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Karnatic and Hindustani Classical (Vocal) music

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2013 September 9 [Monday]

Ata tala varnam::Viriboni

A varnam is one of the hardest phase of the learning process in the shishya-parampara (student learning process) within the Karnatic classical school, a grounding in fundamentals of sorts. In my opinion, that intricacy makes them more soulful and complete as compared to, say, a kriti.

Varnam's are further classified into "pada" varnam and "ata-tala" varnams.  "Viriboni" is one such Ata-tala varnam set to Bhairavi ragam by Pacchimirium Sri Adiyappaiyer

Composition: Viriboni
Composer: Pacchimiriyam Adiyappa
Raga:  Bhairavi                 
Mela: Natabhairavi - 20

Type:  Varnam                  
Tala :  Khandajathi Ata

Arohana:    S G1 R2 G1 M1 P D2 N1 S || S Gi Ri Gi Ma Pa Dhi Ni S
Avarohana:S N1 D1 P M1 G1 R2 S      || S Ni Dha Pa Ma Gi Ri S
Bhashanga Raga: Chatusruti dhaivata

viribōṇi ninnē kōri ||
marulu konnadi-rā ||

sarasuḍau dakṣiṇa dwāraka ||
sāmi śrī rājagōpāla dēva ||

chirunavvu mōmuna ||

If you are thinking this is just five lines, dont. Ata-tala varanams are very complex pada-varnams and we usually take 25 minutes to finish it. Yeah 25 minutes to practise five lines of lyrics!

Ata-tala varnam, as the name suggests, are set to a 14-beat cycle, far different as compared to a varnam set to Adi tala. That complexity in beats makes it complex and yet soulful, thanks to the complex svara structures.

They are also used for the Bharatnatyam dance recitals, where the ragam-tanam-pallavi is more intricate as compared to a regular varnam and it could go on for as long as 35-45 minutes, depending on the choreography and the visual story-telling the artiste-dancer indulges in.

2010 June 21 [Monday]


UPDATE-20100913 :: It was pointed out to me that the person impersonating "lut4rp" to leave the "die bitch" comment on my blog does not deserve his privacy as he tried to get an innocent person (lut4rp) into trouble. As mentioned in my next blog entry (http://svaksha.com/post/2010/Trolling101),  (ajuonline) (blog, http://ajuonline.net and http://mindtakers.net), left the "die bitch" comment on my blog.

:: "piLLangOviya" is set to the Raga "MohanakalyAni" and not "kalyAni". (Thanks Ajit). It is a janya raga from the 65th melakarta scale due to the lack of all the seven svaras.

Kalyani, meaning "auspicious one" in Sanskrit, belongs to the 65th melakarta raga, is a very prominently played raga at concerts (and weddings?). At a concert very few artists will pass over this raga.

It is the 65th melakarta rāga under the Katapayadi sankhya, also called Mechakalyani. The notes for Kalyani are S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3. A sawf article has a rather long and intricate analysis of this raga for each singer with audio samples in .ram format, which inspires me to rant about having had to install non-free codecs for gstreamer from the ugly set. Damn, why cant people use free formats on websites which wont force me to install restricted codecs...arghh, i digress.

Shri Purandara Dasa composed piLLangOviya cheluva in kalyANi raga (see Edit and comments below) and one of my favorite singers, Sri.Aruna Sairam renders Pillangoviya in kalyani, set to triputa tala.

Composer: Shri Purandara Dasa || Tala: Triputa || Language: Kannada

Arohanam : S R1 M1 P N2 S  || Avarohan  : S N2 P M1 R1 S

P : piLLangOviya celuva krSNana elli nODidiri || rangana elli nODidiri ||
A: elli nODidaralli tAnilla dillavendu balla jANare ||
C1: nandagOpana mandiragaLa sandugondinali || canda candada gOpa bAlara vrndA vrunadadali ||
sundarAngada sundariyara hindu mundinali || andadAkaLa kanda karugaLa manda mandeyali ||
C2: shrI gurUkta sadA sumangaLa yOga yOgadali || AgamArtadoLage mADuva yAga yAgadali ||
shrIge bhagyanAgi vartipa bhOga bhOgadali || bhAgavataru sadA bAgi pADuva rAga rAgadali ||
C3: I caracaradoLage janangaLa Ace Iceyali || kEcarendrana sutana rathada cauka pIThadali ||
nachade madhava keshava emba vacha kangalali l| pichukondada purandara vittalana lochanagradali ll

2010 June 5 [Saturday]

Raga Darbari Kanada

"Devan ke pati Indra", composed in raga Darbari Kanada - Deshadi is a Hindustani raga composed by Svati Tirunal in HINDI language set to chowtaal. Pandit Ganapathi Bhatt, whose rendition is in two parts: Part one is around 8 minutes and part two is under 6 minutes, lends soul to one of the most beautiful Hindi bhajans that I have heard of Svati Tirunal, ala, Maharaja Svati Tirunal Rama Varma, a king from Travancore, now erstwhile Kerala.

Svati Tirunal's karnatic compositions were the first I learnt and it is not surprising that he was a prolific linguist, having composed music in 5 Indian languages. Most people can only learn multiple languages but imagine composing music in languages like Hindi,  Malayalam, Manipravalam, Sanskrit and Telugu -- they have different scripts, a different vocabulary and grammatical structure. That needs abnormally high intelligence. 

Had he been alive today, he would certainly put all the current narrow-minded egoists who play language-politics against Hindi to shame. I have never understood how politicians/people who cry hoarse against Hindi can readily accept English which is afterall a language we adopted after we were enslaved. But, i digress.

I noted the lyrics and all the scribblings (in brackets) are my notes made while listening to the song. These would not make much sense outside of a student wanting to learn this raga. I still prefer good old pen and paper as its easier to put small notations at each gamaka or niraval which is harder to do on a blog or a text file.


देवन के पति इंद्रा ॥ तारा के पति चंद्रा ॥ 1 ॥  {repeat, देवन के....}
विद्या के पति गणेशा ॥ दुख भर हरी ॥ 2 ॥ {repeat pallavi: देवन के पति इंद्रा..}

Charanam ONE:

रागपति कानडा ॥ बजन के पति बिन ॥ 1 ॥|
रितुपति है बसंता (small aalap) ॥ रतिपति सुखकारी ॥ 2 ॥
{repeat pallavi: devan ke pati indra}

Charanam TWO:

मुनिजन पति व्यास (small aalap) ॥ पंछी पति हंसा (ट्वाइस, प्लस नीरावाल) ॥ 3 ॥
नर पति रामा (twice, small niraval+swaralapana) ॥ अवध विहारी ॥ 4 ॥
{repeat pallavi: devan ke pati indra}

Charanam THREE:

गिरीपती हिमाचल ॥ भूटान के पति महेशा ॥ 5 ॥
तीन लोकपति श्री (ट्वाइस, नीरावाल) ॥ पद्मनाभ गिरिधारी ॥ 6 ॥
{repeat pallavi: devan ke pati indra}

There is another wonderful Darbari bandish by Ustad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan (My guess is they are Pakistani singers as i've never seen them on the Hindustani classical circuit nor are their CD's available in any shops), and listening to him gives me goosebumps. Those aalaps at that age...wow, just wow!! This is my main grouse with karnatic music -- most karnatic music teachers dont want to teach aalaps. Their excuse being, students dont like to learn the hard stuff, or listeners dont like wasting time listening to boring aalaps. Doh! For me neither is true. I like mental challenges and certainly dont intend performing on stage. I'd hardly care if there is another listener around, rather I'd prefer to be alone with music, something that i can create and enjoy for myself. A very famous instrument artist had once said that he does not like to talk after a public performance and dislikes people asking for autographs, asking questions, smile and pose for pics, because he was lost in the trance that he just created through music and wanted to remain there, but he could not as he was a public figure. All he wants to do is sit in a corner thinking about a raga and I *totally* grok that feeling.

Well, now I want to check out the differences between a Darbari and the Darbari Kanada ragas. Some years ago I had created a webpage comparing Hindustani and Karnatic ragas and a listing of Ragas which are supposed to be sung only in the morning, evening and night ragas. I cant seem to find this page now. I'd declare it lost but plan to search all my backups before I give up searching.

2010 April 13 [Tuesday]


Todi is a perennial favorite, especially the kriti "taye yashoda" composed by uthukadu venkatasubbaiyer in Tamil. We were learning this when I had stopped attending class. That rankled me enough to spend the better part of the weekend dissecting the kalpanasvarams from this fusion version in the movie Morning Raga.

While I love the ragam-taanam-pallavi style, we dont learn that too much. The reason being people, or should I say listeners, like short performances for each song sans kalpanaswarams, long aalaps and niravals. In the movie, Sudha Raghunathan renders the playback but I have more admiration for Shabana Azmi who has to lip sync to render the kalpanaswarams perfectly.

Watch the video of Morning Raga and you will realise why she is so awesome as an artiste. Not only has Shabana learnt the swarakalpanas by rote (classical indian music is not as easy as it seems) but she has rendered the swara jugalbandi perfectly. Even for a music student like me, its far easier to write down the notations and learn them as I am familiar with the intricacies. However, it would not have been easy for her. In an interview, I recall her husband mentioning that before the shooting of the movie he was subjected to this song 24x7 for six whole months. Observe the charanam part where she sings the swara jugalbandi like she were to the manor born. Tres bien!

taayE yashOdaa(lyrics from, http://www.karnatik.com/ragast.shtml)

ragam: tODi

8 hanumatodi mela
Aa: S R1 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S
Av: S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R1 S

Talam: Adi
Composer: Uthukadu VenkaTasubbaiyer
Language: Tamil


tAyE yashOdE undan Ayarkulattuditta mAyan
gOpAlakriSNan seyyum jAlattai kELaDI (tAyE)


tayalE kELaDi undan paiyannai pOlavE inda
vayyagattil oru piLLai ammamma nAn kaNDadillai (tAyE)

caraNam 1

kAlinil shilambu konjak-kaivaLai kulunga muttu mAlaigaL asaiyat-teru vAsalil vandaan
kAlashaiyum kaiyashaiyum tALAmODisaindu vara nIlavaNNak kaNNanivan narttanamaaDinaan
bAlanenru tAvi aNaittEn aNaitta ennai mAlaiyiTTavan pOl vAyil muttamiTTaaNDi
bAlanallaDi un maghan jAlam migha seyyum kriSNan nAlu pErgal kETka colla nANamigha lAgudaDi

caraNam 2

anroru nAL inda vazhi vanda virundivarum ayarndu paDutturangum pOdinilE-kaNNan
tinradu pOgak kaiyyil irunda vaNNaiyai anda virundinar vAyil niraittu maraindananE anda
nindai mighu pazhi ingE pAvamangE enrapaDi cintai migha nondiDavum seyya taghumO
nanda gOparkkinda vidam anda mighu piLLai pera nalla tavam seidAraDi enna sheivOmaDi

caraNam 3

veNNai veNNai tarum enrAn veNNai tandAl tinruviTTu peNNai tArum enru kETTu kaNNaDikkirAn
vaNamAi niruttam Adi maNNinaip padattAl Etrik kaNNIlE iraittu viTTu kaLavADinAn
paNNIshaiyum kuzhalUdinAn kETTU ninra paNBilE arugil vandu vambungaL sheidAn
peNNinattukkenru vanda puNNiyangaL kOTIi kOTi eNNI unakkAghumaDi kaNNImaiyAip pOgudaDi

caraNam 4

mundAnAL andi nErattil sondamuDan kittE vandu vindalgaL palavum sheidu viLaiyADinAn
pandaLavAgilum veNNai tandAl viDuvEnenru mundukilai toTTizhuttup pOrADinAn
anda vAsudEvan ivan tAn aDi yashOdE maindanenat toTTizhuttu maDimEl vaittEn vaittAl
sundara mukhattai kaNDu cintai mayangunEram antara vaikuNTHamODu ellAm kATTinAn

caraNam 4

ThottililE piLLai kiLLi vittathum avai alaRa
Vitta kaariyam agala veNNai thinRaan!
Kattina kanRai avizhththu ettiyum oLiththu vittu
Mattilaath thumbai kazhuththil maattik koNdaan!
Vittu vittu ammE enRaan kanRinaip pOlE
Attiyillaadha maadum ammaa enRathE!
Kittina kuvaLaiyOdum ettinaal un selva magan!
Pattiyil kaRavaiyidam paalai ootturaan adee! (thaayE)

caraNam 5

ChuRRi chuRRi ennai vanthu aththai veettu vazhi kEttaan
Siththaththukku ettum varaiyil solli ninREn
Aththudan vittaanO paarum aaththankarai vazhi kEttaan
Aththanaiyum sollivittu ninREn
Viththagamaai onRu kEttaan - naaNamaaguthE!
Muththaththukku vazhi kEttu saththam ittaaNdee
Aththanai idam koduththu meththavum vaLarththu vittaai!
Iththanai avanaich chollak kuththam illaiyeyadee! (thaayE)

caraNam 6

VeNNai veNNai thaarum enRaan! VeNNai thanthaal thinRu vittu
PeNNaith thaarum enRu kaNNadikkiraan!
VaNNamai niruththamaadi maNNinaip paathaththaal eRRik
KaNNilE iraiththu vittuk kaLavaadinaan!
PaNN isaiyum kuzhal oothinaan- kEttu ninRa
PaNbilE arugil vanthu vambugaL seithaan!
PeNNinaththukku enRu vantha puNNIyangaL kOdi kOdi
ENNi unakku aagumadi- kaNNIyaamaaip pOguthadee! (thaayE)

caraNam 7

MunthaanaL anthi nEraththil sontham udan kittE vanthu
VinthaigaL anEgam seithu viLaiyaadinaan- oru
PanthaLavaagilum veNNai thanthaal viduvEn enRu
Munthugilaith thottizhuththup pOraadinaan
Antha vaasudhEvan ivan thaan adi yasOdhE!
Mainthan enRu thottu izhuththu madi mEl vaiththEn vaiththaal
Sundara mugaththaik kaNdu sinthai mayangum nEram
Anthara vaigunthamOdu ellaam kaattinaan adee ! (thaayE)

2010 January 10 [Sunday]


Last week I was terribly homesick for music class. Each time I get a chat message I am curious to know what new songs my friends have learnt as I miss the silly banter, the fun and ruckus we caused, including breaking light bulbs...all accidentally ofcourse.

I am not sure how I will catch-up and learn all the songs I missed this past year. So after two back-back reruns of listening to our old recordings, I could not rid the strong feeling and went for an hour long walk singing raga Janasammodhini [Govinda Ninna Namave Chanda] whose lyrics are below.

Sri Purandara Dasa composed this 28 harikaambhoji janya in the Kannada language and set it to Adi Tala with Arohana :: S R2 G3 P D2 N2 S and Avarohana : S N2 D2 P G3 R2 S

Pallavi : govindaa ninna naamave chanda

Anupallavi : anu renu trina kashtha paripoorna govinda || nirmalathmakanaagi iruvude aananda || (Govinda)

Charanam : srishti sthithi laya karana govinda || ee pari mahimeya thiluvude aananda || paramapurusha namma purandara vittala || hingana dasara (ninnaya karana**) sahaluve aananda || (GovinDa)

The composer, Sri Purandara Dasa used the signature "purandara vittala" in his songs which is the second-last line of the charanam (last part of the song).

** In the Charanam, the last line was taught as "ninnaya karana sahaluve aananda" (everything in this world is joyful because of you) but as a non-kannada speaker I am not sure which version is correct as I dont know what "hingana dasara" means and I assume neither does the listener.... and frankly at -16 deg C, it was just moi lonely soul on the road, as compared to the time we sang it on stage infront of an audience. 

UPDATE 20100813: Jaga left a comment for the charanam lyrics "mangalamahima purandaravittala hingade bhakutara salahode ananda". Thanks Jaga.

For more musical entries, read http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2009 November 9 [Monday]


Revati can be:: the name of a person ; the wife of Balarama (elder brother of Krishna) ; or a Pisces nakshatra/lunar star ; but for me its Revati ragam in Karnatic music, which is the second ratnangi janya (argh, that is YAB entry sitting as a "draft" since months).

Tala: Adi | Composer: Dayananda Saraswati | Language: Sanskrit.

Arohanam : S R1 M1 P N2 S  || Avarohan  : S N2 P M1 R1 S

where, R1==shuddha rishabham, M1==shuddha madhyamam, and N2==kaishiki nishadham.

Pallavi: bho shambho shiva shambho svayambho
Anupallavi: gangadhara shankara karunakara mamava bhavasagara taraka
: nirguna parabrahma svarupa gamagama bhuta prapanca rahita | nija guhanihita nitanta ananta ananda atishaya akshayalinga ||
Charanam2: dhimita dhimita dhimi dhimikita kitatom tom | tom tarikita tarikitakita tom | matanga munivara vandita isha | sarva digambara veshtitha vesha | Isha sabhesha sarvesha||

So what is it about some ragas that have an attractive quality to them? Apparently listening (and performing?) this raga always evokes deep emotions and feelings. Hmm.... I've heard the same of raga Bhairavi but BHO SHAMBHO in Revati has a very important place for me. I had learnt this raga all by myself more than a decade ago...gee, i wonder how annoyed folks around me would been as i insisted on ghissa'oing the tape 24/7. Nothing else, just one raga months on end and a few months later when I heard CB render it with a plastic bucket as his modified tabla....absolutely mesmerising!! I had to ask him for a jam session and he helped me iron out my rough edges -- He had demoed some swara bhedams and I had no clue that I was making those errors in my niravals. See, now that is the difference between DIY effort and a propah guru to guide ya. Some years later, when I formally learnt it again from a guru, I was able to appreciate the raga more deeply.

Lastly a word on the composer, Dayananda Saraswati. He is the founder of Arya Samaj whose writings, rather commentary on the Vedic/Upanishad texts is very interesting. It has a lot of similarities to Gaudapada's karika on the Mandukya upanishad which inspired the sunyata nyaya. Yet another check in my pending ToReadList.

2009 March 1 [Sunday]


"Bhairavi" is another name for the goddess Shakti and is one of the forms of Kali. In Sanskrit, Bhairavi means "fierce" and frankly I've been trying hard to find those elements in the Bhairavi raga :) 

  • arohaṇa: S R2 G2 M1 P D2 N2 S

  • avarohaṇa: S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

The notes used are chathusruthi rishabham, sadharana gandharam, shuddha madhyamam, chathusruthi dhaivatham & shuddha dhaivatham and kakali nishadham. Notice that the two daivathams are used in the Arohana : chathusruthi (D2) and Avarohana uses the shuddha (D1) daivatham.

Considered to be an ancient raga its 15 centuries old and a hot favourite with all performers and teachers too. Heh, my teacher started out with this after my break and I desperately try to search for the fierce emotions whilst listening/performing this raga. Since summer has already started I do get hot under the collar but daresay that we cause more heat for others than anything else.

Older composers have numerous compositions in this raga which is a janya of the 20th Melakarta of Nataibhairavi. Surprisingly this fierce raga is well loved and widely used in both Hindustani and Karnatic padhattis and the Hindustani Bhairavi is, as usual, vastly different from the Karnatic Bhairavi, where the latter is a Sampoorna raga (scale of 7 notes) with two different dhaivatham's in its scale. That pushes it out of the Melakarta ragam classification, which is another blog entry sitting in the drafts folder ....sheesh !!

2009 February 28 [Saturday]


mmm... so I have not blogged about music for such a loooooooong time and resuming class after a very loooooong time was funtastic. Guess what the teacher started with ? 

No prizes to guess that it was a Bhairavi, no less *grin*

So what is the juice with bhairavi and revati ? Both are ragas that I like (well, they did grow on me over a period of time), are tough in terms of scale, definitely not less than a todi but a todi is a todi is a todi :D and it would be utterly unfair (and even stupid) to compare these ragas in terms of laya and shruti and term any one as superior to the other.

Masti is a mild term to describe the storm we generate at music class week after week. That we are a loud, boisterous bunch is an understatement in itself.  That our 'a cappella' renditions can be heard till the end of the street has brought many a new student wanting to join and start performing like us. Talk of tall expectations :-D

Thus far we have only broken a tube-light, sung (in a group ofcourse) special notes for special people, who just dont `get` it which dissolves the kids into bouts of giggles. Gah... really kids, you dont have to make things so obvious. Hmpf !!

VS, non, I have still NOT forgiven you for the group attack and those lousy pictures. /meh plots..............

2008 September 9 [Tuesday]


Having started learning this oh-so-famous sampoorna raga last month, I am now at the point where I must create niravals, Hmm.... i was trying to explain this  over the weekend (with a practical demonstration) to a (non-technically inclined) musical person very unsuccessfully. Maybe if i write it down the theoretical aspects will be more clear. Besides i need this for the exam next year, so i need to catalog my mental outpourings on a medium better than sheets of paper which is no good for the environment (fact: i misplace sheets but the environment sounds cooler :^))

Based on the discussions we had in class, the niraval is an extempore construction and improvisation of swaras for a particular line in the kriti to bring out the beauty of the raga and its always elaborated on a portion of a kriti, usually just one line from the charanam part of the kriti. It has to sit within the framework of a tala and highlight every rasa and bhava singularly. I cant even begin to stress how important niravals are for any student as every student dreams to be able to do thsi, atleast i did ever-since I was a kid, when i first heard it but didnt really understand what the fuss was all about ...afterall it was just a permutation-combination of svaras :-))  I WISH it was THAT easy.... reality is, it requires a good, and i mean really good grasp of the raga, its construction, make-up and all that jazz. Finally though its the artist's individuality and imagination, which is why some singers are oh-so-good and some mediocre and some oh-well-forget-it.

We know, Shankarabharanam is a 29 dhira sampoorna melakarta with panchama chakram and Madhyama Bhana. Doh... what ??

See the; Arohanam and avarohanam ... Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S || Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

where :

S=Shadjam, R2=Chatusruti Rishabham, G3=Antara Gandharam, M1=Suddha Madhymam, P=Panchamam, D2=Chatusruti Dhaivatam, N3=Kakali Nishadam.

Here, we can see it has all the sapta svaras, with the avarohan (descending octave) being an exact opposite of the arohan (ascending octave). It is the Suddha Madhyama counterpart of MeLam 65 - (Mecha) Kalyani and the prescence of 7 svaras in the raga metre allows far greater scope for niraval's and this is an extremely popular concert raga since the scope for manodharma (artistic elaboration) is very high and flexible, besides being simple (this is my guru's opinion, mine is still oscillating between ecstatic imagination and frustration *sigh*).

Example : ShyamaShastri's "sarojadala netri himagiri putri" set to Adi talam (double) was the one for which i constructed and recorded some 4-beat niravals for "sama gana vinodhini guna" (like this : gpmgrs | s,ndpmgrs). Now i need to get the records corrected and start recording longer cycles. ; I also need to learn and keep a repositary of 40 ragams (being mandatory basic knowledge) ....gosh, so much to do and i wonder when will i "think" and _then_ record the 8-beat, and 16-beat talam niravals ???? not much time :-/

Anyway, each kriti has a different line for which a niraval is sung which is what makes it tough (and maybe unique) and the svaram should compulsarily be sung for the same line, either in the course of the song or after it is over, depending on the raga, kriti, etc.... Here knowledge of the jiva swaras and the melakarta system is important. Think of it as small building blocks of svaras. As i write this i am listening to a hindustani rendition of Raga Raageshri with the flautist and the tabla player throwing snippets of svaras (is it called 'bol' in hindustani???) at each other. The other will have to match it and return one snippet of his own. Thus they managed to build a whole tower which spirals into a crescendo where both match the others play with a simultaneous play of svaras.

Did i mention that the niravals are ALWAYS impromptu. If you had to write/document it and read off or sing whilst looking at a piece of paper then you are not considered a good artist. To this date, i have never, and i mean never seen a single artist read off from a sheet of paper or tele-prompter during the performance. Do that and in all likelihood there wont be an encore. This is also why every rendition sounds different, unlike a recorded session (ughh..predictable), and hence unique.

In Hindustani classical the artiste does the aalap (raga construction) at the beginning of the raga and does it for the _whole_ ragam. In Karnatic, we have ragam-tanam-pallavi BUT people dont want elaborate pieces. They want short and simple stuff according to our mridangam artiste last year...and oh, fast songs....this is not exactly pop ya know. *sigh*

Having said this comparing Hindustani with Karnatic music is akin to saying the North and South poles are the same, figuratively speaking, because they are not. Rather they are parallel in nature and dont overlap much if at all.


Renowned violinist Sri.KunnakudiVaidyanathan passed away on Sept08 :-( RIP

Shankarabharanam is a 29 dhira Shankarabharanam Melakarta Ragam with the same name in Dikshitar's asampoorna melakarta system. Its a sampoorna ragam with panchama chakram and Madhyama Bhana (see niraval for the meaning). In Hindustani music, its called the 'Bilaval thaat', one of the major building blocks of Hindustani musical system. Apparently its Western classical equivalent is C Major with the notes Doh, Re, Mi, Fah, So, La, Ti set to this raga. Interesting !!

Considering the Arohanam and avarohanam ...

Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S

Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

By definition, the Melakarta Ragams are symmetric with respect to going up in octave or down and technically speaking the Arohanam and the Avarohanam are simply reversed in Melakarta Ragams, hence called "Sampoorna (complete)" ragam. This raga has tremendous scope for elaboration and is very popular and a particular favorite of all singers in the Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi segment of a concert and is suitable for singing in the evening... yeah, karnatic music has time-based ragas too :)

Shankar+abharanam=Shankarabharanam, meaning the ornaments of Lord Shiva, symbolically associating swaras as the seven ornaments. 

Shankarabharanam has the largest number of Janya ragams (the janya entry is still under construction) viz. :: Arabhi, Athana, Bangala, Begada, Behag, Bilahari, Durbar, Durvanki, Devagandhari, Garudadhwani, Gaudamalhar, Hamsadhwani, Hamsavinodhini, Janaranjani, Kadanakuthoohalam, Kanada, Kannada, Kedaram, Kuranji, Maahuri, Navaroj, Nagadhwani, Narayani, Narayanadesakshi, Nilambari, Phalamanjari, Purnachandrika, Purvagowla, Sahana, Sama, Saraswatimanohari, Sindumandari, Suddha Vasantham, Suddha Saveri, Vasantha.

Hmm... there is so much more but the entry is long as is so let me stop the technical details for now or i shall never finish. I did want to mention that it is possible to compose sahityam in different talams and Muthuswami Diskhitar has composed around 40 songs in Sankarabharanam known as Nottu Swara sahityam. I have been learning ShyamaShastri's "sarojadaLa nEtri himagiri putri" set to Adi tala and the niraval explanation will be specific to this song.

For more musical entries, read http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2008 September 1 [Monday]


Its been long since i wrote an entry on music, most of them are still in the learning/search stage but this entry is special.

Dear P, i am deviating from the norm here and am dedicating this raga entry to you on your big day :-) That you used to enjoy each raga was the common factor for me and I shall miss the passion you brought to music class. Most of all I shall miss all the leg pulling, laughter, secret signs, giggles, masti and hooliganism we indulged in class. This raga, especially  the song TAndanAnA ahi - BrahmamOkate, will always remind me of our practice sessions for our performance last year [and your dance (sorry, I had to say it ;-))]. Keep smiling, be happy :-) vid


Bowli is a madhyama-varjaya janyam of 15th Melakarta raga;mAyamALava gowLa janya. The scale is :

Arohan: s r1 g3 p d1 S
Avarohan: S n3 d1 p g3 r1 s

Talam : Adi

Here is another link for talam that has a good explanation about the theoretical bits.

Note that the Arohanam of Bowli does not have the Nishadha (N) which is left out making it a nishaada-varjaya in the arohana scaling. The most famous song in this raga is  "TAndanAnA ahi - BrahmamOkate", a fast paced telugu kriti (song) by Annamacharya.

Other songs in the same raga are :

0] anantAya sarvAya - HB

0] dIna janAvana - T

0] melukOvayya - T

0] parama purusha nirupamAna (also shhanmugapriyA) - AC

0] shambhO mahAdEva

0] shrIman nArAyaNa

0] tappulanniyu - HB

0] yOginI gaNasEvitE - HB

2008 July 26 [Saturday]


Uthukadu Venkatasubbaiyer was born in 1700 in the village "uthukadu" in Kerala, which was prefixed to his name "venkatasubbaiyer". His compositions were mainly on SriKrishna, his ishta devata but he did not incorporate any mudra or signature in his songs.

He did compose kritis on Ganesha (sri vignarajam bhaje | todi | sanskrit) and also a set of navavarna krithis. Composed in raga Kanada - 22 kharaharapriya janya, the sublime "Alaipayuthe" is set to Adi Talam in Tamil.

2008 July 25 [Friday]


The last I blogged about music was two months ago, around the time I had stopped attending class. Having resumed class few days ago, let me start out with the raga we had performed on stage : GambhiraNattai raga, a classic belonging to the 36 mela janyam with Arohan : S G3 M1 P N3 S and Avarohan : S N3 P M1 G3 S

SRI_VIGNARAJAM_BHAJE in KhandaChapu by SriUthukadu Venkatasubbaiyer in Sanskrit was the song but minus the jatis, which is partly due to lack of time and largely due to lack of listener interest. Our teacher keeps urging us to practice jatis on our own but half the time all we indulge in masti.

Music is one unspoken language and  does not need words, a glance, a half smile, raised eyebrow, change in pitch with the right nuance can convey a lot resulting in a burst of laughter. Here is a second song, a tillana "kALinga nartanam" (lyrics link) in the same raga "gambheera nattai" composed by SriUthukadu Venkatasubbaiyer in Sanskrit which is being performed by Sri. Aruna Sairam at the december festival.

2008 May 13 [Tuesday]


Raga: Yamunakalyani [65 mecha-kalyani janya] is a modern version of Yaman Kalyan of the Hindustani idiom. SubbaramaDikshitar classifies the raga as bhashanga and desiya.

The arohana/avarohana is given by:

A: S R2 G3 P M2 P D2 S

Av: S D2 P M2 P G3 R2 S

It is a sampoorna raga and the shuddha madhyama (M2) appears in vakra prayogas in the avarohana such as "g M r" and "g M g r s" but is often rendered in madhyama sruti.

[1] BHAVAYAMI_GOPALA_BALAM | khanda chapu | Annamacharya | Telugu |

[2] KrishnaNee BeganeBaro | khanda-chapu | Vyasaraya tirtha | Kannada (There is also a Tamil version which is what I learnt from my g'ma).

In his treatise, "Raganidhi", Subba Rao notes that there are two versions of this raga and the second does not employ the shuddha madhyama. It skips the nishada and the arohana/avarohana is "s r g p m p d s" - "s d p m s g r s".

There are many sanchari geethams and jathi swarams (the basics) in Kalyani raga.


When I started maintaining a series of notes (and I need to stop using paper) on the ragams learnt, i tried reading up on that particular composer and the composition in an effort to understand them better. Now i realise that this is not a small project and cross-checking books and online resources takes a helluva lotta time. Each composer deserves their own page instead of a scribbled one-liner amongst other notes, and there being just a handful of composers, this may not be a long series !

ANNAMACHARYA :: - He was the first to structure lyrics in the pallavi and charanam mode, of which 14,000 lyrics are available out of his staggering 32,000 compositions! He used the mudra (signature) "Venkateswara" with slight contextual variations but many were "Anonymous" with no signature. In 1922 the Tirupati Devasthanam authorities stumbled upon the copper plates on which the songs had been engraved by Annamacharya's grandson Chinna Tirumalacharya.

Annamacharya's lilting poetry also encompassed folk compositions but the most famous ones include “Muddu gaaru yashoda", "Ksheerabdi kanyakadu" and “Bhavayami Gopala Balam", which we performed earlier (twice to be precise), with its sonorous lines like “Ghati ghatita mekala Kachita mani ghantika...” and "Ksheerabdi" - which has a lilting melody and is best heard when you are lying on a swing .... guaranteed to send your brain into "relax" mode.

A king called Saluva Narasimha Raya, had demanded that Annamacharya compose similar erotic poetry glorifying him but the poet declined, saying his poetry and music were dedicated to the Almighty alone, for which he was imprisoned by the King. One cant blame the King as after listening to "Muddugaru" and "Ksheerabdi" you will never know that both belong to the same - kuranji raga composition. His compositions blend devotion with erotic love and include subtle Vedic, Tantric and scriptural references, whilst the initiated can decipher the mantras and astrology embedded in the compositions.

2008 May 8 [Thursday]


Kuranji raga is derived from the 29th melakarta Shankarabharanam. It is a sampoorna raga with vakra sancharas (needs a separate post) in the arohana and avarohana.

A: s r g m g m p d n s
Av: s n p n d d p m g r s
The notes taken by the raga besides Shadjam and Pancham are :: R2-Chatusruti rishabham, G2-Antara gandharam, M1-shudha madyamam, D2-Chatusruti daivatam and N2-kaishiki Nishadham. Jiva and nyasa swaras are G, P, N. The phrase "snNS" has N as tevra swara and the upanga raga has all the notes rendered with gamaka.

Since the svara sanchara is limited, it is sung in madhyama (slow tempo) shruti in vilambit laya to enhance feelings of compassion. Kuranji is actually a Tamil folk tune adopted into Karnatic music.

[1] Kshirabdi Kanyakaku | KhandaChapu (29MelaJanyam) | Annamacharya | Telugu |


ksheerAbdi kanyakaku Sree mahA lakshmikini
neerajAlayakunu neerAjanam

caraNam 1

jalajAkshi mOmunaku jakkuva kucambulaku
nelakonna kappurapu neerAjanam
aLivENi turumunaku, hasta kamalambulaku
niluvu mANikyamula neerAjanam

caraNam 2

pagaTu Sree vENkaTESu paTTapu rANIyai
negaDu sati kaLalakunu neerAjanam
jagati alamElu manga tsakkadanamula kella
niguDu nija SObhanapu neerAjanam

caraNam 3

charana kisalayamulaku sakhiyarambhorulaku
niratamagu muttela neerajanam
aridi jaghanambunaku ativa nijanabhiki
nirati nanavarna neerajanam

[2] Muddugare Yashoda | Adi | Annamacharya | Telugu |

29 shankaraabharaNam janya
Aa: S N3 S R2 G3 M1 P D2
Av: D2 P M1 G3 R2 S N3 S

Composer: Annamaacaarya


MuddugAre YasodA mungiti muthyamuvidu
DidderAni mahimala Devaki suthudu

caraNam 1

Anthanintha gollethala arachethi mAnikyamu
PanthamAdey Kamsuni pAli vajramu
KAnthula moodu lokAla Garudapachapoosa
Chenthala mAlonunna Chinni Krishnudu

caraNam 2

ratikeli rukminiki rangumovi pagadamu
mithi gOvardhanapu Gomedikamu
sathamye SankhachakrAla sandula vaidooryamu
gathiyai mammu gAche KamalAkshudu

caraNam 3

kAlinguni talapye gappina pushyarAgamu
yelleti Sri VenkatAdri Indraneelamu
pAlajalanidhilona bAyani Divya ratnamu
bAluneevale dhrigi PadmanAbhudu

For more musical entries, read: http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2008 May 5 [Monday]


Chakravakam is a melancholy 16th Melakarta sampoorna raga and its corresponding Hindustani raga is Aahir Bhairav. The Arohan: S R1 G3 M1 P D2 N2 S , has vakra svarams and Avarohan: S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R1 S, which manage to evoke bhakti bhava in the listener. If the notes N2 and M1 are sung as S (Shadjam), a shruti bhedam occurs resulting in Dharmavati and Sarasangi ragam, respectively.

A number of bhajans are composed in this ragam and listening to either Aruna Sairam or Pandit Bhimsen Joshi render the popular abhang "Teertha Vittala, Kshetra Vittala", is very soothing and relaxing. 

Sri.SwatiThirunal had composed "Saroja Nabhada" in Sanskrit which is set to Adi Talam.  Kailasanadam, composed by Sri MuthuSwami Dikshitar in Sanskrit language was set to rupaka talam and referred to as raga Vegavahini. He also composed Gajanana Yutam in Sanskrit, set to Adi talam and Vinayaka Vignanashaka, also in Sanskrit, set to Rupaka talam.

Sri. ArunaGiri Nathar composed Apakara NindaiPat, a  Tamil Thirupugzal (Thirupugzal, composed in Tamil are hymns in praise of Lord Muruga) which was set to Chatusra Jati Jhumpa Tala (4+3).

For more musical entries, read: http://svaksha.com/category/ART/Music

2008 May 3 [Saturday]


Why not kick off the raga series with todi as the first raga !

In the Karnatic system, 'Todi' ragam is commonly referred to as "HanumantaTodi" and is placed as the 8th in the melakarta system and being an ancient raga it was called Janatodi.

Todi is a sampoorna raga, i.e. a raga with all 7 notes and perfectly symmetrical tetra-chords as swaras. It has S-shudha, R1-Rishabham, G2-sadharana gandharam, M1-shudha madhyamam, P-Panchamam, D1-shudha dhaivatam, N2-kaishiki nishadham and S.

The poorvanga (S to P) and uttaranga (P to S) are very balanced. The jeeva swaras of Todi are GMDN. Their usage in prayogas during raga aalapana of Todi brings out the beauty of this raga. Nyasa swaras are GMPDN. One can weave different patterns of notes centred around these notes, but some prayogas without panchama (P) sound very beautiful.

Todi lends itself beautifully for slow medium-paced kritis, varnams, tillanas, viruttham etc. For example, tAyE yashOdA undan | Adi | UttukkADu venkatasubbaiyer, from the movie Morning Raga. The swara kalpana's and the ragam-taanam-pallavi coupled as fusion music was simply fantastic and Era napai | Adi | Patnam Subramanya Iyer, is another varnam aptly suitable for ragam-taanam-pallavi, where all swaras should be handled softly and each note is suitable for Gamaka prayoga or oscillation.

This page has a composite list of all the Karnatic todi ragam songs. Looking at the "peculiar compositions" by Ramaswami Dikshitar (svarastAna pada varNam) and "Ma manini" Dr.MB.Krishna (which i remember partly, egad :-S), you will find them constructed without words. The whole song consisting of pallavi, anupallavi and charanam is composed with only the 7 swaras... WOW!!

Practically speaking, each of these songs in Todi, sounds different at first. The difference is not because of the lyrics, which albeit different, but look at the swara sthanas (hint: arohanam and avarohanam) which differ. Shruti-bhedam i.e. while singing alap, using tharasthayi R as S, makes Todi sound like Kalyani, but since it interferes with bhava (emotional flow of the raga) which should not be done extensively.

The composers have the liberty of starting off anywhere but are still bound within the raga metrics and that is their playground for creativity. Ofcourse each composition can have a different talas (beats) and no two songs of the same raga will sound alike, else your credibility as a composer is zilch. Duh, imagine the precarious position of the hindi film music composers(?), who are renowned for -copying- err.. being inspired .. *cough*.... by other peoples tunes frequently.

Now you must be wondering how a listener will know who is the composer of a particular song in say raga: Todi.

Simple.... Every composer had a signature embedded in the song he/she wrote, akin to the "comments" that programmers include in their programs. Some composers used a pseudonym/pen name and some their real names but they always inserted their names in the charanam (last stanza) of the song, never earlier. Humility matters :).

Legend has it that some not-so-famous students of famous composers in order to give credibility to their compositions used to pen them in their "famous composer teachers" names and bask in their shadowed glory. I am not sure how true this is and dont particularly care. Its more fun to enjoy the music!!

In Hindustani music there are quite a few ragas with the suffix Todi but sounds very different from the Karnatic HanumantaTodi. Example : The Hindustani Gurjari Todi, Mian ki Todi, Multani Todi etc., do not resemble the Carnatic Todi. This is true for many ragas which only share a common raga name.

There are many compositions in HanumantaTodi. Every southern Vaggeyakara has composed in Todi. SriThyagaraja has composed around 30 kritis and the speciality is that each one highlights a different nuance of the ragam.

1] The kriti 'Dasarathe' starts in mantra sthayee "D" and emphasizes the prayoga of gamaka-laden "D".
2] The kriti 'Dasukovalena' centres round Madhya sthayee "D".
3] The kriti 'Koluvamaregada' starts at Taara sthayee "S" and comes down the avarohana slowly. Shyama Sastri has done a slow vilambit kala kriti with Swarajati Raave, thereby bringing out the slow beauty of this raga.

TO-DO in Todi, including the derivative janya ragas are :

1] Venugana ramana | Mishra Chapu.
2] Dasuko | Misra Jhampa | Thyagaraja.
3] Koluvamaregada | Adi | Thyagaraja.
4] Rajuvedala (Srirangam Pancharatna) | Rupakam | Thyagaraja |
5] Sri Krishnam Bhaja (on Guruvayurapan) | Adi | Dikshitar |
6] Ninne Nammi | Misra Chapu | Shyama Sastri |
7] Raave (Swarajati) | Adi | Shyama Sastri |
8] Sarasija nabhada | Misra Chapu | Swati Tirunal |
9] Thamatham en | Adi | Papanasam Sivan |
10] Tanigai Valar-Khanda Chapu- Papanasam Sivan |
11] Kartikeya- Aadi- Papanasam Sivan |
12] Anjananandam | Adi |
13] Annaiyargal vanam nadi vandar | Adi |
14] Dasharathe dayanidhe | Adi
15] En inge vandu | Adi
16] Jatadhara shankara devedeva | Adi
17] Rasa loka vaibhoga | Adi
18] Tale sharanam amma | Adi
19] Tannam taniyaha senrale | Mishra Chapu
20] Urugada manam enna manamo | Adi
21] Vandavarai varum enrazhaittu mani polum | Adi

Janya (derivative) raga :

1] Bhuvana moha saundara sukumara | Dhanyasi | Adi
2] Nada nada nada krishna | Dhanyasi | Adi
3] Padmini vallabha dehi pradehi | Dhanyasi | Adi
4] Natajana kalpavalli | Punnagavarali | Adi
5] Nila vanam tanil oli vishum niraimadiyo | Punnagavarali | Adi
6] Na dhru dhim tadana tomtana (tillana) | Sindhubhairavi | Adi
7] Shen shiva jatadhara shambho | Sindhubhairavi | Adi

2008 May 2 [Friday]


I had always wanted to record the kritis we had performed earlier on the basis of the ragam, rather than bifurcate it on the basis of the name of the song, composer or even language. That didnt seem very educative since the examinations are structured along those lines and its important to get the theory part correct. *sigh* now the word "theory" != "by rote".

Unless I understand the difference between a N2 and N3 and am able to distinguish that swara in the construction of the swara kalpana, i cant get the raga right, and therein lies the challenge. Classifying songs according to the raga is much more simpler and easier to understand since many songs can share the same raga and yet sound so different. Some brilliant composers literally play around with this aspect, including the language and speed. Teachers dont have the time to teach every song ever composed on a particular raaga, or they may not even know that many songs. So its upto the student to learn various styles, get a good grasp and try to extend their repetoire.

|| What is a RAGA? ||

A raga consists of 7 swarams and the sapta-swarams are :- SA - Shadjam
RI - Rishabham
GA - Gandharam
MA - Madhyamam
PA - Panchamam
DA - Daivatam
NI - Nishadham

Of these swarams, S and P are constant but R, G, D, and N have three variations.

R could be Shudha (R1), Chatusruthi (R2), or Shatsruthi (R3) Rishabham.
G could be Shudha (G1), Sadharna (G2) or Anthara (G3) Gandharam.
D could be Shudha (D1), Chatusruthi (D2)or Shatsruthi (D3) Daivatam.
N could be Shudha (N1), Kaishiki (N2), or Kakali (N3) Nishadham.
Any ragam that contains all seven swarams is called a Melakartha Ragam. The 72 Melakarta ragams are all sampoorna ragas which means they have all the 7 swaras in the arohanam and avarohanam. Ragams with less than seven swarams are derived ragas from one of the parent melakarta ragams. Here is a nice chart for calculating the Melakarta ragam.

Janya meaning "derived from" is a set of Janya Ragams derived from the 72 melakarta (sampoorna basic) ragams.

2008 January 1 [Tuesday]

More encores

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2008

Starting the new year with a performance is a first for me. The mridangam artiste who provided the percussion was impressed with our performance on the 14th and held a jam session (with his son on the tabla) on Sunday. Prior to that he had refused to rehearse any session for the first program. But hey, as tiny artists we really cant expect experienced artists to accede every rehearsal request, even it helps us learn and improve.

Usually when we learn or practice, we only keep the vocals in mind and dont provide any breaks for percussion. Since the tutelage is usually separate for individual disciplines, it does not make sense to pause when there is no one to play alongside. Only experienced and established stage artists learn the nuances, others dont. On Sunday we learnt how to keep cycles (of beats) for the percussionists (violin, tabla, mridangam, flute) which gives us the much needed pause to quickly look at the lyrics{*1}.

Yesterday was our last practice session before the performance today and we laughed a lot during practice. Although its involuntary, the head swaying and other gestures looks very funny on stage and most girls dont realise it. So 'B' started parroting and mimicing each funny gesture, actions and expressions and it was good fun :-P.

This is the first time i am in the south in the month of Mazhgazhi (concert season) and i like it, but Chennai has the best concerts. We had to practice and sing 14-15 raagas in 5 different languages (Sanskrit, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu) with just 8 10 weeks (2 hours practice per week) to learn, no mean task. Last time i had kept a paper with the lyrics but today i didnt keep the lyrics, just a sequence list. Mugging (learning by rote) mere words is neigh impossible for me and the songs make more sense when I know the meaning of the lyrics and the context, although its not necessary in every case. Some ragas are very simple and easy to remember but most times lyrics help since the language dialect is old (read, pure) and not at all used in daily life by people today.

Most times i refer and borrow lyrics from Todd M. McComb's fantastic site on Carnatic music. He has written an interesting article on what Carnatic Music means to him.

In what tradition can the songs be said to be so perfect, both in their grandeur and in their succinctness? There can be no comparison, especially in the directness of the expression and the range of melodic material available. One can find one or the other in many places, whether a simple and beautiful song, or an impressive intellectual construction based on a nonsense phrase or no words at all. Carnatic music accommodates both of these ideals, and does so to magnificent effect. A song can be performed simply and in all humility, or with the grandest elaboration retaining the core of both meaning and melody.At least in the US, we are supposedly equal, and the same should be said for our taste in music. For a professional musician, the idea is somewhat insulting, because how can the ignorant know of what they judge? They cannot, but we are forced to acknowledge them to make a living, if for no other reason.

The above is so true, take the Tyagaraja kriti "Marugelara O Raghava", a telugu song which is sung in praise of LordVishnu , wherein the Tyagaraja asks "why God has forgotten his humble devotee (Tyagaraja)" and so on. Now i am no Telugu language expert but apparently it can also be interpreted as a woman reproaching her love for forgetting her. In Oothukadu Venkatasubba Iyer's "Aalaipayuthe" one can take the religious interpretation but it can also be interpreted as a woman talking about the love of her life. /quote: Of course the meaning of the lyrics revolves around acts of religious devotion. One can rightly ask both concerning the relevance of devotion in our modern age of technology and selfishness, as well as the ability of a Westerner to apprehend and appreciate it. Indeed, it would be presumptuous of me to suggest that I fully understand the songs of the Trinity. I understand parts of them, sometimes after they are explained to me. Nonetheless, I identify with them somehow. The ideas find a personal resonance, not least of which because they are expressed with such musical grace. The sophistication of allusion requires some cross-cultural explanation, but the core idea of devotion meets with receptive listeners elsewhere. /unquote.

IMO, the raga's rhythm and beautiful patterns one can construct is enough to drown away the mundaneness of daily life. It is timeless and the words or linguistic construction is such that one can find meanings relevant even today, especially with respect to emotions. Most times one is caught in the rhythm, melody and the mathematical swaras or poetic beauty of the lyrics. Hmm.. even i dont know the meaning of all the songs i have learnt, although i have always bugged my teachers about it, much to their annoyance ;-). After the advent of the internet, i google (a lot) but dont always get answers.

/quote: The success of music is ultimately in the mind of the listener, and specifically in the physical and emotional changes which can be provoked. It is a simple fact that Carnatic music has only a positive effect in this way, while the same cannot be said for various forms of popular music. Both the ability of music to build and release tension, as well as its potential to unlock latent energies in the mind are respected and developed. When discussing lofty ideas with people, there are often various mental blocks which must be overcome, and knowing the way around them gracefully is a large part of the art of teaching. /unquote.

Any song can be used to express a range of emotions, situations, intersperse between those and a whole range unknown, just as its open to (mis)interpretation. Most Indian languages are flexible and do borrow vocabulary from each other in some cases. Yet finally, its upto individuals to use their linguistic, cognitive, philosophical, and historical language skills to conjure up their own creative interpretations. Usually such (the latter in Marugelara or Alaipayuthe) interpretations are not encouraged or taught simply because lesser minds can convolute and misuse things they fully dont grasp or understand. For the most part, today i had more fun on stage and the performance went well. Many came and complimented me for Bho Shambho-Revati and BrahmamOkate-Bhowli so my worries{*2} just disappeared. I should remember to use the strong coffee+chocolate therapy to perk my mood in future. It just works :) (tm)

Today the net connection has been very very patchy .... pinging the ISP's server works but still no internet ....*sigh*, hope its not an indication of the patchy service my ISP intends to provide this year :(... besides the power cut we had at noon....*longer sigh*. One way out is to tell myself that our traditional new year is in April, which makes me feel less irritated with the government who provides power here.

--- --- --- --- ---

{*1} For reasons unknown, all performances are impromptu...which means no papers with lyrics or written notations (rather it is frowned upon), so I am wondering how folks would react if we had kept the laptop with lyrics infront of us during our performance today :-P{*2} Had a migrane and sinus all this weekend, which refused to go away even after taking medicines. Strange as it seems while practicing i never felt the headache but the moment the music stops the dull throbbing headache would start.

2007 December 15 [Saturday]


We did it...... after an anxious[0] morning and months of practice (...ok just 8 weeks), our ragitty troup managed to pull of an evening of karnatic musical performance. There was the usual excitement, anxiety (for the teacher), tears[1]. The juniors (kids really) started off before us and we observed that both instrumentalists (who were superb) hardly played as some kids were not able to keep the swara (tune). Thankfully by the time we started, the accompanists caught on very quickly and our hour long performance stretched out to a whole 90 min... and this without any tani avartanams (solo performances by instrumentalists). The major credit goes to our guruji's as they took a lot of trouble... no two students are the same, each of us has an individual way of learning, and yet they were able to acomodate us all with our individual uniqueness. In the past i had a teacher who took 4 months to teach one raaga, and needless to say i was not her student for long. Teaching is definitely an art ! Our team had girls with almost 10-20 years age difference between them and yet we sync'd well. Rather we were making such a ruckus backstage that the accompanists glared at us often, sometimes used the instrument to talk to us ...very interesting ;-)
Besides swara, in a duet or group, what is it that makes the team tick ? To me the most important thing is synchrony. Just as in a team, one person may have a strong voice, other shrill, yet another may have good gamakas, ..... so how do we keep all this in mind while performing as a team ?

SALT ...
Synchronise yourself to your team (members),
Adjust your voice/tone/pitch,
Learn to Listen ... i cant stress this enough and we all know how difficult that is in any situation ;-)
Train yourself to "Observe" the big picture (== the overall team output) and not just yourself.

[0] Most classical performances are impromptu, so no rehearsals with the accompanists (violin, mridangam, etc..]. The only time we will meet is on stage, for a live performance.
[1] A song was supposed to start on the 8th pitch, she could not and was upset when the audience spoke about it. Unlike western classical music, Indian classical/Karnatic music does not have written scale / musical notations .

2007 September 16 [Sunday]

The language of sound

Some things manage to remain virtually unchanged. One of these is the concept of time that guides the playing or singing of the ragas of Hindustani music. Over the last two decades, as thematic festivals become a trend, one hears of morning raga festivals, since the raagas are meant to be performed during the early part of the day are rarely otherwise heard. Is it however, necessary to adhere unwaveringly to the time restrictions in a globalised world? In contrast Karnatik musicians perform ragas without reference (baring a few well-known ones) to the actual time of the day or night since very few guru's now-a-days are even aware that such a thing ever existed. For years I have tried asking every teacher/acquaintance/other music students, searched and most importantly other musically-inclined people (who may not be able to create or play classical music but sometimes have more in-depth technical knowledge about each raga and its construction than even students who learn classical music) without much progress.

Mostly live performances for a *single raga* can be an exhausting and exhilarating one and a half hour performance in Hindustani classical, but some Karnatik performers (nowadays) stop short at 20-30 min, which is further reduced by the latest crop of musicians, which again depends on their style and school of music. A few old school stylists, do keep elaborate aalaps and tani avartanams at their live concerts but organisers cite lack of time and may restrict it to a single (maybe two) piece(s) at the most. Elaborate aalaps and tani avartanams (jugalbandi between the instrumentalists and vocalists and/or the former) are done away with, which is highly disappointing.
As far as recorded CD's go, music companies are out to make a fast buck ... Five-ten minutes per raaga is hardly enough for a listener to get into the skin of the raaga. Also the same raaga rendered by another artist can be poles apart in terms of style, artists treatment, and other intricate nuances. So it all depends (to some extent) on a artist to make or break the particular raag.

2007 March 16 [Friday]

Mathemagical music

Its pretty much well known that classical (hindustani and karnatic) music helps the healing process but a less touted fact is that they are mathematical by nature. I stumbled upon this while wondering how to get students to "practice" the basics which according to them is an extremely boring task. One 7-year old complained that it was not as easy as they imagined it to be. Perceptions !!
For the most part popular music shows on TV propagate a false impression that music is an easy way to get famous and rake in the moolah while ignoring the years of hardwork and practice behind it. I remember a "pushy mother" asking our guruji when her kid would be able to perform professionally on stage (exactly 2 days after she had enrolled the child), to which he replied "...in 2 decades".

While wondering how to encourage my students to "listen" and "think" about music I knew it was important to get the point across differently. That is when I saw that certain basic swara kalpanas(*) are palindromes and used that to introduce it vis-a-vis mathematics and computers. I was not sure how much (already overburdened) 5-9 year olds would grasp about the latter but they did find my explanation exciting. For now it worked :-) but I will have to constantly be a step ahead to retain their excitement (and mine too) !! Sometimes I wish I had continued learning Hindustani which would have been an interesting experience. Imagine being able to effortlessly construct and weave a raaga for as long as 30-45 minutes. Wow !!

(*) Swara kalpanas (improvised combinations of musical notes within a particular raaga's framework) are the toughest and the most beautiful part of a raaga. While it is somewhat flexible within the raaga structures, sometimes its difficult to get the nuances right. Probably thats why people good at mathematics easily follow and understand / appreciate different ragas even if they are not instrumentalists or vocalists themselves? I know folks who can easily spot the mistakes and discuss technical aspects which may not make much sense to the lay audience who just intend enjoying the music, peace, whatever....