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SIFA celebrates 37th Thyagaraja Aradhana

South India Fine Arts (SIFA) held its 37th Annual Thyagaraja Aradhna on February 28, 2016 at the Shirdi Sai Parivar, Milpitas, CA.  True to tradition, the full day’s program started with a group performance of the Pancharathna Kritis lead by Bay Area artists. Many popular Bay area gurus including Mrs. Asha Ramesh, Mr. Vivek Sundararaman, Mr. Hari Devnath, Mr. Shivakumar Bhat, Mrs. Kasthuri Shivakumar, Mrs. Sangeetha Sampath, Mrs. Geetha Seshadri, Mr. Ravindrabarathy Sridharan, Mr. Gopi Lakshminarayanan and Mrs. Sandhya Srinath, among others lead the large crowd of students and rasikas in a very harmonious rendition of Sri Thyagaraja’s choicest compositions.

Following the Pancharatna rendition, SIFA presented a short skit on the childhood of Saint Thyagaraja, enacted by children aged between 4 and 11 years. Expertly written by current SIFA president, Mrs. Anu Suresh, the play told the story of Thyagaraja’s parents who recognized where their children’s strengths and interests lay early on. They encouraged each child by providing them with the right resources to achieve their potentials. As a message, Mrs. Anu Suresh reiterated that encouraging children to follow their hearts and do what makes them happy is surely the recipe to a successful life. The rest of the day included individual and group performances by various Bay area students.

SIFA is among the oldest premier organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area helping to promote Indian Culture and Arts in the region. Annually, SIFA organizes close to 20 performances by leading and upcoming Indian musicians. Board member and president of the 2015 committee, Mr. Venkat Rangan has been associated with SIFA as a sponsor for over 20 years and has been an office bearer for the past 5 years. This year, he is involved in the organization’s initiative to coordinate North America tours for Indian artists. SIFA will be sponsoring tours of Vidwan Dushyanth Sridhar, Vidwan Sandeep Narayanan and Violin Maestros Sri Nagaraj and Dr. Manjunath. “We always begin our year’s programs by showcasing a local talent”, said Mr. Rangan referring to this year’s inaugural concert by Ms. Sruthi Sarathy to be held on March 13, 2016. Vidwan Neyveli Sri Santhanagoplalan will perform the main concert that day, accompanied by leading Bay area musicians, Vidushi Smt. Anuradha Sridhar on the violin, Vidwan Sri. Sriram Brahmanandam on the Mridangam and Vidwan Sri Ganesh Ramnarayan on the Kanjira.

“SIFA is very proud to be able to host many upcoming artists from India every year alongwith our wide repertoire of leading artists. These musicians go on to achieve great heights musically and we are indeed very happy and privileged to start our association with so many of them in the early stages of their careers”, said Mrs. Anu Suresh, president of the 2016 SIFA committee. Mrs. Anu Suresh is a veteran Bay area performer and educator and expressed great pride in her association with SIFA.  This year's lineup includes performances by Vidwan Sri T.N. Krishnan, Vidushi Lalgudi Smt. Vijayalakshmi, Vidwan Sri T. N. Seshagopalan,  Chinmaya Sisters, Sri. V. Sankaranarayanan and many more as they still finalize their fall lineup. “We are a non-profit organization and a 100% of what we get by way of sponsorships goes into bringing quality artists to the Bay area” said Ms. Suresh.

More information on SIFA may be found at http://www.southindiafinearts.org

Photo Courtesy Mr.Prasanna Ranganathan

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Dr. Saravanapriyan Sriraman - Expert Speak

Dr. Saravanapriyan is a premier violinist and Guru in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born in Namakkal, he grew up in Chennai and is now a scientist in the Silicon Valley semiconductor industry. He has won many awards, including Best Violinist from VDS Arts Academy and Mylapore Fine Arts (1992). He has performed prolifically both as a solo and accompanying artist in India and North America. Dr. Saravanapriyan is the founding director of Nada Lahari Sangita Vidyalaya ​in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

How did it all begin? Who are your gurus?

My family has no background in Carnatic Music. On a whim, my parents enrolled me in Violin lessons with Mrs. Komalavalli Srinivasan when I was 8. She was an excellent teacher.  Quite old by then, she had difficulty hearing. However, she could look at the placement of your finger on the violin to gauge if you were playing correctly or not.  I then learned from Thiruvarur Sri Balasubramaniam and later from veteran Tirupparkadal Sri Veeraraghavan. Since 2002 I have had the good fortune of learning advanced techniques and concert presentation from Lalgudi Sri G.J.R.Krishnan.

Can you please share memories of your first stage performance?

My first stage performance was a duet with my guru Thiruvarur Sri Balasubramaniam. In a Navaratri series at Parthasarathy Temple, Chennai, he was scheduled to play with another senior disciple. On the day of the concert, this senior disciple had to cancel due to illness and my guru called upon me to fill the spot.  I joined him on stage having very little idea of what he had planned to play. The main piece was in Kambojhi and he let me play the Raga alapana. 

How do you prepare for a concert?  

As an accompanist, the violinist in a Carnatic music concert has to be an all-rounder. He needs to maintain a delicate balance of shadowing the main artist while taking care to not overshadow them. In preparation, it is very important to practice popular as well as obscure ragas and be able to play at ease manodharma be it alapana, kalpana swarams or tanam for all of them. Improving dexterity to follow fast songs, swara patterns and their underlying rhythmic structure is also very essential. In addition, during accompaniment, it is important to watch the body language of the artist and respond accordingly.    

As a main solo artist, the choice of compositions and ragas to include is always a challenge for a Carnatic instrumentalist. While it is important to include familiar compositions that the audience will relate with, one also needs to present newer pieces to keep things fresh.

As a teacher, what do you try to inculcate in a student? 

I think it is very important to inculcate a love for the art form as well as the value of saadhana and discipline. I talk to my students about my own path and that of my gurus and their gurus to highlight the passion that goes into dedicating your life to the art. It also brings peace and a sense of balance which is also something I try to communicate to my students. While performance is necessary to hone ones skills, I discourage premature public performances as well as learning with the sole goal of performing.

Is it important for all violin students to also take vocal lessons?

Yes! In my opinion, it is very important for violin students to take vocal lessons in parallel. I usually do not admit violin beginners unless they have had at least 8 months of vocal lessons and have basic understanding of shruti and layam. Additionally, it is beneficial if they get vocal lessons in the same Baani as the violin lessons. This prevents confusions in renditions of kritis and general aesthetics.

How much emphasis do you lay on teaching music theory? How do you teach it?

A balanced approach is employed to include music theory. For beginners, basic exercises of Sarali varisai, Janta varisai all the way to Alankarams, are also taught in popular melakarta ragas. Layam aspects are introduced through basic konnakol solkattus, alankarams applied to common talams in vogue and nadai variations. Depending on their level, they may or may not appreciate the actual theory behind these but they learn the exercises and are able to relate back to them at a later time when the application to context is clearer.

Carnatic music has a thriving following in the SF Bay Area. Do you feel that it provides ample performing/listening opportunities for a young musician? For more experienced musician such as yourself? 

There are plenty of opportunities for students of every level to perform here in the Bay Area. Most importantly, students need to learn a lot by observing their gurus in concert, a lot of which cannot be taught in regular classes. They can observe the camaraderie of the artists on stage and the teamwork that goes into presenting an outstanding concert. They can learn the art of accompanying by keen observation. They can make note of the choice of compositions presented and ask questions about it later and so on. Another area that would be greatly beneficial is to have more lecture demonstrations.

How do balance your dedication to music with the pressures of a full time job and spending time with your family? 

The balance comes from my wife’s support. With a full time job taking up my work week and Music taking up my weekends, my wife’s support in managing the home, our child’s needs as well as scheduling my music classes, concert performances and music events takes a big load off my plate and gives me time to concentrate on the Music. Often, our family time is also centered around music. Ultimately though, my passion for the art keeps me going and we recognize as a family the peace, emotional balance and spirituality it brings to our lives. I am grateful to my family and Gurus for their continued guidance and support and feel truly blessed to be able practice this “Nadopasana”.

For more information on the school or to contact him , please visit http://www.nadalahari.com/.




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Sandeep Narayan - Exclusive Interview

How did it all begin? How did you get interested in Carnatic music?

I was born into a very musical household. My two older brothers, Nikhil & Nirmal Narayan, are Carnatic musicians themselves and had undergone training well before I started to learn music. The interest for all of us came from my parents of course. In the early 1980s, my father, K.S. Narayan, founded the Carnatic music organization in Los Angeles, the South Indian Music Academy (SIMA), which is still the premier Carnatic music organization in Southern California. His passion for music perhaps stems from his upbringing in Thiruvaiyaru, where he was raised on the music of the all time greats performing in the Thyagaraja Aradhana. My mother, Shubha Narayan, has trained under some of the senior most artists in Madras, and has been teaching Carnatic music in Cerritos, California since the early 1980s. So I was raised in an environment where my mother was singing and teaching music every day, and we had touring musicians in and out of our house on a weekly basis.

What is the first song you remember listening to?

I am told that the first song I listened to and in fact started singing was Manavyalakimchara in Nalinakanthi. I was too young to remember this story, but when Sri TR Subramaniam was staying with us in the late 80's, he noticed that I kept singing this song, and he asked my parents if it was something I had actually learned. Apparently I had overheard my mom teaching other students and had picked it up from there. He sensed I may have a knack for singing and advised my mother to start teaching me music more seriously.

Who are your gurus? 

My first guru was my mother Smt. Shubha Narayan. I started learning from her when I was about 4 years old. When I was 11 years old I moved to India and began training under Calcutta Sri K.S. Krishnamurthy. After he passed away in 1999, I continued my lessons with Sri Sanjay Subrahmanyan.

Can you please share memories of your first stage performance?

My first performance was actually a chamber concert when I was 11 years old, before I had moved to Madras to learn from KSK Mama. The concert came about as a result of one of our community members in Southern California making a deal with me that he would buy the chocolate I was selling for a school fundraiser, and in return I would sing a concert in his house! I accepted the deal, perhaps not knowing what I was getting myself into at the time. But the training for that performance, being the first time I was learning the basics of manodharma, increased my interest and seriousness about learning. The concert itself was for a smaller audience of about 75 people, and I remember singing Thyagaraja’s Chakkani raja in Karaharapriya as the main. I do remember a small incident from the concert where I forgot a song and then included it out of order after realizing my mistake.

After moving to Madras in 1996 and learning from KSK Mama for a few months, I was requested to sing a concert for a relative’s wedding reception. KSK Mama attended the concert and told my mother afterward very frankly that he was impressed and would start teaching me even more advanced concepts and krithis.

Which musicians do you admire and why? Who are your idols?

At a very young age I began following Sri Sanjay Subrahmanyan's music. He was also learning from KSK Mama and so it was a good fit for me to continue in the same style and learn from him after KSK Mama passed away. Other than my guru, at various times I have idolized different musicians such as Sri TN Seshagopalan, Sri TV Sankaranarayanan, and Thanjavur Sri S Kalyanaraman. Of late I have been re-visiting some of the older generation's recordings such as Sri GN Balasubramaniam, Sri KV Narayanaswamy, Voleti Sri Venkateswaralu, and Madurai Sri Mani Iyer. Since moving to India, I have become very close to flute vidwan Dr. N Ramani. He has become a mentor of mine who I visit often to discuss music, and I have learned a lot from my interaction with him. I admire different qualities in each of these artists, and I try to take something from each of them when developing my own style.

How do prepare for a concert?

Sometimes a concert may require certain songs (thematic, etc), but otherwise I don't have any specific preparation other than singing a lot of different songs, both old and new. If I have something I am particularly working on, I will try to hear that ragam and/or krithi by various senior artists. As the concert date approaches, I begin to formulate an idea of a song list in my head. I feel that as an artist, I have a responsibility to plan out a concert out of respect for the audience that has come to listen to me. Keeping the audience in mind, I make it a point to include at least 1 or 2 newer songs in every concert, or at least revive some old songs which I may not have sung in several years and bring them back into my rotation. Of course song-lists are rough guidelines and can change during a concert based on my mood or the audience’s reaction. But I try to put more thought into the set of krithis so that there is variety of ragam, talam, language, composer and emotion from song to song.

How often do you practice? For how long?

I practice every day for at least 2-3 hours. When I first moved to Madras in 2006, I had more free time and a less busy concert schedule. At that time I would do two sessions of 2-3 hours each, one in the morning and one in the evening.  

What do you practice?

Although I don't have any strict formula for my practice, as mentioned, I will prepare the latest songs I have learned, or revive old songs I haven’t sung in years in order to get them concert ready. I usually start with a varnam in 2-3 speeds just to warm up. Once I start singing a raga alapanai or kalpana swaras, I might start to explore all the different possible sangathis in the ragam and then go into calculations and different pattern possibilities for the swarams, etc. Sometimes these explorations go in so many different directions that I'll end up spending the majority of the practice just on one song alone. Thus each practice session can differ greatly from the next.

What does a typical day in your life look like?

I don’t think there is a “typical” day, as my schedule will often change day to day. I try to spend afternoons or evenings practicing, unless I want to attend a concert, in which case I try to finish my practice earlier in the day. The mornings are difficult to have a focused practice, as this is the time that all of the daily chores get taken care of and there are inevitably people in and out of the house. Nowadays, because of my increased travel schedule, when I’m in Madras I enjoy time at home and don't go out too often.

How do balance a career in music with other obligations in life (ex. family)

Well I just got married a year ago, so I never really had any other obligations to anyone other than myself. It's easy to balance your life when you only worry about yourself :).

I suppose now that I am married I do have to make sure to not just get completely lost in my music related activities such as concerts, practice, and recordings. My wife Radhe is a full-time bharathanatyam dancer, so she knows the nature of our field and realizes there are times when my music takes priority. But when the schedule permits, it's important to make time for everyone else.

What do you like the most about being a Carnatic musician?

I love that my profession is also my passion. I never have to look at my job as something I am just doing because I "have to." Nor is it a place I go to, only to count down the time until I'm back home again. I love to get on stage and perform, and I love even more that I am able to travel around the world doing it. I am exposed to so many different cultures and groups of people that I feel I have grown so much as a person, as a result of being a Carnatic musician.

What would you choose as the top 3 moments in your life as a musician so far?

My decision to move to India in 2006 and take up music as my full-time profession was one of the riskiest and most memorable moments in my life. I remember having a conversation with my father who asked what my plan was, and the only thing I could respond was that I was going to "move to Madras, be a Carnatic musician, and see what happens!"

Another moment was the first time I sang in the Music Academy for the December season. When that curtain opened, I was practically shaking. It probably took me 1-2 songs just to settle down and feel somewhat comfortable on that intimidating stage.

The day I heard that my guru Sri Sanjay Subrahmanyan was going to be conferred the title of Sangitha Kalanidhi from the Madras Music Academy was a moment I will never forget. As his student for the last 16 years, I was so proud of him for being honored with this prestigious award. From the time I began learning from him at an early age, to our relationship evolving into him being a mentor who advises me in music and life, he has always been someone I look up to, and even more so now.

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I still try to listen to concerts around the city, or catch up on some TV shows or old movies. I always enjoy reruns of ‘Seinfeld.’ As I love to travel, I make it a point to go see the tourist sights and local eateries and attractions wherever I am. On a recent concert trip to Abu Dhabi, I enjoyed grabbing a quick bite of authentic mezze (middle Eastern appetizers) in between the concert and my outbound flight. I listen to a lot of non-Carnatic music as well. One of my favorite bands is the Dave Matthews Band because they use a lot of instruments not traditionally associated with rock music, such as the saxophone, violin, and trumpet. I used to enjoy going to their live concerts when I was living in California.

And like many other musicians today, I’m a big fan of the latest gadgets and tech stuff available. I like the benefits it provides me musically as well, such as having a tambura application on my iPhone and iPad that makes it easy to travel and always have my “sruthi box” with me. I spend a lot of my free time reading up on the latest releases of both apps as well as gadgets themselves. I usually make a wish list through out the year and see which is worth getting when I travel to the US or UK while on tour.

Tell us something interesting things about you that rasikas may not know

These days it's hard to have any part of you that the public does not know or can't find out easily through Google or Facebook. Perhaps one thing that rasikas probably don't know is that I still follow American basketball even from Madras. Although I do not follow it as closely as I once did, I still keep up with what is going on in the NBA and always support my Los Angeles Lakers. 

The last few years, I have also become an avid scuba diver. I have gone diving in Tanzania, Thailand, off the Indian coast from Pondicherry, in the Andaman Islands, and most recently in the Flores Islands near Bali in Indonesia. It helps that my wife also loves to scuba dive, so we have started planning vacations around the best scuba diving spots. During our most recent trip, Radhe and I encountered several sharks, stingrays, and I even had a baby shark swim within a few feet of my face while I was snorkeling!

What do you think are keys to success in a career in Carnatic music?

There is a certain attitude needed to succeed in Carnatic music. Perhaps it is to be slightly indifferent to the criticisms and comments often made by others. This means taking both positive and negative comments with a grain of salt, and to ignore the politics and competitiveness that exists in the field, and focus on one's growth as a musician and a person. One must stay true to their music and trust that in the long run, the audience will appreciate their genuine approach to music. It is a given that one must work hard and practice a lot. Something can just click for an individual and they should be ready to produce music at the level that audiences expect, and to also consistently improve from there.

Any words for young students of music?

As I mentioned, number one is to practice hard and listen to a lot of music. Go to a lot of concerts and listen to the recordings of great artists from the past as well as present. There are things to be learned from all kinds of artists, both seniors and juniors. Even today, I enjoy going to the concerts of my peers and even younger artists of the next generation. One must also have a good teacher that suits their personality and style. Learn several different ragams and songs to establish a strong foundation, and then constantly increase your repertoire. Don't be afraid to repeat the heavier, time-tested ragams and songs. Sri TV Sankaranarayanan once advised me that I should sing big ragams over and over again as I will learn new things each time I sing them. Make a conscious effort to sing songs properly, with focus on sangathis, and not treat them as just incidental parts of concerts. While there seems to be an increasing emphasis solely on manodharma aspects, it’s important to maintain keerthana rendition as the main focal point of any concert. 




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Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam dies at the age of 83

Dr.Abdul Kalam, India's 11th President, died on Monday (27th July, 2015) evening at Shillong, Meghalaya, India. He was a technology visionary. His other interests were poetry and music. He wrote a book of poems called 'My Journey'. He favourite poets in tamil were Subramania Bharatiar and Bharatidasan.

A connoisseur of Carnatic classical music, he used to play the veena. He loved Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi's music and had written a tamil poetry to pay homage to her (http://www.abdulkalam.nic.in/homage_music.html) . He had attended many of her concerts. He once mentioned in an interview that his favorite Carnatic raga is shri. He liked Saint Tyagaraja's kritis and his favourite composition is 'Endaro Mahanubhavulu' in the Shri raga. The composition was rendered by Sri Tyagaraja in the court of the King of Tanjore and means 'In this gathering, whoever is great in front of God, I salute them'. Sri Tyagaraja's strength of conviction and courage in not saying 'I salute the King' was admired by Abdul Kalam. 




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Sangita Kalanidhi award - 2015

Eminent vocalist Sanjay Subrahmanyam has been chosen for this year's 'Sangita Kalanidhi' award. The 'Sangita Kalanidhi' award is one of the highest accolades in the field of carnatic music. The award was instituted in the year 1942 and comprised of a gold medal and citation. From the year 2005, the Sangita Kalanidhi is also honoured with the MS Subbulakshmi award instituted by The Hindu.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam learnt music under the tutelage of Rukmini Rajagopalan and then under the legendary Calcutta KS Krishnamurthy. He has performed in prominent stages across the globe. He has received many awards including 'Gaana Padhmam', 'Vaani Kala Sudhakara' and the prestigious 'Kalaimamani' award from the Government. Sanjay is a qualified chartered accountant. He is an 'A top' grade artist of AIR, Madras.




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Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2014

Noted Carnatic music exponent Shri S.R. Janakiraman has been elected as Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) Fellow for the year 2014, a very prestigious honour. There are only 40 fellows of the SNA at present across Indian performing arts.

36 artists from Indian performing arts have been chosen for the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards, the Akademi Puraskar, for the year 2014. The following 9 eminent artists have been chosen from the field of music:

Carnatic vocal music:

Shri Neyveli Santhanagopalan, well known Carnatic vocalist and teacher

Carnatic instrumental music:

Shri Dwaram Durgaprasad Rao for violin

Smt. Sukanya Ramgopal, one of the foremost women Indian classical percussionists today, for ghatam

Shri T.A. Kaliamurthy, a noted thavil exponent

Hindustani vocal music:

Smt. Ashwini Bhide Deshpande, a noted Hindustani Khayal vocalist from the Jaipur Atrauli Gharana

Ustad Iqbal Ahmad Khan, a Hindustani Khayal vocalist from the Delhi Gharana

Shri Nathrao Neralkar, a Hindustani Khayal exponent from Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Hindustani instrumental music:

Shri Nayan Ghosh, a tabla and sitar exponent, for tabla

Shri Ronu Majumdar, a flute exponent 




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Pancharatna Kritis

‘Pancharatna’ literally means five gems. The ‘Pancharatna Kritis’ refer to a set of five compositions in carnatic classical music composed by the famous composer Sri Tyagaraja. Sri Tyagaraja is one of the most famous composers in carnatic music and is a highly revered guru. He lived in the Tanjore district in Tamil Nadu in the 18th/19th Century. The ‘Pancharatna Kritis’ are sung at the Tyagaraja Aradhana in Thiruvaiyaru, held in the month of January every year.

Of the five pacharatna Kritis, ‘Jagadananda Karaka’ is the only kriti in Sanskrit. All the other Kritis are in Telugu. The Pancharatna Kritis are in praise of Lord Rama. The Panchratna Kritis are listed below:

Kriti

Raga

Jagadananda Karaka

Naatai

Duduku Gala

Gowla

Sadinchane

Arabhi

Kanakana Ruchira

Varali

Endaro Mahanubhavulu

Sri

 

The ragas of these ‘Pancharatna Kritis’ provide the flexibility and richness to support improvisations and the ragas are referred to as ‘ghanapanchaka’. Each of these compositions is extremely intricate, rich in style and deep in their meaning. Legend has it that, Sri Tyagaraja composed these spontaneously on hearing the beautiful music of legendary artist Shadkala Govinda Marar.

The first kriti ‘Jagadananda Karaka’ is in complete praise of Lord Rama as the source of all bliss and happiness in this universe. Lord Rama is worshipped as the ‘King of Kings’ with the noblest of characters who bestows happiness and success to his worshippers. Sri Tyagaraja praises Lord Rama as the divine giver (karpaga tree) who is pure without any sins and is worshipped by Devas and Asuras. Lord Rama with his words as sweet as nectar and who is immortal bestows success to this entire universe.  Lord Rama is the essence of the Vedas, powerful as the hurricane to sweep away doom and sorrow, swift with Garuda as his vehicle, conqueror of hearts and his feet is the resting place of Kings and Emperors. Lord Rama whose body is as strong as a diamond, whose eyes shine like the sun and the moon, who rests on top of the powerful snake and who is worshipped even by Lord Shiva and Brahma. Lord Rama is the remover of sins and reliever of curses, who protects the Vedas and bestows peace and happiness. Lord Rama is the creator of divine, protector of the good and destructor of the evil. His powers are beyond comparison and he is the essence of love. Lord Rama is the destroyer of evil forces, thoughts and character and is worshipped even by the immortal. He is the incarnation of everything good, embodiment of arts and compassion and the source of all happiness. Lord Rama is the protector of followers and is praised by the imperfect mortal Tyagaraja.

The second kriti ‘Duduku Gala’ is more of introspection by Sri Tyagaraja that lists his imperfections and praises Rama for forgiving even such a sinner. Sri Tyagaraja feels that his sins include not taking the path of devotion in the early stages of his life and going after material wealth. It was his foolishness that made him not understand that Lord Rama is the source of all happiness and that material wealth does not bring happiness. Sri Tyagaraja feels that he has committed a sin by taking pride in his compositions and considering himself as one of the greatest musicians. Without realising that Lord Rama’s feet provides eternal peace, Sri Tyagaraja sought land, property and wealth. Sri Tyagaraja seeks forgiveness from Lord Rama, the benevolent forgiver.

The third kriti ‘Sadinchane’ also in praise of Lord Rama is different from the other kritis in that it is more lucid & plain, direct and shows Sri Tyagaraja’s devotion towards Lord Rama. Sri Tyagaraja praises the love and affection showered on the Lord by Devaki and Vasudeva and the Gopikas.  He appreciates the innocence with which Yashoda showed her affection towards the Lord. At the same time, he feels that the Lord has deceived them by being separated from them. Similarly though the Lord had shown Sri Tyagaraja the righteous path of patience, tolerance, pooja and bhakthi, he has not come close to him and is still separated from him. This Kriti is an astounding example of Sri Tyagaraja’s extreme love and bhakthi towards Lord Rama and his grief at not being one with the Lord.

In the fourth kriti, ‘Kanakana Ruchira’, Sri Tyagaraja describes the appearance of Lord Rama and expresses confidence that some day he will attain eternal peace at the Lord’s feet. Sri Tyagaraja describes that the Lord’s face filled with grace and splendour provides immense pleasure and fills the heart with devotion and love. This is similar to what the beautiful Goddess Sita Devi feels when she looks at Lord Rama. Lord Rama shines like the morning sun with his brilliant clothes, crown and his radiance. His eyes are shining like precious stones that adorn his neck at the same time they are soft and graceful like the Lotus. Sri Tyagaraja describes that his pleasure on seeing Rama will be similar to that of Dhruva, who meditated on the Lord when his step-mother scolded him. The pleasure that Sri Tyagaraja derives is similar to that of Lord Hanuman’s when sang the Lord’s praise. Lord Rama resides in the minds of great souls like Janaka. His unlimited love towards his devotees is like the divine karpaga tree. The Lords’ grace and kindness is like the endless ocean. His power in riding the Garuda and wielding Chakraydha drives away fear, gloom and sorrow. Divine beings like Hanuman, Narada, Parasara, Sukha, Purandara, Indira, Parvati and Sita derive great happiness and pleasure in Lord’s presence and are also the witness to the pleasure derived by Lord’s countless devotees. There is a superstition associated with the Varali raga that if taught by a Guru will cause a rift between the student and the Guru. Since this kriti is in the Varali raga it is rarely taught and not widely rendered.

 

In the final kriti, ‘Endaro Mahanubhavulu’, Sri Tyagaraja pays his respect to all the great souls that have lived through the ages and attained spiritual greatness. Sri Tyagaraja describes the eternal bliss happiness that these great souls have derived in their lotus hearts through their yoga and dedication. These great souls have been able to control their mind and senses and meditate upon the Lord through their extreme devotion. They have surrendered to the Lords’ feet like Lotus flowers without any hesitation. These great men through swara, laya and raga have sung the praise of the Lord and attained purity through their devotion. These great men are the guiding light who guide other followers through their wisdom, friendship, love, kindness and compassion. These great men have attained paramananda or eternal happiness with the darshan of the majestic Lord Ram. These great men include monks, the moon, the sun, sanandanas, dikshakas, devas, kimpurushas, Prahalada, Narada, Thumburu, Hanuman, Brahma, Siva, Sukha, Maharishis, Brahmins, saints and immortals. These great men have sung your praises and derived great pleasure out of it. Your divine form, Namas, Glory, valour, bravery, grace, generosity have fascinated your bakthas or devotees and have instilled true bhakthi. These great men have derived immense pleasure and happiness through the endless knowledge contained in the great scriptures like bhagavatham, Ramayana, bhagavad gita, Vedas, shastras, preached by the six religious orders, practised by the 33 crore devas and experienced through bhava, laya and raga. These great men have meditated upon Lord Rama with true devotion similar to Lord Ram’s devotee Sri Tyagaraja.

 

 

 

 




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Melakartha raga classification

The 72 melakartha ragas are classified into 12 groups, with 6 ragas in each group. The groups are numbered from 1 to 12. The melakartha raga system can be thought of as two halves with 36 ragas on each side. The first half comprising of ragas from 1 to 36, that is, groups 1 to 6 will all have m1 (sudha madhyamam). The second half comprising of ragas from 36 to 72, that is, groups 7 to 12 will all have m2 ( prathi madhyamam).

The following method is followed for fixing the ri and ga for the ragas:

 

Group 1 and 7

r1 g1

Group 2 and 8

r1 g2

Group 3 and 9

r1 g3

Group 4 and 10

r2 g2

Group 5 and 11

r2 g3

Group 6 and 12

r3 g3

 

Now lets look at fixing dha and ni for the ragas. Every group contains 6 ragas. There lets assign one d and n combination to each raga in a group. Therefore in each group, the ragas will have:

 

1st raga

d1 n1

2nd raga

d1 n2

3rd raga

d1 n3

4th raga

d2 n2

5th raga

d2 n3

6th raga

d3 n3

 

As described earlier groups 1 to 6 have m1 and group 7 to 12 have m2. Let us pick up one group from each half say 1 and 7 and look at the r,g,m,d and n combination.

 

Group1

Group7

Kanakangi

s,r1, g1, m1,p,d1,n1,S

Salakam

s,r1,g1,m2,p,d1,n1,S

Ratnangi

s,r1, g1, m1,p,d1,n2,S

Jalavarnam

s,r1,g1,m2,p,d1,n2,S

Ganamurthi

s,r1, g1, m1,p,d1,n3,S

Jhalavarali

s,r1,g1,m2,p,d1,n3,S

Vanaspathi

s,r1, g1, m1,p,d2,n2,S

Navaneetham

s,r1,g1,m2,p,d2,n2,S

Manavathi

s,r1, g1, m1,p,d2,n3,S

Pavani

s,r1,g1,m2,p,d2,n3,S

Tanarupi

s,r1, g1, m1,p,d3,n3,S

Raghupriya

s,r1,g1,m2,p,d3,n3,S

 

 

Thus using this logic all 72 melakartha ragas can be arrived at. All 72 melakartha ragas are Sampoorna ragas and will have 7 swaras in aarohanam and 7 swaras in the avarohanam. The swaras are in ascending and descending order of frequencies in aarohanam and avarohanam respectively.

 

Finding a swara:

 

Applying the logic defined above, it is easy to find the aarohana and avarohana of any melakartha raga if we know its number position. For example let’s find out the arohana and avarohana of raga number 15. Since each group consists of 6 ragas, the 15th raga is in group 3 (comprising of ragas 13 – 18) and is the third raga in that group (15 modulus 6). 15 is less than 36 and hence it will be in the first half and therefore will be associated with m1. As explained above, Group 3 will have r1 g3 and the 3rd raga in any group will have d1 n3. So, this raga no. 15 has s, r1, g3, m1, p, d1, n3 and S in the aarohanam and S n3, d1, p, m1, g3, r1 and s in the avarohanam. We have logically arrived at the aarohana and avarohana of Melakartha Raga Number 15 - MAYAMALAVAGOWLA.

 

To reinforce this logic, let’s take another raga – Melakartha raga number 51. This will be in group 9 (comprising of ragas 49 – 54) and is the third raga in that group (51 modulus 6). This raga exactly corresponds to raga no 15 (remember groups 3 and 9 are similar except for m) and since the raga is in the second half of the groups the madhyamam will be m2. Therefore , the swaras for raga number 51 are - s r1 g3 m2 p d1 n3 S /  S n3 d1 p m2 g3 r1 s. This raga is called KAMAVARDHINI – Melakartha Raga Number 51 (also known as PATHUVARALI).

 

Lets go through this logic with another pair of ragas. Let’s take for example - raga number 29. The number 29 being less than 36, this raga will be in the first half and will have m1. This raga is in group 5 (group comprising of ragas 25 – 30) and hence will have r2 g3. Since it is the 5th raga in the group (29 modulus 6) it will have d2 n3. Therefore the swaras for this raga are s r2 g3 m1 p d2 n3 S / S n3 d2 p m1 g3 r2 s. This raga is SHANKARABHARANAM (also known as DHEERASHANKARABHARANAM).

 

As seen above, the corresponding raga in the other half will be number 65 and hence will have the madhyamam changed to m2. Therefore, the swaras for raga 65 are - S r2 g3 m2 p d2 n3 S / S n3 d2 p m2 g3 r2 s and is known as KALYANI( also known as MECHAKALYANI).

 

A quicker way of remembering this will be - any two ragas with a difference of 36 will have the same swaras except for m1 being changed to m2.

 

Some more examples that correspond to this logic:

 

Raga no 3: Gaanamoorthi s r1 g1 m1 p d1 n3 S / S n3 d1 p m1 g1 r1 s

Raga no 39: Jhalavarali     s  r1 g1 m2 p d1 n3 S / S N3 D1 P M1 G1 R1 S

 

Raga no 9 : Dhenuka s r1 g2 m1 p d1 n3 S / S n3 d1 p m1 g2 r1 s

Raga no 45: Shubhapanthuvarali s r1 g2 m2 p d1 n3 S / S n3 d1 p m2 g2 r1 s

 

Raga no 20: Natabhairavi s r2 g2 m1 p d1 n2 S / S n2 d1 p m1 g2 r2 s

Raga no 56 : Shanmugapriya s r2 g2 m2 p d1 n2 S / S n2 d1 p m2 g2 r2 s




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Melakartha raga system in carnatic music

The melakartha raga system is highly mathematical and logical. For the purpose of formulating the melakartha raga system, the great creators of our raga system redefined the 12 tone swara system into a 16 tone system, listed as under:

 sa   

 - shadjam      

 

 r1   

 -  sudha rishabham

 

 r2   

 - chatusruthi rishabham

g1

r3

- shatsruthi rishabham  

 g2

g1

- sudha gandharam

r2

g2

- sadharana gandharam

r3

g3

- andhara gandharam

 

m1

- sudha madhyamam

 

m2

- prathi madhyamam

 

pa

- panchamam

 

d1

- sudha dhaivatham

 

d2

- chathusruthi dhaivatham

n1

d3

- shatsruthi dhaivatham

n2

n1

- sudha nishadham

d2

n2

- kaisiki nishadham

d3

n3

- kakali nishadham

 

S

- Shadjam ( harmonic of the low sa )

 

 

Thus the basic 12 swaras ( top Sa excluded ) are renamed with the above names for the purpose of construction/ formulation of the 72 melakartha ragas. As mentioned above, the frequency value of r2 is the same as g1, r3 is the same as g2, d2 is the same as n1 and d3 is the same as n2.

1 2 3 concept:

The basic rule for the melakartha ragas is that all ragas will have all seven swaras in the ascent ( aarohanam) and 7 swaras in the descent ( avarohanam) in increasing order of frequency and decreasing order of frequency , respectively. Thus when r2 is used, g1 cannot be used, since its frequency value is the same. Similarly, when r3 is used, g1 and g2 cannot be used since they are smaller or equal in frequency.

To simplify this concept, take the possible combination of double digit numbers using 1, 2 and 3.

They are 1 1, 1 2, 1 3, 2 1, 2 2, 2 3, 3 1, 3 2, 3 3.

Now on this set, apply a rule that the second digit should be equal to or higher than the first digit. This will result in a combination six set combination of  1 1, 1 2, 1 3, 2 2, 2 3 and 3 3.

Now , prefix the first digit with r and the second digit with g in the six set combination, which leads us to a resultant set of -  r1 g1,  r1 g2, r1 g3, r2 g2, r2 g3 and r3 g3.

 

Applying the same rule on the six set combination with d and n, we get the following resultant set - d1 n1, d1 n2, d1 n3, d2 n2, d2 n3 and d3 n3.

The 6 combinations of r and g can be combined with the 6 combinations of d and n resulting in 36 possible combinations. For instance the first element of the r and g resultant set - r1, g1 can be combined with d and n resultant set as follows:

r1 g1 d1 n1

r1 g1 d1 n2

r1 g1 d1 n3

r1 g1 d2 n2

r1 g1 d2 n3

r1 g1 d3 n3

Thus there are 36 possible combinations between the resultant set of r and g and the resultant set of d and n. There are two variations of m namely m1 and m2. Hence each variation of m along with the 36 combinations result in the 72 melakartha ragas. In the next blog, we will analyse the classification of these melakartha ragas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




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Swara System Explained

The swaras in the ‘c scale’ from c to top C are c = sa, c# = ri1, d = ri2, d# = ga2, e = ga3, f = ma1, f # = ma2, g = pa, g# = dha1, a = dha2, a # = ni 2, b = ni 3 and SA = C. These 12 tones form an octave. The frequency difference between adjacent keys (c to c#, c # to d and so on) is a constant and is the twelfth root of 2 = 1.059446. To select a sruthi for singing/ playing an instrument , select any note as the low sa, take the  seventh note as pa and the thirteenth note as SA. This reference notes sa – pa – Sa defines the pitch/ scale selected.

The swara names are listed below

saShadjam
ri1Sudha Rishabham
ri2Chathusruthi Rishabham
ga2Sadharana Gandharam
ga3Andhara Gandharam
ma1Sudha Madhyamam
ma2Prathi Madhyamam
paPanchamam
dha1Sudha Dhaivatham
ni2Kaisiki Nishadham
ni3Kakali Nishadham

 

The swaras are marked in the keyboard below. The third white key from the left is sa, the next black key is ri1, next white key is ri2, next black key is ga2, next white key is ga3, next white key is ma1, the next black key is ma2, the next white key is pa, next black key is dha1, next white key is dha2, next black key is ni2, next white key is ni3 and the next white key is the top SA. These constitute one octave of the 12 tone system.

The sruthi mapping between Carnatic, Western and Hindusthani is given below:

 

CarnaticWesternHindustani
1kattaicsafed1
1.5 kattaic#kali1
2kattaidsafed2
2.5kattaid#kali2
3kattaiesafed3
4kattaifsafed4
4.5kattaif#kali3
5kattaigsafed5
5.5kattaig#kali4
6 kattaiasafed6
6.5kattaia#kali5
7kattaibsafed7
8kattaiCtopsafed8

 




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