Friday, January 17, 2020

Tiger's Vachaspathi varnam

My latest obsession is MDR's rendering of Tiger Varadachariar's Vachaspathi varnam which was composed in honor of Rukmini Arundale (founder of Kalakshetra) on her birthday. There's an interesting backstory about this varnam as narrated by MDR in his lec-dem on Tiger. Apparently Tiger had promised to compose a varnam for her birthday but had forgotten about it. He suddenly remembered about his promise 3 days before and was scrambling to create a new varnam. The first problem was the raga the varnam was supposed to be in. MDR suggested the usual Bhairavi, Kamboji, etc but Tiger said it has to be grander than that. He said that Rukmini Arundale was a great orator and decided to compose it in Vachaspathi instead. Vachaspathi is not an easy raga to compose a varnam in but it's Tiger's greatness that he was able to compose an absolutely mind-blowing varnam in just a few days. MDR's rendition, of course, is out of this world. Enjoy this varnam!


P: vaNdanamonariNciti vElakoladi
sAshTANgammu mA bhArata lakshmi vANi kin

A: maNdAra dhara pUra arivirim catulu tOshita caritE
mA vara vasaNta mOdini Sri rukmiNiki cirAyu nosagumu

C: aNtamuna kalAkshEtra adhyakshiNi supOshiNi

Things to watch out for:

  1. The start of the Mukthayi swaras itself is out of this world. "Gagga gari"
  2. The way he sings Suposhini in the charanam. Just one sample of how varnams should be sung and not belted out as a warmer like most artists do
  3. The varnam does not just go up and down the scale because it's Vachaspathi. Listen to the Mukthayi swaras closely. The twists and turns are delectable.
  4. I don't think it was easy to sing 2nd speed in this varnam
  5. Again the start of swaras in the charanam - "NidaReeeee Sa". Listen closely. Amazing creativity by the composer here

Saturday, June 9, 2012

One of MDR's best concerts - MDR-LGJ-VR-VN

One of my favorite MDR concerts with Lalgudi Jayaraman, Vellore Ramabhadran and V. Nagarajan


Each song is a lesson in itself. It's clear from the outset that he was going to be in great form in this concert.


He starts off with Viriboni in a medium tempo which is a departure from his usual slow tempo for Ata tala varnams. This is one of my favorite renditions of Viriboni by MDR and by any artist in general though he doesn't repeat phrases as much as he does usually. For the mukthayi swarams, instead of finishing off with 'Sa Ni da pa, pa ma ga ri, Sa Ri Ni Da', he finishes with 'Sa,,, Pa,,, Sa' allowing VR and Lalgudi to fill in the gaps. MDR uses this technique often maybe because he believed that the listener sings in the mind. VR and Lalgudi are in great form in this concert as well. Lalgudi's glides in the background should be paid close attention to and he's ever alert in filling the gaps.

Just when you think he's done, he surprisingly starts off with swaras at Chirrunavvu. He completely reveals Bhairavi in those few minutes of swarams. Lalgudi's replies are crisp and shining. The last round where MDR starts off with 'Ri Ri Ri Ri' will probably remain in my mind forever.


To be contd..


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why MDR?

It's a well-known fact that I'm a huge MDR fan. My wife on the other hand has never understood my penchant for MDR's music. She prefers artists like Kalyanaraman, Sanjay, Balamurali, etc. She has often asked me to explain why I like MDR so much. Being a náive rasika, I have always found it hard to explain the X factor that MDR's music has. I'm going to try and explain through this blog along with a few recordings.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Genius of Balamurali

Balamurali sings swaras for Sri Ramana Vibho which is a very catchy song in Arabhi by Swati Tirunal. The title of this post is explained at 3:38. He sings regular BMK-style swaras till that point and then produces something out of this world. Some people might argue that it's not Arabhi but who cares.

Sri Ramana Vibho

Here's one more version by Prof. Venkataramanan. He sings swaras at Rama Sodara Durita Samuha which is equally catchy.

Teratheeyaga Gowlipantu

MDR left his stamp so hard on some krithis that it's really difficult to listen to other renditions no matter how hard you try. This is one such example. Each and every syllable and swara oozes with bhavam. This is stripping music to its bare bones and presenting it in all its beauty.

Abhishek Raghuram

I don't know how I chanced upon Abhishek Raghuram. Probably heard people talking about in I've been hooked ever since I started listening to him. I think he's an extremely intelligent musician who probably works really hard to make his voice do the things his mind wants to do. He seems to have borrowed the best of S.Kalyanaraman, Balamurali, TNS and others. His ideas seem to keep gushing out and I guess he has a hard time coming to a stop sometimes. There's a pretty good collection of his music on Sangeethapriya. I especially recommend his Sri Valli Devasenapathe, Needayaradha in Vasantabhairavi (the alapana is one of its kind), Seethamma Mayamma. Of course, there's his magnum opus Thodi at the Music Academy in 2010.

Here's a link to his Needayaradha

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kharaharapriya Janyas - I

Of late, I've been smitten with Kharaharapriya janyas. Especially, Suddha Dhanyasi, Abheri and the mela Kharaharapriya itself. I'm not able to explain this sudden affliction towards these melas but certain renditions have played a part in this regard. I'll start out with some compositions I like in Suddha Dhanyasi.

Suddha Dhanyasi

This raga has taken over me like no other in the recent past. I feel that I've subconsciously been partial to certain pentatonic scales but they have not come out so strongly before. This raga has a nice gaiety feel to it. There's nothing more I enjoy than listening to a nice, energetic SD in the morning.

1) Entanerchina by BMK

This is one of the finest expositions of this raga. I've blogged about TRS' Subramanyena in the past, even calling it the best exposition of the raga but I understand now that that declaration was borne out of my lack of exposure. BMK has a unique way of exploring ragas and when he is not indulging in his gimmicks, he can leave an imprint on you and this is one such rendition. I'm a big fan of elaborate swaraprastharas as they help me understand the raga and its patterns better. My swarajnaana has not developed to an extent to be able to analyze and ingest a raga using only the alapaana. :-)

2) Subramanyena by MMI

If you want to know everything about Suddha Dhanyasi in 7 minutes, you should listen to MMI's rendition. He goes about exploring this raga as only MMI can.

3) Himagiri Thanaye by S. Rajam

A scholarly interpretation of the raga. This is a wonderful composition and Sri Rajam has done full justice to it. I should probably listen to this rendition more.

4) Shri Rajamathangi - Varnam - S Kalyanaraman

Thanks to Muthiah Bhagavathar for composing this varnam. A very fine rendition by SK.

5) Pranapathe Gunapathe Ganapathe - Madurai GS Mani

A little known composition sung by a not so popular yet knowledgeable musician.

6) Bhavamulona - Nedunuri Krishnamurthy

A fine Annamacharya composition popularized by MSS but it sparkles at the hands of Nedunuri too.

I'll post the links shortly. You can find most of them on

In my next post in this series, I'll cover another grand and popular raga Abheri.