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!

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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!

T M Krishna – Sree Rama Seva Mandali – April 17, 2016

Disclaimer – I wrote in one of my previous posts in the last year that I was not going to write about concerts that my great Guru Sri H K Venkatram plays, because of two reasons. One, I can go on and on talking about his music & greatness, and two, I don’t want to give anyone a feeling that my posts are biased to someone. Having said that, I am amending it today, because I am afraid I will be missing out on gems of concerts (already missed a couple or more) like the one this post is talking about.

Sree Rama Seva Mandali organized Sri T M Krishna’s concert, accompanied by Guru Sri H K Venkatram on Violin, Sri Manoj Siva on Mridangam and Sri B S Purushottaman on Khanjira. Just for the kick of it, I am naming this concert, “Kaanda” (कांड, కాండ), which roughly translates to “a chapter”. In Ramayana, the story is divided into chapters, like “Aranya Kaanda”, talking about the part of the mythology when Lord Rama went for Vana vasam, etc. You will know more about the naming as you read this along!

  1. Sukhi Evaro – Kaanada
  2. Kaanada Tanam + Neranammithi (Kaanada Ata Tala Varnam)
  3. Sri Maatrubhootam – Kannada
  4. Entha vedukondu raghava – Saraswathi Manohari
  5. Kamakshi – Bhairavi (Swarajathi)
  6. Nee bhajana gaana rasikulane – Naayaki
  7. Ille vaikunta – Varali
  8. Enna tavam – Kapi
  9. Muchukunda varada – Sankarabharanam

The concert started with a wonderful Kaanada aalapana, very elaborative indeed and the krithi Sukhi evaro was a fabulous rendition along with amazing kalpana swaras. When everyone thought the composition was over, TMK started singing Tanam in Kaanada! To clear doubts of audience, he announced, “Kaanada is not over” and what a fantabulous Tanam it indeed was!! TMK always does the unthinkable – he started singing the Ata Tala varnam in Kaanada with a few extra swara patterns in the end, which were mind blowing! Another intriguing thing is that, he requested percussionists to play Tani avarthanam (typically very early in a regular concert), which was too good. He ended with a couple of more swara patterns and a round of Tanam! Hmmm… it was around 1 hour into the concert already!

A beautiful aalapana of the ragam called “Kannada” (thankfully he announced, I didn’t know this before) was followed by a delightful rendition of the krithi Sri maatrubhootam. What I noticed is, unlike many other singers, he enjoys the sahityam (lyrics) so much that he goes into a different world himself, immersed in the bhava of the sahityam. Fabulous swara exchanges by both TMK and Guru and I was awe struck when he sung non-stop at a lower octave that is very difficult to execute!

So, now you have the answer why I named this concert “Kaanda”.. derived from Kaanada and Kannada! Half of the scheduled concert time went in these two!!

TMK then requested Guru to play some ragam and my Guru played a majestic “Saraswathi Manohari”. It was as beautiful (manoharam) as Goddess Saraswathi will be while playing Veena (yes, she indeed will be – I have seen her!). The composition was easily guessed and a great presentation of it was a treat to the ears. The niraval “chintha teerchuta entha modi raa” was filled with so much of bhavam that I can’t express in words!

Kamakshi swarajathi in Bhairavi is one of the remarkable compositions in Carnatic music. A short aalapana followed by the TMK style of presentation of it just made the day which has already been excellent, even better (I am running short of words please!). He went on and on as he made a delightful recipe out of the composition and ragam for everyone present there. At one point when people started clapping acknowledging the happening on stage, TMK with folded hands said, “please.. please”. He was so much immersed in that and didn’t want to come out of it soon!

A very short aalapana of ragam called Naayaki (again first time for me) was followed by a wonderful presentation of krithi which ended with a mini Tani avarthanam. Ille Vaikunta in Varali was another great piece that everyone was mesmerized with.

There was a request for Enna tavam in Kapi.. I think he wanted to sing another composition in Kapi as he asked that person “do I have liberty to sing another composition in same ragam?”, for which I think the answer was “No”. So the Kapi aalapana followed. Although short, both Vocals and Violin touched the strings of many hearts and it was a sheer bliss! Enna Tavam was followed by Muchukunda varada, a Nottuswaram by Sri Muttuswamy Dikshitar and thus ended a great concert that will be remembered for long long time!

Dr. L Subramaniam – Sree Rama Seva Mandali – April 16, 2016

It’s been really long since I attended a Violin concert and that too by Padma Bhushan Dr. L Subramaniam and hence decided to give TMK’s concert in another venue, a miss. While I am happy to have met the great man and he recollected that we met in Intel (June 2015), I must say I am not satisfied with this concert.

Dr. L Subramaniam and Ambi Subramaniam were accompanied by Vid. V V Ramanamurthy on Mridangam, Vid. T N Radhakrishnan on Ghatam and Vid. G Satyasai on Morsing.

First of all, the Mandali was doing honors to some personalities from various domains and LS was chief guest. It ate up all the time and patience of audience as it went on and on. The concert that was supposed to start at 6:30 PM finally started at 7:30 PM.

  1. Bhairavi Ata Tala varnam
  2. Vatapi Ganapatim – Hamsadhwani
  3. Teliyaleru Rama – Dhenuka
  4. Niravadi Sukhada – Ravi Chandrika
  5. Venkatachala Nilayam – Sindhu Bhairavi

The concert started with Bhairavi Ata Tala varnam in 5 speeds – the LS trademark style. He stopped for something after playing 5 speeds and the percussionists assumed he stopped composition and played ending tani phrases. To everyone’s surprise, LS picked up the charanam and swaras from nowhere and that was a good end to varnam, although I didn’t like the break (LS sometimes does stop in the middle of compositions, and I never understood why he does!)

Then came, a detailed aalapana of Hamsadhwani and I was already guessing the composition that they were going to play… I wasn’t wrong. Some sangathis in the song were too good and it ended with some nice swara exchanges between both of them.

Very short Dhenuka aalapana followed by one of my favorite songs, Teliyaleru Rama was rendered with so much feel that I wish it went on for some more time. Again, he abruptly stopped, signalling VVR to start Tani avarthanam. Perhaps, none in auditorium, not even the percussionists expected this! VVR was surprisingly very dull, but was covered up by Radhakrishnan and Satya Sai very well. Tani avarthanam finally picked up and ended well.

Niravadi Sukhada was a straightforward presentation but the ending Sindhu Bhairavi aalapana was so soulful! I guess, he actually went into his “zone” by then, but alas, it was already 9:00 PM and he had to end his concert with very delightful rendition of Venkatachala Nilayam, followed by exquisite swara exchanges on both Violins. What a pity that we could only see him entering into his “zone” in the last piece of the night!! I wish he had continued for a while but the organizers already indicated to him earlier that the programme was till 9 PM only!

The sound system was very bad. I was hardly able to hear LS’ Violin and voice (whenever he talked anything) and every other instrument other than his Violin were sounding louder. My favorite musician, Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh says, “sound, along with silence between two notes are very important in classical music” and I could only understand the importance of that statement, very well, in this concert!

Strings Attached – Sri Vani Vidya Kendra – April 12, 2016

Been very long since I penned down my report of any concert as I haven’t been attending many concerts but I can’t afford to miss Sree Rama Navami concerts in Bengaluru!

Strings Attached concert by Sri Kumaresh (Violin) and Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh (Veena) at Sri Vani Vidya Kendra, Basaveshwaranagar, as part of Sree Rama Navami celebrations was an amazing one. I enjoyed this thoroughly even though I didn’t know 75% of the compositions that were presented! They were accompanied by Vid. Shankaranarayanan on Mridangam and Vid Giridhar Udupa on Ghatam.

  1. Kalyani Adi Tala varnam (Vanajakshi)
  2. Gowla
  3. Kanada
  4. Hindolam (?)
  5. Nattakurinji RTP
  6. Sindhu Bhairavi
  7. Harivarasanam (Bhajan)
  8. Madhyamavathi

The concert started with the grand Kalyani varnam, which was played in only one speed as they started at a very higher speed. A brief introduction of Gowla ragam followed by a composition that I don’t know set the tone for the rest of the concert. Scintillating swara prasthara. Enough said!

Kanada aalapana was very elaborate on both Violin and Veena and their sheer brilliance on swaras was quite evident in the end. Hindolam composition was a filler between the sub-main and main pieces of concert. Nattakurinji Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi was very grand with long aalapana and great Tanam (especially from Dr. Jayanthi, equally responded well by Vid. Kumaresh) with a very attractive pallavi in Adi Talam. Swara prasthara was mesmerizing and the Tani Avarthanam was good, albeit a bit louder.

Some chief guest presided over the gathering for the evening, which was quite looonnng. He actually said Veena is the queen of instruments and Violin, the King. That is fine, but many didn’t appreciate when he said something on the lines that instrumental music is next to vocal music. Everyone was waiting for him to finish as they finished concert with last few short pieces. Sindhu Bhairavi is the trademark of Dr. Jayanthi, the Bhajan that followed was very soothing to the ears and the mandatory Mangalam came in the form of Madhyamavathi.

Overall, an amazing concert indeed! One of those very few concerts that I happened to enjoy a lot, despite not knowing what compositions are being played. I was very happy though, that I could identify all ragas and I hope I was correct! 😉

PS: Who said instrumental music is next to Vocal? In my view, it’s the most divine form of music and I am sure many will agree with me.