Thursday, November 30, 2006
'Oru tharam Sivachidambaram endre uraithal podhume'
Translation: It's enough to utter Sivachidambaram once (to attain salvation).
There are a number of sangathis (subtle variations) in this line and it's repeated a few times. The mridangam vidwan whispered "Oru dhadava sonna podhumnu sollitu naal anju dhadava sollitele". (You said it was enough to utter it once but you have already uttered it 4 to 5 times).
TNK and MDR
TNK revealed something that increased my already high regard for him a few thousand notches higher. Apparently, Mali was supposed to play in a concert with TNK as an accompanist and he played truant as usual, not showing up for the concert. It was TNK who recommended MDR as a replacement!! I was like whoa. Mentally I was thinking, "May God keep you alive as long as possible". Apart from that he told me that MDR lived and breathed music and was a simple man.
Even if TNK had done nothing else in his whole life, he'd still be the person I'd respect the most among living musicians.
We speak the bad of the English
I also happened to come across a comment while reading an article about an Indian guy who has come up with a scheme for storing 450 GB of data on a sheet of paper.
"He can store so much information, because he leaves out all the important words and grammatical conventions of standard english, like so many other Indians."
Here is the link to the article - http://itsoup.blogspot.com/2006/11/scam-of-indian-student-developing.html
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Frog in a well
MDR - M.D.Ramanathan
MMI - Madurai Mani Iyer
GNB - G.N.Balasubramanian
Ariyakudi - Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar
SSI - Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer
KVN - K.V.Narayanaswamy
TMK - T.M.Krishna
TRS - T.R.Subramaniam
I think I may be a little too prejudiced when it comes to Carnatic music possibly influenced by my propensity to sing along with the music most of the time. I'm at a stage in Carnatic music where I'm not 'qualified' enough to understand the greatness of GNB, Ariyakudi or Alathur's music but have gained sufficient listening experience to abhor (extremity is a passion of mine) the music of Yesudas, Aruna Sairam et al. The latter stems from being a passionate listener of MDR, MMI with frequent visits to SSI, TRS, KVN, S.Balachander to name a few. MDR and MMI were stalwarts in their own right with MMI having a mass following then and now. MDR, on the other hand, has come to be appreciated only recently though he did have a few dedicated fans then. Regardless, both these musicians were unorthodox in their own right. MMI developed a distinct style of his own, introducing 'la la' phrases in his alapanas, predominantly singing sarva laghu swarams and from my observation, not laying too much emphasis on the krithi rendition. MDR distinguished himself by his slow pace (when speed was the name of the game), nonchalant and laidback approach to music using the krithi itself as a vehicle for manodharma.
This is just a theory and I'd be glad if people can prove me wrong. The common factor in both their music is that, from a musician's perspective, it's difficult to learn from them. Though MMI was successful as a performer, his success was primarily due to his ability to present complicated music in a simple manner thereby making it appealing to the layman (depends on the layman though :-) ). It is difficult for someone to mimic his style and become as successful. The fact that TVS has done a fairly good job of it is laudable but he is still considered by some to be a poor copy of his uncle. Again, I don't blame him given that he had the unenviable task of carrying on his uncle's bani and trying to be different at the same time. The same logic applies to MDR and in his case it's fairly obvious that no musician is going to succeed singing at his pace. I have heard people criticizing TMK for singing too slowly. (D'oh!! Just when I was thinking that that was the best part of his music).
So, this alienates me from people who are learning/have learnt music since they tend to listen to say GNB, Ariyakudi more. But having listened to MDR, MMI, I also cannot listen to Yesudas, Santhanam since they don't sound very good to my ears. This alienates me from a lot of newbies and people who seek less from music than me. Understandably, it's difficult for newbies to appreciate MDR or MMI. Due to the reason mentioned in the beginning of this post, I also do not tend to listen to female artistes much except MLV. This puts me in a position where the number of people I can relate to, in terms of music, is a handful.
Well, I forgot the point I was trying to make. I leave it to the reader to make his own conclusions. :-)
Monday, August 28, 2006
Jiffy Lube Scam
If you cannot access the video, it's about how Jiffy Lube cheats people by charging for things they never do. A NBC crew went to a number of Jiffy Lube shops to get their car serviced. In one of the shops, they are charged for a new fuel filter which is never changed. Before they take it to the service center, they mark the fuel filter. In 5 out of 9 centers, they are charged for a T-Tech Transmission service which is never done. When they ask the mechanics about it who initially deny it and after they are shown the video, are directed to the District Manager. The District Manager denies his identity!!!
I have been going to Jiffy Lube to get my oil changed for the past 1 year. I don't know how much money they cheated out of me. I'm never going there again. How can people be so unscrupulous?
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Kamboji or Thodi?
My brother and I decided to attend a concert of Trichur Ramachandran once. Since Krishna Gana Sabha was nearby, we sneaked in during the middle of the concert. After singing KaLala nErcina, he took up a raga for elaboration. That was when the fun started. We tried identifying the raga. First, we thought it was Kambodhi since that was the raga we were most familiar with. But after listening some more, we decided it was Thodi but we weren't sure. We continued to try and fit in other ragas like Bhairavi, etc. but still we thought it didn't really sound like any of the ragas we had recognized. Finally, we decided it must be either Kamboji or Thodi.
There was a Mama (Uncle in Tamil) sitting in front of us. Apparently, he had identified the raga and was enjoying it with gusto. After much deliberation, we decided to risk the embarassment and ask him. I slowly whispered into his ears "Mama, idhu Kambojiya illa Thodiya?" (Uncle, is this Kamboji or Thodi?). He gave us a "What the heck?" look and thundered "Ayoo, idhu Saveri"!!!!!
A: Because his Knee (Ni) was weak.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Ignorance is bliss or is it?
During the first few years of my introduction to CM, I predominantly listened to Madurai Mani Iyer and subsequently T.V.Sanakaranarayanan, his nephew. I sometimes listened to the odd Santhanam, GNB or Ariyakudi tape but they did not appeal to me as much as MMI or TVS did. Especially MMI. TVS' concerts provided me a glimpse of what MMI's concert would have been like. My interest slowly progressed from plain listening to identifying ragas to singing snatches of the song, mostly the pallavi line.
It was with the introduction to MDR's music that my inclination for singing really grew. His laid-back, vilamba kala approach to krithi rendition made me sit up and listen to the song whereas with MMI or TVS I used to eagerly wait for the swara prastharams to start. I slowly started singing along more than I used to and also to look up the sahithya of krithis, much to the chagrin of my roommates. This was also the time when I started to learn more about the theoretical aspects of Carnatic music such as the melakartha ragas, janya ragas, shruthi etc.
This compounding interest has grown to a point where I can sing a full krithi along with the singer without having to lookup the lyrics. I have memorized quite a number of krithis by repetitive listening alone. But this should not be misconstrued that I sing well. My singing is marked by a notable lack of shruthi, sense of laya, apaswarams etc. Naturally I'm embarassed by this and would like to fix the problem. This would entail learning Carnatic music from a good teacher. I would like to learn atleast the basics to have a better understanding of what I'm singing.
Now comes the conundrum that I've been trying to solve in my head for the past few days. While learning CM might enable me to appreciate it better, I'm also worried about a particular quality that I have noticed among listeners who have learnt music. They are quick to pounce on minor flaws in a concert and deem the artist as a no good while I might have found the concert perfectly enjoyable. I've been embarassed several times when I've proclaimed a concert as good only to be told that there were signifcant sruthi lapses. Should I care? Should it change my perception of the concert and the artist? Would I be bogged down by the technical details in a krithi rather than enjoying its beauty? Would I end up looking for flaws in a concert?
I'm rather worried about the negative influences since I primarily listen to MDR and MMI and both are known for their unorthodox approach to CM. Definitely, the learning would enable me to appreciate Ariyakudi, GNB better than I currently do. But would it make me enjoy my favorites less? What am I appreciating in music now? What am I looking for in music? Is it the music itself or is it the intellectual outlet that music provides? I'm definitely missing something here. It should be possible to understand and appreciate music with an open mind. I do miss understanding the technical aspects quite frequently. I know I should be aiming to strike a balance between the enjoyment of the music itself and the technical aspects of it.
So the next question is when does one gain the maturity as a listener to strike such a balance? I wish I could find a teacher who'll help me go past these self-doubts and provide me a tutelage that would help maintain this balance. But the current pedagogical methods for teaching CM do not provide me that confidence. I'm probably too inquisitive and wanting to know too much too soon. If I decide to start learning, it brings up new questions. Should I just learn the basics or should I try to get trained to atleast the level of a amateur? Should I make my intentions known to my teacher? What would be the commitment level of the teacher if I told him/her that I just want to learn the basics? Ideally, I would like to be nurtured and trained like a professional.
Music serves as a great outlet for my creativity, satisfies my intellectual hunger and provides an inspiration for bhakthi while constantly reminding me of its spiritual nature. If learning CM is going to improve the quality of this experience, I'm all for it. I shall know only after I take the plunge.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
I recently listened to a moving Manasa Guruguha in Anandabhairavi. To hear him sing it, it's almost as if Dikshithar sings it. The composition itself is a very beautiful one. In particular, the last part of the charanam goes like this:
Nathwa Sree Guru Charanam
Kruthwa Namasmaranam Jithwa Moha varanam
Mathwa Thwadeka Sharanam
Prostrate (“nathwa”) on His feet (“guru charanam”) ;
Mediate (“kruthwa”) on His name(“namasmaranam”);
Conquer (“Jithwa”) the veil of illusion(“Moha”),
and Think (“Mathwa”) of Him as your (“thwa”) sole (“eka”) refuge (“sharanam”).
He sings those lines and proceeds to meditate on those lines. He was a person who really lived those words. I could sense the emotion in his voice when he sings those lines. Truly a great soul!!
Friday, August 11, 2006
Miles - 13.1
Goal - 2 hours 05 minutes or less
Actual Time - 2 hours 12 minutes 32 seconds
10 excuses for not meeting my goal.
1. I did not run faster.
2. I should have trained in hot weather more.
3. I should not have been stupid and should have drunk water at mile 22.
4. I was listening to PMI's explosive Thani for Koniyadina too attentively and forgot that I was in a race.
5. I shouldn't try to be too much of a Gentleman and say 'Ladies first' in a race.
6. I remembered that I had to take my Bib only after I had go into my car in the morning and as a result I was terribly nervous.
7. I had only one pin for the Bib (lost the other three) and was worried that my photos wouldn't come through.
8. I started wondering midway "Sripathi, why the heck are you doing this?".
9. I was too busy ogling at the chicks running alongside me.
10. I took the story of the hare and the tortoise too literally.
In all seriousness, I'm pretty happy with my performance. It was a bit difficult to run harder in the heat and I sagged towards the end. I could have probably saved a few minutes here and there and by running the last mile more aggresively but there are always reasons.
I have started training harder to prepare myself to run a full marathon. I've been running long distances the past week. Last Saturday I managed to run 16 miles in 2 hours and 45 minutes with a total running time of 3 hours and 10 minutes. It was very tough though and I recovered fairly well the next day. This week my preparation hasn't been all that great so far with only a 6 mile run yesterday. I'm hoping to compensate during this weekend by doing atleast 10 miles on both Saturday and Sunday.
I also realized that I need to strengthen my core and have been doing some exercises regularly. Having a weak core makes your shoulders drop and the body language becomes poor. I ran a few miles yesterday keeping my core and shoulders tight and found that I was able to run faster than my usual pace. Apart from these things, I also did some biking at the gym last week to do some cross-training. Biking for a long time was tough and you don't lose a lot of calories. But it does train your quads well.
If you are wondering why I'm so obsessed with running and why I make a big deal out of it, well, I'm wondering too. I have certainly transformed from the average slouch on the couch to someone who cannot live without exercise. The key to the transformation was the embarassment of having trained poorly for the Relay. I was stung by my poor performance and started to train for the next year's Relay a week after it. I have managed to set a few goals and kept myself motivated. It also helps that you get to be alone while running and it's a great time to collect your thoughts, do some introspection and solve problems without any intrusion. But the motivation to get the better of yourself, to challenge yourself to do something that the mind thinks it cannot, is the best part and I love to do that day every time I run.
I'd like to write more on how running is helping me in life, how to stay motivated and how you can get started. I'm a novice at this wonderful sport but I've already come into contact with some wonderful atheletes in this sport and they continue to inspire me each time my mind wants to give up.
Let's see how 26.2 goes!!
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Fluffing your lines
Well, I managed to provide a brief review of the concert. But I wanted to bring up another important issue in this post. There have been endless debates on musicians having the lyrics of the song in front of them. I normally take the stand that as professionals, they should be memorizing the lyrics, especially because it's difficult to write down the sangathis. Also, I feel that one just learns a krithi to be able to sing it on stage without actually understanding the meaning of the song. If one makes an effort to understand the meaning and the emotion that the composer tries to convey, they shouldn't forget the lyrics, right?
On this note, I started paying closer attention to the sahitya on my runs and found some glaring mistakes by some of the popular names in CM. For example, BMK leaves out a whole charanam in Dudukugala, interchanges charanams in Endaro. In Taye Ezhaipaal, Sanjay sings
naayEnum paalanRi engE selvEn
pOdum ini muDiyaadu unadaDi
pOdu aDaiya idu pOdu varam aruLi
naayEnum paalanRi engE selvEn
naLina mruduLa sukumaara manOhara
saraNayugaLa maruLa taruNamiduvE en
and then corrects himself. In Brochevarevare, he again forgets one of the charanams and interchanges it. Coming from professionals, this is a bit disappointing. While we need to applaud their ability to learn and memorize thousands of krithis, we should also expect some professionalism from them. In this respect, I have come to think that it's probably a better idea to have the lyrics in front of them so that they don't change the meaning of krithis or forget them entirely. This would enable them to sing with a lot more confidence I guess.
As long as they do not write down kalpana swaras like some artists have been known to do, they should be fine. :-D
To smile or not to smile
During my training runs on Shoreline Park, I come across many people who are either running, walking or just enjoying the scenery. As a runner, I'm a beginner who is not yet aware of the rules of smiling and greeting. I try to make eye contact with everyone I meet and if I managed to make eye contact, I either smile or greet depending on how tired I'm or how fast I'm running. But making this eye contact is difficult and is not reciprocated by most people I come across. People either don't make eye contact or look away, even if they aren't running. I can understand the runners being tired or trying to focus.
In India, we are not used to smiling at strangers and greeting them. If you did so, you were either assumed to be a thief or a bit out of whack. When I came to this country, it was a pleasant culture shock to be greeted or smiled at on the road. This has become second nature to me over the past few years. After moving to the Bay Area, I've noticed that Buffalonians are much friendlier than their Bay Area counterparts. I have been experiencing this on my morning runs and it's making me uncomfortable for whatever reason. I'm not sure if I'm making a mistake by smiling. Probably, you just get on with your business? Then I might as well run on the treadmill.
I've also started running with sunglasses on, recently and it's making things worse. Hmm, maybe it has to do with the fact that I listen to music while running. Well, it's not so loud that I can't hear a Good Morning or Good Evening. So to all Californians, smile. Don't earn your state a bad reputation. I'm just trying to be nice. :-)
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Half a Marathon
I mostly run on Shoreline Park in Mountain View since it's close to my house. I recently started running from the San Antonio Road entrance through the Palo Alto Bay lands to the Sailing station. It's a nice 7.5 - 8 mile run on a gravel path that's not too hard on your legs. In the evenings, the wind is a little strong and the sun is directly in your eyes since you are mostly running west and north west.
I killed my trusted companion who used to accompany me on my runs. Yes, I'm talking about my Palm Zire PDA that I had been using to listen to music on my runs. I broke the LCD Screen while trying to stuff my phone in the same pocket where I had put the PDA. When I do something stupid, I do it big. I'm really annoyed that I did this but accidents happen. I'm going to try running without music, as suggested by a lot of veteran runners, tommorow and hopefully it'll not be too much of a problem. If it turns out to be, then I have the Creative Zen Nano Plus in mind.
God save my stuff from me!!
P.S: I bet no one listens to MDR while running except me. ;-)
Monday, July 17, 2006
How it all started!! (Part 2)
So one day I was watching Thillana Mohanmbal, a popular Tamil movie. In that movie, Sivaji Ganesan plays a Nadaswaram vidhwan. The story is set during the British rule. He is invited to play in a Zamindar's house but at the last minute is told that he can't play since the English sahibs wanted to dance. A short-tempered Sivaji storms out and finds that a huge crowd of villagers had gathered in front of the Zamindar's house to hear his playing. After some prodding, he starts playing outside the Zamindar's house which disturbs the Englishmen's dance. They challenge him to play something to which they could dance and he starts playing the famous English note also known as Madurai Mani Iyer note (important). The crowd starts dancing to the music and everyone is happy.
The English note was composed by Sri Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar, a renowned Harikatha exponent and composer in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Madurai Mani Iyer, who spent some time under the tutelage of the Bhagavathar popularized this composition in his concerts. Almost all of his concerts ended with the English note followed by the Mangalam and even if he did not sing it, the crowd invariably demanded it and he always acceded to their request.
After that scene in the movie, my Mom told me about the significance of the English note and made me listen to the original version by MMI. I found it very enjoyable and out of curiosity started listening to the other songs in that tape. The contents of the tape are:
1. Thathvamariya tharama - Reetigowla (Yes, the same Madisekaran Magane)
2. Nijamarmulanu - Umabharanam
3. Maa Janaki - Kamboji
4. Sarasamadana - Kapinarayani
5. Sarasamukhi - Gowda Malhar (Garuda Malhar)
6. Eppo Varuvaro - Jonpuri
7. English Note - Sankarabharanam
What an awesome cassette!! That was it. I had become hooked to CM!! I kept listening to that tape again and again. Whether it was MMI's magical voice or his simple style or my age (teenager) or the music I'll never know. Am I glad that my Mom made me listen to that tape? You bet!! :-)
Thursday, June 8, 2006
How it all started!!
When I was a kid, I had no inclination towards music at all. I never hummed a tune, never listened attentively to any piece of music . Well, not entirely true because when I was 2 years old I was supposed to have played around with a small Casio keyboard. But I don't have any memory of that though I have a picture of that. My parents are very much interested in CM though they didn't have any formal training either. My Mom likes emotion-packed krithis sung by the great M.S.Subbulakshmi though she lends an ear to other artists too. My Dad is more indulgent and sings quite well. He has a gifted voice and he often comments that if he hadn't become a businessman, he'd have become a musician. I'm sure he'd have done quite well in that field too.
My brother who is 4 years younger to me was thought to be more musically inclined than me. Can't fault anyone for thinking so. My first tryst with CM was when my cousins who had started learning music, came to our house and my grandmother asked them to sing. They started singing the Sarali Varisai (beginner exercises). One particular line goes "Sa Ni Dha Pa, Sa Ni Sa Ni Sa Ni Dha Pa" if I remember correctly. My mother tongue is Kannada whereas I was born and brought up in Chennai. So I'm fluent with both spoken Kannada and spoken Tamil. Now, Sani means cowdung in Tamil and Dhapa means fat in Kannada. So you can see how it's an obvious source for leg-pulling. Endless torture of my cousins this way led my folks to confirm their suspicions of my musical inclinations.
My Dad always used to hum this particular line "Madisekaran Magane" from the song Tatwamariya Tharama by Papanasam Sivan. I remember asking sarcastically as to who this Madisekaran was and why he was calling his son. Madisekaran is Lord Shiva and Magane means Son in Tamil. So this krithi in praise of Lord Ganesha refers to him obviously. To think of how that song would affect me later.
This has already been a long post. I'll continue with the rest of this rather interesting story that you are so eager to read, in my next post.
Saturday, June 3, 2006
I don't know if coffee addiction is a good thing or a bad thing. I love the taste of coffee. It's not just about being able to kickstart your day or staying awake. It's the sweet smell and exotic taste of coffee that lures me towards it. Knowing perfectly that coffee wakes me up I had a cup of Madras filter coffee at Saravana Bhavan and now I can't go to sleep. As usual it's a 6 hour sleep session for me tonight since I wake up at around 6.00 daily.
If you don't know me, I'm a Software Engineer, Carnatic Enthusiast, Computer Geek/Nerd, Voracious reader living in Indiatown also popularly known as the Silicon Valley.
I have tried giving up coffee but I have failed miserably every time. I was certainly addicted to it when I was in grad school. There was a time when I used to drink around 10-12 cups a day. Well, I was going to Starbucks 2 times a day which was proving to be expensive. I got my own coffee maker from Walmart and the consumption went up gradually. I was taking this course (punishment) called Theory of Computation as a prerequisite to apply for the Ph.D program and I got only around 4 hours of sleep a day. Currently, I limit myself to 2 or 3 cups a day or less.
I try out different flavors of coffee from Starbucks. My current favorite is the Gold Coast blend which has a strong taste. I also tried out Guatamelan Antigua last week but it was not as strong as I like it to be. I have now given up on trying to give up coffee but somehow I have this feeling of guilt that I'm addicted to something. With all the research studies which say that coffee is actually good for every part in your body, I don't think I have a good reason to be feeling so!!
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Here I go again !!
Over the past six months, I have developed an annoying habit. It has everything to do with this blogging fad. Anyone and everyone is blogging these days never mind the content. There are some days when I get fascinated by a blog and develop an urge to blog myself. I immediately go to the blog site, register a fancy name and start blogging. That's it and then I forget all about it. I figure I have done this six to eight times now. That's so Sripathi!! :-D. Hope I can maintain this blog on a regular basis.
Though it's nice to blog your thoughts and experiences, it's a time-consuming process. It requires a lot of effort and I feel that I could be doing something more useful. But I have come to recognize that it might be of some help. For one thing, if I get angry at someone, I could rant here rather than shouting at them. Of course, I should refrain from publishing those blogs. Could be an useful stress reliever. :-)
Right now, I'm at Herbert Hoover Theatre, San Jose CA. I volunteer for South India Fine Arts, a non-profit organization that organizes Carnatic concerts here in the Bay Area. We are currently conducting a two-day music festival comprising of Bay Area artists and a few artists from India. I'm a Carnatic Music fanatic and one of the first things I did after coming to the Bay Area was lookup the organizations that arrange concerts here. I wanted to volunteer for such organizations because of two reasons. One is that these organizations are badly in need of volunteers and two is that I wanted to make up for not being able to perform. SIFA is one of the primary organizations which does that and by happenstance (lack of volunteers) I was elected as one of the committee members.
I have come into contact with a lot of wonderful people during the past few months. Their dedication to Carnatic Music is unbelievable. Some of these people are well above 70 and their enthusiasm and energy at this age puts me to shame. I had the opportunity to deliver a Vote of Thanks at the end of a concert and some people thought I did a good job so I have been made the Official Thanker :-). Though I'm enjoying doing it I have also become wary of overdoing it and becoming cliched. But I thoroughly enjoy all concerts and always have good words to say about the performers. Perhaps that is an important reason why I don't write down my speeches. I have come a really long way from the nervous 14-year old kid that backed out of a school drama at the last minute.
Now that I started writing this, I can't stop. I hope this becomes addictive enough that I'll keep doing it. I'm a very inconsistent person and subject myself to my numerous whims and fancies. Not harmful ones though. I just want to do a lot of things in life and feel bad that there is so less time. I do become obsessed with some things from time to time and tend to habitualize them. Carnatic Music was one such obsession. Programming was another. My latest obsession is Fitness.
I was tired of being overweight and complaining about it. Though I did work out once in a while and play some sport once a week I was compensating by overeating. Also eating the wrong kind of food. I'll describe the whole process in another blog but I have managed to lose around 8 pounds. My goal is to lose another 10 pounds in the next 4 months and then control it from there. I do weigh a healthy 153 pounds right now but I figure I'll get down to 145. I'm well on my way to achieving that goal. Weight loss is not such a difficult thing after all. You just need to become addicted to it. My other obsession with running is also helping me in this process I guess.
All rants come to an end and so does this one. This post has mostly been unorganized but I'm hoping to capitalize on this start and make it more interesting and informative. Stay with me on this one :-).