Monthly Archives: February 2010

Podcast: Episode 3 Abhyaasa Gaanam (part 2)

In this third episode of our podcast, we continue with the remaining part of Abhyaasaganam – Swarajatis and Varnams.

Swarajatis are a longer and sophisticated version of geethams. They include a pallavi, sometimes an anupallavi, and charanam(s). Beginning with Rara venu gopapala in ragam Bilahari, students learn 4-5 swarajatis including Shyama Shastri’s classic piece Kamakshi in ragam Bhairavi. I recommend that students listen to the rendition of the Kamakshi swarajathi sung by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

After swarajatis students move on to Varnam. The varnam lesson is a turning point in the student’s education. Varnams are musical compositions with simple lyrics and swara patterns. A varnam consists of a pallavi, anupallavi, chittayi swaram, charanam and muktayi swaras. The benefit of learning varnam includes voice culture and traversing all the three octaves with ease as well as a sound knowledge of the rhythm. The varnam is sung in two speeds and is the opener in a classical concert.

There are two kinds of varnams – taana varnams which are the varnams sung by musicians in a concert and pada varnams which are the varnams sung for dance performances. Taana varnams are in both Adi and Ata talams. As I had mentioned in the earlier podcast, the primer Ganamrutha Varna Maliga brought out by A.S.Panchapakesa Iyer includes all the traditional varnams. I also believe that Viribhoni, the ata tala varnam in ragam Bhairavi is a litmus test for students. When students sing this varnam in two speeds, they begin to understand the nuances as well the depth of the raga.

Here is a rendition of Viribhoni by MS Subbalakshmi.

Devotional Journeys – CD Review

Ranjani Govind reviewed my two CDs – Anjaneya Arathi & Saranagathi in the Hindu.

Vocalist Chitra Srikrishna brings together several composers and compositions in her two music albums

There are so many ways in which one could make CD packaging an interesting combo. Thematic assemblage is something we notice these days, and what we have in Carnatic vocalist Chitra Srikrishna’s latest offer is her bringing together of several kritis on Lord Anjaneya from a variety of composers for her audio CD “Anjaneya Aarathi”(CD, Swathi Sanskriti Series, Rs. 150). She is accompanied by Charulatha Ramanujam on the violin and C. Cheluvaraju on the mridanga.

“Anjaneya is one of the champion-hero’s of our epic Ramayana and in his qualities of being a prime bhaktha towards his Lord, he embodies unalloyed devotion and is a symbol of courage and commitment. Most of the saint-composers have kritis on the monkey-God in several languages that reflects His universal appeal,” says Chitra Srikrishna who has with care selected some interesting kritis of Mysore Vasudevachar, Purandaradasa, Muthuswamy Dikshitar, Tyagaraja, Swathi Tirunal and Tanjore S. Kalyanaraman.

Read the full review in the Hindu here.

upcoming concerts

1. Sunday, 21 February 10 am at Vasudeva Gana Mandira, Vadiraja Kala Bhavana Akshayanagar, Bannerghatta Road (near Hulimavu) Bangalore

Chitra Srikrishna – vocal

C.N.Chandrashekhar – violin

C.Cheluvaraj – mrudanga

M.S.Krishnamurthy – ghata

After the concert there is a group rendition (goshti gayana) of Pancharatna kritis at 12:45 pm followed by lunch.


2. Sunday, March 14, 6 pm at Kamakshi temple, Shankar Mutt, Malleswaram.

3. Wednesday, March 31, 12:30 to 2:30 pm at Sri Rama Seva Mandali, Fort high school (special A/C pandal) Chamarajapet, Bangalore – Ramanavami festival

Birthing pains – confessions of a writer

My fingers freeze on the keyboard. The creative juices have completely dried up. Tomorrow is the deadline! I am desperate at this point and look around for inspiration. "1001 Article Ideas" the yellow book in the top shelf of my bookcase catches my eye. As I crack it open, a musty smell attacks my nostrils. For several years now it has been on the shelf, wasting and neglected. My husband had picked it up at a book sale and presented it to me. But it had been relegated to the “read” pile, along with other books that have suffered a similar fate.

As I quickly run through the ideas listed on page 3, the phone rings. It’s my father who begins a long-winded explanation on why he needs the driver. “Cut to the chase, Dad” the words slip out inadvertently. For a moment he’s too befuddled to respond. After all, he’s still not come to the reason of the phone call! I assure him that I would return his call in a few minutes and race back to my desk. The ideas are now jumping at me and I’m raring to go. For the next few minutes the sound of furious typing echoes in the living room. Only the quiet chime of the clock can be heard in the background. As I’m halfway through the piece, a sneaky thought appears . Is the writing a tad dull? Does it need a bit of pizazz? Soon enough, alarm bells start ringing in my head. But no, it’s the doorbell – who could it be now?

My sister-in-law breezes in behind the maid announcing, "I need to see my brother!". There’s a light of battle in her eyes. "Close your ears, I’m going to talk to him!" Easier said than done. I’m out of cotton balls at the moment.

Mentally wishing everyone to perdition, I head back to my cozy little corner. The piece is shaping up well. It’s time for that punchline. One that will make or break the article. I run through several scenarios in my head, laugh out loud even as the spouse looks askance at me. When I write the last word of the article, I expect to hear the roll of drums. Or better still the strains of some soft music. Instead I get the jarring sounds of vessels being dropped in the kitchen sink.

Rooted in classicism – Vijay Siva @gayana samaj

Vijay Siva’s concert for SRLKM at Gayana Samaj, Bangalore was a classic  marked by clear diction, good patantharam  (training), and a judicious selection of kritis of different composers.

Here is the list of songs that was presented at the concert –

1. Karikala – Saveri – Dikshithar

2. Orajoopu joo – Kannada Gowla – Tyagaraja (neraval at the line “dheena raksha..” was a good choice”

3. Guruvina – Pantuvarali – Purandara dasa (raga alapana and swaras rendered)

4. Brovavamma – Manji – Shyama Shastry

5. Ramakatha – Madhyamavati – Tyagaraja (Here was the classic neraval Baama mani at the anupallavi with swara)

6. Seethamma – Vasantha – Tyagaraja

7. RTP – Kambodhi – “Kancha padam thanjam yena Anjal yedhu Nencham adhu Senchadai panchanadha” in Misra nadai Rupaka talam. The RTP ended in a ragamalika with Bowli, Amirkalyani, Kathana koothuhalam

8. Somasundareshwaram – Shuddha Vasantham – Dikshithar

9. Divyaprabandham (ragamalika)

10.  Harivasarala – Sindhubhairavi – Purandara dasa

11. Tirupugazh – Purvikalyani

Charulatha Ramanujam on the violin was phenomenal. Neyveli Narayanan on the mridangam and Amrit on the kanjira gave a neat thani avarthanam.