Monday, September 22, 2014

Ninnukori immortalized....

This rendition of Ninnukori Mohana Raga varnam by L. Subramaniam is mind-boggling. It is played in 15 speeds with increasing frequencies and I had goose bumps when the 15th speed was being played....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Abhishek Raghuram

Abhishek's rendition of swara at about the 20th and 30th minute is mesmerizing....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Endaro Mahanubhavulu

I don’t know when I was introduced to the song ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’ composed by Saint Thyagaraja. But it was in my childhood that my parents brought home a tape cassette containing all 5 songs of the famed Pancharatna sung by Dr M Balamuralikrishna. Till date this has been one of my favorite cassettes. Although all songs of Pancharatna are melodious, the last of them is for some reason the best of all.

Throughout my life I encountered more and more renditions of Endaro by different people. Mostly vocal but few instrumental too. Notable are the ones in Veena and Violin. My first major assignment as an employee was in a pretty monotonous project and I somehow had got hold of a Veena rendition of Endaro and it was a daily routine for me to listen to it as I went upon with my work. I might have listened daily for many months in 2003.

I soon realized that I won’t always be near my beloved cassette and also realized that the world was becoming increasingly digital. So the first thing I did was convert this cassette player into digital format. It just goes to show how much I must have heard this one song that while the first four songs got digitized without issues, Endaro did not get recorded as good as the other four - probably because this side of the tape seemed to have worn out. So I had to live without it.

Next best hope was Google and Internet. There were many of them and although I liked all of them, nothing gave me the pleasure as much as the one I used to hear in the cassette, until I got this link which is pretty much the same as what I used to hear in my childhood. Finally! After going around in circles finding the right rendition of this beautiful song, I came back to my old love – Dr M Balamuralikrishna’s rendition:

Endaro Mahanubhavulu Andariki Vandanamulu…

Monday, March 28, 2011

Parents in Swara!

The seven notes of the scale (swaras), in Indian music are named shadja, rishabh, gandhar, madhyam, pancham, dhaivat and nishad, and are shortened to Sa, Ri (Carnatic) or Re (Hindustani), Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. Source: Wiki.

As can be seen, we get Ma and Pa in the Swara, which are short for Mother and Father! And fittingly, Mother comes before Father. Is this coincidence or ...?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Song of the month

Kangalidyatako Kaveri Rangana Nodadha

Translation from Kannada: What are the use of eyes if it does not see Srirangam's Lord Sriranga?

Set in Thodi, composed by Purandaradasa and sung by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Chandram Bhajamaanasa

Chandram Bhajamaanasa song in Asaveri Raaga has been one of my all-time favorites. But I had not heard it for a long time. Today, when I went walking, I plugged on this song to my earphones and boy, did it feel good! In spite of having heard so many times, I still get goose bumps when the Raaga touches the unknown nerves. Truly beautiful!

Friday, April 2, 2010


My mom said she used to pay Rs 20 for 12 Carnatic Classical music classes in 1969 when the world was relatively pure and business was worth the money.
Thats about Rs 1.75 per class. Classes were one to one (tutor to pupil and not mass).
She also said she used to pay 20 paise for bus charge from Malleswaram to Yeswantpur.

Extrapolating to 2009:
Bus charge from Malleswaram to Yeswantpur is Rs 5.
Thats an increase by 25 times.
So, a 25 times increase of Rs 1.75 is roughly Rs 45.

This gives a fair idea of how much the charge should be for a Carnatic Classical music class.
If 8 classes are held in a month, monthly fees should be anywhere between Rs 350 and Rs 500.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Prof HVK

My First Violin Guru - Prof H V Krishnamurthy passed away on Nov 27th 2009. He was 83 years old. To say that I am sad is an understatement. He was one of the finest violinists in Carnatic music and has taught over 6 decades! He taught not just violin, but vocal, veena and even Zoology! To be conversant in so many fields flawlessly, one has to be brilliant, and Prof HVK was brilliant yet very humble and meek. Even at 83, he used to play notes of innumerous songs without even consulting the notes. I used to wonder at his memory!

When I first entered the class room, I was dazed at all the awards adorning the wall. Later when the class room was renovated, we had an ante-room prior to the actual class room. More awards filled this ante-room than ever. He even started the Vijaya College of Music out of which great musicians like R K Padmanabhan and others have blossomed. It is indeed sad that he is no more with us.

May his soul rest in peace...

Friday, October 30, 2009


Listen to this song in Kanakaangi, the first of the melakarta raagas. It is soothing...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sunday, December 21, 2008


How would it be to attend a first class entire 3 hour Carnatic classical concert in a huge 500 seater auditorium filled with just dozen people, and half of them being organisers?

It really saddened me...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kamalaambike in Sri Raagam by Weslayians...

This one just blew me away....

It is really heartening to see Classical Carnatic Music being sung by Westerners.


A related article:

Jon Higgins was an American vocalist who trained in Carnatic Classical music in India some decades ago. He attained great heights in Carnatic vocal music and was conferred the title, "Higgins Bhagavathar". He lived in India for many years and sadly, during one of his visits to his home country, was killed in an automobile accident...

There is a wonderful story involving in an incident that happened when Jon Higgins and his party of musicians went to the Krishna temple at Udupi. The American wore a dhoti and a kurta as was his custom in Madras, but he was much too fair complexioned to be an Indian, and the priests would not let him enter the temple as non Hindus were allowed inside….So Jon stood where Kanakadasa the untouchable had stood centuries ago, to catch a glimpse of the idol from a distance as best he could. His musician friends stood with him, refusing to go inside the temple if Jon was not allowed.Then it occurred to one of them to ask Jon to sing the famous song,"Krishna, nee begane baro," a composition in Kannada….

When the air was filled with the vibrant melody of his splendid voice there was no keeping away the crowds that gathered around to hear him. The priests, astonished, begged the singer to come in ...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thought for the day

I enjoy listening to music more than playing. Thats the plain bare facts. But then I might still be too young a player to really enjoy while I am playing. It could be something that grows on you. Perhaps. But right now, when I am playing, there are 100s of things that I have to think and sweat out before I can play it right. The framework of the raga, the taala, the lyrics, the what-next dread, the bow-movement, the speed and clarity, the lubrication on the finger. Phew!

I mean, you listen to Endaro Mahanubhavulu, and you dance along with it, but if you are the one who are playing, you need to continuously remember whats coming next, how to improvise, how to keep the audience dancing along with the music...there is simply so much basics to stick to...and its at that moment, that I feel I am just imparting the enjoyment but not really enjoying the music myself because of the paraphernalia involved...

Well, many more years to go, I guess...for me to both play and enjoy at the same time...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Had been thinking about the following for a long time now but I guess I need to take it out of my system through this blog...

Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan's demise recently came as a shock to me. Somehow he seemed immortal. Then again, I guess he indeed is...

July issue of Reader's Digest had a story about how a child of age 16 went all the way to Delhi from Madras to meet President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam (upon invitation for Children's Day) and ended up singing Endaro Mahanu Bhavulu not just in front of him, but along with him!!!

KGKP had a series of music programs in Holenarsipura this weekend. Mother had been part of Goshti Gayana and related some of the wonderful moments of the trip:

A small child of 6 years old or even less reciting all 5 Pancharatna Kritis without even seeing the book. I mean what talent!!

An octagenarian with humped back sang the welcome song (Mahaganapathi) with such clarity, such gamaka, such devotion that it proved how one's learning stays forever in one's life if learnt well in the beginning...

Those were just a few happenings in the music side...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Melakarta, Katapayadi, Mathematics...

Today in class I learnt about Katapayadi sankhya and how the formula can be used to determine the melakarta raga index number. I was fascinated by it and thought I will blog about it. But I wiki-ed and found 2 amazing sites already loaded with fascinating information.


Katapayadi Sankhya

Its all about mathematics, algorithms and formula. I came to know that one can even determine the complete raga scale just by the name of the raga. Just blew my mind off!!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Patrick Ngcobo

By BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan
Carnatic music normally takes years of patience and dedication to learn
Few would have thought that the Zulus of South Africa would have much interest in southern Indian classical music.
But South African Patrick Ngcobo has proved that ethnicity and language are no barriers when it comes to learning about music far from home.
When he decided to learn southern Indian classical music, better known as Carnatic music, his African friends in Durban ridiculed him, and his Indian neighbours were sceptical.
For them, it was abnormal for a person from the warrior Zulu tribe in Natal province to take up Carnatic music.

Ignoring insults and sniping remarks, Patrick single-mindedly persisted.
Today, the 34-year-old sings in seven Indian languages.
He can slide from one Indian raga, particular melodic scales, to another with ease - his diction is remarkable.
It was so difficult for me to sit cross-legged for hours. Because of our food habits in Africa, our bones have become tight and I could not sit for long.
His perfect pitch, whether high or low, and fantastic range of voice and ability to sing in different languages is clearly the result of dedication, toil and hours of continuous practice.
It all started when Patrick happened to listen to a song of the famous South Indian classical singer, Dr KJ Jesudas.
"I have never heard such a melody before. The mesmerising voice took me to a different world. That was it. I wanted to learn the style and it became my dream to meet KJ Jesudas," recounts Patrick.
Luck favoured him when Jesudas performed in Durban in the early 1990s.
Impressed by Patrick's musical talent, Jesudas offered to teach him Carnatic music if he could go to the city of Madras, in southern India.
With poverty knocking at his door, Patrick went from pillar to post to find resources to go to India. But it was not easy.
"I had no money, no relatives or no friends in India. Thanks to some sponsors I finally set foot in Chennai (Madras). That is it. I had no contact with my family for three years, they did not even hear my voice," says Patrick.
He was also fortunate when Jesudas offered him a place to stay at his residence.
But life was not easy in Madras. From food to clothing everything was alien and the rules were rigorous.
He abstained from alcohol, meat and relations with women. With all his time occupied by learning Carnatic music, socializing was minimal.
"It was so difficult for me to sit cross-legged for hours. Because of our food habits in Africa, our bones have become tight and I could not sit for long. I managed, but even now I use a cushion while performing," says Patrick.
KJ Jesudas (left) is extremely happy with his African disciple.
Carnatic music normally takes years of hard work, patience and dedication to learn.
In addition, a student has to get the pronunciation right while singing the songs either in Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam.
As a beginner, Patrick first had to sort out the language barrier and pronunciation difficulties, which all took time.
"Sometimes it was too frustrating. I used to practice from five in the morning till midnight. It took six months to learn one verse from a particular keerthana, or a song. But eventually, I got there."
Talking to the BBC from Madras, KJ Jesudas is extremely happy about his African disciple.
"Right from the beginning, I was impressed with his hard work, perseverance and devotion. His observation is remarkable. He is a classic example of what dedication can bring to a person irrespective of his or her background," he said.
Patrick returned to South Africa in 1996 and started performing in public.
'Rare opportunities'
The black Carnatic singer naturally drew attention and made headlines. To satisfy his local audience, he even started composing songs in Zulu based on Indian ragas.
The Zulu singer believes because of his ethnicity he is being sidelined in South Africa.
With a huge Indian population (1.2 million) in South Africa, Patrick thought he could be a professional singer and also teach Carnatic music.
"Being the first black person to learn Indian Carnatic music, I thought I would be encouraged. I am disappointed to say that I rarely get opportunities to perform in South Africa," he laments.
The Zulu singer believes because of his ethnicity he is being sidelined in South Africa.
While he gets chances to perform in places like Botswana, it is not sufficient to satisfy his musical thirst.
Being the eldest in a family of seven, Patrick has other responsibilities.
Now he specializes in gardening services and also runs a taxi outside Durban.
But he continues to practice his music while cutting trees or driving the cab.
One day, Patrick believes his chance will come to prove his mettle.
"My dream is to perform around the world and show the greatness of the Carnatic music," he said.


Monday, February 18, 2008

The disturbance at Thani Avarthanam

Many amongst the audience in a Carnatic concert are downright bad. People who come to listen to the main artiste, get up and exit in the middle of the main piece after the main artiste hands over the stage to accompanists for the Thani Avarthanam. This sudden sporadic getting-up-and-exitting in an auditorium filled with music patrons causes a lot of hustle and bustle and not only does it disturb the setting of a performance but also demotivates the accompanists from even starting off. It is a shameful and cheap thing to do on the part of audience and a direct insult to the accompanists and to their years of dedication and effort put in for performing at such class and with such maestros.

Doubtless, the best person to drive some sense to people at such a juncture is the main artiste himself. To insult back at the insultors in front of other music patrons. Malladi brothers is the only main artistes whom I have seen who have stood up for the accompanists. In one of the concerts in NMKRV in Feb 2007, when Thani Avarthanam started and people started getting up, one of the brothers, spoke in to the phone rasply, words cutting like a knife through the auditorium, and the decibel raising with every word: "Is it fair?"

The true music patrons applauded for those 3 words. The accompanists's gratefulness showed on their faces.

In another Malladi brothers concert in BTM that was held recently, he sent out a message even before he started off with the main piece: "There is no interval in this main piece. I request the audience to sit through till the Thani Avarthanam is completed."

Hats off to Malladi Brothers! Being in the lineage of disciples of Saint Thyagaraja, nothing less was expected of them!

The Start

Came across the below set of lines recently. Just felt like reproducing verbatim:

Carnatic music is one of the two main styles of Indian classical Music. It has its main emphasis on vocal music as most of the compositions, even while playing on the instruments are sung. It has two main elements, those being the Raga (the modes or melodic formulae) and the Taala (the rhythmic cycles). Nearly every rendition of a carnatic music composition is different and unique as it embodies elements of the composer’s vision as well as the musician’s interpretation. This art form is traditionally taught on the lines of the system formulated by Purundara Dasa. It involves the student to begin with the Swaravalis (graded exercises), the Alankaras (exercises based on the seven taalas), and then to Geetams (single songs) and then to SwaraJaatis. As a student advances further, he shall learn the Varnams and the Kritis. Quite obviously, it may take several years before a student can give his own concert.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cognitive Neuroscience

It is quite a vivid fact that a normal man only uses one side of his brain. And consequent to the above fact, it also goes hand in hand with the conclusion that a person who has developed the skill of using both sides of his brain as being extra-ordinary. Well, I am neither an expert in this topic nor have I done any research, but, as a layman, I am safely assuming that multi-tasking is a simple example of utilizing both sides of the brain.

That being the case, I would now like to think about the various shades of subtle multi-tasking that actually happens in Carnatic Music. Here is the list of things that have to be synchronized during the rendition of even a simple composition:

~Thaala: The hand that goes up and down for the appropriate subsection of ever group of notes. There are 7 types of Thaala and each has its own pattern. A whole composition can lie within one Thaala or can even shift between Thaalas.

~Swara: Each composition is based upon the subset of the basic notes “Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa”. So, in effect when a song is being sung, its Swara also is to be kept in mind, because the lyrics of the song have the Swara as its platform.

~Raaga: Innumerable permutations and combinations of the basic notes have led to the creation of hundreds of Raagas. Since each of the basic notes also have other shades, like Ri1 Ri2, Ga1, Ga2, the permutations and combinations multiply into a whole new array of Raagas. Again, each composition is based upon a particular Raaga, so when the singer sings Alapana or Swara, he should lie within the framework of the particular Raaga to which the song belongs to.

~Breath: During singing, it is most important to breath in and breath out as and when there are breaks in the lyrics. And it has to be done seamlessly without the audience ever coming to know the breath in take.

~Finger: In an instrument such as Violin, a fraction of space will mean an entirely different note. One can easily fathom the importance of precision. Also, to make an instrument sing like a singer, one has to add the Gamaka.

~Coordination: In a live concert, an automated, unspoken synchronism has to be established amidst the performers to lie within the same tempo and deliver a class rendition.

Assume a song being sung. Here is the list of things that the singer should remember:
~Alapana in that Raaga.
~Thaala as per that song, during matching exactly to the last note.
~Lyrics based on the pre-defined Swara.
~Synchronize with other performers in the concert.
~Bring in a dose of Individuality by adding in that bit of devotion and musical acumen to make it one’s own; else, after all, it will just remain nothing but someone else’s song rendition.

Similarly, for an instrumentalist, he should remember the Thaala of the song, the Raaga of the song, the Swara of the song, the Gamaka as and when needed. But then, the above is just for the mind. To make it come out, assuming Violin, the physical activity of one hand to move the bow across the Violin to and forth (one note one bow; two notes one bow; four notes one bow as per the tempo) and the other hand in deftly moving the finger with clear cut precision and speed over the strings. Like wise, in Veena, one hand is in constant motion to set the note and the other hand’s fingers are always getting the music out.

This multi-tasked activity of singing while hands apply the Thaala and remembering the notes as per the original framework of Swara and Raaga, of playing an instrument with both hands and fingers deftly moving about while remembering the song and its basic framework of Swara and Raaga, is, I believe, sufficient enough to induce using one’s both sides of the brain. This, I have been told, is Cognitive Neuroscience. It is, in other words, a gym for the mind.

If kids are made to practice the above at a young age, when the grasping capability is at its peak, it is without doubt, that the ‘normal’ IQ levels tend to automatically become ‘Extra-ordinary’ due to this simple science of using one’s both brains through learning of Music.

PS: This is just an attempt to answer my own question.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Plethora of happenings currently with respect to Carnatic Music.

Last week, University of Maryville had a 3-day session on Music Therapy (including Carnatic Music), each day concluding with a concert in the evening, including the one by the Mysore Violin duo. I could attend only one such concert. It was by Thrissur Brothers.

They were so young. They were accompanied by their father on Mridangam. He, too, seemed so young (almost looking like a third brother) that audience was shocked to know he was actually their father. Notable in the concert was the first rendition by the brothers on Veeribhoni in the third order (moorne kaala). How can anyone ever sing Veeribhoni so fast? It left me stunned! Just shows how much mastery they have over the language.

Yesterday, I attended a beautiful Vocal concert by TV Shankaranyanan at Bangalore Gayana Samaja. He was so joyous and happy and smiling throughout the concert. It was plain to everyone as to how he loved singing and thriving and enjoying! It was a pleasure not just to hear but to see him! He received Swara Murthy VNR Rao Memorial Award for this year today.

Today morning, students of Vijaya College of Music performed with an instrumental ensemble of Violin, Flute and Veena at Gayana Samaja. The Prinicipal, HV Krishnamurthy, (also my revered Guru), received Veena Seshanna Memorial award for this year for exemplary contribution to Carnatic Music for over 6 decades.

In the evening, I attended my first ever concert of RK Padmanabha at Sri Vidya Kala Kendra, a Music school guided by RKP. His is one that of Deep Voice and Masculine Melody. He rendered 5 self-composed songs on the Great Shankaracharya.

Next Saturday, as usual, the monthly concert is scheduled at Vijaya College premises. Also, there is a music competition for kids at Sri Vidya Kala Kendra.

Week after that, more hectic activity. Continuous daily programmes (various art forms like music, dance, Yakshagana, etc) at Sri Vidya Kala Kendra from Aug 5th to 12th by young students (including a violin concert from Mysore M Nagaraj’s son Karthik). Coinciding with the same time period, daily concerts, conference on Music, at Gayana Samaja, including the concerts of celebrated Mysore Violin duo, Shankar Subrahmaniam and Malladi Brothers (who come from the Tyagaraja Disciple lineage) to conclude.

I realized that a sportsman can be at his best only for 2 youthful decades at the most, like Graf, Tendulkar, Pele, Schumacher, Federer and others. But a musician can be a musician all through his life. It is nothing short of tapas.

Such professionalism, such dedication, such a purpose in life, and yet such humbleness in each. At the end of every concert, when the artistes are honored, the few words that are spoken on each of them shows of what true character they are made of and such down-to-earth attitude. And hearing them, hearing about them, hearing about the behind-the-camera people (who aren’t in the limelight yet are significant contributors to Carnatic Music), makes me feel such a mere mortal.

And then, today RKP said in his concert, “Innu swara sikkilla, innu hadakke baralla….adhu yavaga sigattho, awaga naanu dhanya naade…” [I still haven’t got the swara, I still don’t know how to sing. When I do come to know, then, I am blessed]

Monday, April 16, 2007


M = Morality
U = Universality
S = Spirituality
I = Individuality
C = Creativity

Monday, March 26, 2007

Charm of a musician!

Almost all musicians seem to have a beautiful smile.

They apparently have a pleasing countenance and a divine look.

Somehow, their lives seem to be refreshingly fresh!

What is it in music that adds so much charm to a musician’s life?!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Ata thaala varnam Veeribhoni in bhairavi raga by Pachimiriyam Adiyappaiya is one of my favorite songs.

The Pallavi starts off slowly enough and weaves in and out of corners but one can feel the dormant cadence starting to pump up and the blood twirl, as the song gets into a rhythm.

At the stage of Anupallavi and Mukthaaya-swara, one gets the feeling of being on an ocean full of small and big waves and the song being on top of it all, masterfully navigating the crests and troughs like a professional surfer.

Then, based on the discretion of the singer, the song is sung again from beginning but this time with a faster tempo and as this new pace builds up, one imagines oneself starting to dance in harmony with the melody.

Then, the tune changes with the Charana, which seems to be sinusoidal and at the same time beautifully carved.

Last, but not least comes the equally melodious Etthugade-swara where the song comes to a logical ending, just as how a surfer arrives back to the surface, feeling exalted with a sense of natural freshness!!

This song, I read on internet, is attributed to Pachchimiriam Adiappaiah, who became eternal with this, his only composition. I could find this one link to hear online.

To put it in a nutshell, a beautiful, beautiful song…!

Monday, February 19, 2007

The basics

A beautiful explanation given on basics by my colleague:

-----Original Message-----
From: Kumar SankaraIyer
Sent: Tuesday, January 11, 2005 4:25 PM
To: Harsha S Rao

A varnam is actually a fixed composition of relatively short
duration. It is usually sung in the beginning of a concert, for 'warming up'.
There are 2 classes of varnams - aditala and aDatala, based on the talams
(rhythm) to which they are set. The basic structure of a varnam consists

1. Pallavi ( contains sahithyam, i.e. lyrics)
2. Anupallavi
(contains sahithyam)
3. Mukthayiswarams (consists of swara syllables only..
like ri ga ma etc.)
4. Charanam (usually one line, contains saithyam)
Chittaswarams (usually 3,4 or 5 in number, contain only swara

After singing each chittaswaram, we sing the charanam; and then follow to the
next chittaswaram in sequence. The size of each chittaswaram increases
progressively, and the last chittaswaram is undoubtedly the biggest

In varnams, everything is fixed. Even the chittaswarams have been composed
already, and the musician's duty is to reproduce whatever has been composed.
There is little scope for improvisation or manodharma

Kritis and Keerthanas are the major pieces in a concert. After one varnam, the
musician keeps singing various kritis and keerthanas of varying lengths, and of
many different talas. This continues till almost the fag end of the concert,
when the musician takes up light recitals like bhajans and thukkadas (it is a
Tamil name for 'junk'), and even special classes of compositions like tillanas
and javalis (Tillanas are usually sung for dance, they contain words like
'thakadheem','kidathom', etc.)

Kritis and Keertanas are
the 'songs'. Kritis have a pallavi, anupallavi and one or more charanams.
However, keerthanas don't have anupallavi. Thus they are purely lyrical in
nature. Every line of the song has got 'Sangadhis'. Sangadhis are variations of
tune in a line of the song. Initially the tune is simple. Successive
sangadhis are more complicated. Thus a kriti or keerthana contains many lines,
and each line has got different sangadhis. Purists say that you should sing a
kriti or keerthana, as you have been taught. Improvisations can be made only in
areas like alapana, niraval or while singing swaras. I will brief on the
Alapana is the sketching of a raga using meaningless syllables like
"tadana" and "tarinau". Only the tune has significance in alapana. Niraval is
the repetitive singing of a line, in different tunes. It is similar to
'sangadhi', but it differs in the fact that the different tunes are not
composed. Rather, they are extempored by the musician at the time of the
concert. Swaras. You take up a line in the song and append swaras so that they
fit into an integral multiple of talas.

Thanks and Regards,

For the unborn…

“Santoor strains music to ears of unborn too.” A simple article reproduced below:
Pune, November 12: Santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma can
take a bow-this time to an unborn audience.

paediatric surgeon and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Mumbai, Dr
Snehalata Deshmukh, has been experimenting with different types of music as
therapy for the foetus and finds children in their mothers' womb seem to prefer
the notes of his santoor.

In the seven years of her
research-she has counseled more than 350 mothers-Dr Deshmukh realised that two
ragas in Indian classical music, raga Yaman and raga Kedar are most liked by the

''These are calm and soothing ragas, but they are
also joyful, which is probably why they are a favourite with the foetus,'' she

Manodharma Sangeetha

Article on Hindu on Manodharma Sangeetha reproduced below:

A distinguished lineage, recognition as a child prodigy followed by
2,500 successful concerts worldwide, widespread critical acclaim, and renowned
for his scholarship and teaching skills, that's vocalist K.N. Shashikiran for
you. Like every mature artiste, Shashikiran's noted not only for his
composition-renditions but also his rich manodharma - the true test of a
musician's creativity. His ragalapanas, tanams, pallavis, neraval, swarakalpana
testify his depth and fertility of imagination.

manodharma is popularly explained as `what comes to the mind', it does entail
adherence to certain values and codes. First it needs rigorous grounding in
music fundamentals. Then you should've listened to a lot of music. Have an open
mind. Seek knowledge from all sides," he says about the tendency of the audience
to attend concerts of only big names, thereby missing out on the talent of a lot
of unknown youngsters or obscure veterans and the lessons inherent in their
performances. Manodharma, he insists, is not only about exercises and
fixed-duration practice sessions. "The more you meditate on a particular raga,
the more its facets will be revealed to you. Start visualising it, and it slowly
acquires a form, almost a human form to you. Manodharma is about passion for a
raga. Slowly, all its nuances will become apparent to you, you'll begin to sense
the emotions it evokes, understand that certain notes bond more with the other
and so on...."

In that sense he says the "raga becomes a
canvas on which you paint your manodharma. To the given scale of a raga you add
flesh and blood with your neraval, kalpanaswaras... There are certain basic
standards already set by the great past masters you can follow - for instance,
certain phrases they all repeated - but the packaging, the unique creative input
has to be yours. We must emulate the greats, not imitate them." He also insists
on voice culture everyday, on akaara sadhana in different ragas to improve
raagalapana and kriti renditions. Practising saraliswaras or alankaras in three
kaalas should remain a daily exercise even after reaching advanced levels. He
says books give only existent patterns for the alankaras, jantas or dhatus but
the students have to evolve their own. In the olden days, teachers would throw
challenges at students asking them to sing allied ragas like Darbari and Nayaki;
or Sri and Manirangu one after the other. Or give a situation for a pallavi and
ask them to come up with an RTP for it; or a limited range of three to four
swaras and ask them to sing 20 neraval patterns without repetition. Thus
challenged, the student would rack his brains, use his imagination and come out
with original, unique inputs. Or they'd be given different points in the same
kriti say, "Vataapi", and asked to produce kalpanaswaras at each point. So, once
the student turned performer, he'd sound different every time he sang even the
same kriti - his concerts would never be predictable.

with the short-duration programmes we have, one gets just 15 to 20 minutes to
elaborate a raga and thus even manodharma-adept performers are getting
restricted." When you remind him of pallavi durbars, he says: "Even here, many
participants come with prepared pallavis." The spontaneity and extempore element
are thus missing, he feels, adding: "Ideal tanam and neraval singing standards
too have dropped considerably." Any solutions? "We must have a panel of experts
which audition anyone wanting to take to the stage by throwing challenges at
them. Only those who pass this test should be permitted a professional platform.
And even of those who've made it, there should be constant expert evaluation,
like the ATP rankings in tennis." Doesn't the critic perform that function? He
surprises you with his candidness: "Well, not all critics give honest opinion,
simply because they are afraid of the repercussions. If the review is negative,
the offended performer might call up and question the reviewer's erudition
itself. For some interesting reviews on Music, read

A to Z Singing Tips

A simple article found on singing tips by Vocal Coach Yvonne DeBandi reproduced below:

A = Airflow. Never hold your breath while singing. The
airflow is what creates and carries your vocal tone, so keep it flowing.
Avoid Clavicular Breathing and Belly Breathing -- instead, learn the proper way
to breathe for singing, called diaphragmatic breathing. Fill the lower
portion of your lungs as if you had an inner tube around your waist that you
were evenly filling.

B = Breathing properly for singing
requires the shoulders to remain down and relaxed, not rise with the breath
intake. A singer will gain power to their voice by strengthening the
muscles in their ribcage and back.

C =
Communicate the music's message. During performance it is very
important to communicate the message of the song. If you make a
"mistake" don't point it out to your audience. It is most likely they did not
even notice.

D = Diaphragmatic
Support. Develop the strength and coordination of the diaphragm and
become a pro at controlling the speed of the airflow released, the quantity of
the airflow released and the consistency of the airflow

E = Elasticity of the Vocal Folds. The vocal
tone is created as airflow bursts through the cleft of the vocal cords causing
them to vibrate/oscillate. The vocal folds can lose elasticity due to
misuse, lack of use and/or increase of age. Be sure to train your voice
with vocal exercises on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape.

F = Free your natural voice. Don't be a slave to
any music style -- even your favorite one. Learn to sing with your full
and natural voice by developing your vocal strength and coordination. Then
add stylistic nuances to achieve any singing style you

G = Guessing Games. Never guess
the pitch you are about to sing. Hear the note in your head before you
open your mouth.

H = High notes require consistent
and steady airflow. Many students tend to hold their breath as they sing higher.
Let the air flow. Try increasing your airflow and gauge your

I = Increase your breathing capacity and
control by doing breathing exercises every day. Be sure to avoid patterned
breathing. Singers must negotiate phrase lengths of all different sizes,
so it is important to be versatile.

J =
Jumping Jacks. If you are having trouble getting your body completely
involved with singing, try doing some cardiovascular activities, like jumping
jacks, for a few minutes before getting started again. Sometimes your
instrument simply needs an airflow wake-up call.

= Know your limits. Don't sing too high or too low. Don't sing to the
point of vocal fatigue. Never strain or push your voice. Doing so
will not result in a higher or lower singing range, or a stronger voice, only a
voice that has suffered undue stress.

L = Low notes
are often sung with too much airflow. Try decreasing your airflow to achieve a
more natural, more relaxed tone.

M = Mirror.
Training in front of a mirror can help a singer discover many things about their
instrument, as well as confirm that other actions are being done
correctly. Be sure to rely on a mirror during vocal training, but be able
to leave the mirror to face an audience.

N = Never
sing if it hurts to swallow.

O = Open your mouth
wider. Nine times out of ten this will help you achieve a stronger, more defined
vocal tone.

P = Prepare your instrument before
singing. Singers are very much like athletes. Take care of your
body/instrument by stretching out the vocal muscles and relieving the body of
unnecessary tension before singing.

Q = Quit
smoking. Quit talking too loudly. Quit talking too

R = Raise the Soft Palate. Creating a
larger space inside your mouth by raising the soft palate, or fleshy part of the
back of our throat, helps achieve a deeper more well rounded singing

S = Sing through the vocal breaks. If
you do not teach the muscles the necessary actions to sing through the trouble
spots, success will never be achieved. Sing through it, sing through it
again, and again....

T = Tone Placement.
Learning the facts about tone placement and resonance make a huge difference in
the abilities of a singer. In simple terms, a singer has numerous body
cavities (nasal cavity, chest cavity, etc.) and amplifiers (bones, ligaments,
etc.) that act as resonators. Focusing the vocal tone through the proper
resonating chamber with the proper support is important with regard to
controlling and developing your personal

U = Unique Voice Under
Construction. Remember that your voice has its own unique fingerprint and
is constantly changing with our actions, environment, health habits, etc.
With this in mind, listen to your own voice often and use vocal training tools
to keep your voice on the right track.

V = Vibrato.
Vibrato is a natural or forced fluctuation of a singing tone. Do not
concentrate on learning how to sing with vibrato. Instead, concentrate on
the basic foundations of singing, breathing and support. When the proper
coordination is achieved, vibrato will occur

W = Water. Water.
Water. Drink room temperature water as often as you can to keep your voice
organ hydrated. If you only have cold or hot water available, swish it
around in your mouth for a moment. This action will keep your voice organ
from being startled or stressed by different

Y = You Can Sing with
Impact! Exercise your voice daily with contemporary voice lesson
products. Don't Just Sing when You Can Sing with Impact!

Z = Zzzzzzzz. Be sure to get your rest. If you
are tired, your voice will show it. A tired body/instrument will not allow
you to produce your best possible sound.

Navavarna Kritis

A simple article found on Navavarna Kritis reproduced below:

Nava Varna: Refers to a set of nine kritis in praise of Goddess Devi, to be
sung during the nine days of the Navaratri festival. There are two such sets,
one composed by Oottukadu Venkatasubbayyar and one by Muthuswami Dikshitar.

These are nine songs on Goddess Kamalamba the deity of Thiruvarur. The 9
songs are prefixed by an introductory song and suffixed by a song marking the
conclusion thus making a group of 11 songs.

Introductory song – Kamalambika – Todi – Roopakam
Kamalamba - Ananda Bhairavi– Triputtai
Kamalambam Bhajare – Kalyani – Adi
Sri Kamalambikaya – Shankarabharanam - Tisra Ekam
Kamalambikayai – Kamboji – Ata
Sri Kamalambaya – Bhairavi – Jhampai
Kamalambikaya – Punnagavarali - Tisra Ekam
Sri Kamalambikayam – Sahana – Triputai
Sri Kamalambike – Ghanta – Adi
Sri Kamalamba Jayati – Ahiri - Tisra Ekam
Concluding song - Sri Kamalambike – Sri - Khanda Ekam

The group songs of Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar such as the Navagraha,
Kamalamba Navavarna, Abhayamba Navavarna, Vibhakti, are most distinguished in the repertoire of Carnatic music. In his matchless Kamalamba Navavarna
compositions, the poet pays his obeisance to Devi Kamalamba of Tiruvarur. He
describes her in glowing terms as Sarvarakshaakaara, Yogini worshipped by
Durvasa, celestial spouse of Lord Siva, personification of flawless beauty,
Kalyani and so on.

Navagraha Kritis

A simple article found on Navagraha Kritis reproduced below:

Muthuswami Diksithar, one of the great Trinity, has composed a set of nine
kritis called 'Navagraha Kritis'. They are also known as 'Vaara Kirtanas', named
after the seven days of the week. The songs on Rahu and Ketu are later additions
to this group. All these kritis contain a good deal of Vedic astrology, as well
as fine music, revealing Dikshithar's mastery over the science of

The Navagraha kritis also represent the Suladi Sapta Talas, namely Dhruva,
Matya, Rupaka, Jhampa, Triputa, Ata and Eka. A notable feature of these
compositions is that the first seven kritis are set to these seven Talas, in
that very order. The sahitya of the kritis epitomises the jyothishas and the
Mantra shastras. The 'Graha' mudra is contained in the Pallavi of each kriti.

The nine kritis are (in the order of Kriti, Ragam, Talam, Planet, Day of
1. Sooryamoorthe –
Sourashtram - Chatusra Dhruvam - Soorya (Sun) - Sunday
2. Chandram
Bhajamaanasa – Asaveri - Chatusra Matyam Chandra (Moon) - Monday
Angarakamasrayamyaham – Surutti – Rupakam – Angaraka (Mars) - Tuesday
Budhamasrayami – Nattakkurinji - Misra Jhampa – Budha (Mercury) -
5. Brihaspathe – Atana - Tisra Triputa – Brihaspathi (Jupiter) -
6. Sree Sukrabhagavantham - Paras - Khanda Ata
Talam – Sukra (Venus) - Friday
Divakaratanujam - Yadukula Kambhoji – Eka – Sani (Saturn) -
8. Smaramyaham – Ramapriya – Rupakam – Raahu - N/A
9. Mahaasuram
– Shanmukhapriya – Rupakam – Kethu - N/A

The last two are said to be later additions by Dikshithar's shishya,
Ponnayya Pillai.

Carnatic and Ingenuity

Somehow, I get the feeling that a person who learns Carnatic music, especially during the early years of life, soars high in educational and academic excellence.

Perhaps this feeling is due to the fact that, off late, I am finding many youth – thanks to internet (orkut, youtube, etc) – who have achieved great feats in terms of education such as MS, PhD, MBA, etc in various fields and have great inkling to the actual science behind Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Psychology, Communication, Aviation and a host of other interesting topics, while at the same time being experts in Carnatic Classic music.

Does Carnatic music have influence in making genius out of a child?

Monday, February 12, 2007


I have been attending some concerts for the last couple of weeks. The first thing that I notice is the distinct lack of youngsters amongst the audience. Perhaps only 10% of the audience will be in mid-twenties. The rest all are aged or nearing fifties.

The concert held recently in NMKRV hosted about a 1000 people amongst the audience, and wherever I saw, I could only see white hair! There were people cramped up everywhere, in the nook and corner, sitting on steps, on sills, and some even standing! How come that a passion so wrought amongst the previous generation was not passed through with the same zeal to our generation?

Concerts generally are composed of – based on my limited understanding of the Carnatic music – various shades of Classical music. Typically, it starts off with a Varna, and then perhaps a Keertana. The main crust of a concert is undoubtedly the Raga, followed by a song in that Raga, and then Swara, or Neraval. An even higher level of music is what is often called as RTP : Raga – Thana – Pallavi. And then, to give side accompaniments their due share, there will be Thani, and then Thillana, and amidst all this, a little more of what I do not know as of now, ending with more simple songs!!

There are people who come for passing time by listening to some melodious music. There are others who concentrate (try to figure out like a riddle, and jot down) the name of the Raga. Some come to listen while doing some other task, like I saw a lecturer correcting answer papers at the same time appreciating the music. Some have gizmos to record the full 3 hour song and try all possible things to get their gadgets as close to the speaker as possible!

I have always felt that a concert is like a game of sports in which a number of different people – often unknown to one another prior to the concert commencement - exhibit each of their mastery. It is as good as a close fought game of table tennis, or lawn tennis, or badminton. Just as good as how a stroke in a game can be, so is the skill of the main artiste in expounding a raga. Just as how the two players play against one another to win a point, so is the competition between a vocalist and a violinist, between a mrudanga and a ghatam, and the only difference is that it is not a fight to win any point but just a matter of appreciating the beauty of music in all its glory, and this ‘win-win’ situation never fails to receive a resounding applause, especially considering the fact that such a competition, such a composition, such a harmony, such a coordination happens amidst artistes unknown to one another, in front of thousands of people, only based on hours and hours of dedication and practice and by the mere understanding and smile and appreciation conveyed through the eyes from one artiste to another! It is simply unbelievable!

Another thought I have had whenever I have been to a concert – vocal, especially - is the movement of hands and odd facial expression that the vocalist has to make for the clear expounding of the music. It is almost like without that particular action, or the facial expression, such a frequency, or intonation, or note cannot come through. The movement of hands reminds me of pottery and how the hands have to move so delicately in order to have the perfect shape and beauty, which is true in case of musical vocabulary too! And however funny the facial expression might seem for a by-stander, it just shows to what extent the concentration is, especially considering that everything is in front of thousands of people.

While it is a great effort for many of us to sit for a long period of time, it is simply astounding how each of the artistes sit in the same position for over three hours and do not feel any discomfort whatsoever! The only discomfiture they feel is when the microphones start screeching suddenly, or when there is a power failure suddenly and there is no UPS or generator in stand-by! Some artistes carry on nevertheless unfathomed but some particular ones, stop in the middle. Generally when thani starts, audience gets restless and some start leaving, but in one of the recent concerts I went, the main artiste spoke into the microphone “Is it fair…?” It is indeed unfair to leave a concert without appreciating the side accompaniments performing their mastery.

There was a time when people used to flock into concerts only if the artiste was Balamurali Krishna or Yesudas or U Srinivas or Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan. But such an era no longer exists now. Every concert is filled to its brim with people because the skill on display in each of the concerts has become that much more fascinating and every artiste has got an ace of spades up their sleeves!

Music for the body and mind

There was an excellent article under the same heading in the Times of India on Feb 10th under the Times Wellness supplement with reference to learning a musical instrument. I am unable to find the same on the web, so I shall reproduce some excerpts:

Learning a musical instrument can be very therapeutic. It is
challenging as well as satisfying. The beauty of music is that it is a
combination of science and art. The science disciplines the mind and art
satisfies the soul.

Carnatic classical music is highly
mathematical and scientific, and it is a known fact that instrumentalists are
generally good in math and have a scientific bent of mind. Learning improves the
concentration and, like meditation, stills the mind.

health benefits like lowering blood pressure, accelerating recovery after
surgery, etc are being researched by playing instruments. The brain releases
feel-good hormones called endorphins when we exercise, pray, chant, meditate or
when a classical instrument is played. Hence, it elevates the mood, improves
motor-brain coordination and removes depressing and negative

According to ancient Indian texts, music plays a positive
role in spiritual well-being. Each note or swara corresponds to one of the 7
chakras in the body and the vibrations created by the sound waves stimulate the
charkas. In alternate therapy, chakras are vortexes of energy and if properly
stimulated contribute to overall well-being – physical, emotional, mental and

Instrumentalists converse and communicate well and have better sense of
rhythm. Their thoughts and actions are quite well-balanced. Since all Carnatic
classical compositions are devoted to the higher power, this form of music is
spiritually uplifting as well. Practicing a musical instrument as hobby daily
for 30 minutes will be enough to keep us in good emotional and mental state.

Mathematics and Carnatic Music

I had an interesting discussion once with Deepti on juxtaposition of Mathematics with Carnatic music. She said she is going to write a blog on it in detail but here are a few excerpts of the discussion which I could relate to and felt true. Much of the below sentences are, I confess, her own and copyrighted.

Aesthetics is philosophy of beautification.
Science is something that covers Aesthetics in shrouded mystery.
Mathematics describes the Science using numbers.
Progressions, be it linear or geometric, are an integral part of Mathematics.
Patterns are an inherent component of Progressions.
Symmetric pattern is pleasing because there is beauty in symmetry and vice versa.

So how that’s how we have the circle of Beauty. Via Aesthetics, Science, Math, Progressions and Patterns.

Invariably, the best musical patterns are progressions.

And that’s how Carnatic music starts : sarale varase; dhaatu varase; jhanti varase; alankaara…

I leave the rest (and the more intricate things) for Deepti to add…

Excerpt from Sama Veda

Reproduced from pages 157-159 of the book "Autobiography of a yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda"

The Samaveda contains the world's earliest writings on musical science.
The foundation stone of Hindu music is the ragas or fixed melodic scales. The 6
basic ragas branch out into 126 derivative raginis (wives) and putras (sons).
Each raga has a minimum of 5 notes: a leading note (vadi or king), a secondary
note (samavadi or prime minister), helping notes (anuvadi, attendants), and a
dissonant note (vivadi, the enemy)

Each of these 6 ragas has
natural correspondence with certain hour of day, season of year, and a presiding
deity who bestows a particular potency:

1. Hindola: heard at dawn
in spring to evoke mood of universal love
2. deepaka: played at evening in
summer to arouse compassion
3. megha: melody for midday in rainy to summon
4. bhairava: mornings of Aug, Sept, Oct to achieve tranquility
5. sri: autumn twilights to attain pure love
6. Malkounsa: midnight in
winter for valor

Indian music divides octave into 22 srutis or
demi-semitones. These microtonal intervals permit fine shades of musical
expression unattainable by western chromatic scale of 12 semitones. Each of 7
basic notes of octave is associated in Hindu mythology with color and natural
cry of bird or beast:

Do: green and peacock
Re: red and
Mi: golden and goat
Fa: yellowish white and heron
Sol: black
and nightingale
La: yellow and horse
Si: combination of all colors
and elephant

3 scales-major, harmonic minor, melodic minor-are
only ones which Occidental music employs, but Indian music outlines 72 thatas or
scales. Musician has a creative scope for endless improvisation around the fixed
traditional melody or raga; he concentrates on sentiment or definitive mood of
structural theme and then embroiders it to limits of his own originality. Hindu
musician does not read set notes; he clothes anew at each playing the bare
skeleton of the raga, often confining himself to single melodic sequence,
stressing by repetition all its subtle microtonal and rhythmic variations. Bach,
among Western composers, had an understanding of charm and power of repetitions
sound slightly differentiated in 100 complex ways.

Ancient Sanskrit literature describes 120 talas or time measures. Indian
music is a spiritual, subjective and individualistic art, aiming not at
symphonic brilliance but at personal harmony with the Oversoul. Sanskrit word
for musician is Bhagavathar (he who sings the praises of God) The sankirtans or
musical gatherings are an effective form of yoga or spiritual discipline,
necessitating deep concentration and intense absorption in the seed thought and

About this blog…

Much inspired by the number of blogs on Carnatic music, and due to the multitude of thoughts flowing on in my mind about the music, the only resulting upshot of it all was for me to come with a Carnatic blog of my own. While I may not be as talented nor have the diverse knowledge of the innumerous and intricate Ragas, or for that matter even the simplest of Geethas as others, I still feel very deeply about Carnatic Music and truly believe that it is the language of the Gods.

This blog will be a collection of my thoughts, and material which I find interesting, about Carnatic music.