to sit down and examine the songs. Thankfully the Jaya TV concert has given me the perfect forum to bring out some of these hidden gems. As I perused the songs I was stunned by the musical quality of the songs I really felt bad for having ignored him. As in the case of Dandapani Desigar last year Viswanatha Sastri is another excellent composer who's songs need to be sung more on the concert stage.

Apart from his tirukkural madura keertanaigal, where he has set the tirukkural to music in kriti format, he has also composed songs like murugan madura keertanaigal, krishna madura keertanaigal and bharath bhajan - a collection of sanskrit songs with a patriotic fervour. He has also explored several composition forms like varnam, kriti, swarajati, ragamalika, folk tunes, nadai changes in songs etc. I really enjoyed learning up these songs and I hope rasikas will support this and more of his songs will become popular.

Looking forward to yet another season and hopefully a few more posts before the year is over!

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Knowledgeable Rasika - 2

Srinivasan has been quite active on the internet these days. He had seen places where people discuss carnatic music online. He loved these discussions. There was so much to be learnt from so many knowledgeable persons. Also the huge amount of music available online for download was such a boon. Any musical point was immediately demonstrated with a downloadable link to a piece of music. He started slowly posting about his own views and opinions. He had cultivated friendships online with a number of like minded music lovers from all over the world.

Last week he had posted a long detailed post on some rakti ragas like Mukhari and Dhanyasi and as a result found some rare recordings of Ramnad Krishnan posted online. He loved both these ragas and thought that a number of modern day artistes were ignoring them. He had gone to attend a family wedding in Coimbatore and met a distant uncle of his who was a long time lover of carnatic music. He had heard several of the great masters and would usually be happy to talk about his experiences. Here is a gist of the conversation.

S: Mama (in an excited tone) I have just got some very rare recordings of Mukhari and Dhanyasi alapanas.

Uncle: Oh! Where do you get all these?

S: From the internet. Nowadays you can get anything online. Have you heard any of the great masters sing these ragas in your times?

U: Let me see. These were generally considered minor ragas. It was only after Ariyakudi and Maharajapuram that these ragas were sung more often. My father used to tell me that in the early twentieth century they still sang only the major ragas like Kambhoji, Todi and Sankarabharanam. Ariyakudi wanted a lot of variety in his concerts and so he increased the number of compositions presented. This resulted in a need to learn up more songs so that he does not sound repetitive. Otherwise our music would have retained the creative aspect like Hindustani music.

S: But these are such beautiful ragas and so classical in their nature. Why are modern day musicians ignoring them? Look at the way Ramnad Krishnan sang these ragas.

U: Yes Ramnad Krishnan was an exceptional singer. But he was not very successful commercially. Listeners don't have the patience to listen to an elaborate Dhanyasi with intricate phrases. It is all right in front of a knowledgeable audience in a small place. For instance my father would tell me that he has heard Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer sing Narayanagowla. Even your so called great masters have not sung this ragam. When Maha sang Chakravakam nobody even knew the name of the ragam. Patnam Subramaniya Iyer composed a varnam in Balahamsa. Does anyone know what it is today? Afterall if Patnam thought a raga as rakti and created a major composition like an ata tala varnam, why did 'your' greats ignore it? Today you don't like it if someone sings some rare raga. But you don't mind something that was considered rare a 100 years back?? I don't understand your logic. In my father's time Ariyakudi was considered an upstart who had diluted carnatic music with his new kutcery bhani. Today he is hailed as a margadarshi. I have heard so many people lamenting about how Ariyakudi is primarily responsible for killing creativity in carnatic music. But Ariyakudi's success is enough to say that he was a man ahead of his times. You have to understand that especially in India people have to wait much longer to be recognised for their efforts in the larger scale of things. Also everything that attracts attention will not set a trend. GNB introduced a lot of innovations in his time. Not all of them have become a trend. For instance he sang Sanmukhapriya for 45 minutes. No musician is doing it these days. Even when they try they are so repetitive that it gets boring from the 6th minute. I am comparing GNB's music with today and saying this. But when my father heard GNB in the 40s he never liked it. He said that college students were unnecessarily hyping him up. Today you are so excited with the music of Ramnad Krishnan. But we all never considered him so great. He got away with singing minor ragas like Mukhari and Dhanyasi. I also see a lot of people getting excited over MDR. Have you heard the great Tiger? MDR was just a pale imitation! But then there is no access to Tiger's music today and so we have to be happy with what we get. One thing I can definitely tell after more than 60 years of listening to music. Thee will always be a group who preferred an earlier generation to the current performing generation. That is why the fans of Maha and Patnam don't like the fans of Ariyakudi and Maharajapuram, who don't like the fans of GNB and Semmangudi, who don't like the fans of MDR and Ramnad Krishnan, who don't like fans of KVN and Nedanuri, who don't like the fans of Seshagopalan and Sankaranarayan who don't like fans of Unnikrishnan and Vijay Siva, who don't like fans of Sikkil Gurucharan and Balamuralikrishna!

Note: This is entirely fictional.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dec 2002 concert available for download from Charsur

This concert, available for download at the Charsur site now, is from Narada Gana Sabha, December 2002. There is an interesting story behind this concert. A particular rasika, who was also a retired officer of the bank where I have my account, met me there sometime in the ebginning of December 2002. As we were talking he asked me if I could sing Bhavapriya sometime. I told him I have never sung it but would definitely do so if he told me which concert he is coming to. On the 16th of December, the day of my NGS concert, he called me to remind me that he was coming to the concert and if I was going to sing Bhavapriya. I realised that I did not know any composition in Bhavapriya and so sang an RTP at the concert that evening! The accompanists were RK Shriramkumar, K Arun Prakash and KV Gopalakrishnan.

Here is the link to the download page for the concert.

Download December Season 2002 Live concert for Narada Gana Sabha

Please support legal downloads and refrain from uploading these concerts to free servers as Charsur is making special arrangements for royalties from these downloadable concerts to reach all artistes including the accompanists.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A December 2001 concert available for download

Charsur has made available a December 2001 concert of mine on their website for download only. This concert was held as part of the series organised by the Mylapore Academy at the RR Sabha hall. The concert featured S Varadarajan, Srimushnam Raja Rao and G Harishankar. The 2001 season was very special for me because Shri Harishankar played several concerts for me in a period of about 2 months. He was quite keen to play more but unfortunately he passed away in early 2002. If I remember Charsur had released another concert from December 2001 that I sang in Kalakshetra with Nagai Muralidharan, Trichy Sankaran and G Harishankar.

Charsur usually followed a practice of recording 3 or 4 concerts every season and releasing only one in CD form. Now with the new website and digital downloads possible more concerts from earlier seasons will be released in the coming months.

Here is the link to the download page for the concert.

Download December Season 2001 Live concert for Mylapore Academy at RR Sabha Hall.

Please support legal downloads and refrain from uploading these concerts to free servers as Charsur is making special arrangements for royalties from these downloadable concerts to reach all artistes including the accompanists.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Radio interview in Dublin

Here is a link to an interview I did with Vincent Woods of the Arts Show for RTE Radio 1 in Dublin, Ireland last month.

Interview for RTE Radio 1, Dublin, Ireland

Scale and Rakthi

As a young and upcoming musician in the late eighties I have for long heard experts talk about ragas being classified as 'scale' ragas and 'rakti' ragas. The rakti ragas were supposed to be more classical and aesthetic and provided a better listening experience to the connoisseur. There was always the dismissal of the scale ragas as being a mere collection of notes that lacked any innate aesthetics and that raga elaborations invariably 'descended' to an intellectual exercise of playing on the notes. This argument continues and musicians and rasikas have very strong view points on this matter.

A historical analysis of the evolution of ragas will clearly show that there are ragas that were born out of melodies whilst others that were born out of scales. A melody is just a collection of notes that one gets to hear. For instance a classic case is the raga Neelambari that traditionally owes its roots to the folk tradition. Neelambari has been associated with 'Taalaattu' or the song that puts children to sleep. Different variants of the lullaby generally conformed to a melody that became Neelambari. Similarly academics have traced the origin of ragas like Anandabhairavi and Huseni also to the folk versions and their interpretations. There is also strong evidence to suggest that the ancient tamizh music with their 'panns' influenced the evolution of ragas atleast in South India. Subsequent research of the traditional temple music and its singing by the 'odhuvars' lends credence to some of this. Before we jump to any conclusion we have to understand that all this has happened over a fairly long period and much of the evolution process has not been exactly documented for us to comprehend it completely. So what we have today is a collection of the so called 'rakti' ragas or those that have an inherent aesthetic to them as a result of continuous singing and polishing that has happened over so many years.

In the modern day, a 100 year analysis of raga evolution can show us how much change has happened to the nature and scale of ragas. Ragas have a capacity to slowly evolve and change over time because of the way musicians handle them and explore them. A classic parallel to this is the evolution of colours in the spectrum. How today a computer can generate millions of colours that change the way we look at art as compared to the traditional usage of the same. Can scales acquire 'rakti' or can musicians over a period of time polish and shape a raga to such an extent that the listener feels that he can experience an innate aesthetic beauty in the raga. This is really the point of the proponents of innovation. My guru Shri KSK believed very strongly that ragas evolve and acquire 'rakti' with time. He gave us the classic example of a raga like Charukesi. A reasonably modern raga, it became popular after the success of some film melodies like Aadal kaaneero, Manmada leelayai and Vasantha mullaippole vanthu. Afterall the most popular kriti in Charukesi was Adamodi and it became well known mostly through Madurai Mani Iyer. Musicians senior to MMI like Maharajapuram, Ariyakudi and Musiri hardly sang Charukesi. This raga by the seventies had gained so many different colours in the usage. There was a lighter version, an intellectual scalar version and of course a 'rakti' version if one might call it that. The bottom line is that today Charukesi is a beautiful raga that has also been borrowed by Hindustani musicians. (There is a commercial release of a Charukesi by Ustad Amir Khan)

Now let us look at some of the ragas that came into vogue after Tyagaraja or to be more specific those that Tyagaraja composed in. Compared to some older ragas these are quite modern. There is the argument that it was first handled by a musical genius, but then the same music genius' handling of several ragas have been dismissed as scalar. Let us consider two ragas like Jayantasena and Nalinakanti. The former is a typical rakti raga in the eyes of many while the latter belongs to the 'dismissed as scalar' category. Both ragas have become known through the two Tyagaraja pieces Vinata suta and Manavyala kinchara. Vinata suta became popular after it was taken and polished by Kancheepuram Naina Pillai. Since then the song has a basically common structure that most musicians stick to in their renditions. Manavyala on the other hand has been exploited by all and sundry and has gained the status of Charukesi in the modern time. The GNB and Sankara Iyer compositions in Nalinakanti give it the intellectual and rakti colours respectively, while Manavyala changes colour according to the artiste.

Being the young upstart music student that I was in the eighties, I have had long arguments with my Guru. In order to show how much rakti meant to him he said "Do you know I prefer Sourashtram to Chakravakam." This was a man who had composed his first tune in Gopikatilakam, a 'not exploited scale' in the early forties. So much for rakti! He then proceeded to tell me how any raga is only a collection of notes and the beauty comes from the handling. He said, "I'd rather listen to a satisfying Ranjani than a badly sung Sahana." But then I have heard some 'knowledgeable' rasikas (like our own Mr Srinivasan) tell me that they'd rather hear (or even read) about a Begada (even if sung badly) than a brilliantly sung Dharmavati! Finally it is a matter of taste and things boil down to individual likes and dislikes. It is however interesting to see how people like to justify their likes by adding phrases like rakthi or classical.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another last day of the tour ordeal!

As I am waiting to be kicked out of my hotel room in Paris because they have a check out time, I though I'll jot down another 'last concert of the tour' ordeal that happened yesterday.

Somehow these last concerts of a long tour have something about them that make it quite a long and arduous affair. Though there are a lot of pleasant memories about yesterday's experience (which I will write shortly) I just felt like describing the 'ordeal' part of it.

Saturday night we had a big concert at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris and by the time everything ended, we had dinner and crashed it was 2.00 AM. We were due to travel to Correns in the south of France for our last concert of the month long European tour. The train was at 7.15 am, and was a 3 hour ride on the TGV from Paris to Aix en Provence. From there we had a an hour's drive to Correns. The train was comfortable but then we had to get up early and be at the station. After we got into the train, we found that the staff at the cafe on the train was on strike, so no refreshments available. Fortunately I had bought some breakfast stuff at the station even though our contact had said we can eat on the train. That atleast gave us the fuel to last the train ride.

We reached Aix en Provence at 10.30 and were picked up by a car. Halfway through the drive they realised that we had not picked up another musician who was due to perform at the festival in Correns. So we went back to pick him up and by the time we reached Correns it was 12 noon.

We had some good food waiting for us and an hour's rest before the sound test at 1.30. It was bright and sunny and the venue was an open air one. As we finished the sound test at 2.00 pm clouds gathered! Our concert was only at 5.00 pm so people were not really worried. We roamed around the streets of the quaint little village for a few minutes and came back to get some rest. This was a festival and there were several bands and musicians. So resting place was most noisy with musicians playing and singing etc. A jolly experience by itself but not for us three weary travellers from India at that moment.

Meanwhile the sky was getting darker and the technicians started covering the stuff on stage. We still did not know whether they will go ahead with the concert because of the rain threat. It was a bit like a cricket match with the skies darkening just before start of play. At about 4.45 they decided that since it had not started raining they would go ahead with concert. We got ready and as we were about step on stage it started to rain! It was dark, gloomy and chilly for 3 hours and raindrops fell at that precise moment when were due on stage.

So within 10 minutes an alternate venue was set up, and the concert began immediately in about half an hours time. The wait and uncertainty had really made us nervous with some of resembling expectant fathers outside the maternity ward at Isabel's hospital in Chennai as we paced up and down looking at the sky!

The concert went off well, the people were most gracious and accepting and we had a good time on stage. As I finished Kambhoji raga alapana, and the audience was still unsure whether to clap or not, because they did not know if they should at that moment, a young kid lying down on his mom's lap launched a spontaneous applause!

Anyway we finished dinner, drove back through a long winding mountain road on a full stomach clutching our intestines, as the driver with his experience of taking fast turns with power steering on a speedy Peugeot van reminded us a of a ride from Kothagiri to Coonoor on a Matador van! We reached the station and caught the train to reach Paris at about 1.00 am and in time to be in bed at 2.00 AM! I looked back at a post I made some months back on a similar 'last concert of the tour' exerience and thought to myself history has a way of repeating itself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An update and some news

The last three months have been really hectic with travelling, concerts etc. There has been no time to sit down and write something. Also the Charsur studios were going through a major renovation and things were down at their sound production facility. So no podcasts as well. Anyway things will soon be on track with more posts, podcasts etc once I am back in town sometime mid June. I know this post itself is about 2 months late in coming but then we like to reach the 'edam' of the pallavi even if there is a struggle in doing so :)

The important news is that the new and revamped Charsur website is up and running with all the earlier downloadable concerts etc. They have also set up a page where all the previous episodes of my podcast are available for people to download.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A knowledgeable rasika - 1

Srinivasan turned 41 last week. He has been listening to carnatic music since the age of 5, or was it 3, anyway he cannot remember. It was in the mid seventies, growing up in Madras, that he began listening to carnatic music. He belonged to a typical south indian brahmin family and listened to music being played on the radio everyday. As soon as the programme was on he would eagerly wait for the announcements to find out the name of the kriti and the raga so that the next time he heard the song he could connect it to the raga name he remembered. This was his first steps into raga recognition, the skill that all aspiring carnatic music rasikas yearned to master as quickly as possible. Afterall when sitting at the concert, there was this mama in the front row who nodded aggressively as soon as the first phrases of an alapana began, for he had found out the raga instantly in his mind. Srinivasan was invariably embarrassed to ask his neighbour the name of the raga. He would rather wait for the kriti to start before hazarding a guess in his mind. As the years progressed by the time he was about 14 he could identify a number of ragas instantly. There was this concert of Balamuralikrishna where he had elaborated on the main raga. The audience was generally confused as they could not identify the raga so easily. Srinivasan, who by now had developed a decent sense of the note as well managed to fix the scale as Natabhairavi and was elated when the maestro started the pallavi ' sa ri ga ma pa da ni paadenaa!' Srinivasan's guess was confirmed as he had heard the maestro's HMV record of this same pallavi.

In the eighties as Srinivasan entered college he was a regular at the music concerts in Madras and got familiar with a number of knowledgeable listeners and rasikas. Cassettes were the main source of listening to music besides the live concerts and the radio. In the seventies it was far more difficult to access recorded music because the whole process of acquiring and playing spool tapes was too cumbersome. But cassette revolution changed all that. It was so easy to go to some collector's house and copy concerts in a flash.then there were these double cassette decks with speed dubbing facilities that made things easier. Yes, the empty cassettes were a bit expensive. The genuine collectors only preferred TDK tapes and not the cheaper local Meltrack variety. Some of the techies insisted only on 'metal' or 'chromium' tapes because they lasted longer. And then they would insist on breaking the seal off the edge of the tapes so that nothing could be recorded over it by mistake.

When the nineties hit his life Srinivasan was a seasoned listener. He had a cousin in Singapore who sent him a steady supply of TDK tapes and he had built up a very good collection. No more listening to the radio. He wanted the old masters. He wanted MDR, GNB, Semmangudi, Madurai Mani Iyer, Ramnad Krishnan etc etc. Anything that was recorded before the mid seventies was fine. This was the music a genuine connoisseur would listen to and he did not want to be left behind. The present day music was already getting too commercial for his liking. A number of young upstarts had appeared on the scene. Some of them had talent and respect for the elders but some of them were in a hurry to achieve fame. Srinivasan took a fancy to a couple of the younger lot. He thought there was hope if these musicians could be made to understand the greatness of the old masters. Srinivasan would go to the afternoon concerts and then quietly whisper in the ears of the musician that hew as welcome to come home and take whatever he had to offer. This way the musician could really get enriched and become a better musician.

Srinivasan was interested in the future of the art. He did not want commercialism to overtake the mindsets of the musicians. Fortunately there were still some who could make a difference and he felt that it was his duty to try and expose them to the wonderful treasure he had with him. Slowly he started contacting and talking ot the musicians directly. He was a back bencher for a long time but of late he wanted to get influential. He would call up a musician before the concert and suggest that he/she sing this or that piece. A typical conversation would go like this.

S: What are you planning to sing tomorrow at the MFA?

Musician(M): Dharmavati and Mohanam.

S (In a slightly disappointed tone): That's ok but why don't you sing Mukhari? Nobody sings Mukhari these days. Have you not learnt Karu baru? It was a favorite of Ramnad Krishnan. Your teacher was a big fan of RK. I am sure you would have learnt it.

M: But that is too slow and may not be impressive in a 1 1/2 hour concert.

S: Don't worry about all that. Just singing it will bring a special grandeur to the concert. Don't be mislead by these modern trends. Why don't you sing Varali as well instead of Dharmavati. Forget all these silly scales that just exhibit permutations and combinations when they are sung. Go for the more rakti ragas. The bhavam is so inherent in them that it will carry your concert very well.

M: But why do you say that about Dharmavati? Artistes like TMT and Kalyanaraman have sung it so well. Even musicians like Lalgudi and MLV give so much dimension to it.

S (now getting a bit angry): What are you talking? have you heard Alathur Brothers or Ariyakudi or Semmangudi sing Dharmavati? Never! Did they not have the capacity to sing it? They chose not to because they knew that these ragas were mere scales. Further have the trinity composed as many songs in Dharmavati as they did in Varali?

M: The Trinity also composed so many songs in Narayanagowla. These stalwarts never sang that. I think that you are unnecessarily belittling the brilliance of musicians who can explore and give life to these unexplored ragas.

S: I am not belittling these musicians. I am only saying that if you are as brilliant as these people then you can also pull it off. But until you reach that stage you have to take the time tested path. All these experimentation will get you nowhere. Prove your worth and then start doing what you want.

M: But did not these rebels start off early themselves. Did they not go against people like you and still manage to blaze a trail.

S (now getting really irritated): All you young people think too much of yourselves. Even before singing a few concerts you want to blaze a trail. Is it so easy? Do you know how much hard work it takes? How many years of toil before you can sing one phrase? Just because you have sung a few concerts and a few people are listening to you, you cannot think that you are going to change the face of carnatic music. This system has stood the test of time for centuries!

M: Ok sir I think will just have to disagree on this point. (But the musician thought to him/herself - Even without singing a single song on stage, this guy can talk and argue so much. What will I do if he can get up on stage and even sing a song at the Tyagaraja aradhana!)

To be continued.

Disclaimer: This is entirely fictional.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 10 - On Dandapani Desigar with Sriram V

Chat with Sriram V on MM Dandapani Desigar.

Click below to listen

The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show - Episode 10 - On Dandapani Desigar with Sriram V

PS: Due to a technical problem the title music comes for a few seconds as I am talking at the beginning of show. Please bear with me as I did not have the time to listen to it before uploading. So really sorry but I can assure you that not much would have been missed in the context of the topic of the show :)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy New Year!

The curtains have down on 2008 and the new year dawns yet again.

But do things really change so much? I am just doing what I am doing. Even as I sit down to think back on the season that just almost completed, it is as if another season has already begun. I have already started travelling down south with hardly a couple of days to sit back and breathe easily.

The last year has been quite memorable in so many ways. Here are some of my personal highlights from last year.

1. Back to the net - It was in 1995 that I was introduced to the fascinating world of the internet. The newsgroup was quite a riot with reviews getting posted. It was probably the first time that carnatic music was being reviewed by all and sundry at a location other than the mainstream press. Then of course the Great Affair started and fell in my life and I vowed to take a break as others got in to do what I had tried. Last year with growth of social media and web 2.0 there was a lot going on that it got my interest tickled again. So my blog/podcast/facebook/twitter/friendfeed etc etc are really keeping me going at the moment.

2. Travel - This has been one of the most travelled years in the last decade or so. The US tour was quite a whirlwind affair with 17 concerts in 35 days. 2009 promises to be just more and more of travel.

3. Students - A number of my students have finally started moving along well and had a great season. This is so gratifying for me personally though I know I am guilty of not giving them enough time because of my own travel commitments. But the recent series of concerts that I organised has given me the confidence that they can handle themseves pretty well. So all the best to them!

4. On a personal note I am most thankful to people like my guru Shri SRD Vaidyanathan, Shri N Ramani, Shri Nagai Muralidharan and Shri Guruvayur Dorai who continue to inspire me and guide me through so many difficult periods musically or otherwise in my professional career. These are people with tons of experience and their insights have been invaluable.

5. All my accompanists on stage have been such great people. It is not easy for people to travel with each other and spend days on end. Forget about the times on stage. Afterall that is what we are all paid to do. It is all those days that we spend off it that can get trying. But i have been lucky and am thankful that they continue to be such a comforting influence for me. Afterall they have to put with so much of my idiosyncrasies like playing all these obscure board games that I carry.

6. Finally it all of you who read this blog, post comments, download podcasts, send me emails who are the real motivation for me. Please keep it coming.There are times when I may not reply to everything. But I can assure you that I read everything. My travel schedule can get in the way of my not being regular in my updates but I will try and do my best to better myself this year.

Happy New year!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kalayami raghuramam

Kalayami raghuramam

Kalayami raghuramam is a composition of Swati Tirunal in the ragam Begada and set to Misra Chapu. I first heard this song in a GNB recording of his 1964 Music academy concert. For many years that Begada alapana for me was the very definition of the ragam and I used it as a template for my practice. The first time I heard that concert recording must have been sometime in 1980 or 81. There were only two things that I remember from that first listening. My dad told me that it was GNB's last concert at the Music Academy. He also said that the first three or four phrases of the alapana were to be heard, savored and memorised because they were so perfectly rendered and symbolised the essence of Begada.

Many years later I had just sung a concert in which I sang Ragasudharasa in Andolika. My guru who had come to the concert told me the next day, that though I gave a decent account of Andolika, he thought that the raga had been done to death. If I wanted to take a leaf out of GNB's book, I'd be better off singing something like Kalayami in Begada!

Later in 2004 I was on tour in the US and Shri Mannargudi Easwaran who was accompanying me asked if I knew Kalayami in Begada. He even asked me to learn it and sing it sometime. I had completely forgotten about that incident. A week back I was just thinking of the songs that I could sing at the Kuthiramalika in trivandrum and thought I should sing Kalayami. It is a song I have heard many times and it should not be difficult to learn up the song quickly and would be a change from the otherwise usual stuff. I met Varadarajan, who was to accompany me in Trivandrum, a couple of days back and told him that I was planning to sing Kalayami in Trivandrum. He immediately said "Easwaran sir will be very happy!" Of course Shri Easwaran was supposed to play for me and I thought maybe it was becasue he had requested it some years back.

Yesterday at the concert in Trivandrum, as soon as Varadarajan finished his turn of the Begada alapana, I started Kalayami. Shri Easwaran got so excited that he shook his head, uttered a loud "sabhash" and immediately leaned over and patted me on the thigh, before beginning to play. After the song finished he called me aside and said "janma sapalyam" or words to that effect. Later that evening when we were having dinner he told me he heard that song for the first time in 1964 sung by GNB at the Music academy. Ever since he has been wanting to play for that song and never got an opportunity. Inspite of having played so many concerts for artistes of the GNB school like S Kalyanaraman, ML Vasantakumari and Trichur Ramachandran, he had never played for this particular song. He then recalled how he had asked me some years back and was so happy that I sang it!

It is interesting how certain songs have that effect on people. For me it was that Begada alapana form that same cocnert wheile it was that song for Shri Easwaran. I would have heard that alapana atleast a 1000 times in the last 25 years or so! And poor Easwaran sir would have been dreaming about that song every time someone sang ana alapana of Begada. Anyway this morning as I was chatting with Shri Rama Verma beforing getting back to Chennai, we discussed the Kalayami incident and how Easwaran sir got so excited. He said that as soon as I started Kalayami, he had leaned over to his father and whispered "It is GNB's birthday today!" The icing on the Kalayami cake finally came from Shri Rama Verma's mother who said, "According to my grandmother Maharani Sethu Parvati Bayi, GNB was the best exponent of Begada and I beieve he flirted with the ragam!"