Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012 !!!

As the curtain comes down on 2011 here's wishing you all a very Happy New Year!! As I sat down to write this post I just looked back at what I wrote last year - and I realise that a lot of these things I could write again! It has been a great year and a wonderful season to cap it. The overwhelming response from the audience as always humbles me completely and I only wish that I could do more than what I am doing at the moment. Performing concerts is so exciting and every day and every kutchery is a new experience.

This season has been a kind of breakthrough in the carnatic music world I should say. A new generation of musicians in the age group of 20 - 35 are blossoming into young stars and it is so great to see. Their efforts and patience is finally paying rich dividends and the listening audience is beginning to notice this. Each of these musicians are coming out with a solid plan of how they want to perform and what areas to concentrate on and doing it with so much professionalism and perfection. I don't think I knew so much about what I was doing 20 years back compared to what these guys and girls are doing. Hats off to them and I hope they very soon reap the rewards in a big way. And of course it gives me even greater pleasure to see that some of them are my students!! I am a positive guy and I believe music is doing very well today. Yes, it has changed and I like that. Art is something that evolves over time. Sometimes it needs to shed itself from the shackles of the past if it needs to go forward, sometimes it uses the past itself as a launching pad. That is the beauty of artistic evolution. As far I am concerned I am perfectly ok whichever direction the art form takes.

Technology is such a wonderful part of our lives these days. I am so happy and greatful that I am living through this great digital enhancement that is happening to our lives. Right from the year 1995 I have embraced technology completely and I fancy myself pretty highly on the "geek score" very much similar to my own self estimate of my cricketing skills and knowledge! The past year has also been significant in that I have managed to get the Sanjay Mobile App released for both Android and iPhone. There are some teething problems but we should be able to achieve a lot more in the coming year with the app. 

For those who have not checked it out yet here is the link

The other significant technological highlight for me is the launch of the website - A special thanks to Yessel Narasimhan, an old friend who came with a proper plan to implement these. Also a special thanks to Girish Hariharasubramaniam and his development team at Clairvoyant Technosolutions for making it all possible.

Twitter is a great place for conversation and I am having a great time tweeting especially on cricket. So if you are on twitter and keen on cricket you can see me frequently agreeing with the Indian team and disagreeing with every other team at

Hope the new year brings in the elusive 100th hundred to a great man as well as peace and prosperity to every one!!! Happy New Year!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Evvare ramayya - Gangeyabhushani - Sanjay Subrahmanyan Live on 14th Dec ... is Live now


We take great pleasure in launching, a portal that
contains the music of Sanjay Subrahmanyan. This will be the main
repository for Sanjay's music -- in particular, his live concerts.

You need to register (or use Facebook-Connect) to get access to the
concert repository. You can either purchase full concerts or a single song
from concerts. You can preview a song, buy a song, buy a concert, search
for a song or request for a song. This portal features exclusive content
that is of high-quality and is recorded professionally.

By logging through Facebook-Connect, some of your activities will also be
posted onto your Facebook Wall. Content that is posted on your Facebook
Wall can be controlled through the "Settings" option.

For further details on the portal including payment options and Terms &
Conditions, please register now.

We hope you like the portal and look forward to your feedback. - Dev Team

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chetashri - Dwijavanthi - 10th Dec 2011

Jaya TV concert - Harikesanallu Muthiah Bhagavatar

Every year I really look forward to singing in the Margazhi Maha Utsavam organised by Jaya TV & Maximum Media. This is is one concert where I have tried to bring out a number of Tamil compositions that are not very common. There has and continues to be criticism that there are not enough Tamil compositions that are "heavy" or "classical" to be included in  mainstream concerts. I use the opportunity given by this concert to specifically focus on composers and compositions which seek to invalidate this criticism.

This year I chose Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar as the composer to focus on. Muthiah Bhagavatar was a versatile composer and a pioneer of several innovative concepts in composing and composition. He is often portrayed as a maverick who composed on odd and rare scales and ragas. It was interesting to study his compostions in detail and when doing so one realised that here is a composer who deserves to be put right up there with the best in the business.

My interest was of course was in his Tamil compositions in the context of the Jaya TV concert and I found that he had composed 27 songs that have been published. It is possible that he may have composed more than that in the Tamil language. Also the compositions were in ragams like Todi, Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Kambhoji, Yadukulakambhoji, Mukhari, Begada etc. Of the tamil compositions the most famous was the song "Andavan darisaname" in Jonpuri that was a classic hit of SG Kittappa in the nineteen twenties. My grandfather, Thyagu, used to sing this song a lot and he told me a story of how his grandmother would make sweet rice pudding (arisi kanji) and keep some for him, but give it to him only after hearing him sing Andavan darisaname. Later in the 80s DK Jayaraman used to sing this often.

Madurai TN Seshagopalan who belongs to the Muthiah bhagavatar sishya parampara has popularised so many rare and uncommon songs both of the classical and quirky variety. Of the tamil songs he used to sing "Aarukkum adangaada neeli" in Begada as well as "Manadirkkisaintha manaalan" in Sankarabharanam quite beautifully. Back in 1995 I gave a concert of 20th century Tamil compositions for the sabha Mudhra when they had their festival in the Rama rao Kalyana Mandapam. It was also the first time that veteran mrudangam artiste and one of my childhood heroes Vellore Ramabhadran played for me. My guru Shri KSK taught me "Moovaasai konda thirumaal" in Karaharapriya by Muthiah bhagavatar and I sang it that day as the main piece. A listener reminded me that day that Shri TNS has given an album of Bhagavatar songs exclusively with that song as the main piece!

Coming back to my concert yesterday, I wanted to sing a few of the songs that may not have seen the light of day. A ragamalika of 9 ragas with the raga names intelligently woven into the sahityam and some sparkling chittaswarams, revealed the classical depth and knowledge of the Bhagavatar and I was determined to learn it up and sing it. As I was going through the process I realised I had a tough task on my hands as the whole song could take almost 25 minutes to render. Thankfully for me Shri Varadarajan, the violinist, also took pains to learn up the song and that really helped yesterday. Special thanks are due to mrudangam artiste Neyveli Venkatesh who played so appropriately to suit the tempo and feel on the concert.

Here is the list of songs rendered yesterday

Thuthikkakkuriya aadhiye - Poornachandrika - M Chapu
Aarukkum adangaada neeli - Begada
Avan seyal andri - Hamirkalyani
Unnai ninanthu - Ragamalika (Sankarabharanam, Mohanam, Vasantha, Sahana, Todi, Nayaki, Kannada, Saranga, Sri)
Moovaasai konda thirumaal - Karaharapriya
Shanthamaaga kaatchi thanthidum - Yadukulakambhoji
Maavoor valam peruga - Sindhu bhairavi
Thunga maal vidai - Surati

Friday, December 2, 2011

Win 2 free tickets to my Brahma Gana Sabha concert on 14th December 2011

You could win two free tickets for my Brahma Gana Sabha concert on the 14th of December at the Sivagami Petachi Auditorium in Alwarpet, Chennai.

All you have to do is download the Sanjay Subrahmanyan Mobile App either for iPhone or Android. In the "Follow Sanjay" screen, "Like" us on Facebook and your name will be entered into a random drawing and the winner will be announced on the 10th of December.

In case you have already downloaded the app, don't worry, your name has already been entered for the drawing!

Below are the links for more information and how to download/install the app on your iPhone or Android device.

Android -

iTunes -

In case you need a detailed description of the app and its features click below

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Getting creative on 11-11-11

My twitter timeline was getting filled with 11/11 tweets and I could not resist adding the Carnatic music dimension to the whole thing. So I began with the following tweet

"If I had a concert today I would have sung an RTP in Kokilapriya - Melakarta no 11 :)"

Immediately I got the following response from Ashok

 In a 11-beat tala with the pallavi having 11 syllables in its verse"
That got me going with this 
"Ok getting creative now - A thematic concert on the 11th melakarta and its janyas featuring 11 songs with mrudangist playing the 11 nadai"

Then I started thinking generally about thematics and how with a bit of planning we could have had a one day festival on the 11/11 theme with the following thematic concerts/programs

9.00 - 10.00 am - "The musical significance of the number 11" A lecture demosntration

11 minute coffee break

11.11 - Group chanting for 11 seconds of the rhythmic syllable "th ka thi mi tha ka janu tha ki ta"

11.12 - 12 noon - The difference between the Tyagaraja & Dikshitar schools in the handling of the 11th Melakarta - A special talk

12 noon - 1.00 pm - RTP concert in Kokilapriya with a 11 akshara talam.

Lunch break - Special menu with 11 items

2.00 - 3.00 - A group rendition of the "Ekadasa Rudra kritis" of ES Sankaranarayana Iyer by a group of 11 singers

3.00 - 4.00 - A special tiruppugazh concert with focus on the 11 akshara chandam and its different possible divisions like 4+7, 5+6, 3+8 & 2+9

4.00 - 5.00 - Special tala vadya concert featuring a 11 akshara talam in a 11nadai with a special 11 akshara kuraippu featuring 11 different percussion instruments

5.00 - 6.00 - Honouring 11 great artistes with a cash award of Rs 1,11,111.11

6.00 - 7.00 -  Release of the book "11 11th century personalities in Carnatic music" and audio visual presentaion

7.00 - 8.00 - 111 akshara talam - The modern reply to Simhanandanam - A special presentation

8.00 - 9.51  - 111 garland of ragas - A concert featuring 111 different ragas performed for 111 minutes

Admission - Rs 111/-
Venue - Any auditorium in Chennai - 11

December 2011 Season Schedule

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Angai kodumalar (From a recording in March 2007)

The above song is a comosition of Thayumanavar and was believed to have been set to music by Pudukkottai Dakshinamoorthy Pillai. This was taught to MSS by him and she used to sing it quite regularly in concerts. The unique feature is that the lyric has been set to a 19 aksharam time cycle and the talam is rendered as a combination of 2 talams - a misra jhampa (10 beats) followed by a khanda triputa (9 beats). The two ragams are Senchurati and Nadanamakriya.

Evolution of the App - 2

Technology experts world over are pushing for apps as the way to the future. Homes are seeing a massive increase in smartphones and tablets. These devices are making the whole web experience as well access to data and entertainment very personal and super fast at the same time. Traditional websites have all launched apps which provide standalone access to what they have to offer. Personally I have explored most of the mainstream avenues to include carnatic music in this technological experience. So the development and launch of the Sanjay Mobile App is the latest step in this direction.

The first point of discussion in the app development process is whether the whole thing will be free or is it to be priced. We immediately agreed that there is enough and more free material available on the net in the first place. Secondly the stats regarding spending on apps is so high that people will not hesitate to pay if it is reasonably priced and has enough to offer. So, yes the app is not free and is priced modestly.

Coming to the aspect of content, the first point of value to the user of the app is availability of exclusive material. Here we have made an effort to include audio content from my past concerts. They have been hand picked to ensure that the user is able to get a wide sampling of what I have sung in the past. We were faced with a choice of less number of complete pieces versus more pieces which sample a wider gamut. We went with the latter option for the moment but we have retained the option of changing based on the feedback we get.

Today on the net you can see a wide variety of content about me at the following places.

3. Sanjay Subrahmanyan Twitter page - You can follow my tweets which are more cricket based than music.
5. Audio content through CDs and digital downloads on iTunes and

The Sanjay mobile app can provide a single platform to access all the above content and more. We have also attempted to include a searchable schedule so that you can easily find out information about my concerts in your city and elsewhere.

If you haven't checked out as yet here are the links

Detailed description of the app and its features click below

Here are the links to the app pages on the respective markets.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

App evolution - 1

My first experience with technology and carnatic music came in 1995 when I was exposed to the internet and the usenet newsgroup When I came back to India after that 1995 tour of Australia and North america,, the first thing I did was insist on getting a computer and paying 15000/- Rs to get a TCP/IP account with VSNL which was the only Internet Service Provider then. In fact I still remember setting up my own homepage on Geocities sometime in 1996 and then later continuing it on Tripod in 1997.

Here is a snapshot from the Tripod homepage from Dec 1998 -

Some of the things I started back then have of course been duplicated by many much later. My motivation to start was also because there was a dominance of Hindustani music based discussion on the usenet newsgroup and I wanted a separate bulletin board for carnatic music exclusively.

Here is a snapshot from January 1999 of -

The concept took root and more players have entered the space and have continued quite successfully.

Later with the advent of mp3 and compressed audio I set up an account on to actually produce and sell digital downloadable music online. Following this I have had a great time launching and doing a podcast "The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Show." One reason I could do all this then was that I had a lot of time and the process of assembling and putting it all together was so much fun for me personally.

I still remember spending a whole night setting up a new bulletin board on Sangeetham with a free service called UBB.

Here is a snapshot from Mar 2000 of that first UBB Sangeetham talk -

Anyway it was a year back when I actually sat down and thought that we really need to move ahead and keep pace with technology. The iPad had been launched, Android was ready to take on the world and apps were going to explode on the scene. I had already experienced apps on my iphone and was quite keen to come up with a Sanjay Subrahmanyan app.

Here is an excerpt for a note I wrote to myself as early as 5th May 2010 -


Basic details -
Short bio, pictures, sample tracks

Web links -
Blog, Podcast, Facebook, Twitter. Youtube videos etc

 Albums data

 Updates to online content
Changing dowloadable sample tracks
Latest releases on charsur
Music season - schedule
Big tours like US schedule

I even sent this to some who were beginning development of apps to explore the possibility. Then about 4/5 months back I got a call from an old friend Yessel who was bringing an app developer interested in doing something with me. He brought Girish of Clairvoyant Technologies and we started talking about getting the whole thing together. More in the next post.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Announcing the SanjayMobile App for Android and iPhones

It's finally here. The official Sanjay Mobile App is available for both iPhone as well as Android smartphones. The last few months have been really exciting for us in developing this app and I am thrilled to announce the official release of the same.

So what is this app? Those who already have an iPhone or an Android smartphone are well aware of apps and so can probably relate to it easily. The others can understand it as some kind of a mobile website wherein you can access a lot of information from the convenience of your mobile device. 

In case you need a detailed description of the app and its features click below

Here are the links to the app pages on the respective markets.

This is just the first in a series of posts that I hope to write and make up for my earlier "sporadic" activity on this blog!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some interesting stats

A few days back I had announced a new initiative that is to be launched very soon. I know some had asked about when this will be launched and in true "IT" fashion we are hoping to launch it sometime in the middle of Q2 of the current financial year!! Meanwhile in case you had visited the above link you would have seen a request for registering your email id to get the latest updates on the launch. We have been able to collect some interesting statistics based on the email ids and I thought I can share it here.

So far we have had registrations from nearly 15 different countries all over the world. As expected 56% is from India and 25% from the United States. Countries like the UK, UAE, Australia, Singapore & Canada make up the rest. Historically these are the countries where musicians have and are still travelling to and performing for a substantial South Indian/Sri Lankan Tamil population that make up the majority of Carnatic music rasikas. I am happy to say that there has also been registrations from Japan, Indonesia, Korea, Poland, Belgium and Switzerland!

Of the registrations from India unsurprisingly 40% is from Madras. Bangalore and New Delhi have about 20% each and the rest from Bombay, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Hyderabad etc. I would have a liked a few surprises like Gauhati or Shimla!! Anyway this is just a very preliminary analysis based on a very limited field test. Hopefully in the months to come we will be able to collect more data to make me sound like a qualified markeing pro!!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

National programme on Doorarshan

Recently Chennai Doordarshan recorded my concert and a half hour segment was telecast on the National Programme of Music. Please ignore the slightly "outdated" set and backdrop :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ragam Tanam Pallavi and some innovations

Here is a link to a review of my recent Sydney concert tha appeared online

Quoting from the review " Instead of presenting trikalam (singing the pallavi in three speeds), Sanjay sang kalpana swarams in different speeds (slower speed, tisram and tisram fast speed) ensuring the purvangam (first half) of the pallavi finished on the arudi. “This is similar to a technique used in Hindustani music” observed Mohan Ayyar, a senior instrumentalist and avid rasika in Sydney. "

It is interesting to note that this technique is identified as being similar to something used in Hindustani music. Personally I am not familiar with how it is employed in Hindustani music, but as far as Carnatic music goes, it was Madurai TN Seshagopalan, who started doing this frequently on stage. None of the earlier "greats" have done this atleast from the evidence of the recordings that we have with us. TNS has been a real innovator as far as the modern RTP goes and many of the things that I do are inspired from what he did atleast 40 years ago!

Just another point regarding the above qoute - There is a special item in Nadaswaram called "Rakthi melam" which was a specialty of the Sembanarkoil lineage. In this they generally played kalpana swarams to 6 different eduppus in 6 different kalams to get the jathi to the arudi. According to my guru Sembanarkoil SRD Vaithyanathan, their family has being doing this for several generations! The only difference from an RTP was that Rakthi was a single line jathi, with no sahityam, set to a talam.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fort St George and the new Assembly complex

There was an interesting discussion yesterday at the Madras Club library between the two Chennai based historians S Muthiah and V Sriram about his the former's recent book "Madras revisited." Almost at the end of the discussion Mr Muthiah made a nice point about why the Fort St George is so important in the context of the history of modern India. It was from this fort that the city of Madras rose and it was the nerve centre for the growth of modern India under the British. The former CM, Mr Karunanidhi wanted a new Assembly complex only because the fort was a British legacy. What Kalaignar forgot or rather chose to ignore was that the fort did follow South Indian architecture, was built by Indian, specially Tamil & Telegu, artisans and used locally produced building materials. On the other hand the new Assembly commissioned by the Kalaignar has been designed by a German architect, and built using imported materials by Hindi speaking labour from Bihar & Jharkhand who could give our Hindi Prachar Sabha students a run for their money! Another point that Mr Muthiah made was that in all his earlier designs like the Valluvar Kottam, the Rajaji memorial, Kalaignar did try to bring out elements of the South Indian, specifically Chola style of building.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tanjore S Kalyanaraman (SKR)

GNB was a name that frequently came up in musical discussions in my home. Sometime in the late seventies my grandfather Tyagu was narrating about how there were tears in the rasikas' eyes the year GNB died and they heard a young and energetic V Ramachandran at the Music Academy. Soon a youngster like me, who was already fascinated by GNB (He was as legendary as Bradman!) wanted to know about his students as well. Of course MLV was also well known and she had sung for my parents' wedding. The next name was S Kalyanaraman. It must have been 1980/81 when I made my first visit to Tiruvayyaru. After the heavyweights had finished SKR was due to sing late at night. My dad said we'll stay and listen and then leave. I still cannot forget ana alapana of Dhenuka that he sang that night. He was struggling for breath, the voice was husky and even sounded crackled, but the brighas were there and that was all that young GNB fan wanted!

Later as I progressed to more advanced levels in music, Kalyanaraman always remained in the background especially because of his GNB leanings. I did get to listen to several of his live concerts in the eighties but then those were days when I was following so many other musicians that I hardly noticed SKR beyond the GNB branding. Then when I started learning from KSK in 1989 he talked a lot to me about SKR. As I shrugged my initial reluctance to sing the melakartas that were not so popular, especially the vivadhis, my guru kept reminding me of the fact that BMK and SKR were the true great exponents of the 72 melas. Even before his death in 1994, I had a chance to spend a long 3/4 hour session in SKR's house. Unfortunately I hardly utilized that opportunity to pick his brain on a few more things especially his handling of things like Dwi madhyama ragas. Even as I grapple with "Karasri" today I kick myself for not having used those chances back then!

Anyway slowly SKR and his music started taking over my life. It was 1995 and the first death anniversary of SKR. They were starting a new Trust in his memory and I was to give the concert. My Guru was also to be honoured on that day. I will forever treasure that recording of SKR that Bhushany Kalyanaraman sent to me asking me to sing if possible "that same todi." This was a fantastic recording of SKR where he has sung Nadasudha in Arabhi and Chesinadella in Todi. That is one of my favorite recordings and I have even discussed stuff in one of my podcasts. Anyway I could not learn Chesinadella then nor could I accede to Bushany's request to sing a Dwi madhyama ragam. This concert and my subsequent association specifically with Nagai Muralidharan & Srimushnam Raja Rao got me deeper into SKR and his music. I got some of his tillanas from Raja Rao and learnt quite a few things about singing vivadhi ragamas from Nagai.

SKR was really one of those great unsung heroes of Carnatic music. He was a true artiste who created without expectations. He never really bothered about the "greater good" of the art. History shows that the great creators were radicals who challenged institutions. These radical efforts later became institutions by themselves. Further radical efforts only challenged these newly created institutions! So the cycle will just continue. Sometimes it is possible to get caught in a particular "time warp" and then it is difficult to get out of there. The truly creative artiste just soldiers on! During a time when artistes shunned the vivadhi melams, SKR sang them with gay abandon without "publicising" his creativity! Later he ventured deeper into the scales and came up with the fascinating 36 dwi madhyama panchama varja ragams!

He was one of the first to explore hindustani ragams in the seventies. His singing of bhajans were a great source of inspiration to several of his junior contemporaries. If GNB was a modernist of his times SKR only carried on that legacy of innovation and brilliance to the next level. Today SKR stands as a towering source of inspiration for many many musicians. Personally I am thankful that I discovered him at a time when my restless mind was looking for things to do. I am happy that he more than anyone else has been singularly instrumental with his music in getting me to where I am today. It will indeed be a great honour for me to receive the SKR Award of Excellence as his students celebrate his 81st birthday today at the Narada Gana Sabha in Chennai.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dynamic views on the blog

In case you are bored at looking at this page you can change it yourself dynamically. Though Google released this yesterday it is not an April Fool's Day joke.

Check it out

The last one is really nice I should say.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More gyan on the Mela-Janya topic

Ok here is some more gyan on the above issue as requested  by a commenter. The first point is that the mela-janya scheme in the current context is purely swara based. It only takes into account the swaras that occur in a raga.

For simplicity sake let us take the scale Mohanam. The scale would be

S R2 G3 P D2

The references to R, G and D mean the Chatusruti, Antara and Chatusruti respectively. Now in the mdoern classification Mohanam would become a janya of Harikambhoji as this the first melakarta to carry all the swaras that occur in Mohanam.

Now coming to the actual listener, when Mohanam is performed, he only listens to the melody that is Mohanam. A familiar melody that would remind him about Ninnukori or Mohana rama, Pazhaga theriya vendum or just some oriental melody depending upon his own level of understanding. This above familiarity is not enough to understand why Mohanam is a janya of Harikambhoji. The reason is that the classification is swara based and not melody based. However if the same listener has acquired the ability to distinguish swaras clearly when hearing he would know what the notes are that occur. For instance he would know that the Mohanam gandharam is G3 or its rishabham is R2. It is this ability to distinguish the swaras that helps the listener to understand the modern mela-janya classification scheme.

Of course given the technology and information that is available to us, the listener who can "live blog" a concert can also Google the ragam and check the notes that occur and find out what janyam it is!! Now here the listener is only accessing information and NOT understanding the information. The listeners also get this information over a period of time through sustained exposure to the music.

 Sometime in the early eighties I was listening to a concert by TV Sankaranarayan, and he was singing the raga Natakapriya. I had no idea what the ragam was but because of my basic swara gnana acquired through 7/8 years of formal learning, I had fixed the scale and the notes that were occuring. My dad who was sitting next to me   said it might be Natakapriya! Once the song Gita vadya started we knew the raga. I still could not understand how my father knew it to be Natakapriya. He said that sometime in the early seventies he heard a concert of TM Thiagarajan and after finishing the alapana TMT himself announced "This is Natakapriya. Todi below & Karaharapriya above!" Now here my dad was depending on identifying the ragam purely on a melodic basis without any swara gnana involved.

Another example of the above is a reference by my grandfather once about Simhendramadhyamam. I had sung that as the main piece in a concert. He just came upto me and said "Semmangudi used to sing this a lot and it sounded like a combination of Bhairavi and Sanmukhapriya!" Of course in a lighter vein Semmangudi himself remarked about Bhavapriya "Saibu below and Naidu above!" (கிழ சாயபு மேல நாய்டு) indicating the reference to a hindustani tilt in the lower octave suggesting subhapantuvarali and a more south indian todi like upper octave.

Anyway I am getting carried away a little but I want to make the point that if listeners have the ability to distinguish swaras clearly then it is obvious that they can identify the parent raga. They can also see if the raga sung is a complete 7 note scale or if any notes are missing. They can say if the scale is sampoornam or vakram. The thing is that this knowledge will be more than sufficient to identify the parent raga or even determine whether the ragam being performed is a mela or a janya in the first place!

That is why it does not really make sense for someone to aks what Janyam Shamalangi is if they could not make out that it was a mela in the first place.

The making of the album Kshetra - Kanchi

In 2003/04 I was discussing with Charsur about another album in their Kshetra series. My first one Chidambaram had done well and we were keen to continue with another kshetra. My choice for Kanchi was because it offered a variety of dieties to sing and would be different from the earlier Siva based Chidambaram. The first obvious diety for Kanchi was Kamakshi and the first song was Devi brova in Chintamani. I had just heard the MSS rendition of it and completely fell in love with it. If I sang this song it could only be this version. The idea was to include from one each of the Trinity and so for Tyagaraja I went with Vinayakuni (Madhyamavati) and for Dikshitar, Kamakshi varalakshmi in Bilahari. This was also the time when the SSP (Sangeetha Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar) bug had caught me. I had just given a lec dem at Cleveland (along with Rk Shriramkumar) on this subject and was keen to see if the songs could be sung as per the original tune. I had sung Shri krishnam in Rupavati in an AIR concert, but not entirely as per the original. I felt that, one should go forward with these versions and innovate according to one's manodharma without changing too much of the original. In some cases the original gives a perspective that is not very common and can provide a good platform to base one's innovations. (Like Stephen King using Clint Eastwood as an inspiration for the Dark Tower series!) In the case of Kamakshi varalakshmi I had added a few sangathis here and there in addition to rendering the chittaswaram that was available and not often sung. So the Trinity was used exclusively for the Goddess of Kanchi.

I then decided to go with Tamil songs for the other three deities to be featured - Vishnu, Siva & Muruga (Basically the murugan at Kumara kottam). My first source for Siva was Dr Prameela Gurumoorthy who was kind enough to selct some verses from the Tevaram on the Ekamranatha swamy. She gave me a choice of 2 tevarams and I chose Adutthaanai in Yadukulakambhoji. She also suggested that I preface the tevaram with a Thiruviruttham again referring to the Kacchi ekambaram deity however, she said there was an issue with singing thiruviruttham as it was normally rendered in Poorvikalyani or Bhairavi, so I chose the latter. Interestingly I did get to sing this in a concert and prefaced the Yadukulakambhoji with the said virutham in Poorvikalyani. Of course I had to make an announcement to clarify this before people jumped to the conclusion that this was one of my own zany modern innovations!

For the Vishnu song violinist S Varadarajan gave me a few verses with help from his father Shri Santhanam. I decided to sing the Adaikkalappatthu of Vedantha Desikar. This was a long piece, and so in true traditional style I just took three stanzas and set them up in Ahiri, Hamirkalyani and Surati and ignored the rest as they did with other such long pieces! This was quite a popular piece in Vishnu temples. I remember vividly chanting "Thirumagalum thiruvadivum" as well as "aaru payan verillaa" at the Lakshmipuram temple in Royapettah during Margazhi every day to get the wonderful pongal! The pongal dropped down from the Bhattar's hands and made for good catch practice! Invariably when we dropped catches our seniors would advise us to go regularly to the temple for pongal!

Finally for Muruga the wonderful internet gave me direction to choose "Arivilaa pitthar" for the Kumarakottam Murugan by Arunagirinathar. I set the tune up in jaganmohini and rendered it in the sandha talam, that is putting the talam according to the metre of the lyric.

Recording albums with Charsur was a great experience then in the studio. It was a lot fighting and argument about the choice of songs, tempo sangathis etc. We really put in a lot of time and effort. I must have sung Kamakshi varalakhmi atleast 30/40 times before okaying the final version. These days I prefer doing live concerts even if they are to be thematic.

The above album is available online for sale at the below link

Kshetra - Kanchi

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nadamuni Band-Nadachi Nadachi.wmv

Some 30 years ago I came across the name "Nadhamuni Band" from a friend's father. The first thing he said was "They were famous for Nadachi nadachi!" Of course I have also come across the word band (not specifically Nadamuni) on two occassions. One was when a very bady affected voice emitting types of different sounds was called "Band vadhyam" not in a very complimentary manner unfortunately. Another rather uncomplimentary reference was about a young and upcoming Clarinet artiste who was dismissed to the rear of the procession headed by Nadaswaram vidwans as just a mere "Band vadhyam!"

The Nadamuni Band however seemed to have enjoyed a lot of popularity and played quite frequently on the Marina beach near the Kannagi statue. Anyway thanks to a kindly soul we can still sample the original Nadamuni Band and their famous Nadachi nadachi.

Friday, February 25, 2011


The mela-janya relationship between ragas has been in existence for a long time. However in the last 100-150 years there has been a shift in the nature of this relationship. Increasingly we have moved to a purely swara based classification of a janya under its parent mela. The modern ground rule has been to include a raga as the janya of the first mela that carries all its swaras. This rule goes against a much earlier method of classifcation which used the raga's melodic and aesthetic structure to determine its parent.

The need to write a lot about the music especially in a global scenario where things are expected to be spelt out in more detail before being actually experienced is one of the reasons for the popularity of the mela-janya system among musicians and music lovers. My guru was of the firm opinion that the mela-janya system itself is irrelevant to performing musician and it serves only academicians. For instance how much does the study of phonetics help in our communication skills. In today's context when communicating with others we hardly employ the theories of language. Similarly the grammar for a system of carnatic music may have evolved into a complex structure but it should not come in the way of performance or experience.

In my own experience I have often encountered the question from rasikas when faced with a fairly uncommon raga - Which janyam is that raga? This is often like asking what the ingredients are of a new dish that we eat! Practically however there is a paradox in this question. For instance lay listeners often identify a raga with something that they have heard in th past. So some parts of mukhari may sound like bhairavi. Especially when they hear a more uncommon raga like Narayanagowla - "Does it sound like Kedaragowla a bit?" is a common doubt. This is actually uderstandable. But when someone wants to what janyam the ragam is then there is a clear case of not understanding musically but demanding pure academic information. Here is my argument - The modern mela-janya relationship is based on swarams. So if Senchu kambhoji is a janyam of Harikambhoji then it means it carries the same notes of HK, but with a different musical structure in its scale, not because it sounds like Harikambhoji. If one wants to know this with a view to understanding the musical notes of the raga then one should be able to differentiate between the suddha and the chatusruti dhaivatam when actually sung. So if one can understand that difference, one can also know which notes occur in the raga being sung. It is then a question of basically applying those swaras to the mela scheme to derive the parent raga. The problem comes when I sing Shamalangi in a concert and a rasika asks me "Which janyam is that ragam?" Classic Catch-22!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing everyone of you a very happy and prosperous new year! It has been a hectic and momentous twelve months for me musically. Personally this should rank as one of my all time favorite music seasons. Not since the times when I was singing in the afternoon slots have I looked forward to every concert so much. A huge reason has been the condition of my voice that has really stood by my this year especially compared to last year. I did say a big thank you to all the rasikas who stood by me last year and I continue by saying a big thank you to each and every one of you who had taken the trouble, braving so many hazards, to actually come and sit in the concert and show support.Some have observed to me that this was a more conventional season for me in terms of the choice of ragams, compositions etc. As far as I am concerned there is something for everyone that the system offers and it is upto us musicians to keep digging and coming up with what we can be it the conventional or the exotic. One of the highlights of this season for me has been the wonderful talk that Sriram V gave on Tiger Varadachariyar at the Tag centre. For many years Tiger has remained as that silent hero in the back of my mind ever since I heard my Guru Shri KSK speak about him and sing snatches of his music. I still remember when I played him a recording of the Kalyani ata tala varnam and his face glowed with pride. He immediately took out a book and showed me Tiger's Kalyani varnam - Karunai kadale and said that if there was an adi tala version of the great Vanajakshi then it had to be this. Later I was hunting for more Tiger compositions at the Kalakshetra library and Shri Rajaram gave me a copy of the Tiger centenary volume with some varnams printed on it. I sourced the Hindolam varnam - chalamu from Shri BV Raman some months before he died. This year I managed to learn the Begada varnam - Sariyo nee and sang it at the Music Academy.

Anyway 2011 is already looking bright with England having retained the Ashes and India the no 1 Test ranking. So bring on the World Cup and let Sachin retire in a blaze of glory while w lesser mortals keep grappling with this great and wonderful art form that is consuming as day and night! Happy new year!