Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jaya TV concert - Dec 11th 2010

Yesterday I sang for the Margazhi Maha Utsavam, Jaya TV. Every year I try to take up a new theme to work on compositions that are not much in vogue. My focus has been only on tamil compositions as I feel they have not been given their due. This year I chose the theme "Bharathi Moovar" focussing on the compositions of Kavi Kunjara Bharathi, Mazhavai Chidambara Bharathi & Suddhananda Bharathi. 

Kavi Kunjara Bharathi was the grandfather of the other great vaggeyakara Koteeswara Iyer who had composed in all the 72 melakartas. As early as 1915, Koteeswara Iyer had published the lyrics of Kavi Kunjara Bharathi (1810 - 1894). Koteeswara Iyer writes in his preface that he has sung all those songs, but unfortunately he did not publish them with musical notation. Later, KKB's Azhagar Kuravanji (the popular padham Ivanaro in Kambhoji is part of this) was published in musical notation by Shri Nagamani (son of Koteeswara Iyer) . I know for a fact the Shri TN Seshagopalan has given a full programme for the Tamil Isai Sangam based on the Azhagar Kuravanji and his rendition of Ivanaro was indeed very very special. Later Shri Dandapani Desigar had set the song Siddhi vinayakane of KKB in Jaganmohini and sung it quite often. I was not aware of the MMD tune and I had already set Siddhi vinayakane to the ragam Kalavati (the Tyagaraja Ennadu jootuno version of the ragam), and that is how I sang it yesterday. The 1915 publication does mention the ragam of this song as Bilahari, but I decided to renew the licence that Shri Desigar had used to come with my own version :) The other KKB song that I sang yesterday was Deivam undendru nambu maname in Kalyani. This song is also mentioned as Kalyani but the musical framework that I adopted is just a "cover" version of the great compositions that I have heard in Kalyani! I had not intended to sing Ivanaro yesterday, but as I was getting ready to stop for the Q&A session, Subashri (who probably was not ready with the final list of questions!) asked me to continue, so I just decided to slot that in.

Mazhavai Chidambara Bharathi, a contemporary of Kavi Kunjara Bharathi, was the grandfather of Mazhvarayanenthal Subbarama Bhagavatar on the maternal side. It is said that MSB used to sing many of these compositions in his concerts. I had learnt an MCB song (Kanmaniye solladi in Saranga) from my grand aunt Smt.Rukmini Rajagopalan many years back and used to sing it quite often in concerts. Later I came to know that the Saranga was a GNB tune and that the original was in Kapi. I even remember lsitening to a beautiful slow rendition in Kapi by Tanjavur Sankara Iyer. About 15 years back, I was at Madurai for a concert. An old man named Ramani knocked on my door at the hotel. He actually sang the song Karunai vaitthennai aalamma in Begada and said it was an MCB song and that he was a disciple of Subbarama Bhagavatar. I remembered that it resembeled the Ramaswami SIvan song Kadaikkan vaitthennai aalamma and he said that the MCB was the original and that it was later copied. The Music Academy has published a book on the compositions of MCB in musical notation and that is where I picked up the songs Poomel valarum in Anandabhairavi and Karunai thanthennai in Begada that I sang yesterday. This book also has a nice introduction by the noted Tamil writer Chidambara Subramaniam, who was also a grandson of the composer.

Suddhananda Bharati is an interesting composer and personality. I think he was more of a poet and all his songs have been set to music by others. My Guru Shri KSK has set a number of songs to music. I have sung songs like Aaduguraan kannan in Kapi and Ellaam SIvan seyal in Vasantha in the past. In fact there is a nice version of Ellaam sivan seyal in Kalyani in one of the Annamalai Univ publications, I think set to music by Tanjavur K Ponniah Pillai. I had specifically asked my Guru to set that song up in Vasantha for me to sing. Another is Brindavanam iduvo in Suddha dhanyasi about which I have written earlier. I also came across a book called "Suddhananda Melarnavam" having songs of Suddhananda Bharathi in all the 72 melakarta ragams set to music by Shri TS Raghavan. For yesterday's concert I had chosen the song Ullam urugi urugi in Kanakangi. Hopefully I'll be able to sing a few more of these melakarta songs in the years to come. The other song of SB that I sang yesterday was a patriotic viruttham and song from the book "Singa nadham". I had set the song to the ragam Patdeep which is basically s g m p n / s n d p m g r in the Gowrimanohari scale.

List of compositions sung

1. Siddhi vinayakane - Kalavati - Adi (KKB)
2. Poomel valarum - Anandabhairavi - Adi (MCB)
3. Ullam urugi urugi - Kanakangi - Rupakam (SB)
4. Karunai thanthennai - Begada - M Chapu (MCB)
5. Deivam undendru - Kalyani - Adi (KKB)
6. Ivanaro - Kambhoji - M Chapu (KKB)
7. Vazhiya bharatham - Viruttham - Ragamalika (SB)
8. Enthaai vaazhgenum - Patdeep - Adi (SB)

Sriram Guruswamy's photos from the above concert.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Concert schedule Season 2010

Here is my schedule for this year's season.

09/12/2010 Kartik Fine Arts (Narada Gana Sabha auditorium)
11/12/2010 Jaya TV (Chettinad School auditorium)
15/12/2010 Brahma Gana Sabha (Sivakami Petachi Auditorium)
17/12/2010 Bharat Kalachar
19/12/2010 Vani Mahal
20/12/2010 Narada Gana Sabha
22/12/2010 Indian Fine Arts (German Hall)
23/12/2010 Music Academy
25.12/2010 Krishna Gana Sabha
26/12/2010 Kalarasna (Rani Seethai Hall)
28/12/2010 Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha (Vidya Bharathi kalyana mandapam)
29/12/2010 Tamil Isai Sangam
31/12/2010 Kalakshetra
02/01/2011 Rasika Fine Arts (Jaigopal Garodia School, Postal Colony)
05/01/2011 Bhairavi Gana Sabha (Vidya Bharathi kalyana mandapam)

Season 2010

Another season is upon us! Something about the season gets me in the mood to write. So maybe this blog will get some attention! There is something about turning 40. It makes you want to look back and remember a few things that happened sometime ago. How we hated it when they talked about 'those' days. Now we can happily start a conversation with '20 years ago' and feel nice about it.

December 1 was really looked forward to every year. The list of concerts in every sabha would be out. In the seventies when I was still learning the violin my interest was primarily in seeing who my guru's sons were accompanying at the academy. I think for a few years L Subramaniam played for KVN and L Shankar played for Madurai Somu at the Academy. I still remember the concert at the Academy, where L Shankar was playing for Madurai Somu. CS Murugabhoopathy was on the mrudangam. The RTP was in the raga Swarnangi. As L Shankar began his turn of the alapana and moved on to the upper shadja, Somu stopped and asked him to play a bit more in the panchamam range! The advent of the internet and publishing of online schedules makes it that much less interesting to go through the Dec 1st newspaper, but there are still people who do that. The other day I was at a friend's house and this doctor came up to me and asked me how many concerts I was singing this year. I have known him for so many years and he has never bothered to ask me this in the past. I guess recent declarations by some about cutting down prompted him to ask me this! Anyway I just said that he can always count the number once the schedules are out and his response was "Yes, I can see it on the newspaper on December 1st !!" 

Titles have increased so much that there is not much excitement about who is getting what. However the Sangeetha Kalanidhi still retains its primary status as the one everybody covets! This year the Bombay Sisters have been chosen. An excellent choice by the Academy. Yes they could have given it this one or that one, but who they have chosen really deserves it. There is a saying in tamil "patti thotti yellaam paadiyirukkaal" meaning that they have sung in every nook and corner. That is exactly what the Bombay Sisters have done over the last 40 years. They have never denied the rasikas an opportunitiy to listen to them whenever they wanted. This is the best service for the art form that any musician can do. The number of recordings they have released is really amazing. After Dr MBK they were the first artistes to release 100 pre recorded albums for the Sangeetha label, a remarkable achievement! I have attended a couple of their recording sessions when Shri L Krishnan was supervising and composing music for them. Their professionalism, diction, discipline in rendition etc were a real lesson for an aspiring musician like me.

As I started typing out this post, I glanced at my previous posts on the Season and realised that the theme of " not writing regularly and hoping to write more" has been recurring. So in the name of "Sampradaya" I won't change that theme. This year my first concert will be for Karthik Fine Arts on the 9th. My Jaya TV concert is on the 11th and the theme I have chosen this year is "Bharathi Moovar" - Compositions of Kavi Kunjara Bharathi, Mazhavai Chidambara Bharathi & Suddhananda Bharathi. A little more detail on these composers will follow soon on this blog I promise!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Memories from the eighties

The Tamil Nadu Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram had a great scheme for promotion of talent in music, dance etc. One generally applied as individuals and then they put you together as a team of 3/4 artistes and got you to perform at 4 different venues in Tamil Nadu, one of which was Chennai. It was in 1987 that I applied for an audition and got selected to perform at the 4 venues. Basically this is how the scheme operated. Sabhas all over the state would register with the IINM and they would be allotted artistes to perform there. The payment was fixed by the IINM and the sabhas got a grant also from the IINM but I am not sure about that. anyway as a main artiste I was paid Rs 225 per concert. Anyway for a budding 19 year old it was the experience of travelling and perform at varied locations that was most interesting and educative.

As soon as my letter arrived I found that my accompanists would be TS Seshadri - Violin and Kovai G Prakash - Mrudangam. TS Seshadri, at present is a music teacher at the Rishi valley school but back then he had just finished from the Madras Music college and was playing concerts and free lancing and teaching. As a sidelight, I was going through a phase in 1982, when my violin teacher Shri V Lakshminarayana had moved to the US. I was to continue lessons with Tirupparkadal Veeraraghavan but that never materialised. I did have a couple of lessons with Kanyakumari but I could not live up to mother's condition that I had practice everyday if I wanted to continue learning from her! Meanwhile Ghatam artiste Umayalpuram narayanswamy was our neighbour. Once when Shri Parur MS Anantharaman visited his house, he called me to come and play for him. Shri Anantharaman chided me for not continuing on the violin and asked his student TS Seshadri to come and teach me. These classes continued for a few months and stopped.

Anyway coming back to the original story I managed to reconnect with Seshadri for these IINM concerts again. The first concert was to be at Gobichettipalayam. I got  letter from the organisers about the dates etc. The mrudangist Prakash, who is now a staff artiste at AIR Coimbatore, also wrote to me and confirmed the dates etc. COnsidering the speed at which communications happen today, I wonder how we survived writing and posting letters then!  the acceptance letter I wrote back must have been the first official letter that I ever wrote in tamil apart from the letter writing question that I attempted in my Tenth std public exam! Seshadri and me promptly landed in Erode and took a bus to Gobichettipalayam. The stay was at the "mappillai's" room at a kalyana chattiram where the concert was to be held. Seshadri also warned me that any number above 10 in the audience could be a new record for the sabha!

We had a whole day to kill and promptly decided to see a film. Seshadri also told me that there would be morning shows in these parts at about 10.00 am and we landed at nearby theatre to see "Michael raj." The film starred Raghuvaran as the hero and the "dusky" Madhuri as the heroine! Later in the afternoon Prakash joined us from Coimbatore and we had a rollicking time discussing GNB and Prakash generally mimicking the top mrudangists of the day as we practiced in teh room. As expected the audience was 9 in number but I managed a 2 hour concert and left back home after pocketing my 225 rupees.

The next concert was in Chennai and at the Sastri Hall for the Saraswati Vaggeyakara Trust. Being one of my early "Mylapore" concerts I had decided on a "heavy" menu with Atana, Begada and Todi. As I began Todi alapana, in walked Hariprasad Chaurasia and Anindo Chatterjee!! My cousin Sharada, who was organising Hariji's concert for Spic Macay brought him straight to Sastri Hall. The great man was gracious enough to stay till the end and bless me. After all that the secretary Shri NVS came up to me and said "I expect more Dharmavati/Hemavati" from you! Here I was growing up in the "heavy" atmosphere of Begada/Sahana/Surati etc and someone coming up to me and suggesting such "mere" scales??!!?? Anyway it was only a question of time before I was moving on with exploring more ragas and singing more of these "mere" scales!

Next in the circuit was to be at the Tamil Isai Sangam in Tiruvayyaru. We also had the RR Sabha in Trichy on the agenda, so Prakash managed to write to the organisers and ensured that we had back to back concerts so that we could save the train fare etc. I landed in Tiruvayyaru after receiving a "shock" letter that said that the concert was to be of only Tamil songs! Imagine my first concert at Tiruvayyaru and I cannot sing Tyagaraja kritis! Of course it did not matter that much since I was comfortable singing Tamil songs always. At Tiruvayyaru I also met nadaswaram artiste Vyasarpadi Kodandaraman who was there with his elder brother E Uthirakumar, who played together with another brother E Haridas as the Tiruppulivanam brothers. Kodandaraman had also won the AIR competition the year I won in 1986 and we knew each other. Uthirakumar promptly started singing in teh room and asked me to sing Huseni! As I was struggling he quietly said " Sa pa sa vecchu paadunga!" Just keep singing sa pa sa and automatially Huseni will come through! The concert that evening was at the Panchanatheeswarar temple and the crowd was decent.

The next day we performed at Trichy at the RR sabha. A moderate crowd but we had already given a 'bigger' status to this concert and the menu had to include an RTP as well. As I was getting into the main item in walked P Unnikrishnan. He had just finished performing at Karur the previous day and was spending the day in Trichy. I cancelled my return ticket that night, spent the post concert with Unni and we came back the next day by bus.

These are the song lists from my old diary that I still have with me!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maharajapuram Santhanam Rasikas Trust

Yesterday I sang a concert for the Maharajapuram Rasikas Trust at the Krishna Gana Sabha auditorium. The trust is run by Dr Ganesh, a senior disciple of Maharajapuram Santhanam, who accompanied him a lot in his last years. After the concert my mind went back a lot to the late seventies and early eighties. As a young kid, apart from GNB, the other big name in the family was Maharajapuram. My grandfather lived in Tiruvalangadu in Tanjore district, and Maharajapuram was a neighbouring village. It must have been the mid seventies when my grandmother was training me to identify ragas in a simple manner. This was my paternal grandmother, Bhagyam Subrahmanyan, and not my musical guru. It must have been 1975 when I first heard a recording of Naajeevadhara by Maharajapuram Santhanam. I had also started learning the violin and my grandmother taught  me a simple way to identify ragas. "Try and sing all the compositions that you have learnt in your mind and see if it is similar to what you hear"-she would say. Of course my grandmother also knew the songs that I had learnt and so if I had a problem, she would not accept no for an answer. On one such occassion I managed to identify Bilahari based on my recollection of the Naajevadhara recording! In those days there was a general feeling in the family that the Maharajapuram legacy will be carried on successfully by Santhanam and they were all behind him in full spirit.

Again in the early eighties as TNS was breaking fresh ground, Maharajapuram Santhanam had established himself as one of the leading lights of Carnatic music. His concerts drew big crowds, accompanists like Lalgudi Jayaraman, TN Krishnan, MS Gopalakrishnan as well as some of the top mrudangam artistes supported him on stage. Some of his memorable concerts included a "Yaaro endrennaamale" in Sankarabharanam with MSG and a Saveri RTP at the Academy with Lalgudi. Once after an Academy concert where he had sung songs like Seetavara in Devagandhari and Naradaguruswami in Durbar, I met the Hindu critic NMN in the lobby and he was all praise for the concert saying that Santhanam could sing in anyway he wanted depending on the occassion/audience.

Another reason for the proximity of my family to Maharajapuram was Maharajapuram Nagarajan. Nagarajan is the son of MR Krishnamurthy, the cinema actor and younger brother of Viswanatha Iyer. Nagarajan had taught music to my mother and aunt in Tiruvalangadu and my grandfather was a sef appointed promoter of Nagarajan's music. I think it must have been a late seventies mid year series in the Music Academy when I heard two concerts of Maharajapuram Nagarajan and the Tirukkodikaval brothers (they hailed from the same village as my maternal grandmother). My grand aunt Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan had also harboured hopes of getting Santhanam and Nagarajan to perform as the Maharajapuram brothers but it never materialised. The story goes that Santhanam was ready but Nagarajan declined. I have vivid recollections of listening to Nagarajan especially in Tiruvayyaru. Once a stunning Mohanam followed by Dayarani by Nagarajan had the legendary Madurai Somu nodding away, sitting on the ground in the first row.

Later in eighties when Santhanam floated the Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer Trust, I was one of the first receipients of the scholarship. The scheme devised by Santhanam and Maharajapuram Srinivasan had a syllabus that included learning pancharatnams, swarajathis, navavarnams, pallavis, besides a working knowledge of theory including the 72 melakarta scheme etc and learning to write music notation. There were periodic appraisals that had people like TMT as judges. Once B Rajam Iyer was a judge and he was very upset that I did not know how to write notation. Santhanam sir later took me aside and told me to learn it because it will really help me in the long run. In 1986 I had won the AIR music competition and in the finals I had sung Kapali in Mohanam. I was a huge fan of Santhanam and had copied several things from his Nannupalimpa recording. Later at the audition for the Trust scholarship Santhanam with a twinkle in his  eye, asked me if I had sung Kapali in the AIR competition!

Coming to Dr Ganesh I was introduced to his father Shri Radhakrishnan at the lobby of the Music Academy in the late seventies. Shri Radhakrishnan was with LIC in Tanjavur and came to Madras every year for the music season. He used to personally type and cyclostyle schedules of all the sabhas and give to free to a lot of us. In fact he was the pioneer of the now popular "Nalli" book that has all the sabha schedules. Shri Radhakrishnan wa a big fan of Santhanam and Nedanuri Krishnamurthy. In fact I have seen sit him behind Nedanuri on stage at the Academy like a disciple!! I was hardly 10/12 years old and he used to call me and make me sit next to him on the stage at the Music Academy to listen to concerts. My mother never gave me money to buy tickets for the evening concerts, and people like Shri Radhakrishnan have just taken me inside to the stage. Later I think in 1985/86 Ganesh came to Chennai and joined the Veterinary college. It was the Dishitar kritis competition at the Music Academy and I was participating. That was when Shri Radhakrishnan introduced me to Ganesh and said he was in Chennai and was learning from Santhanam. It was also Dr Ganesh who first published a musicians diary of addresses and phone numbers before Mudhra took it over from him.

Anyway it was a pleasure to perform for the Maharajapuram Santhanam Rasikas Trust in memory of one of my musical heroes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chitti 100

Chitti alias PG Sundarrajan belonged to the Manikkodi generation of Tamizh writers. Yesterday I had attended his centenary function and blogged about it in Tamizh. I thought I could share a few music related issues on this blog also. My first exposure to Chitti was when I read a book about the river Kaveri that he had co authored with another celebrated Tamizh writer Thi Janakiraman. At that time I had only read the English translation but the book is a wonderful travelogue on a trip down the river Kaveri from its source in Mercara all the way down to the coast. My personal interest was centred a lot on the musical references as well as the description of the Tanjore delta in that  context.

About 5 or 6 years back, when I was being approached for a concert at the Ratnagireeswarar temple in Besant nagar, I met Mr Venugopal who introduced himself as Chitti's son. This was when I started getting interest in tamizh literature and I decided to go and meet him. For a nonagenarian he was mentally very alert and ready to share a lot of stories and anecdotes My interest at that time was mostly musical. He and a group of his friends were huge fans of Madurai Mani Iyer. They always referred to the "Madurai Mani Kacchery" as "Maduraa Bell Court!" In Trichy there was a place where Madurai Mani sang regularly in a mandapam, and this big gang of his fans that included Chitti never missed the concert. Violinist Tiruvalangadu Sundaresa Iyer referred to the location as "Mani Mandapam!"

Maybe someone can help me out on this but I think Madurai Mani Iyer has sung a song "Mahathmavin vazhi nadappom" In Shanmukhapriya that was written by Chitti. Anyway the more interesting story was the year MMI was given the Sangeetha Kalanidhi. Chitti had drafted MMI's acceptance speech and had been requested to read it out on the day. Somehow the Academy officials were not keen to let someone like Chitti read out the presidential address. So on the morning of the function MMI was informed that the person reading out the speech had to be either a relative or a student. They could have just said "It cannot be Chitti!" MMI was quite upset but could not really do anything and finally TV Sankaranarayanan, his nephew, read out the address. MMI however made it up with Chitti the following year when the Tamizh Isai Sangam honoured him and Chitti read out the address on his behalf! After Chitti was a Tamizh writer and the TIS would not have any objections!! Today when an institution like the Music Academy can call people from other walks of like like Viswanathan Anand, they should bring in writers like Jeyakanthan, Ashokamithran or Ki Rajanarayanan who are senior and have written a lot on music.

Coming back to Chitti, he attended my concert at the Ratnagireeswarar temple. I sang "Marivere" in Shanmukhapriya and he was so happy because he remembered MMI's wonderful renditions of that song!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Youtube Channel

For years people have been searching finding and enjoying music on Youtube. I see that several of my videos are actually scattered all over the place. I thought it would be easy for people to find my videos on Youtube if I did the hard work and put them into organised playlists on a dedicated "Sanjay Subrahmanyan Channel" on Youtube. I started this yesterday and the technology just kept drawing me in as usual. So the whole of today I have been digging up some old VCDs of my concerts to see if I can upload them on to the Youtube channel. So here is the first instalment and hopefully I should get some more in the coming weeks.

Even as I uploaded, the response has been great and suddenly I find myself rising in the rankings of the Top Viewed Musician (Today) in India on Youtube. Google has a way of inflating your ego immediately by putting all this info on the channel page itself!!!

Grappling with Youtube's interface was like getting the hang of singing neraval for a 4 kalai pallavi! It took me some time and a few avarthanams before i could figure out how to set up playlists and edit videos to add the info I want. And of course it takes some time before you realise that tisram is not normally done for a 2 kalai 3/4 eduppu pallavi unless you are a hacker/geek or one of those unix/linux types who like that black screen with only text! What I mean is that I cannot edit the info on the videos that have been uploaded by others. I can only share/tag them onto a playlist. Next, I had uploaded a clip and found that it was more than 10 min. So then it was "nadai pallavi" time as I got started on iMovie to edit the clips!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Youtube Channel

Have just set up a separate youtube channel of my videos found. They can be viewed at one place instead of searching for them repeatedly. Just started and will keep adding stuff when I can.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Another year comes to a close tonight and 2010 is upon us. I just paused for a second to look back on a fairly eventful year in my music career. It was quite a hectic one with a lot of travel and concerts. The Europe tour early on in summer, the fairly hectic US tour in the fall and of course the season here at home in Chennai in December. 23 years have gone by since my first season as a performer and I m still already looking forward to the next one. Afterall it is this feeling of looking forward to the next concert that keeps musicians like us going. As long as that feeling is there it automatically motivates us to work harder to do better each time.

Like in the previous years this season has also been very special for me personally. Beginning with the Jaya TV concert and a few more concerts still to happen, it has been great but a little hectic. I am indeed moved by the overwhelming response from the rasikas and music lovers. Every concert, the audience has patiently put up with my music, my difficulties at times and have always been there to tell me that they deserve nothing but 100%. They have braved the traffic, sometimes overcrowding, good/bad sound systems and still turned out in large numbers in all the venues to accept whatever I had to offer.

Musically of course the journey continues for me with more ragas, compositions and other forays that promise to be filled with exciting potential. Thanks once again to all of you and wish you all a very very Happy New Year!