Monthly Archives: March 2014

Harikambodhi – Raga Ruminations

Harikambodhi is a melody that occupies prime real estate in the pantheon of Carnatic ragas. For some reason, it is often overlooked as the centerpiece in a concert in favour of a similar sounding raga. Given the popularity of raga Shankarabharanam or raga Karaharapriya, carnatic music lovers couldn’t be faulted for thinking that Harikambhodhi (which is only a note different than the former) would share the same strong following. Unfortunately, it does not enjoy the same regard in concert lists that even its derivative raga Kambodhi enjoys. The reason for this step-sisterly treatment on the concert stage is not entirely clear to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – dear readers.

Fortunately, Tyagaraja has composed several songs in this Harikambodhi from Enthara Neethana to Dinamani Vamsha and Ramanannu Brovara as have other composers.

Here’s a classic rendition of Dinamani Vamsha by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar.

Raga Harikambodhi corresponds to raag Khamaj in the Hindustani style of music. Khamaj is one melody that is heard in ghazals and bhajans. Here’s a rendition of raag Khamaj by Pandit Ravi Shankar and his daughter Anoushka.

This raga has been heard in many movies across genres and one of the most popular songs based on Harikambodhi was “Dil Hai Chota Sa” from the movie Roja.

My friend Shoba Narayan and I had presented a show “Classical Ragas in Indian Popular Music” recently at the Bangalore International Centre. Harikambodhi was one of the ragas that was heard by the audience. Here is a snippet of the raga that shows the transition from the silver screen to the classical music stage.

For those who want details, Harikambodhi is a Melakartha raga (28th) and the scale is as follows. SR2G3M1PD2N2 SN2D2PM1G3R2

I remain hopeful that Harikambodhi will get its due on the concert stage.

Pushpalatika – Raga Ruminations

Can a song, one by an obscure composer become popular solely based on a singer’s rendition? There are a surprising number of such songs that have shot to prominence. Here is one such story which became well known after M.S.Subbalakshmi’s concert.  The song Ikainaina, the composer, Tirupati Narayanaswamy and the raga Pushpalatika were not well-known in the concert circuit. It went down in the annals of Carnatic music history as a successful attempt to showcase a raga that didn’t seem to offer much scope earlier.

Here is the rendition by M.S.Subbalakshmi singing Ikainaina and the neraval at “Akalanga Neeve” at the beginning of the anupallavi. The neraval which is rich in melody and rhythm is systematically developed by the stalwart. When it ends in a climax there is a richly-deserving and deafening applause from the audience. I can never tire of listening to this masterpiece.

 None of the popular composers seem to have thought of this raga while creating their masterpieces. There is no Hindustani equivalent to Pushpalatika. I haven’t heard of any film songs based on this raga either. For those who want details, Pushpalatika is a janya of raga Karaharapriya (Mela raga 22) and the scale is as follows. SR2G2M1PN2 SN2PM1G2R2

All about legacy – RK Srikantan

Great teachers leave behind a legacy that is not confined to their technical expertise.

When Carnatic vocalist R K Srikantan passed away recently the state lost one of its most respected figures in the fine arts. A Padma Bhushan awardee and a nonagenarian who continued to perform till the very end, he never stopped perfecting the one thing he was passionate about – music. I met him a couple of years ago to interview him for an article that I was writing.

In response to the secret of his being active well into his ninth decade, he said, “For me, it’s not just music but also the way we lead our lives – the food that we eat, the time spent in useful activities instead of frivolous pursuits. The thing to remember is to have good habits and everything in the right proportion.” The caring, the attention to detail and the single-minded pursuit of the art form that Srikantan demonstrated in his life is what made him such a great music personality.

He was not merely a teacher but also a coach. Teaching is rarely a one-way process where the teacher imparts knowledge, in this case music, and the student imbibes it. It’s a two-way street where the student imbibes learning and values imparted by the teacher or coach and learns by practicing. Srikantan’s enormous self-discipline and strong daily routine made a really strong impression and reminded me of my own music teacher, the late Seethalakshmi Venkatesan, another doyen in the same field, who was also an example of a teacher, coach and inspiration.

In the traditional gurukul system of learning music, the student lived with the teacher, as a member of his household. It meant household chores, taking care of the teacher’s personal needs to liaising with the external world if needed. Almost all the greats in the music fraternity, certainly the ones belonging to an earlier era, learnt not just about music but a great deal about life and skills. It’s a far cry from students in today’s world who question, analyse and debate with the teacher and not just on the finer points of music.

Teachers need to be conscious of one fact that they inevitably become role models for the students to a certain extent. As Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets (famous puppet characters) said, “Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are.” It’s all about leaving a legacy for the next generation. And R K Srikantan certainly has left a legacy that will serve generations of music students to come.

This first appeared as a middle in Deccan Herald.

Shubhapantuvarali – Raga Ruminations

Pathos. This is the word that comes to my mind when I hear the strains of raga Shubhapantuvarali. Whether it’s Tyagaraja’s “Ennaloorage” or Dikshithar’s “Shri Satyanarayanam” the mood is melancholic and the lyrics are deeply moving. While Tyagaraja in his song taunts Lord Rama for thinking that no one would question the Lord for not caring enough, Dikshithar extolls the greatness of Lord Narayana. Both these songs are sung in slow to medium tempo with great emphasis on the lyrics and nuances of the raga.

Here is a rendition of Shri Satyanarayanam by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.

Shubhapantuvarali corresponds to raag Thodi in Hindustani music.

Illayaraja’s composition of Vaikariyil sung by SP Balasubramaniam for the movie Payanangal Mudivathillai was based on this raga.

Here’s Manna Dey singing Jaago Rey Prabhat Aaya for the movie Sant Gyaneshwar. This song is sung in the classical style.

For those who want details, Shubhapantuvarali is the 45th Mela raga (parent) and the scale is as follows.
ārohaṇa: S R1 G2 M2 P D1 N3 S
avarohaṇa: S N3 D1 P M2 G2 R1 S