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