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]
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]
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 ]
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.