Saketharaman – The Music Academy, Chennai – Dec 26, 2018

Saketharaman presented a wonderful concert in the company of Akkarai Subhalakshmi on Violin, Anantha R Krishnan on Mridangam and Anirudh Athreya on Khanjira, at the Madras Music Academy.

  1. Palayasumam – Arabhi
  2. Sundaratara deham – Pantuvarali
  3. Amba Neelambari – Neelambari
  4. VaraNarada – VijayaSri
  5. Marakathavalli – Kambhoji
  6. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Varamu & Saveri (dwi-raga)
  7. Aadu Chidambaramo – Behag
  8. Tirupugazh – Hamir Kalyani

Saketh started the concert with a slokam in Arabhi followed by Syama Sastri’s composition Palayasumam. Thyagaraja’s composition Sundaratara deham in Pantuvarali was very good, with a short yet intense niraval at ragadi samharam raghavam udaram followed by some scintillating swaras and nice poruthams. Both Akkarai and Anantha complemented Saketh well.

A very beautiful aalapana in Neelambari was a treat to the audience. These kind of ragas in slow pace actually add a great variety to the concerts! Having started with a slokam yet again, Manikyaveena.., he brought out his typical soulful rendition of Ponnaiah Pillai’s composition Amba Neelambari in a lovely fashion! A brisk VaraNarada served as a nice filler and lifted the energy in the auditorium. Flashy swaras in a variety of interesting patterns were to be savoured.

A languid Kambhoji aalapana by Saketh was simply outstanding. Akkarai also returned well but it was a bit too long. Dikshitar’s masterpiece Marakathavalli was presented very well. Niraval could have added more beauty. Some very nice swara patterns and poruthams were an absolute treat, with a brilliant korvai structured around Ga and Ma to sum it up. Akkarai returned swaras well with Anantha and Anirudh beautifying them too. Tani Avarthanam was played well but was eternally too long (close to 30 min). I think the co-artistes should keep a check on the time to allow the concert to happen as per the main artistes’ plan and not get carried away with the moments on stage. We were hardly left with 45 minutes to witness the much awaited RTP and other songs.

Saketh started with an amazing Varamu aalapana and transitioned well to Saveri. Violin return could have been shorter again. After elaborating each ragam separately, he sang small phrases alternating between two ragas in a very interesting manner. Certainly it is not the easiest of the jobs! He did similarly in Tanam as well. A dwi-raga pallavi with Poorvangam in Varamu and Uttarangam in Saveri with raga names in it, was composed very well. Varamulosagi Brovavayya Saveri Ragapriya Kaveri Rangayya was set to 35 beat cycle and the Talam chosen was innovative, 5 beats per cycle with kalapramanam decreasing in geometric progression! So first cycle will have 5 * 4 = 20 aksharas, second 5 * 2 = 10 and the last 5 * 1 = 5, with a total of 35. After an amazing Trikalam by Saketh, the swaras included both the ragas in each avarthanam followed by ragamalika swaras in Reetigowla and Kapi before concluding with an impressive korvai in two ragas! Outstanding stuff indeed to come up with such innovative ideas.

viruttam in Behag was followed by Gopalakrishna Bharatiyar’s composition Aadu Chidambaramo. The concert ended with a Tirupugazh in Hamir Kalyani and a traditional Mangalam.

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Yamini 2018 – IIIT Bangalore – Oct 31 / Nov 1, 2018

SPIC MACAY Bengaluru and IIIT Bangalore collaborated to present Yamini 2018, an overnight series of concerts on Oct 31, on the occasion of Karnataka Rajyotsava (Nov 1).

Dr. Rajam started the proceedings with her melodious aalap in Raag Yaman, which was the main piece of her concert. The way she made her Violin sing was amazing and her virtuosity left everyone in awe. Her granddaughter Kum. Nandini Shankar accompanied her ably on the Violin and Sri Ravikiran Nakod followed them closely with his soft playing. She played a couple of Bhajans in Vaishnava Jana to and Payo ji mein ne.. to end her short concert and the start to Yamini couldn’t be better.

Dr. Jayanthi Kumaresh presented the National Instrument of India, the Saraswathi Veena as the second concert of the overnight, to a packed audience. IIIT-B student team arranged a few LED screens for people who couldn’t afford to get a seat in the hall and it helped everyone to witness the proceedings. She started with an aalap and composition in a chaste Carnatic ragam Nattakurinji and the swaras were scintillating. She presented a mellifluous aalap of the beautiful ragam AmrithaVarshini. The swaras that followed the song literally poured down like a calm rain with an inch-perfect precision. Kapi is one of the beautiful ragas which has similar scale and structure in Hindustani system as well, and a composition of Saint Thyagaraja was presented after a soulful aalap in it. Sankarabharanam, a majestic scale – common to Carnatic, Hindustani and Western Classical systems of music, was the main piece of her concert. Dr. Jayanthi presented a delightful and an intense Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in it, demonstrating her virtuosity and the voice of the Saraswathi Veena. A sublime ragamalika Tanam in SankarabharanamHamsanandiValachi and Revathi will be cherished by the students for long time. She was in company of two excellent percussionists – Sri K U Jayachandra Rao on Mridangam and Sri Trichy Krishnaswamy on Ghatam, who complemented her beautifully all the way!

After an intense couple of hours, Dr. Jayanthi ended her concert with a Thillana, a composition of her maternal uncle, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, in raga Misra Sivaranjani to leave the stage to another wonderful musician from Lalgudi school, Sri Saketharaman.

Sri Saketharaman started his concert in an unusual style with a Mallari in ragam GambhiraNaata. Mallari is typically performed by Nadaswaram artistes inviting the deity inside temples. His songs in raga Todi (very different from Hindustani Todi) and a typical Carnatic ragam Aahiri were soul stirring. The main ragam of the concert is a chaste Begada, and it was so beautiful that audience enjoyed some of the phrases subtly presented by him in a delicate manner. Sri H K Venkatram on the Violin beautified it in his return in his typical style. The ragam is often referred to as Begada-Meegada to highlight the smoothness of ragam like a fresh cream (Meegada in Telugu means cream over milk) and is known to be very difficult to present. Sri Saketh and team presented an amazing Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi in ragam Shuddh Saarang, one of those typical ragas that got introduced into Carnatic System by getting inspired from Hindustani system. He composed a special Pallavi on Bengaluru on the account of Karnataka Rajyotsava Sumadhura Kannada vaniyu nelasiha Namma ooru swargake mihilagudu. Percussion duo of Sri Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam and Sri Guruprasanna on Khanjira played brilliantly throughout the concert. He concluded the concert with Baaro Krishnayya and a Meera Bhajan in ragam MisraSurya.

Sri Margi Madhu presented an inspiring Koodiyattam performance in the play, Anguleeyakam. It is an interesting play highlighting the significance of the ring carried by Hanuman in finding whereabouts of Sita. He hands over the ring to her on behalf of Rama and destroys the whole of Lanka with his tail when Ravana set it on fire, after being annoyed by the destruction Hanuman caused in Lanka. In the end, Hanuman returns to Mount Malyavan to meet Rama in ecstasy and hands over the tiara given by Sita in return to the Anguleeyakam given by Hanuman.

Dr. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande raised the symphony of Yamini to great crescendo in the final concert of the night. She shared her deep perspective of awakening of the soul in three mellifluous own compositions in Raag Lalat so apt for the first Prahar of the night. The environment lit up with aggressive taans of Ab to jaago kanhaiyya. Moving from the brahm muhurt to dawn, she caressed swaras with melodious uncommon Raag Mangal Bhairavpresenting madhya lay bandish “tum palan haar” and drut cheej “jaago re jaago bhayi parbhat”. Keeping the tradition, Ashwini ji concluded concert on a high note with a Marathi Abhang in raag Bhairavi. Sri Ravindra Yavagal on Tabla and Sri Vyasmurti Katti on Harmonium complemented her very well, and Dr. Radhika Joshi gave good vocal support.

Note – This is a copy of the report (with a few minor changes) I published to all core members of SPIC MACAY across the world, as the co-coordinator of the event.

Thanks to my colleague Mandar Bokil for his wonderful write-up about Dr. Ashwini’s concert!

Yamini 2018 was indeed a great success with excellent contributions from students, faculty and staff of IIIT-B and of course from the volunteers of SPIC MACAY.

Saketharaman – 49th Gayana Samaja Annual Conference – Oct 26, 2018

Saketharaman, accompanied by Akkarai Subhalakshmi on Violin, Patri Satish Kumar on Mridangam and Guruprasanna on Khanjira, delivered a wonderful concert at the 49th Annual Conference of Gayana Samaja.

  1. Sri Guruguha – Devakriya
  2. Tala Beku – Bhairavi
  3. Paripahimam – Vakulabharanam
  4. Amba Neelambari – Neelambari
  5. Mukhyaprana enna – Neelamani
  6. Tulasi Bilva – Kedaragowla
  7. Maasil Ayodhiyil – Ragamalika
  8. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Sindhu Bhairavi
  9. Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma – Madhyamavathi
  10. Thillana – Pahad
  11. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

Saketh very thoughtfully weaved a nice concert around the compositions popularized by or composed by Smt. D K Pattammal and HH Jayachamaraja Wodeyar, as this music festival is dedicated to them on their birth centenary.

I was a bit late to this kutcheri and while I was entering the hall, I could hear the scintillating swaras for Sri Guruguha in Devakriya. Glad that I was not too late! A brief outline of Bhairavi followed and the rare song Tala Beku was presented very well. Vakulabharanam aalapana by Subhalakshmi was very serene and soulful! Wodeyar’s composition Paripahimam ended with a brilliant swara muktayi. Top class stuff from all, just that Satish Kumar was a tad louder in the end.

Brilliant aalapana of Neelambari was presented by Saketh and Subhalakshmi. He started with slokam Manikyaveena.. and presented the Ponniah Pillai’s composition Amba Neelambari with great devotion to the Goddess. Satish Kumar played very well here complementing the soulful singing by Saketh.

Kedaragowla was again a top class stuff from Saketh which will be in my mind for long time. Very soulful and soothing indeed! Niraval at uramuna mukhamuna shiramuna bhujamuna karamuna netramuna charana yugambuna was amazing, although you expect much longer Niraval from Saketh’s concerts typically. Swaras were outstanding – at one point he demonstrated multiple ways of reaching Nishadham and muktayi was quite interesting. Saketh is always amazing in getting those different challenging permutations and combinations and what a treat it was for the ears! Transition to Bilahari and back through GrahaBhedam both in raga and swaras section was good. Subhalakshmi also played very well though it felt a tad louder on the ears especially at the swaras! Brilliant Tani by Satish Kumar – while Bhagyalakshmi struggled to keep up with him, it was a commendable performance from the only female Morsing artiste!

Beautiful SindhuBhairavi ragam sung by Saketh where a couple of phrases exactly sounded like they do on the great Lalgudi’s Violin and a wonderful Tanam by Subhalakshmi reminded of a bit of MSG. It is a Pallavi in Trisra jaathi Triuputa Talam in Khanda Gathi, as announced by Saketh – it was a pallavi sung by DKP in Todi which he presented in Sindhu Bhairavi. He announced the ragamalika was going to include some of the famous ragas in which DKP sung pallavis, which included Vachaspati, Todi and a brilliant Kapi!

As the organizer mentioned, it was Friday and there were SubhaLakshmi and BhagyaLakshmi on stage. I think it was an impromptu decision by Saketh to take a cue from the statement and quickly sing Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma highlighting Bhagya Lakshmi at the start and Akkarai in the last charanam ..akkaraeyulla.. Such a nice wordplay that audience and artistes seem to have enjoyed.

He concluded a very well planned concert with Lalgudi’s Thillana in ragam Pahad and Mangalam in Sourashtram.

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.

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.

Saketharaman – Sreerama Seva Mandali, Mysuru -January 22, 2017

This is my first concert in Mysuru! I had a lovely time travelling with my Guru to and from Mysuru, add a beautiful concert by Saketharaman to make it a special day!!

Saketharaman performed with my Guru Sri H K Venkatram on Violin, Sri Arjun Kumar on Mridangam and Sri G S Ramanujam on Ghatam. This is a concert themed on Lord Shiva, as it was held as part of a week long celebrations on him.

  1. Saranu Siddhi Vinayaka – Sourashtram
  2. Naada tanumanisham – Chittaranjani
  3. Siva Siva Siva – Pantuvarali
  4. Enneramum – Devagandhari
  5. Rama Rama Rama Rama Ramayaniro – Vasantha
  6. Akshaya linga vibho – Sankarabharanam
  7. Chandra chooda Siva Sankara – Darbari Kaanada
  8. Ayye metha kadinam – Ragamalika
  9. Thillana – Rakeshri
  10. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

After a couple of brisk krithis in Sourashtram and Chittaranjani, the soulful Pantuvarali aalapana took off! Even more soul stirring was the return on Violin! Knowing that the concert was themed on Lord Shiva, I expected the krithi Siva Siva Sivayana rada that had an excellent Niraval on Agamamula Nutiyinchi… which ended with some excellent round of kalpana swaras.

A pleasing aalapana in Devagandhari followed. Interestingly, the same afternoon I was trying to understand the differences between this and Aarabhi, while I was travelling with my Guru. Saketh sings these kind of ragas very well, in a light voice! A Tamil composition Enneramum, which I never heard before was presented. The famous Rama Rama Rama Rama Ramayaniro in Vasantha served as filler before Sankarabharanam took off!

Sankarabharanam is probably one of those ragas that I always hear some new phrases in, despite listening to it many times. Great aalapana followed by a delightful Violin return by HKV Sir will be remembered for long time! Akshaya Linga Vibho was again a krithi that I heard for the first time. Niraval exchanges on Badari vanamuna naayika sahitha… was again a delight and kalpana swaras, especially some phrases around Gandharam and Nishadham were exquisite. What a treat! Tani Avarthanam by Arjun Kumar and Ramanujam was nice.

One of my favorite ragas, Darbari Kaanada, was very briefly presented leading upto Chandra Chooda Siva Sankara followed by Ayye metha kadinam in Ragamalika. The vote of thanks was soooooo long, owing to the last day of a week long celebrations on Shiva, and there was not much time left for the artistes by the time they were done with it.

The concert ended with Lalgudi Sir’s Thillana in ragam Rakeshri followed by traditional Mangalam!

My picks of the evening were Saketh’s Devagandhari aalapana and HKV Sir’s Sankarabharanam aalapana!!

Saketharaman – Vani Mahal, Chennai – December 24, 2016

Sri Saketharaman, with Smt. Charumathi Raghuraman on Violin, Sri Neyveli Narayanan on Mridangam and Sri Guruprasanna on Khanjira, delivered a super concert at Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha (Vani Mahal), Chennai.

  1. Ramachandram Bhavayami – Vasantha
  2. ? – Hamir Kalyani
  3. Entha Ninne varninthunu – Mukhari
  4. Evaritho ne telpudo Rama – Manavathi
  5. Punniyam Oru Koti – Keeravani
  6. Madhava Mamava Deva – Neelambari
  7. Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Brindavana Saranga
  8. Mannupugazh Kosalai – Ragamalika
  9. Tirupati Venkataramana – Hamsanandi
  10. Thillana – Vasanthi
  11. Pavamana Suthudu – Sourashtram

Ramachandram Bhavayami is a nice composition to start the concert and the Swaras around Saketha set the stage well for the next 2.5 hours. A Tamil composition in Hamir Kalyani followed after a very brief aalapana that brought out the very essence of the raga. The Lalgudi Bani!!

Soulful Mukhari aalapana by Saketh and wonderful return by Charumathi on Violin was a treat to the ears. Niraval exchanges on Kanulara Sevinchi Kammani Phalamulanosagi.. was delightful. A fast paced Evaritho ne telpudo which I heard second time and only from Saketh both times, a wonderful composition by Saint Thyagaraja was a filler between the lovely Mukhari and soul stirring Keeravani that was to follow.

Keeravani is one of those ragas that needs proper and careful handling to sound the way it should, and to create the kind of mood it is supposed to. While Saketh explored the aalapana in many different ways, Charumathi did an extremely good job of shadowing him well. Lalgudi Bani on one side and T N Krishnan’s style of gamakas on the other side. Oh, it was a wonderful sketch altogether! There was a Graha Bhedam (to Hemavathi perhaps?) in the middle of aalapana and it was very fascinating. It’s a Tamil krithi and Saketh mentioned something about it (in Tamil), which I couldn’t catch. I heard it for the first time and the Niraval and Swaras made it even special. Brilliant Tani Avarthanam by Narayanan and Guruprasanna, who did a great job all through the concert.

Madhava Mamava Deva in Neelambari was a filler before what turned out to be a wonderful Ragam Tanam Pallavi in Brindavana Saranga. It’s a very rarely heard ragam and more so for an RTP. Excellent presentation of Ragam and Tanam by Saketh and Charumathi. In Tanam, there was a transition to Sankarabharanam (?) and Sindhu Bhairavi before concluding it in Brindavana Saranga. Pallavi Ananda Natana Prakasam Chitsavesam Chidambaresam Aasrayami Satatam in Misra Jathi Triputa Talam was sung in all possible nadais. He has such a command on laya!! Very pleasing to hear Ragamalika swaras in Sahana, Mohanam and a rare ragam called Misra Surya. Some very interesting swara patterns around Madhyamam in Brindavana Saranga to conclude the grand Pallavi.

The concert ended with a wonderful Thillana by Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman in Vasanthi and traditional Mangalam.