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

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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" 
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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.
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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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