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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!

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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..

Hyderabad Brothers – Sri Krishna Gana Sabha – Dec 22, 2017

Hyderabad Brothers Seshachary and Raghavachary presented a good concert at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, with H K Venkatram (Violin), Kotipalli Ramesh (Mridangam) and Sethuraman (Khanjira).

  1. Sami Ninne – Sankarabharanam (Varnam)
  2. Arunachala Natham – Saranga
  3. Korina Varamosagu – Ramapriya
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Bhairavi
  5. <Missed the rest>

The concert started with Sankarabharanam Varnam SamiNinne in two speeds. Brief sketch of Saranga followed by Muthuswamy Deekshitar’s Arunachala Natham was lovely.

Ramapriya was a nice choice of ragam. Both the brothers rendered the aalapana soulfully, demonstrating their rich base voice and HKV returned beautifully. The brothers are indeed known for their repertoire consisting very rare ragas and songs and it has to be appreciated. Korina Varamosagumayya Kodandapani, a Patnam Subramanya Iyer’s composition was presented well with brief exchange of swaras in the end!

Bhairavi Ragam Tanam was long and some rare phrases were presented by both. The Violin return was very soulful. Pallavi is set to Trisra jathi Triputa Talam in Tamil, so I couldn’t comprehend it completely. It was catchy and was presented in different Nadais. Ramesh probably had tough time as Seshachary was adamant he plays the Pallavi on Mridangam also the same way they were singing, after the Violin return before taking up Kalpana Swaras. It was funny, as he was not getting it right but was being pushed to do it till he gets it right, as if he was in a practice session. Swaras were good, Ragamalika in SaveriBilahari, ?, Hindolam was nice. Tani Avarthanam started and there would have been a few more songs but I had to leave for the Music Academy for another concert.

It was a spectacle for me to see my sister’s Guru’s Guru (Raghavachary) with my Guru (HKV) on same stage, yesterday. Concert was certainly a good experience, except for the antics of Seshachary which were funny all through the concert!

Saketharaman – Narada Gana Sabha – Dec 21, 2017

Saketharaman presented a brilliant concert with R K Shriramkumar (RKSK) on Violin, Trichy Sankaran on Mridangam and B S Purushottam (BSP) on Khanjira, at the Narada Gana Sabha.

  1. Reached late – missed first one
  2. Marubalka – Sriranjani
  3. Etti Janmamidi – Varali
  4. Maragatha Valli – Kambhoji
  5. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kaanada
  6. <Some Tamil Song that I couldn’t comprehend>
  7. Smara Sundaranguni – Pharas?
  8. Thillana – Madhuvanthi
  9. Mangalam – Sourashtram

I reached about 10 minutes late, as I had to come from Music Academy and while I was entering the hall, the Niraval at Daarinerigi santasilli.. in Marubalka (Sriranjani) just started. I really like the intensity Saketharaman brings to the concert, especially the way he presents the Niraval, in a very structured way. This was no different and in the company of RKSK, it was more pleasing.

Varali was soulful and the composition Etti Janmamidi was wonderful. It was pleasing to hear “Etti Janmam Idi ra” properly as opposed to how many people sing “Etti Janma Midi ra”.

Saketharaman sang an amazing Kambhoji and RKSK’s return was beautiful. Muthuswamy Deekshitaar’s composition Maragatha Valli was the main composition of the evening. Niraval on the Pallavi line was beautiful and impactful, with Trichy Sankaran showing his class. RKSK played brilliant swaras. Trichy Sankaran and BSP played an Amazing Tani Avarthanam. BSP was so soft that we could hardly hear his returns. While Sankaran showed his mastery on Mridangam, BSP quietly followed him very well, adding beauty to the presentation.

A quick Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Kaanada with Pallavi Shankaram SarvajanavaSankaram Santatam Chintaye Prasanna in Khandajaati Triputa Talam was beautiful like many other Pallavis of Saketharaman. Ragamalika swaras in SankarabharanamPriyadarshini to conclude the RTP were lovely.

The concert concluded with Lalgudi’s Madhuvanthi Thillana.

Sikkil Gurucharan – The Music Academy, Chennai – Dec 21, 2017

Sikkil Gurucharan (SGC)  presented an excellent concert, with H K Venkatram (HKV) on Violin, H S Sudhindra (HSS) on Mridangam and V Suresh (VS) on Ghatam, at the Madras Music Academy.

  1. Tharuni – Kambhoji Varnam
  2. Sri Ganeshwara – Shanmukhapriya
  3. Mayuranatham Anisham – Dhanyasi
  4. Tatvameruga Tarama – Garudadhwani
  5. Intha Paraakelara – Kharaharapriya
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi (& krithi) – Kumudakriya
  7. Kanna Va – Ragamalika
  8. Thillana – Poorvi

The concert started with the Varnam Tharuni in Kambhoji in two speeds. Brief sketch of Shanmukhapriya followed by Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi’s composition Sri Ganeshwara was brilliant. SGC announced that the Sangitha Kalanidhi designate Chitravina Ravikiran polished and popularized this composition. Swara exchanges between SGC and HKV were top class!

Dhanyasi aalapana by both SGC and HKV was very soulful. Mayuranatham Anisham, a Muthuswamy Deekshitar’s composition was lovely. Brisk Tatvameruga Tarama was the energetic filler between two long items. Swaras in Garudadhwani at blistering speed and in special patterns, were a treat for the audience and students alike!

Kharaharapriya aalapana by SGC was beautiful, trying to present some rare phrases amidst typical raga flavour. I am floored by his control in some gamakas and in the way he sustained some notes quite long. HKV did an amazing return of Kharaharapriya in his typical style. Intha paraakelara, a composition of Pallavi Sesha Iyer was presented very well. Niraval at the Pallavi line and the kalpana swaras that followed, were so nice! HSS and VS did a fantastic job in Tani Avarthanam, both competed in bettering the other’s returns. The entire concert was indeed embellished by their performance!!!

My pick of the evening is Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Kumudakriya. The aalapana was soul stirring, especially the Violin return drew many aah-s and bhale-s from audience. Pallavi ArdhaNaareswaram Aaradhanayaami Satatam Abhayakaram Bhayakaram Shivakaram was nice except for the word break “ArdhaNaa Reeswaram” that was annoying. There was definitely space for him to make it “ArdhaNaari Iswaram” which would have made Lord Shiva more happier. I am sure he would have been happier anyways, the way the Pallavi Niraval and swaras following it were presented. A very quick Ragamalika (with no Violin return) happened in no time and I understand he had to rush it through as he had plans of singing the famous krithi Ardhanareeswaram quickly. Nice support by HSS and VS all the way!

The concert ended with a Viruttam in Kapi followed by Kanna Va in Ragamalika, again quickly followed by Thillana which he started at half minute past 18:29 to finish off just 1.5 minutes late to the scheduled time 18:30.

Overall, a beautiful concert – Kumudakriya certainly had a nice effect that it was ringing in my ears for quite some time after the concert. It was good to see nice camaraderie among the musicians, as I saw Ramakrishnan Murthy, Sandeep Narayan and few others attend the concert!

O S Thyagarajan – Ragigudda Temple – December 10, 2017

O S Thyagarajan (OST) conquered all the odds the sound system could provide, to present a brilliant concert with H K Venkatram (HKV) on Violin, Thiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam on Mridangam and Karthik on Khanjira, at the Ragigudda Prasanna Anjaneya Swamy Temple, as part of Hanumajjayanthi celebrations.

  1. Evari Bodhana – Abhogi (Varnam)
  2. Terateeyaga raada – GowliPantu
  3. Ragarathna Maalika che – Reetigowla
  4. Marivere Dikkevarayya Rama – Shanmukhapriya
  5. Nambi Kettavar Illavo Rangayya – Kalyani
  6. Rama Katha Sudha – Madhyamavathi
  7. (H)Anumanai Anudhinam – Ragamalika
  8. Mangalam – Sourashtram

The concert started around 35 minutes late because OST was supposedly stuck in traffic and further went to the temple for darshan. OST wanted to get going as quickly as possible, but the sound guy had other plans. It took a lot of time for Bhaktavatsalam to get satisfied to start the proceedings. Evari Bodhana in Abhogi took off but we could hardly hear anything except Mridangam.

The same saga continued even in the next song, Terateeyaga raada. The sound guy disturbed the already bad setup that made sure OST had to stop the next song after having sung the first line, with Bhaktavatsalam’s intervention. Raga rathna maalika che.. in Reetigowla finally took off safely in the second attempt and the sound started getting slightly better by the time Niraval and Kalpana Swaras were sung. Though short, very lovely exchanges between OST and HKV!

Soulful Shanmukhapriya relieved everyone from the frustration that we had to undergo due to sound system. Some old person sitting next to me actually quipped, “concert started now!”. It is so amazing how effortlessly OST sang some very peculiar complex phrases and very well returned by HKV too. Marivere dikkevarayya Rama was brilliant except for the fact that OST had broken the word dikku into two (Mari vere di, kkevarayya), inappropriately in a few sangathis, which sounded a bit weird. Niraval at Sannutanga Sri Venkatesa neevu followed by Swaras was lovely and soft all the way!

Madhyamavathi was the highlight of the evening. Some interesting phrases by OST in his long aalapana were treat to the ears. HKV’s return received great applause too, as he presented the chaste Madhyamavathi in a typical languid style. Rama katha Sudha Rasa was presented with poise and kalpana swaras were mellifluous. Bhaktavastalam and Karthik presented a nice Tani Avarthanam to add more beauty to the concert.

Overall, the audience were certainly treated with great music, that was marred with pathetic sound system. I think it’s the time artistes have to put their foot down and inform the organizers to get proper sound system with engineer before accepting the programmes!

H K Venkatram, Ravikiran & Ashwin Anand – Samarasa 2017 – November 12, 2017

Samarasa 2017 conducted by the PES University in Banashankari has some interesting concerts lined up and one of them I could catch is the Violin-Venu-Veena trio of H K Venkatram, Ravikiran and Ashwin Anand, with the legendary Guru Karaikudi Mani Sir on Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam.

  1. Sami Ninne – Sree Ragam (Varnam)
  2. Maha Ganapathim – Naata
  3. Janani Ninnuvina – Reetigowla
  4. Niravadhi Sukhada – Ravichandrika
  5. Gnanamosagarada – PoorviKalyani
  6. RTP – Brindavana Saranga
  7. Jagadodharana – Kapi

Brisk Sree Raga varnam Sami Ninne served as a starter for a beautiful concert that was quickly followed up with Muthuswamy Deekshitaar’s composition MahaGanapathim in Naata.

Ravikiran presented a nice Reetigowla before moving on to Subbaraaya Shastry’s masterpiece Janani Ninnuvina. Saint Thyagaraja’s masterpiece Niravadhi Sukhada was amazing, the kalpana swaras lit up the entire auditorium.

Ashwin played a soothing PoorviKalyani – we could guess the song that was coming next! Gnanamosagarada, yet another masterpiece of Saint Thyagaraja was presented with great poise, lifting the spirit of composition!!

Soulful BrindavanaSaranga ragam presented by HKV that left everyone in awe was the highlight of the concert, despite so many issues with the sound system (all through the concert). Tanam was presented by all three of them in turns. Ragam and Tanam together were so wonderful that it felt like being in Vrindavan! Pallavi AravindaPatra Nayana Brindavana lola Govinda is set to Adi Talam. Kalpana swaras included Ragamalika in KaanadaNalinaKanthiBehagVaraliKapi and ended with the grand AmruthaVarshini which HKV played till AtiTara Sthayi to leave the stage for the most awaited Tani Avarthanam in a grand way. It was a fabulous Tani Avarthanam by Guru Karaikudi Mani Sir and Giridhar Udupa. While the Maestro showed what differentiates him from the rest, Giridhar did a brilliant job of shadowing him with utmost respect, not just in Tani Avarthanam, but in the entire concert!

The concert ended with Jagadodharana in Kapi.

A great team of HKV, Ravikiran and Ashwin, accompanied by the stalwarts in their own fields, presented a memorable concert. Although the entire concert could have been elevated to higher levels if there had been a better sound system and engineer, the audience were definitely treated to the best in the paucity of time and resources!