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!

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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!

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh – K K Murthy Memorial Music Festival – November 2, 2017

One of the most versatile exponents of the Saraswathi Veena, Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh presented a delightful concert for the Academy of Music and K K Murthy Memorial Music Festival, organized in the Chowdaiah Memorial Hall, with Anantha R Krishnan on Mridangam, Trichy Krishna on Ghatam and Pramath Kiran on Tabla/Morsing.

  1. Parvathi Kumaram – Nattakurinji
  2. AparadhamulaNorva – Rasali
  3. Anandamruthakarshini – AmruthaVarshini
  4. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Kharaharapriya
  5. Thillana – Mand
  6. Kamakshi Lokasakshi – Madhyamavathi

The concert started with a short and lovely sketch of Nattakurinji followed by the krithi Parvathi Kumaram, which I heard for the first time. I always keep saying and I echo it again, there is something special in the way Dr. Jayanthi presents Nattakurinji! The swaras embellished by the three percussion instruments was just the kind of start we all expect in a concert.

Rasali is a rare ragam and it was a short, yet wonderful presentation of this beautiful ragam followed by Saint Thyagaraja’s composition AparadhamulaNorva. Some of the sangathis were so enticing, which would have definitely made the composer proud! Brisk round of swaras set the stage up for the two grand pieces to follow.

Soulful AmruthaVarshini ragam is something to be cherished for long time! All-time favorite krithi AnadamruthaKarshini by Sri Muttuswamy Deekshitaar was followed by blistering round of kalpana swaras that ended in tara sthayi in her trademark style.

Kharaharapriya Ragam and Tanam were simply outstanding. It is so amazing the way Jayanthi presents the Ragam or should I say, the way she makes the Veena sing the ragam in her own style! Tanam as always, is her forte and some of the glides were mesmerizing. In many of her recent solo concerts she presented ragamalika Tanam but she chose to stick to only the main ragam this time. Pallavi in Rupaka Talam was short and attractive. Again, there was no ragamalika in swaras, which was just perfect for the evening.

It was very nice to see Anantha, Krishna and Pramath with a lot of effervescence and respect for each other in taking their turns in the entire concert. Tani Avarthanam was brilliant and entertaining.

It was 1 hour 45 minutes of bliss already and as all good things end at some point, the concert had to end with a Thillana in Mand by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman and Kamakshi Lokasakshi in Madhyamavathi, by Sri Shyama Sastri.

It is worth mentioning that the 2 hours concert had just 6 items including Mangalam – it was all about serious music focusing more on the quality than the number of songs. The planning is also quite well, having covered at least one composition of each of the Carnatic Music trinity!!

A standing ovation by the audience, gentle smile on Smt. Lalgudi Rajalakshmi Amma’s face and more so, happy tears in the eyes of Jayanthi’s Guru and PeriAmma, Smt. Padmavathy Ananthagopalan at the end of the concert.. said it all! Bengaluru witnessed Dr. Jayanthi’s solo concert after a long break and it is to be remembered for a long long time!

Ramakrishnan Murthy – Gayana Samaja 48th Annual Music Conference – October 27, 2017

Ramakrishnan Murthy and team delivered a classic concert as part of the 48th Music Conference of the Bangalore Gayana Samaja. RKM performed with H K Venkatram on Violin, Arjun Kumar on Mridangam and Anirudh Athreya on Khanjira.

  1. Mohana Rama – Mohanam
  2. Koluvai Unnade Kodandapani – Devagandhari
  3. Etti Janmamidi – Varali
  4. Ennaga Manasuku – Neelambari
  5. Haridasulu Vedalu – Yamuna Kalyani
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Bhairavi
  7. Sri Rama Jaya Rama Sringara Rama – Yadukula Kambhoji
  8. Karuna Jaladhe – Nadanamakriya
  9. Pavamana Suthudu (Nee Naama Roopamula) – Sourashtram

The festival is dedicated to Saint Thyagaraja and hence understandably the concert had all songs composed by him!

Concert started with a “so-called main piece” (sans a long aalapana though)!! Mohana Rama was mellifluous. Niraval on the first line of charanam.. dhara manujavatara mahima.. was grand and the kalpana swaras that followed, were exquisite. Brilliant start to the concert indeed!! Koluvai Unnade in Devagandhari that ended with brisk swara exchanges filled the hall with more energy and enthusiasm.

Detailed expansion of Varali by RKM and HKV was very soulful. Etti janmamidi was sung to express the emotion Thyagaraja inscribed in the sahityam very well. Niraval on the last line Sagara Sayanuni Thyagarajuni.. was amazing, the swara exchanges between RKM and HKV were top class. We were just about 1 hour 15 min into the concert and it was time for Tani Avarthanam already. It was a nice Tani Avarthanam by Arjun Kumar and Anirudh Athreya. Two quick compositions in Neelambari and YamunaKalyani were followed by the much awaited Ragam Tanam Pallavi.

Bhairavi is one of the all-time favorite ragas and the audience were treated to some wonderful periods of bliss in the RTP section. RKM sang some slokam all the way instead of normal way of singing ragam and HKV ‘s return, though short, was a treat to the ears! Tanam was lovely and the first part of the pallavi Uraga raga sayana.. Sri Rama looks like having been inspired from yet another masterpiece of Thyagaraja, Upacharamulu chekonavayya and he actually sung some stanzas of the composition as part of the Niraval expansion of the Pallavi. The experiment was interesting and the ragamalika section had many ragas of short cycles weaved together to make everything even more exciting!

The concert ended with one of my favorite compositions from childhood, Karuna Jaladhe and it was very refreshing to listen to the complete song Nee nama roopamula (Pavamana Suthudu) in Sourashtram.

A beautiful concert by RKM and team. I am in awe with his singing with clear diction and incredible voice!!

Saketharaman – NadaSurabhi – September 17, 2017

Saketharaman and team presented a nice concert on the 87th birth anniversary of legendary musician, Lalgudi Sri G Jayaraman, at the Indian Heritage Academy for Nadasurabhi!

Sri Saketharaman was accompanied by Kumari Apoorva Krishna on Violin, Sri Sai Giridhar on Mridangam and Sri Omkar Rao on Ghatam.

  1. Sendil… – Neelambari (Varnam)
  2. (Jagad)Eesha Paahimam – Kalyani
  3. Adamodi Galade – Charukesi
  4. Kande Kande Kande Namma Kangala Dhenuva – Varamu
  5. Paalinchu Kamakshi Pavani – Madhyamavathi
  6. Kannanai Kanbadeppo – Ragamalika
  7. Jathiswaram – Sindhu Bhairavi
  8. Kandena Govinda – Chandrakauns?
  9. Thillana – Pahaad
  10. Mangalam – Sourashtram

Saketharaman introduced that he was going to sing either the songs composed or popularized by the legendary musician Lalgudi Jayaraman Sir. As expected, the concert started with a beautiful Varnam composed by him, in Neelambari.

(Jagad)Eesha Paahimam in Kalyani is the first of the Lalgudi Pancharathnams composed by Saint Thyagaraja and it was rendered brilliantly.

Charukesi is one of my favorite ragas and in some sense, synonymous with Lalgudi and I was actually about to send Saketh a text requesting if he could sing that ragam, but held back thinking he might have his own plans for the concert on his Guru’s birth anniversary and hence did’t want to disturb them. Surprisingly he picked up long aalapana of this amazing ragam (telepathy, perhaps?), though a bit fast paced rendition than the ones that I heard innumerable number of times from the maestro, it had the Lalgudi stamp all the way. I am seeing this wonderful young girl Apoorva after 3 years on an accompanying role and felt very happy listening to her return, which started and ended very well. The krithi was easily to be guessed, Adamodi Galade. Violin accompaniment for Saketh is not an easy job because of the energy with which Saketh sings, and in complex patterns of swaras, but she did a good job. A blistering round of kalpana swaras made everyone sit on the edge of their seats.

Madhyamavathi aalapana was quite detailed both by Saketh and Apoorva, and I was somehow guessing a Pallavi. Pleasantly surprised and happy to listen to one of the masterpieces of Shyama Sastry, Paalinchu Kamakshi, which had interesting, intense and long Niraval like in any typical Saketharaman’s concert. A tad surprised that there were no kalpana swaras and even the last charanam which will have Shyama Sastry’s mudhra was skipped too. Nonetheless, it was already an intense singing by then in the form of delightful Niraval @ Karunya murthivai jagamu kapadina talli… Tani by Sai Giridhar and Omkar Rao was energetic and fulfilling.

Jathiswaram in SindhuBhairavi is something I heard for the first time and it really is a wonderful composition by Lalgudi Sir, which had GrahaBhedam to BehagMohanaKalyani, Tilang ragas in a very simple way for the ears and definitely tough for the singer. The composition deserves to be known more popularly to the general folklore and musicians like Saketharaman are hence, real torchbearers of the Lalgudi tradition. It was so nice that he sang and explained the composition as he did it!

The concert ended with a few small pieces followed by his famous Thillana in Pahaad!

Overall, a nice concert by Saketharaman and I was probably expecting one more Niraval and a Pallavi, but I do understand that the theme was more focussed on the legendary musician Lalgudi Jayaraman Sir and Saketh needed to make adjustments to his usual format, accordingly.

T M Krishna – Unnati – August 4, 2017

Sri T M Krishna and his wonderful team of musicians Sri R K Shriramkumar (RKS) on Violin, Sri K V Prasad (KVP) on Mridangam and Sri Chandrasekhara Sharma (CS) on Ghatam, presented a nice concert for a packed audience at the Unnati Center.

  1. Sri Dum Durge – Sriranjani
  2. Viruttam – Sankarabharanam
  3. Kamakshi – Bhairavi (Swarajathi)
  4. Perumal Murugan’s composition – Kambhoji
  5. Dwaithamu Sukhama – Reetigowla
  6. Krishna Nee Begane Baaro – Yamuna Kalyani
  7. TulasiDas Bhajan
  8. Amor Janmobhumi

The start to the concert was fabulous. Sriranjani take off was brilliant and the languid presentation of Muttuswamy Deekshitaar’s Masterpiece Sri Dum Durge was a treat to the ears. Niraval around Karunasalaye… was amazing, so were the kalpana swaras that followed. The highlight was the bhavam while singing swara sangeethalaye.. I had goosebumps and am sure many in the hall would have had too. This presentation will be remembered for long long time.

A serene Sankarabharanam followed, the typical TMK style of presentation of the raga. A beautiful virutham followed and I would have been more happier if a song followed it too, but it just ended there. Nonetheless, the exchanges between TMK and RKS in the ragam were beautiful.

Kamakshi Swarajathi is a masterpiece by Syama Sastri. It is so amazing that a Swarajathi can also be so popular, particularly in a ragam like Bhairavi, which has hundreds of compositions. Again a nice presentation of this, but my heart was wanting for more, more so with the rendition of this song in TMK’s 2016 Rama Seva Mandali concert, that is etched in my memory forever!

Surprise.. surprise!! A small raga aalapana in Kambhoji, brisk and interesting Tanam that rightfully earned applause from full house, was followed by a composition of Perumal Murugan in Tamil (on palm tree), set to tune by the Violin Maestro RKS. Though I couldn’t understand any bit of it (being in Tamil), I could sense the Tamil audience enjoyed it thoroughly – must be real gem of a song on social consciousness!

Dwaithamu Sukhama is yet another masterpiece of Thyagaraja. Kalpana swaras around Nagadha Raja… were interesting, especially various ways of reaching Shadjamam (Sa) and Nishadham (Ni). This segment showed the depth of his voice – he sang swaras in the lowest octave possible to human voice and I don’t think they can be played on Violin. RKS did a brilliant job the way he does always! KVP and CS presented a delightful Tani Avarthanam to make it even special.

Krishna Nee Begane Baro.. well I think Lord Krishna would have definitely arrived and enjoyed the song as TMK soulfully called out begane baaro, equally well responded by RKS. It felt like both were competing (healthily) to make sure who brings Krishna first to the hall!

A very nice concert ended with TulasiDas’ bhajan and Amor Janmobhumi, a composition that is perhaps owned by TMK.

I must say, RKS stole the entire show with his soothing Violin while KVP and CS followed TMK very nicely and embellished the concert!

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!