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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So much to share

People who know me know that I live and breathe music. A lot of music goes into my ears everyday. I can't get enough of music. I'm not happy with listening to the same musicians or the same music everyday. Just like a musician, I feel the need to experiment and listen to new music or ideas all the time.

One of my biggest gripes with myself has been my inertia in sharing these ideas with others. I don't know if others will share my taste of music but if I can find one other soul who does, I'd have achieved the purpose of this blog.

This post is more of a self-admonishment than anything else. I shall strive to update this blog as often as possible and I shall dedicate it solely to Music.

Monday, July 7, 2008


That's what I cried out. For the umpteenth time. AnandAtmAnubhavE, declared T.M.Krishna emphatically. One who experiences Supreme Bliss, that's what it means. Supreme bliss it was for me, every time I listened to that particular rendition of Shri Nilotpalanayike by TMK. It had been 2 weeks since he had put me in a trance at a concert here and I didn't want to come out of it.

The raga was new to me yet it was not. It was Nariritigowla. Reetigowla with a Suddha Dhaivatham instead of Chatusruthi Dhaivatham. At first, it wreaked havoc on my mind for obvious reasons. I was finding it difficult to fathom the emotions created by the raga. Soon, I came to love the havoc it was creating. The feeling it generated was a mixture of pathos, curiosity, calm and much more.

Each and every phrase in that krithi was profound. It was sung in the most aesthetic manner possible. The whole rendition oozed with bhava. I couldn't help going gaga over it each time I listened to it. It was at one such instant that epiphany struck. What was I appreciating here? The phrase? The meaning of the krithi? The krithi itself? The beauty of the raga? The brilliance of the composer? The genius of the person who invented this music? The magnanimity of the Creator who created all this and brought it all together at that instant in time. Aaha!!


Monday, May 5, 2008

'Muscle tone'

"The Pythagoreans regarded the body as a musical instrument whose soul-strings must have the right tension and we still unwittingly refer to our mortal frame as a kind of stringed guitar when we speak of 'muscle tone' or describe John as 'good tempered'. :

- from 'The Act of Creation' by Arthur Koestler

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Giving up coffee - Attempt #2

If you know me well, you also know that I'm a huge coffee addict. Well, I used to be. Till 3 weeks back. I signed up for this Sri Sri Yoga course conducted by the Art of Living Foundation a few months back.

In early March, I was suffering some severe back and shoulder pain and even took some expensive massages to temporarily alleviate the pain. My co-worker, Pavel Dmitriev, to whom I was complaining about my ailment, encouraged me to sign up for that course. The fact that he was one of the teachers for the course encouraged me.

The course did wonders for my body and my back pain is forgotten but that's not what I'm going to write about today. When I signed up, I assumed that only asanas or postures would be taught and that would help strengthen my core. But during the course, we were also taught breathing and meditation techniques. We were forbidden from consuming any caffeine during the 6 days of the course. I found it difficult to be without caffeine for the first two days and had a nagging headache. I managed to grit my teeth and bear the caffeine prohibition. When the course finished, I was determined to see how long I could go without coffee. The breathing execises I had learnt seemed to make me fresh and I replaced coffee with half an hour of breathing exercises every day. The feeling was absolutely fantastic. I didn't feel the need for coffee at all and not only that I was feeling super fresh everyday. To top that, I was only sleeping 4 or 5 hours a day. I'm not sure if the breathing exercises were a placebo but even if they were, it was a pretty good one at that. To be fair, I was consuming one or two cups of tea a day but that seemed miniscule compared to the 4 or 5 cups of coffee that I was drinking each day. It's a great sense of relief that I was able to quit it cold turkey. I want to keep this up for as long as I can. I think I will as long as I keep doing the breathing exercises.

I'd definitely recommend the course for anyone looking for stress relief, mental/physical conditioning or just to learn yoga in general. It was taught by two able teachers, Pavel and Raushni. You can find more information about the course here. To me, it was the best $150 that I had spent.

Meanwhile, I have an almost new coffeemaker with timer for sale. Let me know if you are interested. ;-)

Different forms of appreciation

When I started listening to Carnatic Music, the aspects I could appreciate fell into a very narrow realm. At that time, it was full of patterns and rhythm. Madurai Mani Iyer was the only artist I listened to initially and subsequently, I started listening to T.V.Sankaranarayanan. Since MMI bani consisted of producing interesting swara patterns in a sarvalaghu rhythm, my mind automatically stayed captive when I listened to these artists. Because of lack of domain knowledge at that time, it stayed that way for a few years until I got exposed to MDR.

As my theoretical knowledge increased, I started trying out different ragas or different krithis but only by the same set of artists that my mind accepted. After a while, my horizons started broadening and I became more receptive to other artists. I was eager to listen to different artists. I liked some and disliked some. I could not understand why. With the opening up of my mind to other artists, my listening became more krithi-based. I loved certain krithis and was curious to hear how different artists had approached a certain krithi or trying to understand their patantharam.

Krithis led way to ragas. I became exposed to more and more ragas as I read about others' enjoyment of certain ragas. I started shedding my prejudices more readily and become open to new ragas. Ragas like Chakravaham or Dharmavati, which I had previously dismissed as uninteresting, now become objects of curiosity. Krithis or certain renditions in these ragas obviously played a part. For example, the krithi Ranganai thudhiporku in Chakravaham was fundamental in me listening to the raga more.

The intellectual and emotional satisfaction I derived from exploring different ragas was not enough for me. I started exploring ragas deeply. I observed the different phrases comprising of the ragas, the structure of different krithis in that raga, individual notes that bring the raga to life, speed or rhythm which suit the raga best etc. I find myself subconsciously applauding a phrase that could be viewed as just another phrase for that raga. Sometimes I'm not applauding the singer but just the phrase for being there in the raga or the raga for having that phrase. My 'obsession with raga X' posts are a by-product of this deep delving into that raga.

At the risk of sounding elitist, I'll declare that Carnatic Music is the most complete form of music providing emotional, intellectual, devotional and spiritual satisfaction.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why I find it difficult to learn Carnatic Music

After several failed attempts at learning Carnatic Music, I became exasperated at my inability to continue after a few months. Carnatic Music is my life and blood, and is an integral part of my life. While I get interested in different activities from time to time, CM has been the single aspect that has remained unchanged for the past 10 years and my interest in it has continued to grow. So, it's not a question of inspiration.

Discipline is definitely an issue. I have been a little indisciplined about practising during all my stints. But given that I listen to at least 3 or 4 hours of music a day on the average, I certainly could have motivated myself to practise daily. Yes, it takes effort but I've been disciplined about other things in the past that I was not half-interested in, compared to CM. Why was I not able to motivate myself to practise daily?

Kids are taught music from an early age because they don't question as to why they must sing in a particular shruthi or why they must learn Sarali varisai first. As much as I try to act like a kid, I still could not stop asking questions similar to those mentioned above. This lead to self-doubt and brought down my motivation.

The teachers I've had have also contributed in certain respects to my failure but it's not fair to blame them. I've previously written about my expectations from a teacher. The ability of a teacher to understand my perspective and approach to learning music is crucial for me. I had realized this previously and had decided that it was going to be difficult to find such a teacher in the short-term. During my latest stint, I tried my best to ignore this issue and was fairly successful.

After weeks of contemplation, I've come to the conclusion that the problem lies in the way I perceive music. I see music as an abstract concept. My brain is not able to break down a piece of music into individual frequencies. When I hear the note Ga, it sees Ga but it does not register the frequency corresponding to Ga. In other words, I'm or I've become tone-deaf. I only see music as being composed of phrases. These phrases evoke a certain emotion in me depending on the raga or cause intellectual excitement.

This is not as serious a problem as I'm making it sound but I'm glad that I finally nailed the reason. This could be the reason why people who listen to a lot of music but haven't learnt music formally, find it difficult to reproduce a piece of music verbatim. I feel uncomfortable generalizing this without enough data. The solution obviously lies in observing closely and determining the actual notes corresponding to a certain phrase. I've been trying this out with instrumentalists as a first step. Let's see if I make any progress. Otherwise, my tone-deafness will leave people wishing for stone-deafness!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obsession with Bhairavi

Blame T.M.Krishna for the malady! Just when I got out of my Bhairavi mode, he had to talk about Bhairavi in his interview for Worldspace Shruthi. Of course, I had to go and satiate myself with more Bhairavi. Here's the list of things I listened to after the interview.

1) MLV - Chetulara Sringara (a rarely heard krithi except during the Aradhana). A fine exposition of Bhairavi for 13 minutes. Had all the essential phrases and was wholesome.

2) MSS - RTP Bhairavi (1968 Academy concert). A well-executed Bhairavi.

3) SSI - Janani Mamava : This was mind-boggling stuff. SSI IS SSI. A wonderful thanam in this (probably) Navarathri mandapam concert

4) Sanjay - Yaaro Ivar Yaaro: Had never heard this krithi before from Sanjay. A brisk and interesting Bhairavi

5) MLV - Koluvai: The mention of this krithi in the interview was what triggered my appetite again. Have to listen to the krithi more.