Sunday, July 23, 2006

Fluffing your lines

Recently, I attended a concert by Karthik Lakshminarayanan and Kaushik Lakshminarayanan, two upcoming youngsters, organized by LOTUS (LOcal Talent UnderScored). It was an excellent concert featuring Mamava Meenakshi in Varali, Tulasi Jagajanani in Saveri (requested by yours truly), a beautifully rendered Tulasi Bilva and a mind-blowing Akhilandeshwari. The violinist Krishna Parthasarathy was quite upto the task and the mridangist Sriram Raghavan's playing was delightful throughout the concert.

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

instead of

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

My obsession with running continues. I signed up for the San Francisco Half Marathon (2nd half). I had been dilly-dallying on whether to run it or not. I finally decided to give it a go and have been praticising assiduously. I logged 36 miles last week including a 12 or 13 mile run with no bad side-effects. This week started with a rather hard run in the midday sun on Sunday (pun unintended). I skipped training today after being dehydrated by yesterday's run with a long run planned for tommorow.

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)

The time has come to write part 2 of this rather interesting (yeah, right) story on how I became interested in Carnatic Music.

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!! :-)