Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sun TV Telecast of Margazhi Maha Utsavam

My concert for the Margazhi Maha Utsavam (Theme - Tamizh padhams) will be telecast on Sun TV on Wednesday 24th December at 6.00 am Indian Standard Time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Margazhi Maha Utsavam & Tamizh padham

Margazhi Maha Utsavam is in its 15th year! Subhashree Tanikachalam, VK Manimaran and the Maximum Media team have built a brilliant brand that draws huge audiences worldwide both at the venue and on its subsequent telecasts. They have had a few hiccups along the way but their basic passion to the art, philosophy of not compromising on quality and professionalism in dealing with everyone has helped them to establish themselves on the December/Margazhi Chennai landscape. Congratulations!

This year of course there is change in the venue as well as the telecasting channel. The concerts are being held at the Youth Hostel in indira Nagar, Chennai (where the Hamsadhwani concerts take place) while I understand a few were held at the ISCON centre in Tiruvanmiyur. The theme I have chosen this year is Tamizh Padam. Every year I enjoy working on a theme focussing specifically on different Tamizh compositions.

Tamizh padham is a compositional form that has a deep rooted tradition in Bharatanatyam as well as carnatic music concerts especially from the last 150 years or so. In the 20th century 3 characteristics essentially defined a Tamizh padham.

1. The lyrics portrayed Sringara rasa primarily. The distinction could be in the identity of the nayika being either the Lord himself or a Maharaja or a wealthy patron.
2. The songs were basically in the traditionally defined ‘rakthi’ ragams.
3. The tempo generally being of a slow nature, though this can also be attributed to a personal preference, but I think you get the drift!

In carnatic music concerts padhams were sung mostly as part of the ‘miscellaneous’ component post Ragam Tanam Pallavi. The compositions however are beautiful and offer enough scope to be sung anywhere I think. My personal inspiration for choosing this theme was an radio programme that my grand aunt & guru Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan sang almost 35 years ago. Still remember her singing Innum paraamukham (Begada), Yaar poi solver (Todi), Nitthirayil (Pantuvarali), Ethanai sonnaaalum (Saveri) and Velavare (Bhairavi) in that programme. I have been fortunate that besides my grand aunt, both Shri KSK and Shri SRD Vaidyanathan  have taught me several Tamizh padhams. Last year was my grand aunt centenary year and I had wanted to do this programme. Unfortunately it did not materialise, however I have sung the same this year for the Margazhi Maha Utsavam. 

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

PS: It has been confirmed that telecast will happen on Sun TV between 6.00 and 7.00 am everyday from the 15th of December.

Please do check out these messages from the sponsors :)

Vaa Vaa Velmuruga (Sindhu bhairavi) on the iTunes Music Store - To download click

Sethalapathy Memorial Concert - Pay What You Want - Click to download -

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vaa Vaa Velmuruga on the iTunes Music store

I have just released a Single - Vaa Vaa Velmuruga (Sindhu Bhairavi) on the iTunes Music Store.

Please click to download the same. It is priced at Rs 12 on the India store and the same will vary according to the country from which you accessing it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

National Eminence Award acceptance speech

Here is the acceptance speech that I had prepared to give but could not do so due to paucity of time.


Firstly I would like to thank the Shri Shanmukhanada Fine Arts & Sangeetha Sabha for having chosen to present their National Eminence Award to me this year. For a musician like me who generally comes out feeling very good about oneself more often than not, just a glance at the list of previous awardees is enough to give me an inferiority complex. To say that I am honoured to receive this today is an understatement and a bigger admission of false modesty than those that get reported in the media. 

My family has had a long association with this organisation for many decades. My grand uncle Shri S Krishnaswamy (popularly known as Jagadhi mama) was one of the founding members. My father Sankaran has appeared on this stage several times during his years as a member of Cho’s Ramaswamy’s Drama troupe in the sixties and early seventies. I have not had the chance to sing in this auditorium before it was rebuilt. However I made my first appearance in the sabha’s inaugural Youth music festival held at the SIES school. I was also delighted to be invited to perform the first performance in the newly built auditorium just before the formal inauguration. I can never forget the particularly special relationship that I have shared with Mr Seshadri, the former Secretary of the sabha. The sabha has retained its preeminent status in the Mumbai cultural scene thanks specially to the dynamic and forward thinking vision of its President, Shri Shankar. I will always be thankful to the Shanmukhanada sabha and to Shri Shankar for giving me the opportunity to spend 24 hours with the legendary Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer in 2002. 

Carnatic music has had a good innings as a performing art thanks largely to the patronage of kings, zamindars and wealthy and landed gentry especially in the nineteenth century. The early twentieth century created the sabha as the perfect community organisation that was suited for promoting and nurturing the classical arts. It is to sabhas that Carnatic music owes much especially the last 100 years or so. The Shanmukhanada Sabha has definitely played a premier role in this and it is with great pleasure that I would like express my thanks and appreciation to this great organisation.

I belong to family of Carnatic music rasikas. Starting from members of my grandparents’ generation we have been passionate lovers of this beautiful art form. My uncles and aunts were equally involved in the art and many more of them learnt the music formally. My grand aunt Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan who was also my guru, belonged to the generation when cricket still distinguished between Gentlemen and Players. She called herself an amateur in the true sense of the word and her skill sets were good enough to be on par with the best of the pros. My parents wanted me and my siblings to learn music only because they wanted the next generation of rasikas to be built up. A combination of good fortune, good teachers, hard work and support from an understanding audience I have managed and continue to make a decent living as a Carnatic musician.

I began learning Carnatic music on the violin with Shri V Lakshminarayana. He grilled me in the foundations of this music. A combination of accidents and laziness ensured that the vocalists of that time had better violinists to accompany them. Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan was first a rasika and then a musician. The rasika in her drove her to learn from as many sources possible including Parur Sundaram Iyer, Papanasam Sivan, Koteeswara Iyer, GNB, Alathur Brothers and T Brinda. She passed on this vast experience to me wholeheartedly without holding anything back. I shall never forget one particular piece of advice she gave “Listen to all concerts. Some will tell you how you should sing while others will tell you how you should not!”

My guru Calcutta Krishnamurthy was a product of the wonderful gurukulam like system that was in vogue at the Annamalai University in the forties. He taught me how to think as a musician. He encouraged me to come out of my comfort zone and challenge myself continuously. His favourite phrase “All ragas are beautiful. It is the responsibility of the musician to bring out the innate beauty in them” Shri Sembanarkoil SRD Vaidyanathan passed away exactly one year ago. He was another guru who gave everything he had to me. Importantly he taught me how to sing with abandon and freedom the way the Nadaswara vidwans played in the open.

In my years as a performing artiste I have had some of the most wonderful musicians accompanying me on the stage. I will always be thankful of their patience and understanding especially when I indulge in pyrotechnics that may not exactly suit their own aesthetics. It is at those moments that I appreciate their sensitivity even more. I am particularly thankful to Shri Varadarajan and Shri Neyveli Venkatesh for their brilliance, support and sensitivity. I am also thankful to Shri Venkatramanan who is accompanying me today on the Khanjira. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the other awardees  today and wish them all the very best in their musical pursuits.

Finally I am happy to say that Carnatic music as a performing art has boldly entered the 21st century shrugging aside the fears of many who thought the art may die. This is due to a whole new generation of musicians who have had the courage to stick it out and make something out of it. It is also due to the ever increasing audience that one sees growing in large numbers. Of course there will be changes and like everything else in life we have the capacity to move on and take these changes into our strides. After all we do have  “Chakkani raja margam” that we trust in.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pallaandu Pallaandu - Ringtone on the iTunes Music Store

Pallaandu Pallandu is a Ringtone that I have got listed in the iTunes Music store. If you use/own an iPhone please search for "Pallaandu Pallandu' and you will see it under the Ringtone category. Please search under Music and not under Apps. It is listed at Rs 15 on the iTunes India store but the price will vary according to the country you are accessing this from.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sethalapathy Memorial Concert - New album

Live concert of Sanjay Subrahmanyan held on 11th October 2014 at the Ragasudha Hall, Chennai. The concert was in memory of musician Sethalapathy Balasubramaniam.

  1. varnam - sAvEri - Adi - kothavAsal venkatrAma ayyar
  2. gaNapatiyE - karaharapriyA - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
  3. nADADinamATa - janaranjani - misra cApu - tyAgarAja
  4. enadu manam - harikAmbhOji - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
  5. pollA puli - mAyAmALavagowLa - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
  6. taNigai vaLar - tOdi - khanDa cApu - pApanAsam sivan
  7. nArAyaNa - mOhanam - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
  8. Speeches by Thanjavur Ramadas, Mannargudi Easwaran and Sanjay Subrahmanyan
  9. rAmanai bhajittAl - mAnd - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
  10. eesan anbar - kApi - rUpakam - pApanAsam sivan
  11. brindAvanam - suddha dhanyAsi - Adi - suddhAnanda bhArati
  12. manadirkkugandadu - sindhu bhairavi - Adi - tanjAvUr sankara ayyar
  13. karpagamE - madhyamaAvati - Adi - pApanAsam sivan
  14. mangalam - saurAshtram - Adi - tyAgarAja

The accompanying artistes are S Varadarajan - Violin and Thanjavur Ramadas - Mrudangam.

To download this album - Click

Click to download more albums.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Google the word Mallari and you are likely to get a ton of information on this beautiful musical form that was the exclusive preserve of Nadaswaram music. Mallari was played when the deity was brought out in procession as part of temple rituals. All temples had resident Nadaswara vidwans and they had norms for what to play, when etc. During the annual festivals special nadaswaram parties came from outside and the music was much more elaborate and the mallaris were more intricate. “Special” tavil vidwans would sometimes be put to test to see if they could match up to the Nadaswaram vidwans. Mallaris would be composed and presented on such occasions. It was all mostly in good spirit with the occasional ego clashes that also resulted in some very high quality music and a few uncomfortable situations! 

The mallari was usually in Gambhira nattai raga. The Nadaswara vidwan played the basic structure a few times in normal speed first. He then proceeded to perform some variations in different speeds and finally played kalpana swarams. The musical and rhythmic framework that was employed seemed to match the swaying motion of the deity being carried along. The Mallari did not have any words or sahityam. It was just a collection of sollu kattus or solfa syllabus set to a rhythmic structure. 

Personally for me, the first time I heard a Mallari in a regular concert was by Kunnakkudi Vaidyanathan when he played along with Valayapatti Subramaniam on the tavil. Later other instrumentalists have also played this sometimes with the tavil or the usual mrudangam and other upa pakkavadyams. It was around 2002 that I first met my guru Sembanarkoil SRD Vaidyanathan. It was he who taught me some of the Mallaris that he had composed. He had stopped playing the Nadaswaram but would sing quite beautifully. Each time he sang and showed a mallari he would immediately say it would be nice if I could sing it on the concert stage.

The first time I sang a Mallari was in a concert at the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore. Personally for me it was a choice that I made keeping in mind that this was also a part of the temple tradition and would probably suit the occasion. Since then I have found that the Mallari makes for a nice sprightly start to a concert or sometimes as a Viv Richards type explosive ‘one down” instead of the more dependable Rahul Dravid type Pantuvarali! SRD had also composed the same Gambhira nattai mallari in a ragamalika form and this had its own beauty and melody that enhanced the rhythmic structure. It was the ragamalika that encouraged me to consider it as an item for singing in place of a pallavi in the RTP portion. 

Thus began my idea of a Ragam Tanam Mallari. Gambhira nattai is a raga ideally suited for tanam singing as well and a mallari is suitable for a pallavi, with tri kalam and other laya variations. The ragamalika also gave it the pallavi like texture to weave it along with a raga and tanam. The con side of course is that I cannot sing Gambhiara nattai raga alapana in every concert! 

The carnatic music concert format has so much to offer in terms of space to innovate, include and exclude things. Much like the size of the canvas that a painter works with, I love this format and the challenge it offers to my creative juices. My guru Shri KSK was a strong supporter of this format and always maintained that just as how the arohanam/avarohanam in a raga or an avartanam in a talam is a limiting factor so too is the concert format. In his own way he was following Quantitative Analysis to optimise a concert experience that provided a refreshing feel to both performer and listener.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Click to download the album Ragam Tanam Mallari -

Saturday, October 25, 2014

5 albums to download

There are 5 albums now at

All for 0$+

(Pay what you want and/or download for free)

Kapali -

Tyagaraja Live -

Kalarasna Dec 2012 -

Live at Venus Colony 2013 -

Ragam Tanam Mallari -

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

December Season 2014 Schedule

Wish you all a very happy and prosperous Deepavali!!!

8th Kartik Fine ArtsNagai MuralidharanPalladam RaviS Venkatramanan
12thMargazhi Maha UtsavamS VaradarajanNeyveli B Venkatesh
15thBrahma Gana SabhaNagai SriramNanjil ArulS Karthick
17thBharat KalacharSR VinuTrivandrum BalajiAnirudh Atreya
19thVani MahalS VaradarajanSJ Arjun GaneshKV Gopalakrishnan
21stKalarasnaNagai MuralidharanSrimushnam Raja RaoS Venkatramanan
23rdNarada Gana SabhaMysore NagarajTrichy HarikumarAlathur Rajaganesh
25thKrishna Gana SabhaS VaradarajanThanjavur RamadasBangalore Rajasekar
26thMusic AcademyS VaradarajanNeyveli B VenkateshS Venkatramanan
28thIndian Fine ArtsHN BhaskarTanjore MurugabhoopathyTrichy K Murali
29thTamil Isai SangamS VaradarajanNeyveli B VenkateshKovai Mohanram
30thParthasarathy SabhaNagai SriramMannargudi EaswaranS Karthick
Jan 1st 2015Brahma Gana SabhaS VaradarajanNeyveli B VenkateshTrippunittura Radhakrishnan

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nijadasa varada

Violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman once had this to say about the Patnam Subramania Iyer kriti Nijadasa varada in Kalyani. Tyagaraja had composed quite a few songs in Kalyani and it must have been a real challenge for any subsequent composer to come up with an innovative take on that raga. So it took a really brilliant musician like Patnam to actually conjure the “Ni Da Ga” phrase as the take off point for the pallavi of this song!

I retain a lot of fond memories about this song. I had just begun learning from my grand aunt Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan. Her brother and my grand father Thyagu specifically told me that I should learn Nijadasa varada as she had learnt it directly from Parur Sundaram Iyer and that there is a lovely sangati in the last line of the anupallavi that has the swara prayoga “Ga Da Ri” that gave a unique touch to the song. Of course after I had learnt the song I did add a couple of sangatis specifically from the MLV version in the pallavi of the song.

Once when I had just sung Nijadasa varada and was leaving paatti’s house after class, thatha (TV Rajagopalan) stopped me and asked what I sang for the first line of the charanam. I had sung it as “kausika yAgAdi tATakAdi samharaNa.” He immediately corrected the sahitya saying that it must be kausika yAgAri and not yAgAdi. It would have meant that 'Rama killed Vishvamitra's yAga along with tATakA' instead of 'the enemy of Vishvamitra's yAga’! 

tATakAdi-samharaNa = killing of tATakA and others
kaushika-yAga-ari = (who are) enemies of vishvamitra's yAga 


samharaNa = killing of
kaushika-yAga-Adi = vishvamitra's yAga and others' 
tATakAdi = (and) tATakA and other (rAkshasas)
Many years later I sang this song in a concert and someone came up to me and said that they have not heard this in a concert for at least 20 years now. I jokingly remarked that it must have been at least 20 years since I sang it myself! Anyway it took at least another 5 or 6 years before I sang this again and this time another person came and made the same remark about not having heard the song in a long time and I managed to give my earlier patented reply. Unfortunately for me my disciple Swarnarethas reminded me that it was only 5 years back that I had sung and made the same remark! 

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Click to download Nijadasa varada and other songs from Live at Venus Colony 2013 -

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sethalapathy Balasubramaniam

It must have been 1985 or 86. My grandfather Thyagu came into our house all excited. He had just visited his good old friend Neelu (Neelakantan who was the son of violin vidwan Tiruvalangadu Sundaresa Iyer) and had heard somebody sing. His name was Balu and he was a disciple of Papanasam Sivan. Thatha was just raving continuously about the bhavam, the intensity and the creativity of his singing especially viruthams. He immediately contacted Balu and wanted him to come home and sing and all of us to hear him. I had not seen Thatha so excited about a musician since he first heard TN Seshagopalan and thought that the void caused by the loss of GNB to the musical world had been filled!

One evening Balu mama was invited home and he came with his son and mrudangam artiste Ganapthyraman. he sang for about an hour and a half and it was a very new experience for us. We were immediately hooked to his uninhibited bhavam laden style of singing and that Margazhi we started attending the Sivan bhajanai sessions on the streets around the Kapali temple.

Day in and day out, my parents and I would get up 5.30 and go to listen to the bhajanai sessions. Balu mama was a cult figure then. There was a group of about 15-20 people who simply loved his singing and we joined that loyal band of fanatics. There were a few others who also sang in bhajan. there was of course Balu mama’s uncle Mani bhagavatar, who unfortunately passed away within a year or so of our joining the bahajnai sessions. Then there was Rukmini Ramani, Papanasam Sivan’s daughter with a few disciples of hers and her son the talented Papanasam Ashok Ramani. The popular star there was however Balu mama.

The bhajanai attracted a lot of vidwans on a regular basis. Dr S Ramanathan would come. He would invariably sing Kumaran taal in Yadukulakambhoji or Aarukkutaan teriyum in Devamanohari. He would then request Mani Bhagavatar to specifically sing Paraamukham yenayya in Karaharapriya. DK Jayaraman came usually on January 1st. Mani Bhagavatar was a giant singer. A puny looking man, frail but a singing voice that was a 4 kattai sruti with a lot of volume and bhavam. He sounded a bit like the old Musiri 78 rpm records. he sang some interesting songs like Amba manam kanindunadu in Pantuvarali (made famous by MKT), Marundalitthiduvaai in Gowla and one of his specials, Kaadali raadhayai in Karaharapriya which brought Aruna Sairam to uncontrollable tears once.

A few days into Margazhi and then requests would start pouring in for Balu mama to sing. His favourites were of course Todi, Kambhoji, Karaharapriya and Sanmukhapriya. He also loved singing Mohanam, Hindolam, Kapi Sindhu bhairavi, Behag and Suddha dhanyasi. I was a huge fan of several of his trademark viruthams like Oorilen kaani, Maarinindru ennai, Ullaasa nirakula etc. Somedays Lalgudi Swaminatha Odhuvar, the resident singer of the Kapali temple would join in, especially near Gajalakshmi textiles next the temple office entrance on North mada street and the two would launch into a virutham jugalbandhi. Whatever they sang, Keeravani and Kapi were a must!

Personally for me Balu mama was like a manasika guru. I loved the way he articulated the lyrics when singing viruthams especially dwelling on specific words and enhancing them with a torrent of sangatis. He was a big big fan of Madurai Mani Iyer and also like GNB a lot. We even started collecting some of his recordings and one such I treasure is what he sang at the residence of Kothamangalam Seenu. I got this recording from Seenu’s son Ganesh who was my asthana tambura artiste. Unfortunately the days of Meltrack cassettes ensured that the recording was lost to me when I tried to hunt it a couple of years back! SVK of Ragasudha hall, liked his music a lot and invited him frequently to his house to sing. On one such occasion I was putting the tambura. There was an old friend of SVK’s, an amateur mrudangam artiste who was playing for him. Balu mama was really irritated with his playing and after a couple of songs just called out to Arun Prakash who was sitting in the audience and said “Antha kozhantha rendu paattukku vaasikkattum” (Let that child play for a couple of songs)

Balu mama was quite a riot with his stories and anecdotes. he was very close to a mrudangam/khanjira artiste Tiruvarur Nagarajan and used to go along with him. Balu mama’s favourite story is how Nagarajan had the habit of talking to himself on stage. Especially in a kalyana kutchery playing for some one with the worst possible sense of rhythm he would mutter to himself “Mattinduttiyedaa Nagaraja! varuthappattu prayojanam ille!” (You hav got stuck Nagaraja. No point in regretting) Balu mama’s favourite description of Madurai Mani Iyer singing kalpana swarm was like 1 year old walking with small baby steps in an adorably rhythmic fashion!

Balu mama once came to my concert at the TTD and mid way asked me to sing Tiruvadi sharanam! I hesitated saying that it may not be appropriate, but he just nodded vigorously and quipped “onnu paadinaa thappu ille” (Nothing wrong if you sang one) I will never forget how he came to my wedding and blessed us with a spontaneous virutham! What more can one ask for?

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Download Kapali (an album of Papanasam Sivan songs) -

Download other albums -

Friday, October 3, 2014

Ragam Tanam Mallari - New Album launched!

Happy Vijayadasami!

I am very happy to launch my new album - Ragam Tanam Mallari, a live concert that I had sung on 4th March 2012 for Nayaki at Kotturpuram, Chennai.

As usual it can be downloaded for 0$+

Click to download Ragam Tanam Mallari -

Click to download other albums -

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Navarathri is huge especially in my household. I grew up typically looking forward to these nine days. The first excitement of course was getting all the golu bommais down from the attic. My dad was always insistent that they can come down only after the ‘padis’ were set up. The engineer that he was, he looked down on the pre fabricated steps and insisted on building them with whatever furniture we had at home. That was the challenge for the designer in him! I, being the eldest would be climbing up the lofts and bringing down everything, cursing my younger siblings for not contributing and generally playing the adult part. Preliminary inspection would reveal one or two broken and then my brother would be despatched to get Fevicol or Araldite from the nearby shop, Sandhi Stores/Jawahar Stores or whatever.

Sampling the sundal in every house in the street was primary. also the puttu served at the local temple as prasadam was another ritual. I would generally recycle the 3 or 4 varnams I knew to earn my sundal. One year my brother was dressed up as a girl to go and invite people for golu!

The biggest and most revered music festival during this period was and still is the Navarathri Mandapam Festival in Trivandrum. You grew up hearing stories of how there were no microphones, mrudangam accompanied the tan am singing, the main piece for each day was fixed, and the bell rang sharply at 8.30 and artistes had to finish. There was also this famous story of how KVN had finished Bhujaga sayino and there was still another 45 sec left and Palghat Mani Iyer finished it off with a short sweet mini tani. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer once told me that he had sung at the Mandapam for 55 years continuously!

Prince Rama Varma on the Navarathri Mandapam Festival - Navarathri Mandapam Festival

Navarathri Mandapam Festival FAQ - Navarathri Mandapam Festival FAQs

All India Radio had a lot of special programmes during Navarathri as did Doordarshan. In the eighties a lot of us referred to a particular rendering of the Kamalamba Navavarnams by a group led by Seetha Rajan, Radha Wariar and others, specially trained by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, and rendered on the radio, as the gold standard for learning them up. AIR chose different themes every year usually highlighting Devi compositions. Today one can go to Youtube and do a preliminary search and get some of the original Doordarshan programmes. This year I am as always looking forward to singing on the 28th at the Navarathri Mandapam in Trivandrum with the main kriti Janani mamava in Bhairavi.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

Click to download the latest albums -

Monday, September 15, 2014

New album - Live at Venus Colony 2013

Happy to announce the launch of my next album "Live at Venus Colony 2013" 
Click to download -
The album is available at the usual price of 0$+

List of songs
01. Varnam - Begada - K Ata - Patnam Subramania Iyer
02. Sugunamule - Chakravakam - Rupakam - Tyagaraja
03. Tyagaraja yoga - Anandabhairavi - Rupakam - Muttusvami Dikshitar
04. Shri Venugopala - Durbar - K Chapu - Koteeswara Iyer
05. Samodam chintayami - Suddha dhanyasi - M Chapu - Swati Tirunal
06. Neeye sharan - Kambhoji - Adi - Papanasam Sivan
07. Nijadasa varada - Kalyani - Adi - Patnam Subramania Iyer
08. Ethanai koti - Desh - Adi - Subramania Bharati
09. Kandu nee solla - Sindhu bhairavi - Adi - Suddhananda Bharati
10. Tillana - Kapi - Ch Jhampa - S Kalyanaraman
11. Mangalam - Saurashtram - Adi - Tyagaraja
The accompanying artistes are S Varadarajan - Violin, Neyveli B Venkatesh - Mrudangam & S Venkatramanan - Khanjira.
Click to download more albums -

Friday, September 5, 2014

hari vAsarada - sindhu bhairavi - purandara dAsa

Kalarasna - 1987 to 2012

1987 was my first music season and Kalarasna gave me a chance back then when they still had a slot in the afternoon for junior and upcoming artistes. The image below is a scan from a note book I maintained in the first few years of my singing career. Enduko nee manasu in Kalyani was a particular favourite of mine that I had learnt from my grand aunt Smt Rukmini Rajagopalan. AGA Gnanasundaram who had played violin for me was a disciple of Lalgudi Jayaraman. Many years later I was happy to run into him in Melbourne, Australia and he remembered a trip we had all made as part of a Spic Macay tour, where I was the junior artiste and Lalgudi sir himself was the main performer.


Kalarasna was a big player in the early eighties Music season landscape. They had a programme of just one concert a day, open ended allowing the artiste to sing for as long as he or she wanted. They did experiment with a junior slot for some years but it was not continued. December 31st was usually reserved for TV Sankaranarayanan and he sang with some fantastic accompanying artistes. One particular concert was with Lalgudi Jayaraman, Karakkudi Mani and G Harishankar. A terrific concert and TVS held his own with this formidable team leading my uncle who was with me to exclaim “this is like watching Viv Richards bat against Lillee and Thomson!” Kalarasna also had a wonderful function billed as the “Grand Finale” for Karaikkudi Mani’s Sruti Laya Ensemble. A programme which had people like Dr S Balachander participating and the brilliant Harishankar playing a spectacular round ending with a stunning  korvai like Kapil Dev hitting 4 sixes in a row to save the follow on with the number 11 Hirwani at the other end!

Personally for me Kalarasna has been a favoured venue. A number of friends including some close family members specifically tell me that they like the concerts here. One of the concerts that I can never forget was with S Varadarajan and Palghat Raghu. Raghu sir had specifically asked me to sing a pallavi in 4 kalai and I was singing it in Todi that day. I was just approaching the upper shadjam during my raga alapana when the power went off. Pitch dark, but the acoustics were so good and my voice was in good shape to exploit the upper octave. After the concert it was just those 4 minutes of mike less Todi raga that people remembered and recalled the most!

Fast forward to 2012 and many things have changed. For one the festival moved from its traditional venue of Rani Seethai Hall to the Chinmaya Heritage Centre in Chetpet. Kalarasna has dispensed with the junior slots and the evening concerts are open ended with no time limit. A lot of people love listening to concerts at Kalarasna for this very reason. In the early eighties the sabha did a lot for Tamizh theatre and the plays of Crazy Mohan and SV Sekar were huge hits running to packed audiences. Nowadays the sabha mainly concentrates on its annual music festival in December. Mr Srinivasan the moving force behind the sabha, is a personal friend and one of the rare breed of sabha secretaries from the seventies. You may not find them inside the hall listening to the music, but they build wonderful relationships with the artistes and are selfless in their pursuit of promotion of arts and culture with a missionary zeal. He is probably the only secretary who gave me an extra payment after a concert because there was a good gate collection that evening! I do hear that the festival this year might be moving back to the Rani Seethai hall because of traffic disruptions on Harrington Road on account of the Metro work going on in the city. I was rather beginning to like this new venue and am not sure how Rani Seethai hall is now after its recent renovation. It shouldn’t really matter because Kalarasna will retain its character wherever it conducts its festival.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

New album Kalarasna Dec 2012 now updated

The new album Kalarasna Dec 2012 has now been updated with a pdf file "Kalarasna 1987 to 2012" Please feel free to download.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kalarasna Dec 2012 - New album launched!

Just launched a new album - Kalarasna Dec 2012 .

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sri Kamalambikayam - Sahana

Friday, July 25, 2014

Samajam memories

It must have been 1985 when i first landed there for the Tyagaraja aradhana. Aradhanas world over are very similar. You have a pancharatnam and then everyone gets a chance to sing 1 or 2 Tyagaraja songs. Since I had learnt the violin I even accompanied some of the singers. Mrudangam artistes were always in abundance but violinists were a scarcity!

Have a close look at this foto below. It must be around 1985/86. I am singing with pants on, no electronic sruti box. and a manual tambura for singing just a couple of songs. Another thing is that I am wearing a watch! Something I stopped doing many many years back. It was a fashion statement for me to wear a watch and take it off after the second song. Apparently GNB used to do it!

The Tyagaraja Sangeetha Vidwath Samajam in Mylapore brings bak so many memories  for me from the late seventies and early eighties. One of the first concerts I ever heard at that place was by KV Narayanaswamy . I think it was 1979 and there was a series to commemorate the Samajam’s golden jubilee. I can never forget his rendition of the Kalyani ata tala varnam that day.

The Samajam also had Tyagaraja akhanda ganam singing the bard’s songs for 24 hours continuously. It was great fun to go and spend the night waiting for a chance to sing. Sometimes there were akhandams at multiple venues. One year we went to the samajam finished singing at around 1 am. Then drove all the way to Purasaivakkam where another akhandam was taking place. We landed there when TK Govinda rao just started ‘Vidhi sankradulu” in Yamunakalyani before asking the person noting the songs whether it had already been sung. There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye as I am sure he knew no one would have sung it before! They never repeated songs in the akhandams you see.

Some of the stalwarts who were regulars at the akhandams were Maruthuvakkudi Rajagopala Iyer of the Umayalpuram sishya parampara. Known as Mylapore Gopu, he had taught many in our  family including my grand aunt Rukmini Rajagopalan and my mother and several of my aunts. The story was that many leading musicians approached him for rare Tyagaraja songs. Once one of my aunts wanted to learn a song that GNB had sung and asked Gopu sir if he could teach it with the GNB sangatis! The man was livid and shouted “These fellows (GNB) learn these songs from me, change all the sangatis and now you people want me to teach his sangatis!”

Artistes like Chingleput Ranganathan, Veena Ravindran (he once sang a lovely kadalE vAdu in narAyaNagowla), Sirgazhi Jayaraman, Pattamadai Krishnan and others would also sing during these akhandams. The samajam once organised a similar Dikshitar akhandam for the first time. I had learnt close to about 50-60 Diskhitar songs at that time and I stayed up the whole night singing whenever asked to. The one who really propped the akhandam completely that year was Dr N Ramanathan of the Madras University who led a group of students.

Mannargudi Sambasiva Bhagavatar was the man who ran the samajam tightly and passionately. He gave a lovely vocal concert once that I heard where he sang the famous ‘cakkaga nee bhajana’ pallavi in Sankarabharanam. I had heard of him as a harikatha artiste and it was a pleasant surprise to hear him sing a full fledged concert. Sirgazhi Jayaraman who gave the vote of thanks that day remarked that Bhagavatar was a disciple of Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer.

One of the most memorable concerts there was the famous Semmangudi concert with Dr M Balamuralikrishna on the viola, TK Moorthy on the mrudangam and G Harishankar on the khanjira. The above video is from that concert where you can see some of us in the audience. I went upto Dr MBK after the concert to express my appreciation and he quietly said “I hardly touch the instrument!” 


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Friday, July 18, 2014

A world music playlist

Here is a link to an article written by my uncle Suresh Subrahmanyan that has appeared in today's Hindu in the Friday Features section. There are enough names to draw up a nice world music playlist on Youtube to sample some of the best the world has seen. Edits have resulted in the non inclusion of people like TM Soundararajan, Seergazhi Govindarajan & P Susheela who were his favorite singers. For a Rajatard like me I guess it is just that he is from a different generation and I'll forgive him for the exclusion!

Tyagaraja Live - Album Notes

1. sAmajavara - hindOLam - Adi

This is one of the most popular and well known of Tyagaraja compositions. Many of the great masters have handled this. The best known have been those of GNB and Madurai Mani Iyer. My own earliest recollection of this song is a lilting MDR version. Later when I came across the GNB version I was keen to learn that. Of course my own rendition ultimately undergoes changes over the years but as a senior rasika pointed out to me in an email, it is the GNB version that comes through. After the release of the Telegu film Sankarabharanam and the “aamani koyilaa” variation, the song definitely suffered and became increasingly avoided in concerts. My own decision to begin this concert with sAmajavara was probably motivated by a story related by my guru Calcutta KS Krishnamurthi. GNB was singing in Tiruvaiyaru with the violin accompaniment of Mysore T Chowdiah. He began the programme with sAmajavara and Chowdiah exclaimed “brahmArpaNam!!”

2. paralOka - mandAri - Adi

This song I learnt a long time back on the violin from my first guru V Lakshminarayana. mandAri is an interesting rAgam and is so similar to the more well known pantuvarALi except for the absence of the dhaivatam. Back in the early eighties, my brother who learnt vocal used to sing this song with my violin accompaniment at home. Unfortunately they were not recorded!

3. sAmiki sari - bEgaDa

There is one version of this song that begins in the lower octave. On the other hand the version that I have sung is more or less faithful to the Dr M Balamuralikrishna rendition. I came across this rendition and immediately checked with musicologist Dr N Ramanathan about this song beginning in the upper shaDjam. He immediately clarified that this was an older version that could be found in a Telegu book of Tyagaraja compositions dating back to the early forties. He added that you can trust Dr MBK to generally to come up with a traditional version for most compositions of Tyagaraja.

4. shri ramya - jayamanOhari - Adi

This is actually a sentimental favorite of mine. Musical learning normally follows a strict procedure wherein you learn the varisais first, then geetams, varnams and finally kritis. My guru V Lakshminarayana always taught this as the first kriti after the customary 4 or 5 varnams. For a long time I hardly sang this song. A few years back I rediscovered this song in my old violin notebook with the notations written out to me by my guru! V Lakshminarayana always insisted on us singing the songs after we learnt it on the violin. I never thought this was the foundation for a future career as a singer back then!

5. amma rAvamma - kalyANi - k cApu

A song that I used to sing a lot in the early nineties. The k cApu has such a beautiful rhythmic structure and I loved the Ramnad Krishnan version so much. Not to forget the electrifying live renditions of TN Seshagopalan with classy melodic mathematic blitzy kalpana swarams.

6. nI dayacE - yadukulakAmbhOji - Adi

A beautiful song that I first came across in a recording of Ramnad Krishnan. Later I pestered my guru KSK to teach me this song and he promptly obliged as he always did.

7. nI vanTi daivamu - bhairavi - Adi

This was a favorite of my grand aunt and guru Rukmini Rajagopalan. She had learnt it directly from GNB and sang it often especially in her radio programmes.

8. vinave O manasA - vivardhani - roopakam

Another from my KSK stock of songs. My guru had such a huge repertoire that I just had to mention a song and he would teach it to me pronto.

9. eTula brOtuvo - cakravAkam - m cApu

One of the many Alathur classics! My grand aunt had learnt it from Mrathuvakkudi Rajagopala Iyer, who belonged to the Umayalpuram sishya parampara of Tyagaraja and was a storehouse of the bard’s compositions. This song always brings me memories of being quizzed by T.M.Thiagarajan about singing kalpana swarams, especially his rules for finishing with an arOhaNam phrase specifically. In concerts today cakravAkam is a fairly common and well known rAgam. However, imagine more than a hundred years back mahA vaidyanAtha sivan won a music competiion by singing this rAgam. His opponents had never heard this before and just conceded defeat!

10. evvarE rAmayyA - gAngEyabhooshaNi - Adi

I heard nAdaswara vidwAn Injikkudi Subramaniam play this beautifully in Brahma Gana Sabha a few years back and immediately wanted to learn it. Thankfully for the internet and websites like I got a wonderful Dr BMK version to use as my inspiration.

11. sAgarunDu - yamunAkalyANi - roopakam

One of my guru KSK’s trademark pieces. I did hear a slightly different version of the song sung by Geeta Bennet, the daughter of Dr S Ramanathan some years back.

12. uyyAla looga - neelAmbari - k cApu

My grand aunt’s version, one of the first songs I learnt from her probably sometime in 1985!

13. rAmacandra nee - surAti - Adi

A lovely piece from my guru KSK’s suraTi arsenal, which I invariably end up singing in most of my ‘Tyagaraja only’ concerts.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

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