Swati Tirunal was a multifaceted genius whose breadth of compositions ranged from varnams, kirthanams (including the Navaratri series, Navavidha Bhakthi series, Utsav Prabandham) to padams, tillanas, ragamalikas and the Hindustani bhajans and khayals. The Venkateshwara temple in Pittsburgh, USA celebrated the music of this phenomenal composer recently. Here is a short video from my concert featuring some of the works of this composer.
Manipravalam was a mix of Sanskrit and Tamil, a precursor to Malayalam. The Utsav Prabandham kirthanams describe the 10-day festival held at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum. The Manipravalam kirthanam in raga Huseini describes a conversation between two devotees watching the ceremonial parade of the idol seated on a lotus. The devotees speculate on the identity of the idol wondering if it is Indra, Chandra, Shiva, Surya, Kubera and after a series of negation realize that it is none other than Nirajanabha.
Tyagaraja’s songs stand out for their simple lyrics that resonate with the listeners. His songs are an outpouring of his emotions towards Lord Rama be they joy, love, grief, or even anger. In the song “Teliyaleru Rama”, Tyagaraja bemoans the fact that we do not know the path to Bhakthi (devotion).
Instead of seeking Lord Rama’s grace, the composer says people are more interested in making money—bAga paikam(u-) jana lOlulu-airE. Tyagaraja sings that people seem content to follow a good routine—waking up at dawn, taking a bath and applying their bodies with sacred ash and rose water—yet hanker for money rather than earn Rama’s grace.
Teliyaleru Rama is a composition in the raga Dhenuka. The raga is the 9th Melakartha (parent) raga.
I can think of none other than the veteran Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer singing this unique composition.
The word Abhogi in Sanskrit means nourishment. I believe raga Abhogi to be an energizing melody. The raga is heard at the early part of a classical concert. For students of Carnatic music, the varnam “Evari Bodhana” composed by Patnam Subramanya Iyer is an important lesson in their training. Here is a marvelous rendition of this varnam by the doyen Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer.
As a child I remember my mother singing the song “Srilakshmi Varaham”, a composition of Dikshithar, after the Lakshmi Varatham pooja at home. I would impatiently wait for the prasad that inevitably followed after the conclusion of the song. Here is a rendition of this ode to the goddess of prosperity by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and M.S.Subbalakshmi.
Tyagaraja’s “Manasu Nilpa” and “Nannu Brova” are presented in a crisp manner while “Sabhapathiki”, the composition of Gopalakrishna Bharathi never fails to bring tears to the listener’s eyes. Here is a rendition of this emotive song by stalwart M.D.Ramanathan.
Abhogi has been imported into the Hindustani school of music and sometimes referred to as raag Abhogi Kanada. Here is a lovely rendition of this melody in the Hindustani style by Ustad Amir Khan.
The raga did not make a seamless transition to the silver screen due to the paucity of notes in the scale. Yet Illayaraja came up with this beautiful song “Indraikku Yen Indha” based on this raga for the Tamil movie Vaidehi Kathirindhaal, The singers are Vani Jayaram and Jayachandran.
For those who want details, Abhogi is a pentatonic scale and an audava raga (5 note-melody). It is considered a derivative (janya) of the 22nd Mela raga Karaharapriya and the scale reads as follows. SR2G2M1D2 SD2M1G2R2
Drinking the nectar-like story of Rama is equivalent to ruling a kingdom.
This is the essence of Tyagaraja’s song “Ramakatha sudha rasa” in the raga Madhyamavati. Recently when I was invited to give a concert on Tyagaraja’s compositions, my biggest challenge was the sheer breadth of choice of songs that the composer’s prolific output offered! Tyagaraja’s compositions stand out for their lyrical simplicity and depth of emotion. Raga Madhyamavati is considered an auspicious raga and usually sung at the conclusion of a concert. However, “Ramakatha” is a slow-paced song that is often presented as a main piece, as I did in my concert. The lines “Bamamani janaki soumitri” from the anupallavi of the song, describe Sita as “a gem among women” and has ample scope for neraval. Here is a rendition of “Ramakatha” by stalwart Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dL9m0tKBJ8w