Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sore knees and personal bests

Woke up with a bad back and a sore knee today. I was a little worried about my knee and wanted to take the day off considering that I had been working out continously for more than a week. Coming back from work a bit early, I started itching for a run. Have been reading George Sheehan's 'Running to Win' for sometime now and that added to the motivation. Decided to go for an easy 5-mile run on my usual route.

Well, when I hit the road, I was just flying. The first mile was a phenomenal 8:11. Phenomenal according to my standards. I've never run that fast before. A late evening snack of an orange, some grapes and some dried fruits + nuts + a litre of water is not exactly the ideal state to be in when you want to run fast. Nevertheless, buoyed by my first mile timing, I decided to see how long it was going to last. At the 2 mile mark, I had taken around 16 minutes and decided that I'd be happy if I could get to the turnaround point (which is exactly 2.5 miles) in 22 minutes. Shoreline Road, beyond the Amphitheatre Parkway, is pitch dark on one side and brightly lit on the other. I had to be careful about my step and that slowed me down a tad. I still managed to make it to the turnaround point in 20:07 and boy was I glad!!

I took a gulp of water and a breather (ok, cheated a bit there) and decided to take it easy on the return trip. Apparently someone forgot to inform my legs of that decision and they started from where they left off. I was still bounding at a 8:10 minute pace even though I was in a bit of pain. The fact that I was stopped at 3 traffic lights may have helped a bit I suppose. I managed to keep that pace and was on an even 32 minutes after 4 miles. I decided to go for a 8 minute mile again. I started the last mile a little harder than the others but it did not last long.  I was not ready to give up and had to continously motivate myself to keep up the pace. I sprinted the last few yards and stopped 0.13 miles short of my house finishing 4.87 miles on 39:07 which translates to 8:02 minutes per mile. I have dreamt of such speeds. I never believed I was capable of that speed. And to think I managed that on a day when I had a sore knee and a full stomach makes it all the more valuable.  How we underestimate ourselves!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Running alone?

Ever since I started running last year, I've been asked a lot of questions about it by my friends. One of the prominent questions being 'Do you run alone?' Heck, no!! I run with a lot of people but not more than one at the same time. All of them are peculiar in the sense that they all insist on singing rather than talking. Yep, my best running buddies are MDR, MMI, SSI, KVN et al.

M.D.Ramanathan accompanies me on most of my runs. His vilamba kala singing suits my slow pace and I can run for hours without tiring when he sings. His elaborate renditions and his varnams are the best. Those runs to the tunes of Chakkani Raja, Nannu palimpa, O Rangasayee are some of my best runs.

Madurai Mani Iyer is who I choose when I want to go for a brisk run. The problem with him is that I find myself nodding in appreciation and running side to side sometimes. Semmangudi is very good for speed training with his superfast swaras. Sanjay is a great guy to run with. I usually listen to whole concerts of his and enjoy the variety he dishes out. KVN and S.Kalyanaraman are very good for the hills though I haven't understood why. Maybe it's because I'm more consciously listening to them and they keep me quite busy. I sometimes take Alathur Brothers, GNB, Ariyakudi along too but they don't make such great running buddies or probably they run at a different pace than me.

I'm open to recommendations for other running buddies though!! :-)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Song sequences…

I went to the theater after a long time to watch a movie today. The movie was Guru, directed by Mani Ratnam and starring Abhishek Bachchan. The movie itself was very great but I've a terrible problem with songs in a movie. Usually, when I watch desi movies at home, which itself is a rare occasion, I tend to skip all the songs immaterial of whether the song is good or bad. I miss having that option at the cinema and start fidgeting as soon as some stupid song starts. There should be Yes/No buttons on each seat. As soon as a song starts, the song vote button gets activated. Each person gets to vote on whether the song should continue or not within the first 10 seconds. Based on the majority, the operator decides whether to skip the song or let it continue. It might not solve my problem and maybe I'd still have to put up with the songs but at least I'd have the satisfaction of knowing that there are other people who are interested in watching the song. At the very least, it'd filter out bad songs and songs that are out of place. Hmm, no wonder my friends don't want me in a movie theater.


I'm hoping to start writing about ragas in terms of moods they create, different krithis, renditions, etc from a lay listener's perspective. I hope this will help other rasikas to pick up new krithis they might not have heard, new renditions that they might like or simply provide a start for people who are looking for something new.

I'll start out with my favorite raga - Kambhoji (or Kambodhi/Kambhodhi/Kamboji). Kambhoji, as described by experts or the knowledgeable, is a majestic raga. It's also a raga that supposedly induces courage. It's one of the ghana ragas and rightly so. More on the technical aspects here.

I'm not sure how my fascination with Kambhoji started. It was probably due to the first album I listened to with interest. That album by Madurai Mani Iyer had a 14 minute Maa Janaki with beautiful sarvalaghu swaras. Here is the link to the album - http://www.themusicmagazine.com/review12a.html. The sarvalaghu swaras are pure bliss and to this day it gives me goosebumps whenever I listen to it. Of course, Madurai Mani Iyer was famous for his Kambhoji. His trademark was to slowly build up the swaras ending on the pallavi or the neraval line and build up a crescendo starting with Ga Ma Gaa Ga Gaa Ga .... ending with Ga Ma Pa Ma Ga, Ri Ga Saa Ri Ga Ga (tara sthayi or 3rd octave) to spontaneous applause from the audience. Then he would continue the swaras ending on the Ga each time before finishing off with a final round of swaras. Kaanakankodi vendum, a Papanasam Sivan rendition, is a grand krithi in this raga which gained prominence due to Madurai Mani Iyer and his rendition of it. He does a neraval at maaNikkam vairam mudal navaratnaabaraNamum'. It must have been a really wonderful experience for those who had the opportunity to listen to MMI sing this at Kapaliswarar temple in Mylapore since the krithi was sung in praise of the deity at that temple.

  • 1939 Gramophone recording (Scroll down and click on the link)

  • MMI-LGJ-PMI-1956 - [audio:http://www.sangeethapriya.org/~sripathy/Audio/Carnatic/Artists/MMI/Kaanakankodi.mp3]

Here is a small clip of the aforementioned Maa Janaki by MMI - [audio:http://www.sangeethapriya.org/~sripathy/Audio/Carnatic/Artists/MMI/MaaJanaki.mp3]
Lalgudi faithfully reproduces what MMI sings and Vellore Ramabhadran is absolutely non-intrusive allowing MMI to explore the depths of the raga. Observe your head swaying to the lilting patterns he creates.

Thiruvadi charanam by Gopalakrishna Bharathi was another MMI favorite. Again, his neraval at aDuttu vanda ennai taLLalAgAdu hara-harAvenru shonnAlum, was known to be very moving and he sings it with emotion. The meaning goes something like 'you can't ignore me when I have come for your refuge. Isn't it enough to say hara hara'. Shiva is referred to as 'hara' or 'haran'. I have a few renditions where you can really feel the desperation in his voice probably because he himself was struggling with leprosy then. Listen to his rendition of the krithi with Mayuram Govindaraja Pillai on the violin, Ramanathapuram C.S.Murugabhoopathy on the mridangam and Alangudi Ramachandran on the ghatam.

Listen to Thiruvadi charanam here - [audio:http://www.sangeethapriya.org/~sripathy/Audio/Carnatic/Artists/MMI/thiruvadi-neraval.mp3]

Download here.

Dikshithar's masterpiece in this raga, Sri Subramanyaya Namasthe was another krithi that was rendered differently by different schools, each one a classic in its own way. All the past masters have sung this krithi majestically and MMI was no different. His neraval at the standard line 'Vaasavadi sakala deva, vanditaya varenyaya' lacks the punch that the aforementioned neravals pack but is by no means flawed or boring. His renditions of this krithi with Palghat Mani Iyer or Palani Subramania Pillai are the best in my opinion.

Listen to a recording of Subramanyaya Namasthe here - [audio:http://www.sangeethapriya.org/~sripathy/Audio/Carnatic/Vocal/C4G_srisubramanyaya_91.mp3]

Download here.

Finally, his RTP in Kamboji, especially the commercially available rendition, is a testament to the beauty of the raga and shines at his hands. His tanam in that particular RTP clearly reflects his mastery of this raga. Lalgudi's accompaniment is simply out of this world. The pallavi line that he takes up is 'Parimala Rangapathe Maam pahi'. The ragamalika swaras in Sahana and Kaanada are mindb(l)oggling. If you can get your hands on this pallavi, please do so by all means. I'll upload a clip of this soon.

Listen to the Thanam here. Delightful is the word I'd like to apply to it - [audio:http://www.sangeethapriya.org/~sripathy/Audio/Carnatic/Artists/MMI/Thanam_Kamboji.mp3 ]

Download here.

Well, MMI himself has taken up most of the space today. I'll continue writing about other krithis and renditions by other masters in my next post. I'll be updating this post to include clips of the songs I mentioned. Please check back in a few days time.