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!

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Ronu Majumdar & H K Venkatram – Sree Ramaseva Mandali – April 18, 2018

The collaboration between ace flautist Ronu Majumdar and senior Violinist H K Venkatram happened to be a memorable one indeed. They performed Jugalbandi for Sree Ramaseva Mandali, with Arjun Kumar on Mridangam and Rajendra Nakod on Tabla.

  1. Vatapi Ganapathim – Hamsadhwani
  2. Manavi Alakincharadate – NalinaKanthi
  3. ? – Bageshri
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Charukesi
  5. Raghupathi Raghava Raja Ram

A meditative Hamsadhwani aalapana started the proceedings in an auspicious manner, with Ronu playing the ragam in typical Hindustani style and HKV in the chaste Carnatic way. They took the Pallavi and Anupallavi of Vatapi Ganapathim as the common composition and played some exquisite Kalpana Swaras. Wow!!.. the concert couldn’t get a divine better start than this!

HKV played an amazing NalinaKanthi before presenting the famous composition of Saint Thyagaraja, Manavi Alakincharadate in his typical style with some brilliant sangathis. The Kalpana Swaras were mellifluous and in a variety of patterns that left everyone in awe. Arjun Kumar enhanced the presentation very well.

Ronu played a soulful Bageshri before moving on to a lovely composition in Teen Tal. The extempore elaboration of the ragam in the form of Swaras was a treat for the audience. Rajendra Nakod played well to complement Ronu.

Charukesi is one of my favorite ragas and no wonder I was overwhelmed by their choice of the raga for the Jugalbandi. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting ragas, which gives happy feel in the first half of the notes S R2 G3 M1 and pathos feel around Dhaivatham and Nishadham in the latter half P D1 N2 S. One of my favorite musicians calls it a happy-sad raga! Soul stirring aalap and pristine Tanam was presented by both HKV and Ronu taking turns and the entire huge pandal was filled with the typical mood of the wonderful ragam. Pallavi was set to Adi Talam and was presented in a few wonderful patterns before moving on to the Ragamalika section. Ronu played NandMishra Pilu (?) and HKV played Revathi and Hamsanandi. The swaras played by both were melodious and energetic, with HKV playing till the Ati Tara Sthayi Shadjam in Hamsanandi before winding up the RTP with some scintillating swaras back in Charukesi. Tani Avarthanam by Arjun and Rajendra was top class and we didn’t know the time at all as we progressed this beautiful journey. The brief vote of thanks from the organizers perhaps reminded the audience it was already 10 minutes past 9 PM.

The concert ended with Raghupathi Raghava Rajaram played in multiple speeds. It was also nice to hear Ronu singing the composition too. He is absolutely a multi-faceted musician!

An amazing concert and the first collaboration between the two wonderful people and artistes, H K Venkatram and Ronu Majumdar, was a great success. May there be many more such collaborations for the benefit of audience who crave for melodious music!!

T M Krishna – Srivani Vidya Kendra – April 15, 2018

I am extremely delighted to have witnessed one of the best vocal concerts in the recent past. T M Krishna performed for Srivani Vidya Kendra’s RamaNavami festival with H K Venkatram on Violin, ArunPrakash on Mridangam and Guruprasanna on Khanjira.

  1. Thyagaraja Palayasumam – Gowla
  2. Ragam Tanam Krithi (Gopanandana Valaripu) – Bhushavali
  3. Nee mattume en engil – Mishra Kaapi
  4. Enduku Peddala vale Buddhi Iyyavu – Sankarabharanam
  5. Sagara Sayana Vibho – Bageshri
  6. Amar Janmobhumi

A brief outline of Gowla followed by the Thyagaraja Palayasumam, kicked off the concert in a grand way. Close to 25 minutes of pure bliss, with excellent Niraval at Bhogadiprada Srinagara sthila bhusuradhi vinutha valmika linga… and the delightful Kalpana swaras in three speeds. Arunprakash and Guruprasanna played excellent all through, subtly embellishing the melody.

A short Bhushavali ragam and Tanam by both TMK and HKV was sublime. The song Gopanandana followed by the brisk swaras lit up the entire auditorium.

TMK demonstrated his rich voice culture in more than 3 octaves, with a soulful Mishra Kaapi aalapana. He possibly reached the highest possible note on human voice (you never know, only he can better that next time) which left everyone in awe. As pristine as that, were his sancharas in the lowest octave too. He finally allowed the audience to take a breather after his awe-inspiring effort in presenting the ragam. Though there was no Violin return, it was already fulfilling by then. It was a composition of Perumal Murugan, set to tune beautifully by Arunprakash.

HKV was requested to play some ragam and he chose the grand Sankarabharabam! It is easily be one of the best renditions of the majestic ragam, that I have ever heard on the Violin. The composition Enduku Peddala vale buddhi iyyavu was first started by HKV and later continued by TMK. He had presented in an interesting pattern of Niraval (@ Veda Shastra Purana Tatvarthamu..) in three stages, separated by short bursts of Tani. Soukhyam is rarely found these days in the vocal music with the focus primarily on the power-packed concerts but TMK’s concerts are always different. Niraval in three speeds was not just lilting and soothing but also built the intensity in a way that left the audience mesmerized. Brilliant Tani Avarthanam by Arunprakash and Guruprasanna was enjoyed by everyone. It was already more than 1 hour into Sankarabharanam by then and we never felt even an iota of boredom. It was just the music at it’s very best!

A soul stirring Bageshri followed by MDR’s composition Sagara Shayana Vibho just elevated the concert to greater heights. These days it has perhaps become mandatory that TMK ends his concerts with his trademark Amar Janmobhumi, with the requsts pouring in for the same almost everywhere!

Overall, a classy typical TMK concert, with no hurriedness whatsoever and presenting the best of the music to the audience in the entirety, will be remembered for long long time. One has to appreciate the way TMK makes his accompanying artistes (or, co-artistes as he often wants them be called) feel the importance in a concert that they rightly deserve! May the tribe only increase…

Kanyakumari – Srivani Vidya Kendra – April 12, 2018

Kanyakumari presented a blockbuster concert at Srivani Vidya Kendra with Vittal Rangan on Violin support, Bangalore Praveen on Mridangam and Bangalore Amrith on Khanjira.

  1. Mahaganapathim – Naata
  2. Nenendu Vetukudura – Karnataka Behag
  3. Mamava Pattibhirama – Manirangu
  4. Bhavayami Raghuramam – Ragamalika
  5. Nanuganna Talli – Kesari
  6. Ennallu Urake – Subha Pantuvarali
  7. Sarasa Sama Daana – KapiNarayani
  8. Mokshamu Galada – Saramati
  9. Raghuvamsa Sudha – Kadana Kutoohalam
  10. Ragam Tanam Krithi (Dinamani Vamsa) – HariKambhoji
  11. Karadara Barabarade – ?
  12. Muralidhara Gopala – Maand
  13. Pibare Rama Rasam – Ahir Bhairav
  14. Venkatachala Nilayam – SindhuBhairavi
  15. Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma – Madhyamavathi

Mahaganapathim in Naata, especially the Kalpana Swaras that built up the intensity gradually, just gave a glimpse of what was in store for the next 2.5 hours. A soothing Nenendu Vethukudura settled the things up. Sound was a little unstable initially but it gradually got better.

My request of the day was honoured in the form of Mamava Pattabhirama in Manirangu. A brief raga sketch followed by the krithi was nice. It was followed by all-time favorite Bhavayami Raghuramam. I must thank her for accommodating both my requests! Kanyakumari did justice to all ragas… SaveriNattakurinjiDhanyasiMohanamMukhariPoorviKalyani and Madhyamavathi, through beautiful aalapana and Kalpana swaras, seamlessly transitioning to one from the other and ending in Saveri. A quick Nanuganna Talli was a delight, and Praveen played superbly here to complement her.

A soul stirring Subha Pantuvarali aalapana was presented by Kanyakumari and supported well by Vittal. A rare Thyagaraja Krithi Ennalu Urake ended with scintillating kalpana swaras. After playing a quick Sarasa Sama Dana, she talked for a few minutes. She mentioned about how instrumental concerts have to be given equal weightage vis-a-vis Vocal and appealed to both the audience and organizers to support instrumental music. She also specially thanked H K Venkatram, who is one of the organizing members of the festival for lining up a good number of instrumental concerts.

Mokshamu Galada was soulful. The highlight of the evening was Raghuvamsa Sudha, that followed after a brief aalapana of Kadana Kutoohalam. She played many variations of the Anupallavi and Chitta Swaram, which was presented in slow, medium and fast speeds. Percussion team spiced up the presentation as well, so much so, that everyone looked so drained after that one piece!!

After a brief Ragam and short Tanam in HariKambhoji, she took up Dinamani Vamsa instead of a Pallavi. Mellifluous swaras yet again were enticing. Tani Avarthanam was short and played very well by Praveen and Amrith.

The concert ended with a few small quick pieces. Overall, a great concert though percussion was felt a tad louder sometimes. However, there can’t be major complaints about it and sound system also was kind to the artistes and audience!

Lalgudi GJR Krishnan & Viji – Sree Ramaseva Mandali – April 9, 2018

My first concert of the season at the prestigious Sree Ramaseva Mandali, at Fort High School Grounds happened to be a stupendous concert by the Lalgudi Siblings, GJR Krishnan and Viji, with Trichy Harikumar on Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam.

  1. Varnam – MohanaKalyani
  2. Rama Bhakti Samrajya – SuddhaBangala
  3. Ramachandram Bhavayami – Vasantha
  4. Rave Himagiri Kumari (Swarajathi) – Todi
  5. Hechcharikaga Raa Raa – Yadukula Kambhoji
  6. Sri Venkatesa – PhalaManjari
  7. Eduta Nilichithi – Sankarabharanam
  8. Sobhillu Saptaswara – Jaganmohini
  9. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Dharmavathi
  10. Baaro Krishnayya – RagaMalika
  11. Thillana – Sindhu Bhairavi
  12. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

The concert started with MohanaKalyani varnam by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman. It sounded as pleasing as the famous Thillana the Maestro composed in the same ragam! It went on with some incredible music marred by the sound system that frustrated the artistes and audience alike! Swaras in SuddhaBangala were lovely. Ramachandram Bhavayami was beautiful with some exquisite swaras.

Viji played an amazing and elaborate Todi ragam and the song that followed, was a pleasant surprise for the audience. The Syama Sastri’s masterpiece Swarajathi was soul stirring. Trichy Harikumar played appropriately with gentle touch that enhanced the beauty of the presentation. A quick Hechcharikaga raa raa followed before a brief PhalaManjari outline by GJR. Again a rarely heard song, Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s composition, Sri Venkatesa was presented which ended with mellifluous kalpana swaras.

GJR’s Sankarabharanam made my day! Various special phrases that he played, with the swift bowing was a treat to the audience. But for the disturbance caused by the spoiler man of the match, the sound engineer, this would have remained one of the memorable explorations of the majestic ragam on the Violin! Trichy Harikumar played extremely well complementing the grand composition Eduta Nilichiti. We couldn’t hear a complete Tani from Udupa as he was visibly frustrated by the sound system already. However, Harikumar continued his brilliance all through the concert.

A brisk Sobhillu Saptaswara was a filler between the main composition and the much awaited Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi. Dharmavathi was presented extremely well by the siblings and GJR played a superb Tanam with some remarkable bowing. Lalgudis are known for their Pallavis in complex patterns and this was no different. Pallavi Sada Ramachandram Bhajeham, Janaka Sudha Ramana was in Khanda Triputa Talam with the first part (Poorvangam) in Trisram and latter half (Uttarangam) in Chaturasram and was presented in different patterns. Phewww… how difficult do they make the lives of students like me in understanding the Pallavi! Ragamalika swaras in SaveriReetigowlaBinduMaliniHuseni and Behag blossomed into a garland of flowers that beautified the Dharmavathi (Devi)!

My favorite Thillana, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman’s composition in Sindhu Bhairavi ended what was a sublime concert.

Sree Ramaseva Mandali has been organizing the festival for 8 decades now – a commendable thing in it’s own right but after seeing many concerts (especially instrumental) disturbed in the past, I appeal to the organizers to get a better sound system. The life of an instrumental concert is in the sound and a little more effort makes their efforts transform into the experience in a much better way.

Kumaresh & Jayanthi Kumaresh – Srivani Vidya Kendra – Mar 23, 2018

Srivani Vidya Kendra has been organizing the RamaNavami concerts for 26 seasons now and the lineup for 27th season looks very impressive too, with a good number of top stars performing in the month long festival. It is also heartening to see opportunities for the youngsters being given, for 30 minutes every day before the main concerts begin!

Kumaresh and Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh performed a scintillating concert, with K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Pramath Kiran on Tabla/Morsing.

  1. Sarasuda – Saveri (Varnam)
  2. Kanugontini Sri Ramuni – Bilahari
  3. Instrumental composition – Abheri
  4. Neekela Daya Raadu – Sarasangi
  5. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Saraswathi
  6. Muralidhara Gopala – Maand
  7. Thirupughal – Sindhu Bhairavi
  8. Kamakshi Lokasakshi – Madhyamavathi

Varnam Sarasuda in Saveri and the improvisations in the Chitta Swaras just gave a glipmse of what was in store for the next couple of hours!

A little sketch of Bilahari was followed by Saint Thyagaraja’s composition Kanugontini, that ended with some brilliant Kalpana Swaras. I think, they also played a nice Chitta Swaram (I never heard before) – the beauty was amplified by Kumaresh who played on a harmonic scale to it.

A beautiful Abheri aalapana followed. The composition they played was lilting and sublime, that made my day, having drove more than 20 km (mind you, in the Bengaluru traffic) to attend this concert! It must be one of the many instrumental melodies the amazing couple composed.

Sarasangi is an interesting scale that differs only in Nishadham from Charukesi and Dhaivatham from Sankarabharanam but gives a wonderful effect, altogether! The duo presented a classy aalapana before the nice unheard Ramaswami Sivan’s composition Neekela Daya raadu (thanks to Kumaresh for announcing) was played, that ended with some exquisite Kalpana Swaras.

Saraswathi is a ragam that has divinity in the name and the texture already. The evening couldn’t be better with divinity personified musician Jayanthi performing it in a divine way only she can! It is always a treat to listen to her Tanam and Kumaresh’s virtuosity left everyone in awe! Pallavi was again interesting, in Khanda Triputa Talam and the percussion duo of Jayachandra and Pramath played extremely well to enhance the beauty of the presentation. Tani Avarthanam was entertaining and the experimentation at the end of it with both melody instruments joining was extempore, gutsy and brilliant!

Jayanthi’s Guru, Smt. Padmavathy Ananthagopalan was invited to felicitate the artistes and the audience were treated with a spectacle for the lifetime – Jayanthi being felicitated by her Guru! It must have been an emotional moment for both the Guru & Shishya and the organizers must be appreciated for this great gesture!

There were a couple of compositions in Maand and Sindhu Bhairavi before the Syama Sastri’s composition Kamakshi in Madhyamavathi ended a super concert.

Lalgudi GJR Krishnan & Vijayalakshmi – The Music Academy, Chennai – Dec 23, 2017

Lalgudi Siblings, GJR Krishnan and Viji presented a melodious concert at the Madras Music Academy, with Sangitha Kalanidhi Prof. Trichy Sankaran on Mridangam and B S Purushottam (BSP) on Khanjira.

  1. Varnam – Hamsavinodini
  2. Dasarathe – Kokilapriya
  3. Sri Venkata Girisham – Surati
  4. Marugelara O Raghava – JayanthaSri
  5. Sivakaama Sundari – Jaganmohini
  6. Mahitha Pravruddha – Kambhoji
  7. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Shanmukhapriya
  8. Chandrasekhara – SindhuBhairavi
  9. Thillana – Tilang

The concert started with the Maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman’s composition, a Varnam in HamsavinodiniDasarathe in Kokilapriya was lovely, so were the kalpana swaras.

A beautiful Surati aalapana by Viji was followed by Muthuswamy Deekshitaar’s Sri Venkata Girisham. Niraval in the Charanam was embellished beautifully by Trichy Sankaran. Kalpana Swaras were brilliant!

Two quick compositions Marugelara and Sivakaama Sundari followed, before the main raga for the evening, Kambhoji was taken up by GJR. He played some phrases with really complex gamakas, showing his virtuosity, while maintaining the melody that the Lalgudi Bani is known for! One of the Lalgudi Pancharathnams, Mahitha Pravruddha was the song. I saw a lot of guesses having gone wrong, with people around me trying to predict the song. We have to admire the duo’s quest to present rare krithis. Kalpana swaras and of course, the muktayi were quite interesting!

Shanmukhapriya was outstanding. So soulful and mellifluous that there was not even a second where we felt bored off the long aalapana. They did Graha Bhedam to KaanadaNaata and Dhenuka (thanks to Viji for clearing my doubt about how Kaanada was achieved from Shanmukhpriya through Graha Bhedam – by avoiding Madhyamam). GJR announced the Pallavi was sung by Alathur Brothers in Academy in 1964 and Trichy Sankaran Sir improvised on it. Pallavi, in Jhampa Talam in Khanda gathi was in Tamil, so I couldn’t comprehend the sahityam it inspite of Viji singing. As usual, it was a complex laya pattern, a trademark of the Lalgudis, which keeps students like me interested in following it very closely. Ragamalika swaras were in HuseniNalinakanthiHamir KalyaniKarnaRanjaniRasikapriya and Viji was simply outstanding in this segment!! Trichy Sankaran Sir was brilliant all throughout, and it was indeed a treat watching him.

The concert ended with Chandrasekhara in SindhuBhairavi and Lalgudi’s Thillana in Tilang.

2.5 hours of pure melody, both Violins singing in unison, Trichy Sankaran Sir showing his class and BSP handling Khanjira as carefully as handling a flower – it indeed was a musical ecstasy!!

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh – The Music Academy, Chennai – Dec 22, 2017

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh presented a wonderful concert at the Madras Music Academy, with Arjun Kumar on Mridangam and Udupi Sridhar on Ghatam.

  1. Chalamela – Nattakurinji (Varnam)
  2. Gowri Manohara – GowriManohari
  3. Appa! Rama Bhakti – Pantuvarali
  4. Kamakshi – Bhairavi
  5. Shankaram Abhirami Manoharam – KamalaManohari
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kapi
  7. Muralidhara Gopala – Maand
  8. Kavadi Chindu – Behag
  9. Kamakshi – Madhyamavathi

The concert started with Chalamela in Nattakurinji in one speed. Brief outline of GowriManohari and Papanasam Sivan’s composition Gowri Manohara followed. The swaras were scintillating and it was just a small intro to what was in store for the next 135 minutes!

Pantuvarali aalapana was soul stirring. Appa! Rama Bhakti entho goppara.., the composition of Saint Thyagaraja was presented with great poise to aptly bring out the meaning of the sahityam. Arjun and Sridhar played nice exchanges in the swaras for a variety of patterns that Jayanthi played.

One of the all-time favorite ragas of Carnatic musicians and rasikas, is Bhairavi. The aalapana was so meditative and it was as if Goddess Saraswathi was doing a Tapas with her instrument. Syama Sastri’s masterpiece Kamakshi was so soulful that the Goddess would have certainly come to the Music Academy to enjoy the rest of the proceedings. Arjun Kumar did a great job in enhancing the beauty of the song! So when Kamakshi is in the hall, she had to be served a nice treat before safely sending her off, right! Shankaram Abhirami Manoharam, a composition of Muthuswamy Deekshitar, served as the starter for her.

Kapi is one of the ragas that sound so pleasing to the listeners. A sense of great devotion was expressed all the way in Jayanthi’s expansion of the amazing ragam, while showing her virtuosity and versatility on the complex instrument the Saraswathi Veena is! Tanam should be heard only on the Saraswathi Veena, and more so, by Jayanthi. Some of her glides were mesmerizing and appeared so effortless that only she can make it look so easy! She also presented Tanam in Madhukauns, a chaste Carnatic ragam Begada and haunting Kanthamani! Pallavi was in Adi Talam, that was played in different patterns before moving on to the Ragamalika swaras featuring the three ragas in the same order before ending it with a grand muktayi in Kapi. Arjun and Sridhar played brilliant Tani Avarthanam that made the RTP, a complete package!

Muralidhara Gopala was beautiful. A lovely aalapana of Behag brought the typical folk flavour that everyone seemed to have enjoyed. It was the Ganesh-Kumaresh composition that she played and popularized on many platforms.

Goddess Kamakshi was sent off safely with yet another Syama Sastri’s composition Kamakshi Lokasakshi in Madhyamavathi and the concert ended 4 minutes ahead of time!

I have been attending a few concerts this season, the RTP segment was just being Naam ke vaste by quickly finishing it in 20 minutes or so. However, Jayanthi always gives the RTP.. the time it deserves and it enthralled audience for almost an hour including Tani Avarthanam! There was at least one song from each of the Carnatic Music Trinity and there was not even an iota of hurriedness in the entire 2.5 hours of presenting the Saraswathi Veena! The audience gave her a long round of applause with standing ovation at the end of the concert, something that remains etched in memory for a long long time!!

Blessed are the audience who could witness it live! Jayanthi surely keeps inspiring the students of music – the number of students who sat on either sides of the stage for an instrumental music concert in Chennai, showed the amazing inspiration she has been for all the students (including me too!) over the years!!

Sarve janaah sukhino bhavanthu..