Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hamsadhvani-- my ecstasy pill

Scene 1:
Its one mild late july afternoon and I am about to lose my funding in ECE dept because of some new stupidly weird rule (by the way, I had got the funding in the first place because of another weird reason). The mind is agitated. Should I bring in fund-reinforcements from home? Should I swipe credit cards? Should I try for funding elsewhere?

What do I do? I do the only thing that I can do at this time. I rush to the library, take out my $5 headphones--which I still preserve (Someone I know has a set of $300 worth Bose headphones), and start listening to Hamsadhvani. Instantly, harmones of ecstasy get released in the brain, and it forgets everything and floats away in some some other world of elation, and by the time I come to BMK's 'GAyathi vanamAli', I am swooning with contentment and peace in me..a new strength hitherto unknown... a feeling that all this is but mAya.

Scene 2:
Returning from Wal-mart in the car, I am extremely hungry, with yet another attack of hyper-metabolism, and hands and legs start shaking and body starts sweating. Lucky me that precisely at this moment, The King's "InAde yEdo aiyyindi" is on. What happened for the next 4 minutes or so might be characterised as OOB (Out Of Body experience).

Hamsadhvani, not surprisingly, was one of the first ragas that revealed themselves to me, perhaps it was the first, followed closely by Yaman. It is verily a dear raga, more than a raga to me. It has a personality of itself and I hold converse . Even now, at this hour, as I listen to Hamsadhvani (Pt.Shiv Kumar Sharma's, this time), the mind offers smilar reactions, once again reminding me of those times, when Hamsadhvani was my only friend, philospher, guide, and of course stress counsellor.

Who needs the ecstasy pill anyway when you can have the mother-of-all-ecstasies ?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dhrupad overdrive

On one late sunday afternoon in fall 2002 near a remote town called Starkville in Mississippi, I had come across, in my T.A. cubicle, a few names totally new to me-- first was the raga Shankara, next was the word Dhrupad, and next was 'Gundecha brothers'. After listening to the clip of their vArUri Mrig drighan kO' in Shankara at SAWF, I had already become a fan of all the three. That was the age of discovery.

When I came to know that the Gundechas are coming to perform for SPICMACAY, Bangalore, a random thought occured to me-- why not request them to sing 'Adbhut Kalyan' (NiroshTha in carnatic-- it is Kalyani without ma and pa... a really special and unique raga)? One of the DAgars had sung it long back, and the Gundechas belong to DAgar tradition-- so they must be knowing it. So, I sent a rather senti (yet, honest) mail to them. I got an equivocal reply that they would see if they can make it.

Saturday 9th sep. 2006:
The Gundechas were coming to Bangalore for someother concert as well, so some of SPICMACAY money was saved there. Their first concert was on Saturday, 9th Sept. at Chowdaiah Hall. I had to pleasure of meeting them along with another member Vinay before concert, courtesy GAyathri, the convener of SPICMACAY, Bangalore. They were practising Rageshree (close to carnatic Natakurinji). They pleasantly inquired who was the one that asked for Adbhut Kalyan. That evening, they sang an elborate Rageshree alap (about 50 mins) and then a Dhrupad 'NirAkAra niranjana' and then a fast paced Bhairavi Dhrupad based on Kabir's verses 'Hum sab mahi'. I daresay that any person with a little interest in classical music would have loved this one!

Sunday 10th sep. 2006:
The sunday was a very odd one. There is something called a 'Forum' in Bangalore which does warrant much attention, except for the fact that it houses a posh book store called 'Landmark'. Even that might have escaped the displeasure of my acquaintance if not for Gundacha brothers' workshop-- right in the book-store! It was a surreal sight-- a stage with a red carpet; some room for the small gathering (lets not denigrate the word 'audience' by using it here); all the cups, cutlrey, books, etc arranged all round us. Go through this article for more:
The gathering, as usual, was made of only enthusiasts and die-hard listeners, and of course, 2 SPICMACAY members. They sang Durga Dhrupad 'Adi Shiva Shakti' first and started answering those basic FAQs, intermittently singing some Hameer ('Abeera GulAla', misreported in the Hindu article), and Kedar ('Radhika Aj Anand mein dOlE'), and then wound up with their trademark, much loved, CharukESi 'jheeni jheeni' based on Kabir verse.

And then, Arijit and I (SPICMACAYites) took them to woody's, and during the time we were there, we did have some time to establish our credentials as serious Dhrupad listeners, and of course, I was always on to my not-so-hidden agenda of Adbhut Kalyan. I also asked them why they dont do any sargam upo which they smiled and said they dont do it. (I paid the bill and lost the receipt!). And while returning home, I had the pleasure of the company of two of their lady disciples (one of whom has already spent 3 years in training, and the other, might well be on-road to become the first female Tamizhian Dhrupad singer!).

Monday 11th sep. 2006:
In a nice open room (not an auditorium for God's sake!) with large windows on sides, and breeze flowing in, it was the inaugural concert for Virasat 2006, the SPICMACAY Bangalore concert series at MES college, MalleSwaram. One of the best concerts ever attended, perhaps because I was sitting on ground and the artistes were hardly 10 feet away. In fact, I dont remember enjoying a concert sitting on those cushioned chairs. They sang an elaborate AlAp in Khamaj and then a Sadra (a lighter form of Dhrupad) 'Sudh bisarath gayI' in Khamaj. Absolutely mesmerising-- I never knew Khamaj, a folksy raga can be sung this way by the DhrupadiyAs. After that,they sang a Dhrupad in Shahana (remember 'Radha kaise ne jale' interlude?) 'AvaguNA bhayO sakala'.

Tuesday 12th sep. 2006:
I received an inside information from GAyathri that afternoon, and I was restless from then on. The venue this time was IISc. I went to the green room and listened to their practice from outside, and smiling, I came back.
When the artistes entered and took their places, they announed-- "We are going to sing a very beautiful and special raga called Adbhut Kalyan. It is a type of Kalyan without madhyam and pancham. First we are going to sing an elaborate AlAp and then a DhamAr [a form of Dhrupad piece set to 14-beat Dhamar taal]". And they sang the AlAp for more than an hour. Surprisingly, they did some nice sargam (perhaps to introduce the raga to the audience ) and then picked up on a Dhamar that they had just composed that afternoon; lyrics are from Sumitranandan Pant's poem 'Mein nahin chAhtA chir sukh'.

Needless to say, I was floored! Just on some random request, they spent a whole day composing and practising in that raga, and made it the main piece! And what raga! What extemporisation! The output may have been sub-optimal (mostly because of the sound-system quality, and the fact that it was not a thoroughly rehearsed one), nevertheless, it was no mean effort, and I cannot thank them enough. More importantly, I think they are making a great effort not to get 'stereotyped'. In 4 days, I got introduced to listening dhrupads 'live', in chautaal, sooltal, a dhamar, a sadra, their experimentation with a rare (and unprepared) raga, and their newly introduced sargam singing. Their zeal for trying new things and still be within the prescribed parameters of Dhrupad is amazing. They are making a more than wonderful effort at taking the Dhrupad to the average classical music listener.

After that, they started on CharukeSi AlAp. Though short (may be 10 mins), it was truly heavenly, and there was not a soul that was not moved. The way the two brothers moved and coordinated with each other reflected the amount of practice that went by. Truly awe-inspiring! And they employed sargam here to a terrific effect. After that, they went to their customary 'Jheeni, jheeni'.

My next stop: raga Durga of Khamaj thaat (S G3 M1 D2 N3 S" : S" N2 D2 M1 G3 S).

Dhrupad Update:
Attended the Gundechas' last concert of their Bangalore circuit today evening. The elaborated AlAp was in Jayanth Malhar-- a delicious cocktail of Jayjaywanti and Miyan-ki-malhar, follwed by the Dhrupad 'Mayi rI barkhA kO Agam'. It was followed by Shankara (quite coincidentally I must add, for I was thinking about it wistfully just today morning while typing this post) Dhrupad in 9-beats 'Shankara Pancha Vadana PannagabhushaNa', and then they wound up with their Adana 'Shiva Shiva Shiva'. The AlAps seemed all top-notch with their meeNds and all, but the execution of the first two Dhrupads indicated that they were new and they could get enough time for a thorough rehearsal together. Or may be the continuous travelling and performance has tired them a tad.


Friday, September 01, 2006

A cassette case

I have never written a post here on Mavericks. And I have now decided to break some traditions (yes, be a maverick and such). Content-wise, be adviced, this does not border anywhere on the brilliant & intricate music analyses done by my colleagues, yet my own five rupees and seventy five paise for Music Mavericks!

The first time when I listened to "Video killed the Radio star" by The Buggles, probably I was not in the right time and place for some soul searching. Ok, I will say, I was a lot younger. I now allow myself more often to go into the symbolic spirals of a flashback, a redux.

Getting to the point now, Audio Cassettes. I will be making a case FOR them today.

Though I have managed a monstrous collection of "Moving Picture Experts Group Layer-3 protocol compressed audio" (cough cough) or 'mp3s' of all imaginable genres, audio cassettes remain my favourite for the following reasons.

1. A cost-quality trade-off does not exist here.
What I preach - A cassette (say, Sony/BMG Crescendo/Magnasound) for 120 Rs and a CD (say, 200 Rs). I would not even bother a second thought for the CD. And knowing that an audio CD bit rate is a maximum of 44.1 kHz does not help your cause too. If it is a cassette, your listening experience is limited by your music system, not by the quality of the cassette (except of course some Echo, Supreme or Aditya releases)
What I do - I will buy a CD, so I can dump those songs in my computer and still share the joy with others. I believe it is akin to the choice between an ink-pen and a ball point pen. Damn me.
Rationale - So, I need to be more resolute in this case, which Iam sure will directly result, partly from my obstinacy and partly from my love for the old school.

2. I have too many of them to get rid of (if I ever plan to).
I have bought, begged, stole and acquired a few hundred cassettes until now. This would be nothing compared to the collections of Aakarsh or PRC, but a decent one in that.

3. Chromium Oxide wins over high bit rate.
Pitch a DVD quality audio, increase the bit rate, do whatever, it cannot beat the tape any day. Simply put in HMV's words - 'digital is like wearing a condom, nothing like the real thing' (they were referring to LP records though), but it applies here.

4. No playlists, Yes credits.
With due respect to the audio connoisseur in us, I understand that we like to sustain our mood by dumping our favourites in one list, conjuring up a mish-mash of Beatles, Devi Sri Prasad, Ilayaraja, Chopin and Ousepachan (sincerely, I did not make that up for the rhyme, he is a good Malayalam music director). But with cassettes, the plus is we dont forget great songs just because we did not like it or do not want to hear them so often. And proper audio warrants its own attention, no Skip, Next or even worse, Buffer! And if you are like me, while I enjoy the songs in my 'walkman', I keep staring at it and 'battify' the cassette credits. I digress here but if the cassette is from Echo or Sangeeta, I try to figure how bad/good the cut-paste patchwork is on the cassette. If it is ARR's there is whole compendium of credits telling us who played the 15 second oboe piece in that third song. That is good, and that we like, no?

5. Very Important. My proud acquired skill of rewinding cassettes with Reynold pens.
The standard white coloured 045 REYNOLDS FINE CARBURE has an eight-faced outer body and fits perfectly into an audio cassette wheel. I just need to know the side (A or B) and which way I want to go. Hold the pen and let the cassette rotate around it, in the right direction. I did this so much over the years, that I would stop between songs, such precision and intuition (*pats his own back). The feeling is that of a monk rotating his prayer drum. Good karma in the end. Its faster and it saves batteries.

6. Iam a sentimental and nostalgic bugger.
-- I like the scratchy noise and clucks when the cassette ages.

-- I like the experience when the batteries are running out.
[At about four-fifths of their life, the playing speed begins to drop, but is still inconspicuous. You ignore, but not long after, it is slower and you can tell, also by the little delay and the drag when you stop and start the walkman. You smile, insist, keep it running and then the sound balance slowly shifts towards one side until the stereo turns into a mono. You breathe deep, switch ears with the one phone but carry on. You then roll the cells vigorously between your palms to warm them up, later keep them in the sun for an hour. There is spring in the song one last time when the whining starts and then they die a slow death, finally! - new batteries? Yes, a new day and for a new song. Fellow Mavericks, since you all never found time nor could take up the case for the sentimental self in you, and put your feeling in words, I did it for you. You can thank me now (snigger)]

As I listen, share, exchange, make abstract art work on the cassette, I get attached to it. The look, the feel, the weight, the screech of the cassette cover when I close it, the smell, the cellophane tape that holds together broken pieces. It becomes a chronicle gently reminding me of times gone by. The same song feels different after a while. Songs dont change, we do. All in all it teaches us some big lessons which we often forget. To not let go of things just because they are old, to realise the beauty of what is in your hand rather than going after something that is virtual, easy, yet not retentive and most importantly that life goes around in circles.

*Iam banking on the comments section for some interesting opinions.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Saaz ki aawaaz

Ustaadji nahin rahe. Shehnai will never sound the same.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Some banter from past

"At the risk of bullying you, r u referring to SS's devi brova samayamide?(chintamani - shanmukhapriya)" asked PRC once when I was referring to that kriti sung by Raghavan Manian, not in Chintamani but in quite a different raga in this post. Chakri had told me that this kriti was in RAmapriya after listening to it for a short while.

One more twist to the tale. A book called "Raganidhi" by B.Subba Rao is with me for a few days courtesy the senior-most member of the Bangalore chapter of SPIC-MACAY. That book has this under ChintAmani:

"There is a raga Chintaramani which is a janya of the 52nd Melakarta Ramapriya. This is altogether different from Chintamani."

Did Raghavan Manian actually sing 'Devi Brova' in ChintarAmani, instead of ChintAmani??

May be He, who surveys the highest heavens surely knows, or may be even He does not! (RigVeda, X.129-7)


Sketchy once wrote a review of the audio of "Taj Mahal". Regd. the song 'Mumtaz tujhe dekha', Sketchy guessed that it was Kamavardhini scale andI had opined that the song also had a pinch of Behag. It turns out that the main raga of the Poorvi thaat (Kamavardhini, 51st Mela), the raga Poorvi, does have M1 (Shuddha Madhyam) in its midst. Only, the uccharana of the final g3 (p m2 g3 m1 g3) in the song is rather un-Poorvi-ish. So the song is neither in Puriya Dhanashree (with a pinch of behag), nor in Shree, or in Kamavardhini. It seems to be in Poorvi.

But wait! Come to the charaNam and you will notice the usage of the two Madhyams "m1 m2 m1"-- this is raga Lalith, another raga of Poorvi thaat! Wonderful!

All in all, most of the ragas in the movie album, except for the Ajoyda's effort at producing an uncommentable piece, hail from Poorvi that. Hmm!!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Barkha Rithu - Rains & Raagas

Date: 21st July 2006.
Venue: Ravindra Bharathi Hyderabad
Event: Barkha Rithu - Rains & Raagas
Pt.Shiv Kumar Sharma (Santoor)
Ustad Rashid Khan (Vocal)
Vijay Ghate (Tabla)
Bhawani Shankar (Pakhawaj)
Another concert in hyderabad. Probably nature wanted to welcome the artistes or perhaps the raagas were already looming in their mind, that there was a slight drizzle before the concert started.
The concert started with Pt.Shiv Kumar Sharma's Santoor. Needless to say, it has always been one of my favourite instruments and this live-concert brought me more close to the instrument. Panditji choose the apt raaga for the evening "Megh Malhar" for the 1st track. The beauty of Hindhustani Music, more particularily instrumental music, is the aalaap part where the artiste explores all the corners of the raaga thereby developing the mood. It is like taking the listener to a journey and almost halfway through the aalaap, the listener is completely trapped in that raaga. exactly the same happened with me. The soothing and soft-serene notes/sounds of santoor recreated the mood of rain, clouds drifiting along in the sky...
This instrument santoor has one advantage and one disadvantage. The disadvantage is that the real Gamaka is impossible since the sound is by vibration of various strings closely knit together. Yet, the advantage is that it is like a Piano. At any instant, it can produce two(or more) Sounds at various pitches/Scales since it is played with both the hands. In the case of other string instruments like Sitar, Sarod, veena or even Guitar, the science involved is that a single note is produced when it is struck with finger. Santoor on the other hand, can give both, base & lead tunes. Also, the low-scale ( or say the base section) of this instrument lies on the left side of the trapezium(its shape).Panditji showcased all these elements in his aalaap and one could listen to the minutest vibration of each string where he could produce a Gamaka, though not with the meend but atleast on a flat escalation from minute vibration-1 to minute vibration-2, for example. the music was indded a great treat.
pakhawaj is the hindhusthani counterpart of Mridhangam. The sound of this instrument is little different from Mridhangam in the sense that the Bass element involved in the sound of pakhawaj is quite different from taht of Mridhangam. And Bhawani Shankar's fingers produced some of the fantastic sounds like cloud-burst, thunders to depict the rain. His JugalBandi with Vijay Ghate's Tabla was something phenomenal. Another greatest element of Indian Classical music is the extent of freedom/scope the music leaves for a composer to improvise. especially in the case of jugalbandis, it is amazing to see how these artists play with such awesome precision without any score-sheet in front of them. Improvisation is the only wave on which the music rides and yet, with the cycle of beats constantly changing, it leaves the audeince spellbound. How can they bang the right rhythms (which are again changing)? Indeed, a confluence of mind preceeds the real confluence of music, which is the meaning of jugalbandi.
The Trio treated us with another 30minute piece which was ambrosia for ears. it was a raagamaalika in which i could identify raag Madhyamavathi and raag Malhar, among 2-3 other raagas he improvised upon. When he completed the crescendos each time, one could really feel the rush of adrenalin, even though the sound & instrument pertain to fragile feeling and not fiercy ones. At a point of time, i felt as if a calm trance has taken me over. The music simply water...and rain.
Ustad Rashid Khan was the next artiste to take over the stage. He too sang a khayaal in Raag Malhar. The Aalaap was excruciatingly slow with lot of intricate notes structured within the raaga,after which he paced up and played around with his voice. Needless to say, the vocal control was mindboggling, especially during the Sangathis (juggling of Swaras).
In all, it was not just another evening, but a memorable one during which divine music poured down...just like rain...for my soul.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Maestro goes Hindi

Composer Ilaiyaraaja has composed music for just a handful of Hindi films.But now, he seems to be taking Hindi films bit more seriously than before. He is dishing out about 2 films (there is one more i guess) very soon. Both the film-makers hail from South - RamGopal Varma & Balkrishnan.
While RamGopal Varma's film is titled as "Shiva"(a retro) , Balkrishnan's film, starring Big-B and Tabu, has a very strange title-"Cheeni Kum".

Two recent articles :

Waiting to see how well he does a Hindi film.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Of ARR and Hindustani

1.Kukubh Bilawal:
I had been listening to a Kukubh Bilawal piece a few times composed by Ali Akbar Khan and sung by Asha Bhosle about 6 months ago. The piece stayed in my mind, and suddenly one early morning afterwards, it threw up a thought! The song "Sona nahi na sahi" from "One two ka four" conformed to those notes.

Kukubh Bilawal is just normal Bilawal with a special uccharana in the puravanga:
g3 r2 g3 p, p m1 g3, m1 g3 r2 s [g3] r2-- the Kukubh Bilawal anga is expressed in the last part (s [g3] r2).
--the chalan is taken from On the Bilawal trail

To understand what I am trying to say, listen to the song and concentrate on the words "Fikar kya hai, main hoon na tere liye", the last two syllables (liye) are clearly articulated in the Kukubh Bilawal style (s [g3] r2)!

2.Shahana Kaanada:
A well known Bhimpalasi is our good ol' "Radha kaise na jale". But in the second interlude (3:20), listen to the distinct sarod with pakhawaj in the background. That is NOT Bhimpalasi!

The swaras (roughly!) in the song are:
g2 m1 d2, m1 d2 n2 [s] d2 p,
m1 p g2 m1 d2, m1 d2 n2 [s] d2 p,
n2 [s] D p, g2 m1 (g2) r2, g2 m1 p.

This is exactly what is called as Shahana Kanada! A beautiful midnight raga.

dont know how much more he knows...
dont know when would we be fortunate enough to revel in his brilliance again!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jugal Bandi

This one is like completing a Trilogy. After 2 wonderful concerts i attended recently, i felt my appetite for fusion music is picking up well. and to meet up, one more came along. Thanks to Divya, i could attend one more Phenomenal Fusion Music Concert today.
She somehow managed to grab 2 passes for a concert by "Jugal Bandi", a french band which plays world music.The band consists of 6 people.One vocalist & 5 instrumentalists. The instruments array was tempting enough to immediately say YES when she asked if i would like to attend.
Sarod-Tabla-Jazz drums-Trumpet-Bass Guitar.
Venue: Taj Krishna
Time: 7:30pm

The concert turned out to be one of the best ones i ever heard. honestly,after coming to know that the band members are from France (except the Tabla Player,who is a bengali),i thought that their fusion would be mostly be on folkish lines.But their compositions beat my expectations and they came out with excellent performance highlighting the beauty of Indian Classical music and Indian Raagas.
As always,the combination of Tabla & Drums pumped my adrenalin(cliche`). Soundwise, it was a terriffic combination because Sarod & Trumpet were the main instruments while Bass-guitar had its own play. The trumpet player did excellent job with the nuances. Sarod player did go Off-key while playing a composition in Raag 'Bhairavi'. This raaga seems to be their favourite;they played two compositions in this raaga. Similarily, another raaga which hit off very well is Raag 'Desh'. They were accompanied by an African folk singer and she oozed great energy.They experimented with raagas like 'Subha Panthuvaraali' and 'Pahadi', in which the Trumpet emerged out as a fantastic blending instrument. To give an analogy, the tracks were like "Do anything" track from Ilaiyaraaja's "How To Name It", in which he used trumpet as main instrument for raag 'sohini'.ofcourse, these guys put up a more crisp sound with fantastic co-ordination, given the fact that they hail from France and are still amateurs with Hindusthani Classical Music, though the compositions reflected a decent maturity. Not just me and Divya, but the entire audience thoroughly enjoyed each and every composition and must admit that they have stuff.

To Sum up, the experience was quite satisfying, musically and i wish i could get the recording of this concert, for this was a unique fusion which really had that multicultural characteristic, yet retaining the beauty of Indian Music. An experience which is unforgettable for both myself and Divya,whom i should thank for such a lovely evening.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Panchatatva - A Celebration Of Elements

I didnt want to post anything till i post this.

Celebrating 200yrs of Secunderabad, many shows were being organised recently. The one i was looking forward for, was a fusion concert.

Event: 'Panchatatva' - A celebration of 5 elements.
Date: 7th June 2006.
Time: 7:00pm.
Venue: Harihara Kala Bhavan, Sec'd.
Pt.Hari Prasad Chaurasia-Bansuri
Pt.Jasraj - Vocal
U.Srinivas - Mandolin.
Vijay Ghate - Tabla.
Uma Shankar - Ghatam.
Sivamani - Drums & Percussions.
Durga Jasraj - Recitation of Poetry.

The events lined up for secunderabad celebrations were many and most of them were supposedly free-for-all, in Parade Grounds. This event,however, was different. The invitation passes (not tickets) were for only elite VIPs. I tried my best for the passes but couldnt get them. Finally when the D-Day arrived, i almost gave up trying for passes and instead resolved to listen to the concert atleast by standing close to the auditorium premises. But i gave a last minute try by contacting a friend of mine, who promised that she would try to get some passes. After reaching there, i saw that a huge screen has been erected outside the auditorium hall for people who dont have passes. Nice luck, i felt.
Meanwhile, my friend spoke to some security personnels and police guys, citing some influential contact she had and before i could find a good place to sit and enjoy the concert on the screen erected outside, we were being led inside. I immediately contacted few friends who, i thought , could make it but none of them could.

To cut the crap, i was glad to be seated there, after almost giving up.

The concert had a good, though not new, concept. Representing the 5 elements with music. Though Music-Today did come out with a brilliant series "Elements" earlier, this one was different as the concert showcased a conlfuence of all these elements. Durga Jasraj recited Poetry(about each element) during the aalaap piece of every composition played.The poetry, which was in Hindi, was very well written, although i couldnt understand some words.

Sky: Sivamani was in fullform. He carried every possible hollow-3dimensional object one can look around. His jazz-drum ensemble occupied almost 1/4th of the stage and there were many unknown instruments too, digital particular electronic pad , which he tapped with his hands(as if it is a congo-drum) emitted a bass-y vroom kind of sound...very peculiar. He played around with many percussions backed up electronic sounds,hearing which, one could visualize clouds,meteors, planets and space-travel.

Water: U.Srinivas spelled magic. I watched him play, earlier in a Shakti concert. His ease is totally out-of-the-world. His fingers roll on the mandolin with such a finesse that anything he plays sounds pure and stunning. He choose Raag "Desh" and it flowed just like a stream from a mountain. Needless to say, i drowned in the rasa. One of the rare moments because i heard only Carnatic Music on Mandolin till now, and this was probably the 1st time i could listen to Hindhustani music on that instrument.

Wind(Air): Not surprisingly, Pt.Hari Prasad Chaurasia choose one of the best raagas ever, "HamsaDhwani". I always felt that this particular raaga is made for Flute, because the raaga has a very mellow-happy feel to it and flute is one such instrument whose sound puts a listener in a cradle of similar joy. Uma Shankar & Vijay Ghate threw up some really powerful stunts with their fingers while 70yr old(or more) Flute maestro showed why he is a maestro. His breath control super-awed everyone. The aalap mesmerized the audience and he played around with the raaga imaginatively. The finale stretched for a full 10minutes when he accelerated his 'bandish' into a fast-paced 'tarana'. Hamsadhwani blissed.He blessed.

Fire: This was a complete percussion segment. Uma Shankar(if you didnt know, he is the son of Vikku Vinayakaram) and Vijay Ghate thrashed the instruments they had while Sivamani counter-attacked with his own ensemble. The very fusion of jazz trap-kit + electronic beats and Tabla pumped up my adrenalin. The tremor-ish feel evoked out of the percussions symbolizing the wild rage of Fire.

Earth: Pt.Jasraj came up with a "Khayal" kind of song, set in a raaga unknown to me. It sounded similar to raag "Behag" but i could feel traces of raag "Chaaya Natt" also. Pt.Jasraj's rendition mainly traversed the pitch-scale spectrum. His low(est) Base-to-High Base exploration of Swaras surprised me.This was the 2nd time i heard such a feat (first being: S.P.BalaSubramaniam trying his base vocals in the Prelude of "Suvvi Suvvi" song under Ilaiyaraaja's baton in the film "Swathi Muthyam". ofcourse, there is no comparision but Pt.Jasraj performed the same feat and one could literally listen to the vibration of his vocal chords). I wondered how these aged masters can still retain their tonal control. Not a single note flew on wrong chord.

The Confluence: This was a masterpiece. More so, because the entire composition is set in one of my most-favourite raagas - "Bhairavi"(i couldnt control my enthu, and yelled "BHAIRAVI").Pt.Hari Prasad Chaurasia set the premise while Pt.Jasraj backed him with Aalaaps in Bhairavi.U.Srinivas brought up some amazing gamakams, which challenged Pt.Jasraj.What followed was more of a jugalBandi between Pt.Jasraj and Srinivas in which Srinivas answered every mindboggling gamakam/sangathi threw by Pt.Jasraj. His fingers moved across all the strings and frets with great speed. At one point, when Srinivas didnt understand how to bring out an out-of-the-world Gamakam,which covered the entire high-end to low-end notes of any instrument, he simply banged one of the strings and simultaneously loosened the Hinge of the string. The gamakam broke out exactly as what Pt.Jasraj sang, without even a minor offkey.The entire audience and every artiste on the stage overwhelmed by that feat, clapped for that. i never saw such a trick till in my life. Think of it, to maintain the same scale and raaga, he should have twisted the hinge synchronously at a pace which wouldnt give an off-key note. Having such a command on the instrument floored is no mean joke and it simply justifies his dedication towards that instrument and the years of practice he has put in.Pt.Jasraj couldnt help but only showered respectful blessing on the mandolin wizard with a namaskaaram.
Tha grand finale was again a fast-paced Tarana by the entire ensemble. Bhairavi oozed out taking me into a trance, and as always, the last concluding part and finishing touch brought out a musical-orgasm.

The best thing about this concert was that all the artists were in fullform, thanks to the audience who clapped during all those moments, when the artists showcased their dexterity and and their grasp on the nuances of the instruments they were playing. Even artists like Vijay Ghate and Uma Shankar proved that they are keeping up the legacies of their predecessors. Sivamani was probably the only artist whose image is way different from that of other artists, yet, he could pull off with some stunning moments especially when Pt.Jasraj was singing. Before everyone left, his casual comment, "Ee Roju Chaala Baundhi" reminded me of his "hello Sandhya! Nenu chaala chandaalanga...dharidhrangaa chacchaanu kadhoo...aedho naa bondha".

In all, Another unforgettable concert in my life and i can only thank my luck(and my friend) for having got the oppurtunity to feast the outstanding musical fiesta. Concerts like these also remind us (me especially) how small and insignificant we are , compared to greats like these and how much we are losing by choosing a mundane-life chasing god-knows-what, over the rich and soul-stirring music.

(If only tapes/cds are released, i shall buy it without looking at the price-Tag)

Friday, May 26, 2006


You would know what I am talking about if you were in India...
roop ki ghani hoo main
prem ke liye bani hoo main
saiyyan more gappi
dede na mohe pappi

log chlormint kyon khaatein hain??

g3 m1 d2 n2 s, p d2 p, g3 m1 g3,

dobara mat poocho.
Super Khamaj!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sangeet Saritha

Yesterday morning, I was listening to Sangeet Saritha on Vividha Bhaarathi at 7:30 AM, and a gentleman was explaining raga Basanth Mukhaari:

Basanth Mukhaari corresponds to Vakulaabharanam, the 14th Melakartha of carnatic music-- one can identify it as a close kin of MaayaaMaalava Gowla (called Bhairav in Hindustani)-- only the nishaadam is different.
Basanth Mukhaari has the puurvaanga (s r2 g3 m1) of Bhairav, and the uttaraanga of Bhairavi (Sindhu Bhairavi-- p d1 n2 s). In that sense, this raga depicts the coming together of Shiva and Parvathi into one Ardhanaareeshwara roopa of Shiva.

A beautiful thought!


Friday, January 27, 2006

Pagal Nilavu: Rounding up

Pagal Nilavu (1985)

A couple of mentions remain in this album. Poovilae Medai. and Vaarayo Vanmathi..

Poovilae is a small song with running time less than 3 mins. The beginning is sure to remind one of a duet from one of the WCM masters. Simple yet very delightful. The song itself has a very simple tune. I believe one of the keys to unlocking IR's genius is to also view his compositions as if they were purely WCM orchestrations. This kind of imagination takes a while to grow to a level where you can appreciate some of Guru's compositions. At first hearing a song like this would sound probably unattractive. But if you imagine a solo violin and orchestra with the exact same tune and support... it creates an entirely different effect. IR does give hints of the orchestral parallel universes. The interlude folowing the Pallavi may remind one of parallel tunes to Endhan Nenjil (by KJY). However IR quickly comes back to the song. Unusually enough this song has just one charanam. The beat pattern might kill the beauty of the song... I wonder why he used any perceptible rhythm instrument at all. Atleast it doesn't appeal much to my sensibilities in these kinds of compositions.

Vaarayo is a totally different song. One cannot exactly place what it is with this song... for example the singers are not upto the mark or it sounds very much like one of the hindi songs of that era (if you imagine a drum kit playing instead of a tabla)... the song still somehow manages to be mentioned here. May be it is the resemblance to other pearls Ennadhaa sugamo or En vaaniley . But it remains an imitation. It is upto you to decide if it is cheap. The only salient feature of this song is the interlude magic. If you can survive the most cliche'd tabla rhythm (IR has used it in some N number of songs --N being almost all of the near-trash songs he ever gave--which is huge! -- fortunately he also gave us a huuuge number of songs of a very high order) then make a note of the first interlude's second half that leads to the charanam 1. There is a pocket of a semblance of good instrumentation there. The second interlude is also decent forming the other cool part of the song. Music India Online recording somehow stopped the song abruptly as if what we have heard is enough.

Actually the other song Maina Maina from the album (sang by guru himself) is the trashiest number... but...(there is always a 'but' associated with his songs.. one cannot dismiss them as not having any knowledge) in one of the interludes he uses ideas from 'bluegrass' and 'country' styles very effectively with simple guitars. If you have nothing better to do -- do check it out.

Aakarsh has remained particularly patient (and silent) with my promises to finish writing this section (i.e., ... he's been conveniently missing action these days). We'll try to combo-up a draft for Idhaya Kovil or Mouna Ragam as soon as I find out if he's alive.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Of Raj Kalyan

I was listening to the song "Katril varum geethame" again and I found that more than sometimes, the panchamam is skipped while sliding through the avarohana, which gives the raga a slight haunting feeling, eg: -- n3-d2-m2-g3. This is esp. noticed first in the short alapana in the first interlude and then in the notes sung in the second interlude (s- n3-d2-m2-g3-r2-s).

There is a raga by Vasant Rao Deshpande called Raj Kalyan which is basically Kalyan without the panchamam:

That same effect is obtained in Tukaram's Abhang "Sundar te dhyaan" sung by Lata. Though the pallavi seems to be rooted in Maru Bihag (the background music for Raincoat), the second and third charanams register a spike near this "Raj Kalyan" frequency.

Great tool this can be for people like Ilayaraja who specialise in haunting tunes.