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November 2017

Carnatic Chamber Concerts: November 12, 2017, Review

Authored By: Anirudh Ramadurai


Carnatic Chamber Concerts, (CCC) is a music club where every month not only do young musicians have an opportunity to show their learning and yearly progress, students of the art are also learning a lot from listening to the performers. In Carnatic Music, there are seventy-two melakartha ragams, based on a classification system developed by Venkatamakhi, a musicologist from the 17th century. Briefly, melakartha ragams are a group of ragams that contain all the seven notes (sampurna or complete) in a strict ascending (arohanam) and descending order (avarohanam) with no skips or zig-zag notes (kramam or following a certain order).  Each melakartha ragam is also known as a Janaka or parent ragam and has at least one janya or child ragam derived from it. Janya ragams are ragams that, though derived from the parent melakartha ragam, do not necessarily follow the strict order of notes in the arohanam and the avarohanam and sometime either miss a note or have a different note or note position (swarasthana) from that of the parent ragam. In the November edition of CCC, the audience got to listen to four melakartha ragams and nine janya ragams and the performers showcased each ragam very well through their rendition of krithis and creative improvisations.

Chinmayee Iyer:

The event began with a performance by Chinmayee Iyer on vocal, Alaap Rag on the violin, and Rajeev Devanath on the mridangam. Chinmayee began with a varnam in ragam Saraswathi, a janya ragam of Vachaspati, the 64th melakartha. Vachaspati is a Prati Madhyamam ragam, which is very close to a well-known ragam, Kalyani (we will hear a janya of Kalyani in a later rendition). Vachaspati and Kalyani are similar, the only difference being in the Nishadam. Vachaspati has Kaisiki Nishadam, whereas Kalyani has Kakali Nishadam. This varnam was “gatinI vaNi”, set to Adi Talam was composed by Mysore Vasudevacharya. Following this was “tatvamariya taramA”, a composition of Papanasam Sivan in ragam Reethigowla, a janya ragam of Kharaharapriya, 22nd melakartha, set to Adi Talam. Throughout the performance, Alaap emulated the melody of the composition with his thoughtful accompaniment on the violin, while Rajeev provided appropriate and steady accompaniment to the songs.

Meera Iyer:

Following Chinmayee, was a performance by Meera Iyer on vocal, Prahlad Saravanapriyan on the violin, and Rishi Kodungallur on the mridangam. Meera sang the varnam in the 29th melakartha ragam, Sankarabharanam, “sAmi ninnE kOri”, set to Adi Talam composed by Veena Kuppayyar. Sankarabharanam is a very versatile ragam, and it is one of the ragams that has numerous janya ragams. A lot of composers have composed krithis, varnams, etc. in this ragam. Meera rendered this varnam with great maturity while Prahlad’s dulcet accompaniment on the strings and Rishi’s bright playing of the mridangam took the audience by awe.

Shreya Anand:

Subsequent to Meera’s rendition was a performance by Shreya Anand and her accompanists, violinist Yogitha Balasubramaniam and mridangist Rahul Swaminathan. Shreya began with a calm, yet captivating alapana in the 21st melakartha ragam, Keeravani and highlighted the depth of the ragam. Earlier in the program, we had heard a janya of the melakartha ragam, Kharaharapriya. Keeravani is similar to Kharaharapriya, the difference being in the Daivatham and the Nishadam. While Kharaharapriya has Chatushruti Daivatham and Kaisiki Nishadam, Keeravani has Suddha Daivatham and Kakali Nishadam. Shreya’s alapana was shadowed beautifully by Yogitha, and she followed it with a brief solo.  Shreya then proceeded to Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavathar’s popular composition, “amba vANi”, set to Deshaadi talam. She took up the challenge of doing second-speed kalpanaswarams at the anucharanam line and finished it with a korvai. The interaction between the vocalist and violinist were well executed. Rahul’s accompaniment on the mridangam was equally brisk and he was very involved throughout the rendition.

Jyothi Shankar:

Next, in the day’s line up was a performance by Jyothi Shankar. She started with an elaborate and enchanting alapana in the ragam Hamir Kalyani. Hamir Kalyani is the janya ragam of the 65th melakartha ragam, Kalyani. Hamir Kalyani has both Suddha and Prati Madhyamam notes unlike its parent, Kalyani, which has only Prati Madhyamam. Jyothi’s alapana was mirrored elegantly by violinist Sahana Prasanna. Jyothi then proceeded to Oothukadu Venkata Kavi’s composition, “nAda murali gAna vilOla”, set to Khanda Nadai Adi Thalam. She presented her improvisation by doing kalpanaswaram on the Pallavi line, which was as mesmerizing as her krithi.  Mridangist Shrikanth Shivakumar’s accompaniment complimented the vocalist and violinist, making it a wholesome experience for the audience.

Nandhan Natarajan:

Following Jyothi’s rendition was a performance by Nandhan Natarajan on vocal, Kavya Kodungallur on the veena, and Sriram Subramanian on the mridangam. Nandhan began with Thachur Singarachari’s varnam, “ninnukOri”, in ragam Vasantha (17th melakartha Suryakantham), set to Adi Talam. Other than Vasantha, another popular janya ragam of Suryakantham is Sowrashtra.  Nandhan then presented one of Sri. Muthuswami Dikshitar’s Guruguha Vibhakti Krithi in the ragam Suddha Saveri a derivative of 29th melakartha Shankarabharanam, “srI guruguha tArayAsumAm”, set to Rupaka Thalam. Suddha Saveri is pentatonic ( 5 note or audava ragam) and is missing the Gandharam and Nishadham of the parent scale. During both songs, Kavya emulated the melody of the compositions with her pleasant accompaniment on the veena and Sriram provided a steady and strong accompaniment on the mridangam.

Preetha Kumar:

Nandhan and team were followed with a performance by Preetha Kumar, accompanied by Ananya Devanath on the veena and Santhosh Ravindrabharathy on the mridangam. Preetha began with a rich alapana in the ragam Arabhi (Sankarabharanam, the 29th melakartha’s janya) and was shadowed well by Ananya who then played an equally erudite solo. Arabhi is a Ghana raga, and one of the Pancharatna Kritis by Saint Thyagaraja, Sadhinchane is a composition set in this ragam. Preetha then proceeded to Tyagaraja’s popular composition, “nAda sudha”, set to Rupaka thalam.  Preetha showed her creativity with kalpanaswarams at the charanam line, “swaramulAru” with Ananya ably responding to her. Santhosh’s accompaniment on the mridangam was equally brisk-paced and very involved throughout the performance.

Meera Bharat:

Next up was Meera Bharat, accompanied by violinist Srishiva Manikantan and mridangist Sachin Venkat. Beginning with an alapana in Madhyamavathi (Kharaharapriya, 22nd melakartha janya), Meera brought out her innovativeness and her grasp of the ragam.  Srishiva’s response to this was filled with an equal amount of skill and variety. Following this, Meera proceeded to render Saint Tyagaraja’s famous krithi “rAma katha sudhA”, set to Adi Thalam. On the Pallavi line, she took up a few rounds of kalpanaswarams.  The types of patterns Meera rendered were creative thought out, and every response from the violin was to the point. Madhyamavathi was another janya ragam of Kharaharapriya that was presented today.  It was interesting to observe how two ragams with the same parent ragam sound so different.  This was again an opportunity for young listeners to improve their listening skills and to understand the subtle nature of our music. During the performance, Sachin’s accompaniment on the mridangam was enthusiastic and he handled every rhythmic challenge with maturity.

Shravya Srinath and Ananya Rao:

Following  Meera, was a unique duet performance by cousins Shravya Srinath and Ananya Rao, who were accompanied on the violin by Apurvaa Anand and on the mridangam by Anirudh Rao. The duo performed “nEEdu charaNamulE”, Saint Tyagaraja’s composition in the 57th melakartha ragam Simhendramadhyamam, which is the Shuddha Madhyamam equivalent of Keeravani (we heard from Shreya’s rendition). It was an interesting experience to watch the swaram exchange of the duo at the Pallavi line, with apt responses from the violinist Apurvaa.  This was followed by a Thirupugazh in the ragam Reethigowla (we heard from Chinmayee’s rendition). Apurvaa gave a steady support on the string and synchronized well with the duo singers,  while Anirudh was a huge support with his dynamic mridangam playing and he rendered a complex korvai that was well received by the audience.

Shashvath Iyer:

Following the duet was a performance by Shashvath Iyer, who was accompanied by violinist Urmika Balaji and mridangist Shreyas Garimella. Shashvath started off with an awe-inspiring alapana in the 60th melakartha ragam, Neetimati. The note that makes Neetimati so special is the Shatshruthi Daivatam. It was an interesting experience to hear this ragam, as we don’t get to hear this ragam often. Urmika mirrored Shashvath’s ragam beautifully, and this was followed by Sri. Koteeswara Iyer’s composition, “mOhanakara muthukumara”, set to Rupaka Thalam. Something interesting about this composer is that Sri. Koteeswara Iyer has composed at least one song in all of the melakartha ragams, and the audience was fortunate that Shashvath presented one of the melakartha ragam compositions.  Just as his alapana, Shashvath’s kalpanaswarams showed his grip on the ragam and Urmika did well with her retorts. Shreyas gave a spirited accompaniment on the mridangam and it brightened the presentation that much more.

Niyati Sriram:

The final performance of this event was that of  Niyati Sriram on the vocal, Vittal Tirumalai on the violin and Akshay Aravindan on the mridangam. Niyati began with an alapana in the ragam Saveri, a janya of the 15th melakartha ragam, Maya Malava Gowla. Saveri ragam is known for the Karuna-rasa (compassion) that it evokes in the listener.  Niyati showcased the clear gamakams in the Rishabham and the Daivatham notes in her alapana. Vittal’s response to this matched the feat equally as he passionately brought out the most of the signature prayogams Following the raga alapana was Periyasamy Thooran’s composition, “murugA murugA” set to Misra Chapu Talam. For her manodharmam, Niyati chose the charanam line, “senthil managar vAzhum dEvAdi dEvanE” for niraval and swarams with Vittal following her closely.  The accompaniment that Akshay gave was highly spirited and enthusiastic and complimented the vocalist and the violinist.


To conclude, today’s program showed in a nutshell the vastness and the complex nature of Carnatic music system, its ragams, and how a subtle change in the swarams or order of swarams gives each ragam its unique identity and flavor   Each of the ragams that the students performed and the way they presented them had something for all to enjoy and learn from. Our best wishes to all the performers, for a bright musical future and we look forward to many more such events from CCC.