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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.

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