The spring festival of music by Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira began today at the Bangalore Gayana Samaja with a scintillating concert by Bombay Jaishree. Here is the concert list –
1. Jaya Jaya Swamin – Nattai – Narayana Teerth
2. Tulasamma – Devagandhari – Tyagaraja
3. Bhuvaneshwariya – Mohana Kalyani – Muthiah Bhagavathar
4. Dhaarini Telusu – Shuddha Saveri – Tyagaraja
5. Shankari Neeve – Begada – Subbarayar Shastri
6. Emi chesithe – Thodi – Tyagaraja
7. RTP – Kaapi & Behag ending in a ragamalika Hindolam, Vaasanthi, Hamsanandi and Yaman
9 Tillana – Desh – Lalgudi Jayaraman
The first item in Nattai was a brisk opener with kalpana swaras for the pallavi. Tulasamma in Devagandhari created a meditative ambience. An outstanding alapana in Mohana Kalyani followed by Bhuvaneshwariya was an instant hit with the crowd, swaras sung for the pallavi. This was followed by a quick rendition of Dhaarini Telusu and then she began Begada. There’s the standard Begada sung by musicians, with predictable sangatis/sancharas. But here she came up with some unusual patterns handling them with great finesse. H.N.Bhasker was a stalwart accompanist and supported her at every point throughout the concert. In the Begada piece, neraval was at the usual line in the charanam (“kanakadri sadhana dheena”) but surprisingly she took up kalpana swaras for the pallavi. A novel approach (and welcome). Emi chesithe nemi, Tyagaraja’s piece in Thodi set to Misra Chapu was an unusual choice and beautifully rendered with swaras for the pallavi (no neraval). The thani avarathanam by Patri Satish Kumar (m) and Anirudh Atreya (k) was energetic and brilliant.. The RTP in Kaapi and Behag set to Tisra Triputa (nada pallavi) showed trademarks of a Bombay Jaishree concert – effortlessly switching ragas at any point with great ease both at taanam, swarams and ending in a ragamalika, elevating the concert to higher level. The audience was in a trance. Last year when I heard Jaishree at the same festival I thought nothing could top the Saama-Sivarajani RTP in that concert. But I was wrong!
In the second episode of our podcast we take you back to the basics of Carnatic music where we talk about the primary exercises – Sarali and Janta varisaigal, Dhaatu swaras, Alankaras and Geetams. Why are these exercises so crucial?
Sarali varisaigal are sequential swara patterns sung in Ragam Mayamalavagowla. They help students get a good grip of shruthi or pitch, talam or rhythm and a good foundation of the different notes. Janta varisaigal are patterns of two notes while the Dhaatu swaras are zigzag patterns that give students greater control over the notes. Later when students attempt kalpana swaras using their imagination, these initial exercises come in handy. So even if you’re grumbling and moaning while your teacher is relentless in making you practise these exercises, you’ll certainly thank her later! Students of Hindustani music learn these swara patterns in raag Bilawal, which corresponds to raga Shakarabaranam in the Carnatic scale.
Beginning with sarali varisaigal, students learn to sing 14 different patterns in three different speeds. Once they master sarali, they move on to the janta. My teacher often asked me to practise singing the same sarali and janta varisagal in different ragas (sampoorna ragas which had all seven notes) to break the monotony! Practising the dhaatu varisaigal, whether as a vocal or an instrumental exercise, helps students get a firm grip on the placing of the notes at any point. The melstayi and mantra stayi patterns exercises the vocal chords in higher and lower octaves.
Alankaras, the next stage in abhyasagaanam introduces students to the tala scheme of Carnatic music. There are 7 different tala families in the system, each tala having 5 varieties, thereby allowing 35 possible talas in the system. The three kinds of beats in a tala are anudhritam (one beat), dhrutham (two beats) and laghu (3/4/5/7/9 beats).
Geetams and Swarajathis are the next stepping stones on the path of learning Carnatic music. Geethams are basic songs with simple swara patterns and lyrics. I remember the day I Iearnt my first geetam, Shri Gananadha in ragam Malahari. Finally after several weeks of hearing me sing swaras, swaras and more swaras my teacher got tired of seeing my mournful face in class. When he began teaching the song – one which had lyrics I felt I had stepped into the big league-:)There was a renewed surge of energy in my music classes as I waded my way through the geethams, each captivating me with a magic of its own. As you listen to the podcast, please remember to comment on the blog (the good, the bad and the ugly). Happy listening!
In case you missed our first podcast on Gamakas, you can catch it here
Ashok Subramaniam, an immensely talented composer, singer and musicologist and more importantly a good friend and I have been planning for some time now to get a podcast going. Ashok and I felt that there is a need for de-mystifying Carnatic music – we encounter a whole lot of enthusiastic listeners, who would love to know more about Carnatic music. On the other hand, we find most writing on Carnatic music written for “experts” in often a rather inaccessible manner. This podcast is an attempt to bridge the two. You can be certain we will cover a wide variety of things Carnatic, given our own interests. Your active participation through feedback, comments or even brickbats would help make this a whole lot more fun for us and you as listeners. So drop us a note, comment on the blog, you know the drill.
The fact that Ashok is based in San Jose and I am in Bangalore and our insane schedules (not to mention my difficulty with this audio editing stuff) did not help matters. Nevertheless, we finally got down to it and in this post I present the first episode of our podcast – Gamakas.
Gamaka as the classical definition goes is grace – however calling it grace does not explain much. In ordinary terms gamakas are oscillatory patterns traveling from one note to another in successive repetitive pattern within a confined space. This episode explores when to use gamakas or not, with short demonstrations of appropriate gamakas.