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My experiences attending Carnatic Music concerts

One of the best things I have been doing since relocating to Bengaluru is, attending several Music concerts – mostly of Carnatic genre. A lot of friends have been suggesting me to put the experiences in writing, so that it will be good to see them all at some time in the future.

Going by that, I planned to start this exercise and let’s see how it goes!!

PS: I must admit, I don’t know anything about Music – I am just a beginner in Carnatic Violin. So please excuse and correct me if I write anything wrong!

H K Venkatram & Murad Ali Khan – Sree Rama Seva Mandali – April 24, 2017

April 24 is Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday and his 44th Birthday will be remembered for a grand century scored by the Carnatic Violin & Hindustani Sarangi Jugalbandi of Sri H K Venkatram (HKV) and Ustad Murad Ali Khan (MAK), at the Fort High School Grounds, under the aegis of Sree Rama Seva Mandali.

HKV and MAK performed with Sri K V Prasad on Mridangam, Pt. Ravindra Yavagal on Tabla and Sri Guruprasanna on Khanjira.

  1. Sami Ninne – Sree Ragam (Varnam)
  2. Adamogi Galade – Charukesi
  3. ? – Poorvi
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kalyani / Yaman
  5. Bhagyada Lakshmi / ? – Madhyamavathi / Bhoopal Todi (?)
  6. Vaishnava Jana to
  7. Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram
  8. Mangalam

The concert was planned in such a way that HKV and MAK played solo for 30 minutes each followed by the most awaited Jugalbandi.

A brisk start to the evening in the form of Sree Raga Varnam in two speeds set the stage for some soulful music to follow. Charukesi is one of my most favorite and haunting (for good) ragas. Soul stirring aalapana by HKV left the audience in awe and the krithi that followed was Adamodi Galade, one of the remarkable compositions of Saint Thyagaraja. It ended with some interesting patterns of kalpana swaras, in multiple nadais, with all three wonderful percussionists embellishing them through their anticipations.

MAK took off to play a short & a very soothing Poorvi aalap, and followed it up with a composition. Ravindra Yavagal provided great accompaniment to the composition and the swaras that followed. The timber of the wonderful instrument Sarangi and the atmosphere already created earlier by Charukesi made it more lively!

Time for Jugalbandi. It started with Kalyani and Yaman and gradually transitioned seamlessly to a few ragas, the scales of which are similar in both styles of music. Hindolam / Malkauns and Keeravani (which is common name in both styles) were the pairs to follow, with short aalapanas before coming back to Kalyani / Yaman. Tanam / Jod was only in Kalyani / Yaman and there were many “wow” moments that kept audience enthused all the way. Pallavi Rama Rama Kalyana Rama Raghurama Maampaahi is set to Adi Talam. Ragamalika swaras followed in BegadaNalinakanthiPilu (Kapi) and couple of other ragas which I couldn’t identify, before ending it in a grand way in Hamsanandi / Sohini. HKV played the swaras till the AtiTara Sthayi Shadjamam that left audience spell-bound and marked a fitting end to a wonderful RTP. I understand it must be very complex and the way MAK played swaras at high speeds was a treat to watch and listen! Tani Avarthanam by K V Prasad, Guruprasanna and Ravindra Yavagal was quite exciting though it was a tad long. They had to beat all the odds created by the sound guy and they did it with finesse!

The next piece is a Jugalbandi in compositions that were somewhat similar. Bhagyada Lakshmi in Madhyamavathi was the pick from Carnatic and I don’t know the composition from Hindustani music. The ragam sounded a bit like Carnatic Bhoopalam. A couple of famous Bhajans Vaishnava Jana To and Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram followed, before concluding the concert with Mangalam in both systems of music.

It indeed was a beautiful concert to be remembered for long long time. This was my second concert (only) of the Rama Navami season (which is very less by my standards) and all I can say is the sound system needs a lot of improvement. Sree Rama Seva Mandali has been doing a great service to the cause of music every year but the sound has been a bit of a problem many a time. I hope it too gets improved over time, as does the quality and lineup of concerts every year!

Bombay Jayashri – Sree Rama Seva Mandali – April 5, 2017

The inaugural concert of the 79th edition of the “Rama Navami” concerts at the Fort High School grounds, organized by Sree Rama Seva Mandali was a beautiful Carnatic Vocal concert by Bombay Jayashri Ramnath for a packed audience!

Smt. Bombay Jayashri performed with Sri Embar Kannan on Violin, Sri Manoj Siva on Mridangam, Sri K V Gopalakrishnan on Khanjira, Smt. Chaitra and Kum. Sahana on Tambura.

  1. Jaya Jaya Swamin – Naata
  2. Manavi Aalakinchara – Nalinakanthi
  3. Akhilandeswari – Dwijavanthi
  4. Rara Rajeevalochana – Mohanam
  5. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Bhairavi
  6. Ayi Khaga vahini – SubhaPantuvarali
  7. Jagadodharana – Kapi
  8. Thillana – Desh
  9. Gopala Govinda (Bhajan)
  10. Mangalam – Sourashtram

Vakratunda Mahakaya… slokam in Naata that started on a devotional note, led to Jaya Jaya Swamin, a wonderful composition by Narayana Teertha and ended with brisk round of kalpana swaras!

A short aalapana in Nalinakanthi followed by the famous krithi Manavi Aalakinchara, a composition of Saint Thyagaraja, was a surprise! We rarely get to hear this song in vocal concerts, which is treated as one of the all-time favorite krithis in instrumental concerts, especially Violin. This has surely excited everyone present.

Soothing Akhilandeswari, one of the remarkable compositions of Muttuswami Deekshitar followed, to leave the stage for the main ragas of the evening!

Mellifluous Mohanam was a treat for the ears. Ugadi marks the start of Vasanth Rithu, the first fortnight of which is generally known for pleasantries the nature offers. The birds making some sweet music in the early mornings, behind the mango trees with some mangoes hanging out of them, is a very picturesque sight. Mohanam was as melodious as what the nature offers us at this time of the year! Kannan did a fabulous job in his return with some exquisite swara patterns and gamakas! Mysore Vasudevachar’s RaRa Rajeevalochana was a great choice to present ode to Lord Rama on the occasion of Rama Navami. Niraval initially started at Pavanajaapta Sri Vasudeva and she actually sang the entire sahityam from Pallavi till the charanam in each cycle. It was very interesting and Kannan again did a brilliant job in making his Violin sing along with Jayashri, following her style beautifully. Manoj and KVG did very well in enhancing the beauty of this song and the whole concert all the way. Tani Avarthanam by them was brilliant, soft, yet enthused the audience a lot.

It is all about serious music. No fillers between main piece and the RTP! Bhairavi is again a beautiful ragam that never fails to captivate audience! Pallavi Ramam Indeevara Shyaman Dasarathatmajam.. Vande is beautiful. Tanam, Pallavi and Kalpana Swaras were also sung in Simhendramadhyamam and Kapi too. A very good RTP but somehow the heart felt like wanting a bit more which was covered up with a soul stirring SubhaPantuvarali. Santana Lakshmi stotram Ayi Khaga vahini in it, was perhaps the pinnacle of soulfulness one could ever achieve!! The rain God also arrived towards the end of RTP and has shown his happiness with a loud quick burst who was otherwise calm till then. Mind you, the timing of the louder burst was exactly when audience starting applauding at the end of the song in SubhaPantuvarali! Coincidence? Maybe!

The concert ended with a few small compositions sung in a very unhurried manner, for the satisfaction of everyone present there!

The sound quality was very average and I could understand the artistes always had issues with the sound (or lack of it) on monitor. I hope it gets improved as we still have a month long concerts scheduled at the same venue!

Kumaresh & Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh – Times SwarSangam – March 12, 2017

A packed hall of the beautiful Chowdaiah Memorial Hall witnessed a great concert with new compositions, lovely experiments and innovative climaxes! Sri Kumaresh (K) and Smt Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh (JK) presented a fabulous “Strings Attached” concert with Sri Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam and Sri Trichy Krishnaswamy on Ghatam.

  1. Kalyani
  2. Kaanada
  3. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Shanmukhapriya & Nattakurinji

As I parked my car at the auditorium, a soulful Kalyani aalapana by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman had just started on my audio system. In a hope of the ragam getting continued inside the auditorium, I turned it off and got off the car. Guess what! The first ragam of this concert was a delightful Kalyani. What a sheer coincidence it indeed was!! Both K and JK presented a very soothing aalapana! Lovely composition took off and I was wondering what it was as I never seemed to have heard it before. Thankfully for the benefit of people like me, K announced it was a “Strings Attached” special composition! The composition sounded as beautiful as Goddess Saraswathi! Kalpana swaras in a variety of combinations enthused the audience a lot.

Kaanada. Well, if God grants me a wish now, I would probably ask him what is the connection between me and this amazing raga! It just soothes me so much that I can never put in proper words. Yet another “Strings Attached” special composition in this ragam made by day! I am in love with this composition in Khanda Chaapu, the start of which sounded a bit closer to Sukhi Evaro in the same ragam. The composition ended with delightful kalpana swaras with some amazing follow-up by Satish Kumar and Krishna, to elevate the performance!

As we started to hear a soul stirring Shanmukhapriya, many including me thought it was RTP in that ragam. After the ragam was explored by both for very good amount of time, there came a twist. Nattakurinji took off from the hands of JK. I have heard it from her many times and I can easily claim, she owns the ragam. So this turned out to be a dwi-raga RTP and I may call it “Mysterious Duality” from here on (with permission)! Free flowing and fabulous Tanam by K and JK in both ragas had everyone on the edge of their seats. A beautiful pallavi was presented in both ragams mysteriously transitioning from one to the other and when the audience were expecting kalpana swaras, the stage was left for the percussion maestros. As they finished the typical initial avarthanam that had many wow moments, it was the time for kalpana swaras alternating between Nattakurinji by K and Shanmukhapriya by JK. I think the idea was to follow the same pattern an otherwise Tani Avarthanam would have concluded with. This experiment was interesting and the mukthayi was left for Satish Kumar and Krishna again to conclude their Tani and the RTP.

Standing ovation at the end of this RTP said it all! A wonderful concert with some refreshing ideas and new compositions was indeed a memorable treat on a Sunday morning!!

Bombay Jayashri & Shubha Mudgal – Times SwarSangam – March 12, 2017

A delightful Jugalbandi to end a wonderful double-header on a Sunday forenoon, by Smt. Bombay Jayashri (Carnatic Vocal) and Smt. Shubha Mudgal (Hindustani Vocal) served as a lunch feast for the packed audience of Chowdaiah Memorial Hall. Bombay Jayashri (BJ) and Shubha Mudgal (SM) performed with Sri Embar Kannan on Violin, Sri Manoj Siva on Mridangam, Sri Aneesh Pradhan on Tabla and Sri Sudhir Nayak on Harmonium.

  1. SubhaPantuvarali / Todi
  2. Sankarabharanam / Devgiri Bilawal
  3. Sree / Desi
  4. Madhuvanthi (?)

The concert started with soul stirring aalaps from both BJ & SM and they chose to present different compositions from each classical system, by trying to show similarities and dissimilarities in both systems with regard to the raga chosen (as quoted by SM). While I am an illiterate in Hindustani Music, I am just writing whatever I heard or perceived today at the concert from SM. This statement in no way intends to mean that I know anything in Carnatic Music! SM chose to sing a piece by her Guru Pt. Ramashreya Jha in Todi while BJ performed a rare krithi Nee samanamevaru lerani in SubhaPantuvarali by one of the greatest Carnatic Musicians, G N Balasubramanian. Both systems were weaved into a very beautiful structure, alternating between the wonderful musicians.

The second ragam was Devgiri Bilawal. The grand Sankarabharanam of Carnatic tradition closely moves with this raga (as quoted by BJ). Interesting to see the melodic instruments’ jugalbandi in this set, by Embar Kannan on Violin and Sudhir Nayak on Harmonium. Embar’s rendition of Sankarabharanam was pristine and well, my tryst with the ragam continues! While I don’t know the composition SM took up, BJ sang the beautiful krithi of Saint Thyagaraja, Swara Raga Sudha. Let me not try to explain about the renditions as I can never do justice to it. Soulful! Enough said!!

Time for Sree ragam and it’s closer sister Raag Desi. Muttuswamy Deekshitaar’s composition Sree Varalakshmi was presented by BJ while SM presented a composition of her Guru Pt. Ramashreya Jha. It sounded as if both systems of music are trying to showcase the richness of ragas owned, in a very lucid way. While it highlighted similarities, it also highlighted how they are dissimilar to each other too!

Tani Avarthanam as a start of the song was an innovative experiment, allowing the percussion artistes to demonstrate their ideas without being affected by the composition or the swara patterns that usually follow. Manoj Siva and Aneesh Pradhan did a fabulous job of presenting the jugalbandi of Mridangam and Tabla. The krithi that followed brought back fond memories of a recent jugalbandi by BJ and Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh that I attended. BJ took up Sadasiva Brahmendra’s Tunga Tarange Gange while SM presented a composition by Aneesh Pradhan. Earlier I heard the Hamsadhwani version of it, composed by Lalgudi Jayaraman and it is the Madhuvanthi version of it (composed by BJ herself) that was presented in this concert. This composition marked a perfect end to a Jugalbandi, like Ganga flowing all the way till South and perhaps meeting Godavari, to make all the lands fertile in the process!

TOI did a great job of bringing great combinations in this jugalbandi festival and my first “vocal” jugalbandi can’t get any better than featuring two stars of both traditions!

H K Venkatram, Ashwin Anand & Ravikiran – Odukathur Mutt – February 26, 2017

Very glad to have attended a beautiful Violin – Veena – Venu (VVV) concert by my Guru Sri H K Venkatram (HKV), Sri Ashwin Anand & Sri Ravikiran with the amazing Mridangam Maestro Guru Sri Karaikudi Mani and Sri Guruprasanna on Khanjira, as part of Kalotsav 2017 at Odukathur Mutt Sivaratri celebrations!

  1. Parvathi Pathim Pranaumi Satatam- Hamsadhwani
  2. Thyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam – Ananda Bhairavi
  3. Sobhillu Saptaswara – Jaganmohini
  4. Siva Siva Siva Anarada – Pantuvarali
  5. Dattatreya Trimurti Rupa – Ranjani
  6. Swara Raga Sudha – Sankarabharanam
  7. Shiva Darushana Namagayithu – Madhyamavathi
  8. Thillana – Mohanakalyani
  9. Mangalam – Sourashtram

Concert started with the krithi Parvathi Pathim, a composition of Muttuswamy Deekshitaar, in Hamsadhwani on a very auspicious note. This is a rare krithi and was a perfect pick to start with, for this being Sivaratri time. Kalpana swaras set the tone for the rest of the concert, which indeed turned out to be a memorable one!

Thyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam is one of the remarkable compositions of Muttuswamy Deekshitaar, which is set to chouka kala (Vilambit) Rupaka Talam. The Gopuchcham and Srotaavaham experimentations in Pallavi and Madhyamakala Sahityam are always a treat to listen to! Thanks to Dr. SrinivasaRaghavan who threw some light on these aspects of the composition. A very brief aalapana of Ananda Bhairavi by HKV Sir led to a wonderful rendition of this composition. A unison of three melody instruments Violin, Veena and Flute performing in a great synchrony was a delight – add to it Mani Sir’s Mridangam and Guruprasanna’s wonderful shadowing of him with his Khanjira!

Brisk Sobhillu Saptaswara, a great composition of Saint Thyagaraja was a filler before the sub-main composition. Ashwin presented a very nice and detailed exploration of Pantuvarali. Being Sivaratri season, the krithi Siva Siva Siva Anarada, a composition of Saint Thyagaraja was expected. Grand Niraval on Agamamula Nutiyinchi by all three on VVV explored multiple dimensions of the wonderful ragam. Kalpana swaras followed in multiple rhythmic patterns.

Ravikiran presented a nice Ranjani aalapana. The krithi that followed was Dattatreya Trimurthi Rupa, a composition by Sachchidananda Swamy ji.

Sankarabharanam. My tryst with this amazing ragam continues!! Like I mentioned in a couple of my previous posts, it is a ragam in which I learn new phrases each time I listen to it! As usual, a very soothing aalapana from HKV Sir exploring the majestic ragam to the core, made the audience spellbound! Saint Thyagaraja’s immortal composition Swara Raga Sudha followed as the grand main piece of the evening. An exquisite round of kalpana swaras followed by the most awaited Tani Avarthanam by the Maestro Mani Sir. What an energy!! What a delightful Avarthanam it was, ably complemented by Guruprasanna!! A Thunderous applause almost at the end of every cycle from audience said it all!

Mani Sir took the mic to speak a few words after the mandatory vote of thanks from the organizers. He talked about the Mridanga Saileswari Temple in Kannur, a few words about HKV Sir and his music. He recollected that the last VVV concert he played was for the legendary Maestros Lalgudi Jayaraman – N Ramani – Venkatraman trio, about 4 decades before.

A memorable concert ended with Purandara Dasa’s composition Shiva Darushana Namagayithu in Madhyamavathi, Lalgudi Jayaraman’s Thillana in MohanaKalyani, which is one of the all-time favorite compositions for most musicians and a traditional Mangalam in Sourashtram.

The concert got delayed by about 40 minutes or so, because the dance programme preceding it got extended quite a bit, else we would probably have heard a Ragam Tanam Pallavi. Nonetheless, this 2.5 hours concert will be remembered for long long time!!!

Akkarai Sisters – Odukathur Mutt – February 21, 2017

My first concert of the Sivaratri season is a Vocal concert by Akkarai Sisters at Odukathur Mutt. Always had pleasant memories there!

Akkarai Subhalakshmi and Sornalatha gave a wonderful vocal duet with Mathur Srinidhi on Violin, K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Arun Kumar on Morsing.

  1. Era Naapai – Todi (Varnam)
  2. Alavadennalo Shivame – Pharaz
  3. Ananda Tandavam – Vachaspati
  4. Ardhanaareswaram – Kumudakriya
  5. Brova Bharama – Bahudari
  6. Akshaya Linga Vibho – Sankarabharanam
  7. Eppo varuvaro – Jonpuri
  8. Ayye metha kadinam – Ragamalika
  9. Karpakame – Madhyamavathi
  10. Mangalam – Sourashtram

Akkarai Sisters demonstrated as much virtuosity in singing as they would normally on Violin! Todi Varnam in 4 speeds is a cracker of a start!!

Alavadennalo Shivame in a rare ragam Pharaz is a first timer for me. It’s one of the Sapta Ratnas of Uttukadu Venkatasubbayyar. Lovely exploration of Vachaspati by Sornalatha followed, with a nice return from Mathur on Violin. Ananda Tandavam is the composition to follow, and I really liked the composition. It is apparently a composition of their grandfather and the charanam has swara aksharams right from Madhya sthayi Gandharam till tara sthayi Panchamam. It was indeed amazing to see them reach higher Pa with ease! KUJ and Arun were soft, yet always in the frame, elevating the concert to a different level.

Kumudakriya expansion by Subhalakshmi is fabulous. Muttuswamy Deekshitaar’s Ardhanaareswaram was rendered with so much bhavam and devotion. Kalpana swaras showed their rhythmic excellence! A quick Brova Bharama in Bahudari followed, to leave the stage to the main composition.

Sankarabharanam, like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, is a ragam that I keep knowing something new about every time I listen to it from anyone! Subhalakshmi treated the ragam like a child, caressing it with so much of care and affection! Violin return by Mathur was nice too. Within the span of a month, I heard the composition of Deekshitaar, Akshaya Linga Vibho, twice (that too as main piece) and I am in love with the song and the wonderful sahityam. Charanam even as a text is also a treat to the ears without music. Beauty of Sanskrit and the masterpiece of a composition!! Niraval on Badari vanamuna naayika sahitha and kalpana swaras were weaved very well to make the composition grand. Fantabulous Tani Avarthanam by Jayachandra Rao and Arun Kumar kept everyone on the edge of their seats, in excitement.

The concert ended with a few Tamil compositions which made everyone happy in the hall. Overall, a very nice concert. I had initially planned to stay for sometime and leave to finish other work, but I was glued to the seat and ended up sitting through full concert. First vocal duet concert by the Akkarai Sisters was indeed charming as they always are!!

Bombay Jayashri – Sri Rama Lalitha Kala Mandira – February 5, 2017

An eventful weekend came to an end by attending a soulful concert by Smt. Bombay Jayashri, with Sri H N Bhaskar on Violin, Sri V V Ramanamurthy on Mridangam, Sri B S Purushottam on Khanjira and Master Amrit Ramnath on Tambura.

  1. Sri Varalakshmi Namastubhyam – Sree
  2. Makelara Vicharamu – RaviChandrika
  3. Narayana Ninna Namada – Suddha Dhanyasi
  4. Mokshamu Galada – Saramati
  5. Bhuvaneshwariya – MohanaKalyani
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Bhairavi
  7. Ondu baari smarane saalade – Sindhu Bhairavi (?)
  8. Thillana – Madhuvanthi
  9. Mangalam – Sourashtram

The concert started with a prayer to Goddess Saraswathi, Saraswathi Namastubhyam… before moving on to Sri Varalakshmi Namastubhyam in Sree! So soulful was the rendition, that would have made Muttuswamy Deekshitaar proud! A brisk Makelara Vicharamu in RaviChandrika followed, which ended with wonderful exchange of Kalpana Swaras between Jayashri and Bhaskar.

Suddha Dhanyasi was taken up for elaboration to everyone’s delight. Amazing aalapana by Jayashri, complemented equally well by Bhaskar, was a treat for the ears! Narayana Nimma Namada is a composition that I heard for first time. Purandara Daasa’s composition was rendered with so much of devotion. The Niraval segment would have taken many audience into a different world of pure tranquility. Soulfulness in rendition is the hallmark of the entire concert, which is a rarity these days. The composition ended with a brilliant round of kalpana swaras.

Starting from the Anupallavi Sakshatkara ni… the immortal composition of Saint Thyagaraja, Mokshamu Galada was rendered at a leisurely pace, allowing the audience to settle in the divine environment already created through the wonderful music by then. Ramanamurthy and Purushottam were soft, fabulous and did a great deal of job in elevating the concert to greater heights!

MohanaKalyani is a very beautiful ragam and a detailed aalapana by Jayashri showed multiple new phrases of it. Bhaskar’s return was lovely both in aalapana and swaras, while following her eloquently in Muttaiah Bhagavathar’s composition Bhuvaneshwariya...

Bhairavi was the main ragam for the evening. It’s been very long since I heard chaste elaboration of it and I was completely drenched in its beauty with the ragam and tanam from Jayashri and Bhaskar. His returns in Tanam especially drew a great appreciation from the audience. Tanam was also probably rendered in a couple of other ragams (?) too, which I could not notice, but Kaanada was definitely one of them. Beautiful Pallavi on Goddess Durga, Parameswari Jagadeeswari Bhairavi Sree Tripura Sundari was set to Khanda Jathi Triputa Talam. Kalpana swaras included Charukesi, Rakeshri (?), Behag and I may have possibly missed one or two more ragas. Tani Avarthanam was fabulous by Ramanamurthy and Purushottam and it turned the RTP into a complete package with great team work!

A great concert ended with a Thillana by Lalgudi Jayaraman Sir in Madhuvanthi and traditional Mangalam.