One padam Two sisters

If I wasn’t paying close attention, I would have missed it. The nuances are subtle and the music is striking sans the frills. I am listening to Carnatic vocalists Brinda and Mukta singing the padam Ososi in raga Mukhari. The opening notes of the padam are in the higher octave and the tonal quality is resonant. One voice is hoarse yet it blends beautifully with the melodious timbre of the other voice. The pace at which the padam is presented is unhurried.

A padam is a musical composition that is romantic, even erotic in nature. The words of the padam are like banter between lovers. Whether it’s the hurt or pathos from a lover’s departure or jealousy over infidelity (imagined or real) the lyrics invoke a gamut of emotions from the listeners. Learning and singing a padam is an important lesson for students training in classical music. It helps gain a better understanding of rhythm and melody along with a love for poetry. As I’ve discussed in this article for The Hindu, in the hands of the right lyricist and delivered by a talented performer, passion-soaked poems such as padams and javalis are no less transcendental than the most popular carnatic compositions.

In the padam Ososi set to raga Mukhari, every musical note conveys the protagonist’s despair. He laments that he has to go to Kashi (Benares) because of the heroine’s indifference. The attributes of the raga comes through when every phrase has a refreshing take from the earlier ones. I am reminded of my own music lessons with my first teacher N.S.Chandrashekhar of Mumbai. He was a student of the Kanchipuram Naina Pillai school along with Brinda and Mukta and a perfectionist. I sense the same perfection when I hear the padam now being sung. With clarity and passion, the sisters demonstrate their mastery of this genre of music – the padam.

Ososi continues to be one of my favourite padams. Every musical note and phrase is touched upon with reverence, the gamaka allures and overwhelms the senses rendering the listener bereft of words. As Victor Hugo says, “music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent” and this padam rendition does precisely that.

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