Sunday, September 20, 2020

Rowdy Baby : Two Dances


Was meaning to write this post since the time the video of 'Rowdy Baby' song was released but for some reason or the other, it was not written. As they say, 'Better late than never'. So he we go.

Sai Pallavi came to everyone's notice from the film, 'Premam'. There is a less than one minute sequence where she dances and that sequence, nowadays called 'Malar Teacher Dance', became a big hit. Sai Pallavi's dance left everyone breathless, like the hero of the movie, Nivin Pauly. If you have not seen that dance, he it is.

Even in this extremely brief dance sequence there is so much joy in her dancing.

I am not much of movie watcher, so I didn't see much of Sai Pallavi till 'Rowdy Baby' from 'Maari 2' happened. What a riot of song it turned out to be. An eminently dance-able tune with some great choreography, the song was an instant hit. First watch the song

I was fascinated by this song mainly for Sai Pallavi. In the recent past, I haven't seen a female lead dominate the screen like she did in this song. Dhanush does a good job but you can't take your eyes off Sai Pallavi. I saw a reaction video of a lady in US, who exclaimed the same thing after seeing song. "Sorry guys. I was just watching this girl. I didn't watch the guy". There is lot which is good about this song. The music of Yuvan Shankar Raja energetic orchestration, the funky choreography of Prabhu Deva, the art direction and the cinematography are all top class. As I said, Danush also does a good job. Inspite of all this, Sai Pallavi makes this song her own. She just eclipses everything else.

What contributes to Sai Pallavi's stunning performance is not just the fact that she is an amazing dancer. It is the energy and joy that she radiates. She is enjoying herself to the fullest extent possible and the dance is incidental. It is as if the key is enjoyment and today she decided that she would express her enjoyment through dance. Every step oozes joy and that is why you cannot take your eyes off her. That she dances like a dream helps. The energy of the dance perfectly complements the energy of the song. As I said earlier, it is an excellent group effort but Sai Pallavi's talent is such that she is able to run away with the song.

This song reminds me of another such song where the female lead ran away with the song. RamGopal Verma's second film, and probably his best, featured Sreedevi. Now Sreedevi had the screen presence to take away the scene from top stars like Amitabh, Chiranjeevi, Rajni etc. 'Kshana Kshanam' was a movie made for her. The dance in 'chali sampuththuna chamakulo' was all Sreedevi. Like Sai Pallavi here, you can see Sreedevi enjoy herself fully. In this song, she stamps her class and makes it clear that she is the Queen. She was an extraordinary talent, who could carry a film on her shoulders. So carrying a song on her shoulders was child's play for her. Like 'Rowdy Baby', this song too is great team work. Wonderful costumes, lovely choreography, eye catch cinematography and more. Yet, Sreedevi walks away with song. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why Classical music?

In a recent youtube video, singers Ranjani and Gayathti, addressed the question, "Why Classical Music?" This was part of their RaGa candid series which they upload on every Monday. (The series has some nice episodes and some so-so episodes).

You can watch their take on 'Why Classical Music?" here

I saw the video and I was quite disappointed. Nothing they said was very specific to classical music. You could apply what they said to any form of music: film music, ghazal, folk music and so on. One of the points they say is that you need to be concentrating on various aspects like sruthi, tala, words etc. The challenge was the same or even tougher in film music. When the orchestra is playing the harmony or sometimes counter melody, the drumming is on and the bass guitar is playing a chord progression, you should be able to sing amidst all these distraction. If you think of singers like Janaki, SPB, Yesudas, Chitra, Jency, Malaysia Vasudevan et al, they would have had a very tough time singing because Raja's music was so complex. Additionally, unlike the classical musician, who knows the piece by heart, these folks would have learnt the tune just then and they have to execute perfectly in sync with the orchestra. (I am ofcourse talking about a different time, when live orchestra was used. Nowadays everyone sings to the click track. The only exceptions being singers singing in a Raja live show). The same way, the other arguments they place in front of you can apply to many other genres of music, not just to classical music.

I will try and write on my own idea about "Why Classical Music?". I am not sure how acceptable my thinking would be to you but let me put this forward anyway. It can be a good way to start a debate on this. The preamble is going to be long. You need to bear with me because I feel I need to set a base so that my ideas can be conveyed effectively.

Every musical form has its own concern. Let us take folk music. (Again, folk music has so much variety and diversity that putting all these under one umbrella is actually unfair. Just for the sake of illustration I can drawing them under one umbrella. I am in awe of the diversity). Folk music's main concern is communication of an idea. The communication has to be immediate and it has to be in such a form that it attracts the listener immediately. So folk music lyrics are typically the lyrics of a common man. They are straight forward and when necessary hard hitting. Abstract imagery or saying things in a roundabout way defeats the purpose. There is lot if excellent imagery in folk poetry but all of them are direct and taken from everyday life. I will give you two example. Both in Telugu.

First, here is Gaddar with his hugely popular, 'bandenka bandi katti'. This was featured in Gautam Ghosh's first feature film, 'Maa Bhoomi'. You can see a very young Gaddar singing here. This was written by Bandi Yadagiri

If you understand Telugu, you will realize the words are direct and very effective. This was song written as a protest against the Nizam rule. The tune is very simple and the interludes are used just to fill the gaps. The aim is to awaken the people. It is not to explore song structure or a raga.

Let's take another song now. This is Goerti Venkanna with his famous 'Latchumamma' song.

Venkanna is an outstanding poet of the people. Observe how the poet takes all the imagery from the village and conveys the beauty of 'Latchumamma'. You could have heard many lovely romantic songs in movies, with lovely orchestration but nothing feels more real to me than this wonderful song. The lyrics are such that you fall in love with the unknown 'Latchumamma'. Also, it is a joy watching Venkanna perform.

In case you want this song with the orchestra and the dancers, here is Goreti singing it solo.

Let us now take a genre like Sufi music or Qawali. Here the basic idea is to tell how insignificant your material life is and how you must approach life spiritually. I do know there are quite a few Qawali's which are funny ones but typically Sufi and Qawali music is all about spirituality. In this context they mainly compose melodies which have a melancholic touch and sometimes create a sense of dread in you. Again, a couple of samples.

'Jaag Musafir' by Shahi, Fareed & Abu Muhammad Qawaal. Arrangements by Rohail Hyatt

The song is about telling people to wake up or else risk losing their life. 'Why do you sleep even now? It is dawn. Wake up' is the call. 'You lost your teen age playing, lost your youth in sleep and your old age now cries. Wake up'. The tune is set in a melody which conveys this perfect.

Here is another very famous Qawali by Aziz Nazan. 'chadtha sooraj'. Once again note the sadness in the melody

Many of you are familiar with ghazals. Their concern is love, love failure and wine. Even the love failure is not something that destroys you. It is a sweet failure many a times. A failure you look back and enjoy. Like that small pain you sometimes experience. A single example.

'ranjish hi sahi'. The original from the Pakistani movie, 'Mohabbat'. Mehdi Hassan's voice, Ahmad Faraz's ghazal and Nizam Bazmi's music.

Ghazal is always associated with the softness of touch as far as the melody and orchestration go. Emotions never go over the top. Everything is subdued.

If you take the case of film, the primary concern is to supplement and complement what happens on the screen. The song or the background music must be in concordance with the requirement of the movie. So you get songs which tell a short story, a song which accentuates the situation, a BGM which fills the silence and keeps the interest intact and so on. Then there are songs which are mainly designed to be marketing material for the movie. Film music takes in all genres and creates a genre of its own to serve the needs of the movie.

Here is an excellent example of how the song explains the situation effectively. 'nilave ennidam mayangadhe' from 'Ramu'. PB Srinivas the singer, Kannadasan the lyricist and M S Vishwanathan the music director.

This song very effectively conveys the love between the hero and heroine. 'valaiyosai' from 'Satya'. Vaali the lyricist. Raja's music. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and SPB

Ofcourse, movie songs take a life of their own later. Initially they are designed with the primary purpose of servicing the needs of a movie.

After this fairly long preamble, we now get to the central question, "Why Classical Music?". In order to answer this, we need to answer the question, "What is the central concern of Classical Music?".  If we answer this, we will get the answer to our main question.

The central concern of Carnatic and Hindustani classical music is to explore the possibilities of sound. Whatever we call raaga is nothing but structured sound. How can we put restrictions on sound to get a melody, a mood or a color? This has been the major themes that all classical composers have been dealing with. The exploration of sound with certain structural limitation is the raaga.

It is important to note that raaga per se has no real 'usefulness' just like mathematics. Before you outrage, let me try and explain this. Let us take the case of twin primes. These are two prime numbers separated by a number in between, i.e. the difference between these two primes is 2. (5,7), (11,13), (41,43) are some examples of twin primes. Mathematicians are still researching if there infinite twin primes or there is some limit in the number line after which no twin prime appears. In case there are finite twin primes, which is the largest twin prime? These questions have not yet been answered.

Is there some major use finding the answer to the question whether there are infinite twin primes? Is it needed to solve some real world problem? The honest truth according to a mathematician would be, "I don't care". A mathematician just wants to understand the structure of the number line, distribution of primes and other solve other such problems without thinking on the need for such a solution. The only purpose that a mathematician would solve such problems is that the problem exists and her only objective is to understand why it is so. If it turns out that the solution later has a real world application, that is incidental. All said and done, the world as we know today is indebted to all these mathematician who worked on abstract problems and didn't ask, "Will this be useful to the society?". A scientifically developed society is the one which understands the 'uselessness' of science and mathematics and encourages it.

Classical music is similar. It starts with an abstraction called the raga. (In our system that is). Raga does not have a purpose. It is not designed in order to communicate an emotion. It is designed mainly as an abstract intellectual exercise. In some cases, the raga would have been born in the imagination of a folk artist. It may a certain structure. This can then developed further and slowly we can experiment with the structure and understanding why the raga sounds the way it does. What constraints work, what doesn't. What exactly is the structure? How do you keep the structure intact and how do exceptions work? What combination of notes give beauty to the structure? Landing on which note enhances the beauty and so on.

For a composer in Carnatic music, developing the raga through the krithi is the main aim. Tyagaraja does this by adding sangatis. You can see the raga getting expanded and the possibilities emerging in front of your eyes as sangathi after sangathi is added. Slowly the shape of the raga evolves. Yet, a krithi is not the complete raga and that is what makes classic music such a fascinating subject. The abstractness of the music ensures that with just some minor changes you get to see various facets of a raga. It is the abstractness that gives great power to Classical music.

Given that we have twelve swarasthanas, we find that permutation and combinations of these notes is huge and when you add what we call vakra sancharas, the number of ragas explodes. The soundscape and the grammar allow for newer ragas to be developed. This mental challenge is what draws some people to classical music. There is a scope to dwell on the abstract. You can experiment any which way you want to without really having to service anything except the ears of the listener.

For a performer, classical music offers the 'manodharma'. The performer before her has the abstract notion of a raga. What sort of edifice she builds is fully upto her. She can go and build something grand or something stunningly modern or build something cliched. Slowly the performer understands the relationship between notes, how stressing on a note changes the mood, how linger on a note changes the color and so on. This is very different from other kinds of composed singing where you need to perfect a composition.

From a listener's perspective, the abstractness gives her joy. She doesn't know what the artist sort of structure the artist would build today. Every new phrase brings joy. Any unanticipated phrase sends a thrill down the spine. Well established phrase give comfort. The keen attentiveness needed to listen to classical music is what gives the learned rasikas her joy. (I must put a caveat here. I am only referring to the rasika who enjoys raga music. Rasikas attend a concert for various reasons and my argument may not be applicable to all rasikas)

 Ofcourse the amount of abstraction in the performative aspect of Carnatic and Hindustani music differs a lot. Hindustani concert has much more abstraction in its performance. Carnatic concerts on the other hand are a combination of structure music and abstract music.

To summarize, raaga music is abstract music. We concertize this in many ways. By using the ragas in various genres, we try and give a certain shape to the raga. We compose in such a way as to make you feel certain emotions using a raga. Raga though is not about emotion, it is not about a certain kind of structure, it is much more abstract. When you take the case of mathematics, you realize that the abstract forms the foundation for the real. It is the same with classical music.

(In a similar way, we find that in carnatic music, we can experiment a lot with rhythm. I abstain from writing much about it since my knowledge of rhythm is very limited.)

Since we have discussed a lot on the abstract nature of the raga,  let me give you some example before I close. Enjoy these clips.

Sri.Pillappan playing an amazing Sahana, the very first phrase of which brings me joy every time.

'O Rangasayi' by M S Subbulakshmi. Check how Tyagaraja makes the abstract Kambhoji by adding sangathi after sangathi.

Mallikarjun Mansur singing 'Deva Deva satsang' in raag Sawani. Observe the audience interaction in this audio.

Amir Khan singing Ramdasi Malhar. Any Malhar, maybe every raga, sounds so wonderful in his voice

Kishori Amonkar with an outstanding rendition of Bhoop.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Khayyam: A poet amongst music directors

Yesterday (19th Aug 2019) came the news that Khayyam saab has passed away at a ripe old age of 92. With him, an era has truly ended, with all the music directors of his times having passed away earlier. This is a humble tribute to this wonderful music director.

The first time I heard the name Khayyam was when 'Kabhi Kabhi' was released. I was in school those days and even then I had this habit of checking out who the music director was for a particular movie. The posters of those times used to have this clearly marked. R D Burman, Kalyanji Anandji, Shankar Jaikishen, Laxmikanth Pyarelal were some of the well known names during those times. So I was seeing a totally new name now. Khayyam.

The songs of 'Kabhi Kabhi' were major hits. Mainly the title song and 'main pal do pal ka shayar hoon'. Everyone was fascinated by these songs. Listen to how the music and lyrics merge in 'main pal do pal ka shayar hoon'. Lyrics of Sahir.

Amitabh, by then, was on the ascendancy as an angry young man. He did do films earlier "Chupke Chupke' and Mili' but at this time, his action image had caught people's imagination. Yash Chopra took a risky bet on giving him a mellow social drama instead of the standard revenge fare. The risk succeeded. Along with Yash Chopra's direction, his choice of locales, it was Khayyam's music which enabled people to connected to the movie and make it a hit in the box office.

The next time I noticed Khayyam's name in the poster was in 'Trishul'. It was a bit of a surprise seeing Khayyam score for Amitabh films since we generally saw LP, KA or RDB score music for his films. The music was quite different from the standard music of Amitabh films and we should thank Yash Chopra for giving Khayyam a chance to compose such excellent melodies. 'Trishul' though was not a typical Khayyam score is my opinion. The songs were quite big hits but the strong Khayyam signature you saw in other songs was missing in this movie.

Then came 'Noorie', whose title song was another hit and this carried the signature of Khayyam saab. I think this was the debut film of Poonam Dhillon. The film and the song became big hits. Lyrics by Jan Nissar Akhtar.

Noorie was one of those innocent love stories with fresh faces. Such stories appear from time to time. They commonly depend on certain facts: the newness of the lead pair, a strong story and good music. Even now, such movie happen once in a while. Here Poonam Dhillon and Farooque Sheik wer the fresh faces,  the story was a romantic tragedy helmed by Yash Chopra and Khayyam provided the music. The music did help the movie a lot and this was also a much spoken about movie of those times.

I found out more about Khayyam when I moved to a hostel to do my graduation. It is here that I discovered some amazing songs of Khayyam and then on I went looking for them. The first song that made a great impact on me was 'sham-e-gham-ki-kasam' from 'Footpath'. Wiki credits both Majrooh and Sardar Jafri as lyricist.

I initially heard this song in 'Best of Talat Mehmood' tape and was immediately blown away by both the lyrics and the tune. This was one of early movies of Khayyam which established him as a Music Director of repute and people started noticing that a new melody maker is on the horizon. The excellent lyrics, the tender voice of Talat Mahmood and Khayyam's signature style of tuning a poem give us an immortal melody.

Another discovery around the same period was this angst ridden melody, 'chino-arab-hamara' from 'Phir Subah Hogi'. Lyrics of Sahir.

The lyrics are typical Sahir. This movie was an adaptation of 'Crime and Punishment' of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, generally considered as of the greatest novels of the world. Sahir brings in an anger to the song as only he can. The way Khayyam tunes the lyrics ensures you get to clearly the sarcastic tone of the lyrics. Raj Kappor and Khayyam is not a combination you see often. This was the one time it happened.

The other discovery was this Mohd. Rafi gem from 'Shankar Hussain', 'kahin ek maasom nazuk si ladki' . Lyrics of Kamal Amrohi

As you can hear, the whole song is about how the poem is enhanced by the music. This film also had a couple of lovely Lata numbers, 'aap hyun faaslon se' and 'apne aap raaton ko'

Another Rafi beauty which established Khayyam's reputation as a melody maker. From the film, 'Shola Aur Shabnam', the song 'jaane kya dhoondthi rahti hai'. Lyrics by Kaifi Azmi.

'tum apna gham apni pareshani mujhe de do' from 'Shagun'. Sung by Jagjit Kaur, his wife. Lyrics by Sahir

Khayyam married Jagit Kaur in 1954. She was Punjabi and Khayyam was a Muslim. Supposed to be one of the first inter communal marriages in Indian film industry. They lived together as a very happy and contended couple. There is an interview with them when Khayyam had turned 90. The way the couple carried themselves, the respect they had for each other and the deep understanding between them comes out very well in this interview. It is slightly long time but will be worth watching for this wonderful couple.

After 'Noorie', the next movie whose songs were liked by all was 'Bazaar'. The movie too created ripples. 'phir chidi raat baat phoolon ki' from this movie. Lata and Talat Aziz. Lyrics by Makhdoom Mohiuddin

Baazar was directed by Sagar Sarhadi and starred some of the key actors of the parallel cinema movement: Naseerudin Shah, Smita Patil, Farooque Sheik and Supriya Pathak. Based in Hyderabad, this was a tragedy which spoke about girls being married off to rich expatriates in Gulf without their consent. The movie was acclaimed critically and the music became very famous. Other than 'phir chidi raat', Lata's 'dikayi diye to bekhud kiya' and Bhupinder's 'karoge yaad to har ik baat yaad ayegi' used to be played regularly in those days.

Kishore is a singer you wouldn't immediately associate with Khayyam the way you would associate Rafi or Talat, given the soft touch which Khayyam gave in his songs. Yet, Kishore has given some lovely songs with Khayyam. Here is one such from the movie 'Dil-e-Nadan'. 'chandni raat mein ik bar tujhe dekha hai'

'Dil-E-Nadan' was the remake of the hit Tamil movie, 'Ilamai Unjaladugiradhu'. Sridhar who directed the Tamil movie also directed the Hindi version which starred Rajesh Khanna and Shatrugan Sinha. Unfortunately, the result in Hindi was exactly opposite that in Tamil. In Tamil and Telugu the movie was a big hit, in Hindi it was a major flop.

I have kept the most popular film for the last. Though Khayyam has so many great films and melodies against his name, the one film that always crops up when you mention Khayyam saab is Umrao Jaan. It was a path breaking film and all those associated with the film profited from it. Muzzafar Ali, Rekha, Asha and Khayyam all got National Awards.  The film will forever be associated with Khayyam for his amazing music. Each song a gem. I will now post two songs from this movie instead of one. Lyrics were by Sharyar, who was very choosy when it came to writing lyrics for movies. He and Muzzafar Ali were friends and classmates. So he gave some amazing poetry for this movie.

'yeh kya jagah hai doston' by Asha Bhosle.

'zindagi jab bhi tere' by Talat Aziz

If you were to analyze these songs which I had posted, you will notice one thing, how the poetry stands out. Khayyam worked with some great poets and tuned their poetry to perfection. There were lot of music directors in olden days who first wanted the lyrics to be written and would only then set tune. The would never give a tune first. K V Mahadevan is known for it. It is said that he has never set the tune first for even a single song. MSV had set lot of Kannadasan's lyrics to music. I think music directors like Anil Biswas also had the lyrics first approach.

The one way that Khayyam differed from them was that most of them wanted to give us a tune. Their idea was to set tune to the poetry. 'Tune' being the operative word here. Khayyam on the other hand gave us poetry, melodious poetry. He enhanced the poetry with his tune but what we got was a poem. Musical poem yes, but a poem nevertheless. His music so enhanced the poem that if you were to take away his music, the poem's effect would diminish and yet you are not overwhelmed by the music. This can happen only if the music director has a very good ear for poetry and language. Khayyam saab did have both of them as his songs demonstrate to us again and again. His love for the language ensured we heard some great lyrics in his songs and his respect for poetry ensured we heard the poem very clearly. That is why I say that Khayyam was a poet amongst music directors. He did not give us tunes, he gave us enhanced poetry. You can find such sensitivity in some songs of other music directors as well but they are rare. Like, 'malargal nanandhana paniyale' of  K V Mahadevan, 'yeh kaisi ajab daastan' of Sajjad Hussain.

I will leave you with this clip. In this Rajkumar pulls Anil Biswas's leg, Naushad give his opinion on the current music. Then Khayyam saab picks up the mike to honor his seniors, telling as to who composed the songs and ending with, "It will be injustice if we didn't tell their names". What a great gentleman. (Wish all the sites give credit to the lyricist of the songs. Most sites just put the singer and MD's names. I am sure Khayyam saab would have been unhappy with this situation)

We have lost a great music director, an excellent gentleman and a man who possessed great aesthetic sense. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Semmangudi and Song Structure

July 25th was the 111th birth anniversary of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. On this occasion I had written a thread on Twitter on him. I am expanding it here and saving for future reference.

One of the aspect of his music that I love is the way he structures a krithi. There are many ways to sing a krithi. Semmangudi believes in structuring the krithi in such a way that it is highlights the development of a raga. By structure, I mean his selection of sangatis, how many times you repeat a line, how you phrase the words, the pauses, everything. This gives it an order. And once this order is established, it is repeatable. The important thing is just not just the selection of sangatis but in which order they are sung. The idea is to slowly reveal the range of the raga. Each sangati must very naturally flow into the next one. This is how the edifice of the raga is built using the krithi. Once this structure for a particular krithi is established, this becomes what is commonly called as a 'patantharam'. It is very common to hear, this Semmangudi's 'patantharam' or DKP's 'patantharam' and so on. 

A small digression here. Rasikas are in common agreement that Tyagaraja krithis had sangatis and Dikshitar kritis didn't have the concept of sangatis. Even in Tyagaraja krithis what sangatis we hear are not just what sangatis were present when Tyagaraja composed them but many got added later by performing vidwans. So what we hear are krithis which have been polished over the ages. 

As a first example, hear this majestic Kambhoji krithi, O Ranga Sayee. This is the Semmangudi patantharam. I personally love MS's rendition more, so I am putting it up here instead of Semmangudi's. You can see how Kambhoji is developed one sangati at a time. MS delivers it with a precision which only a few are capable of. "M.S. Subbulakshmi is the best exemplar of the kriti structure that his research and practise honed to perfection" says Gowri Ramnarayan

 Many have spoken about this aspect of Semmangudi's music. R K Sreeramkumar on a lec dem on Semmangudi calls this 'chittai seiyardhu' and refers to Seetha Rajan and Padma Sugavanam's rendition of Dikshitar Navavarna krithis to highlight how Semmangudi set the structure. T M Krishna in a article, written when Semmangudi passed away, spoke about structure and repeatability. He said he was in Semmangudi's house when MS walked in and all 3 sang a Bhairavi krithi and he was surprised by the unison though they have never practiced together. 

R K Sreeramkumar also spoke of this. He was in US when a lady in US, who had learnt from Semmangudi wanted to sing a krithi along with him. RKS says that he was stunned when they sang in unison, without missing even a sangati. That lady had learnt from SSI 40 yrs before RKS.'avarukku anga maanaseegama namaskaram pannen' said Sreeramkumar. There was also a video published which had lot of students of PSN singing the Dvijavanthi krithi 'chetasri' and they were singing in perfect unison, though the occasion was an informal one.

Here are Semmangudi's disciples singing 'Chetasri' in Dvijawanthi.

The structuring also tells us about the aesthetic value the artist holds. Which sangatis come in and which don't give you an idea of the musical values of the artist. It also tells us how they would have cogitated before arriving at certain musical decisions. Once these aesthetics are imbibed by the disciples, a 'bani' emerges. Semmangudi 'bani' is quite famous now and one of the reasons is the way he structured the krithi. In Gowri Ramanarayan's words, "..krithi structure that his research and practise honed to perfection"

 Not all artists are like Kishori Tai, who can clearly expound her values. We need to find out the aesthetics of artists ourselves from their art. In Semmangudi case though there are some interviews where he talks about his perception of music. He answers the questions as why he sings neraval/swaras for 'amba kamakshi' and also tells how to get the swaroopa of Natai in a few strokes. A gem of a video.

I believe Semmangudi would have put in great effort to structure and polish certain krithis. Semmangudi learnt from Umayalpuram Swaminatha Iyer, Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer & Gottu Vadhyam Sakaram Rao. Later he also learnt from Brinda. There are some krithis, which I have a feeling he must have learnt from notation.

I am going to play some krithis, which he probably didn't learn from a guru. (I may be completely mistaken though). Anyway these krithis are brilliantly structured. I start with 'vadanyeswaram' in Devagandhari. I haven't heard anyone of the older generation singing this krithi. And as far as I know this may be the only recording of Semmangudi singing this krithi. Excellent rendition and the mridangam, especially in the start of the charanam, is top class.

Next, 'rama neevadhukondhuvo' in Kalyani.Superbly structured. Given this is a Tyagaraja krithi he may have got it from Umayalpuram Swaminatha Iyer or Vishwanatha Iyer but I am sure he put in his thoughts to give the final shape.
 The Dikshitar krithi, 'agasteeswaram' in Lalitha. I don't think any of his gurus knew this song. He probably learnt it from notation and gave it his touch. Such a wonderful krithi and rendition. Invokes a meditative mood. Observe how he ensures that the meditative mood is not lost. That is one of his key aesthetics. He is not interested in playing to the gallery when it comes to the krithi. In ragas like Lalitha, the mood as to be kept intact. As usual superb accompaniments.
Another wonderful Lalitha. Once again observe how keen he is to maintain the mood of the raga. 'hiranmayim lakshmim' 

I would also like to bring to attention one fact. His structuring of a krithi was very much in keeping with the spirit of the composer's structure. That means his Dikshitar kritis are structured differently than say Tyagaraja krithis. In Dikshitar krithis, he doesn't destroy the edifice of Dikshitar. He adds value to that structure and leaves his imprint behind without changing the overall structure (The Dhanammal school and DKP also did this impressively).
A wonderful Yadhukula Kambhoji of Subbarama Dikshitar, 'parthasarathy'. I haven't heard anyone of the generation earlier than him sing this. Infact I have heard very few singing this. The structure you get is very much Semmangudi's.
Syama Sastry krithis were given their due respect. The brilliant swarajathi, 'rave himagiri kumari' in Todi. Again I think he learnt this and structured this on his own from notation. MS also sings it wonderfully.

'mahalakshmi karunarasa lahari' in Madhava Manohari. What a brilliant song and structure. Hats off to Dikshitar. MS I think must have learnt from Semmangudi. This version of 'mahalakshmi' is slightly different from the DKP version. I think DKP version is in oru kalai.
I spoke about the Kamalamba Navavarna krithis, which were polished by Semmangudi. They were sung by Seetha Rajan and her students. Here is the Sahana krithi. To me, Seetha Rajan rendition has been the best as far as Navarana krithis are concerned. I listen to this and Shankarabaram krithi atleast once a week and can do nothing but prostrate in front of Dikshitar every time I hear them. What amazing moving and majestic constructs. Hats off to Semmangudi for teaching this to Seetha Rajan and for her and students for delivering these flawlessly. All I can say is that we are lucky that such music exists.
Another krithi that glows due to the polish Semmangudi gave it is 'sree ramam' in Narayana Gowla. Semmangudi was the one who popularised it. Whoever sings it today, is probably singing the Semmangudi version. Sanjay Subramaniam had written long back that Semmangudi asked him if he knew this krithi and when Sanjay replied in the negative, he asked him to come home and learn it from him. 

He did sing a lot of Dikshitar krithis, which he must have learnt from notation. (He probably did learn some of them like 'chetasri', dakshinamurthe', 'sankaracharyam' from Brinda). 'Balakrishnam Bhavayami', 'Amba Neelayadakshi' are some krithis that shine in his rendition.

As I said earlier, he probably got Tyagaraja krithis from his gurus, but he did polish them using his own intelligence, so that they achieved an unique glow. Here he is with 'nama kusumamula' in Sriragam.

The very rare Tyagaraja song in Nattakurunji, 'manasu vishaya'

Finally, 'tulasi jagajjanani' 

Semmangudi's contribution to Carnatic music has been immense. One thing that future generations will remember him for will be this aspect of his, the structuring of krithis. He not only made lot of rare krithis popular, he gave them a charming shape without compromising on the values of Carnatic music.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Sahana and Pillappan

Sahana is a quintessential carnatic ragam. We don't find this ragam in Hindustani music. Ofcourse we can't expect such vakra ragas in Western music. Any phrase of Sahana is enough to give you a sense of joy and peace. This raga is well suited for portraying 'karuna rasa'.

As you know, in Carnatic music we have both kalpana sangeetham and kalpita sangeetham. In case of kalpita sangeetham, pre-composed music, the greatest Sahana must be 'meragadu rammanave', the kshetragnar padam. The best rendition of it, no surprise here, was by Brinda and Mukta. There is a CD of Brinda Mukta, AIR recording of Padams and Javalis. The rendition in that is outstanding with both of them in top form. In the clip below, this padam starts around the 1hr 35m mark.

From the krithi perspective, the most famous Sahana would be 'Giripai' and MD Ramanathan's rendition is generally accepted as the golden standard for this krithi. The record he gave of this song (for HMV) was played often on AIR and was very popular.

This krithi also has the distinction of being one of the last krithis composed by Tyagaraja.

Others like MS and Maharajapuram Santhanam have also sung this krithi.

Not many Dikshitar krithis have become popular in Sahana though he has a composed a few of them like in Kamalamba Navavarnam and Abhayambha krithi. Here we have Seetha Rajan and disciple singing 'Kamalambikayah' in Sahana.

It is surprising that the man whose krithis dipped of karuna rasa, Syama Sastry, did not compose a krithi in Sahana.

Tyagaraja has other great krithis in this ragam as well. One of them is 'emanadhichchevo'. Here is Brinda singing this short charming krithi, prefacing it with an brief alapani.

Another popular Tyagaraja krithi is 'vandanamu raghunandana' from Prahalada Bhakta Vijayam. This was made popular in the concert stage by DKP. It is a simple but charming krithi with the rhyming pattern giving us a lot of joy.

'E Vasudha' is another Tyaragaja krithi that is often sung. This is one of the Kovur Pancaratna krithis, five krithis dedicated to Sundareswara at Kovur. Here is R.K.Srikantan singing this in an unhurried manner. Observe the strength of his voice even at that age. Amazing personality.

There is another krithi, 'dehi tava pada bhaktim' which is not as often heard as the ones quoted here. Here are the Mambalam sisters singing this krithi during Tyagaraja aradhana.

'Raghupathe Rama' is another Tyagaraja krithi, which is rare but in this season I heard it being sung in more than one concert. D K Jayaraman with this krithi.

Moving to kalpana sangeetham, I guess all of you will have your own favorites. MDR's Sahana was one always sought out. Then there is Semmangudi singing a couple of line from the navarasa sloka in Sahana and what brilliant Sahana it is. Sahana is apt for the line 'karunyam bali bhojane'

I thought these were the best Sahanas in kalpita sangeetham. A couple of months back a friend of mine posted a nadaswaram clip on Facebook and the very first phrase of Sahana played by the vidvan blew me away. Then I listened to the whole clip transfixed. Here was a man practising his art in a temple and producing an excellent Sahana. Later found out that his name was Pillappan and he is from Paganeri, a small town close to Sivagangai. What an extraordinary artist. So many phrases he plays are possible only on the nadaswaram. You never know where great artists are hidden in this land. I end this post by bowing before this great artist. Hope you will enjoy his playing as well.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Carnatic Music and Hinduism

I am sure everyone who is following Carnatic music would have by now heard of the various controversies pertaining to Carnatic musicians singing Christian songs and so on. A lot of people have expressed their opinion on this and as usual, people who have no interest in Carnatic music have jumped in as well as they see this as an opportunity to establish their 'liberal' or 'traditional' credentials. There have many unfortunate Carnatic musicians who have become victims of the shrill shouting. In this article, I do not want to talk on these issues (they have already been debated enough) but rather would want to see what sort of challenge we have if we want to expand Carnatic music move beyond Hindu religion and also discuss if such a need exists at all.

Let us ask this question first. "Does Carnatic music belong only to the Hindus?". The answer is obvious: NO. Carnatic music is a musical form and it belongs to the world. Having said that, we also need to answer another question. "Is Carnatic music intricately linked with Hindu religion?". Once again the answer is obvious: YES. It is very difficult to strip Carnatic music of its Hindu nature.

I had once attended what was called a 'Mini MBA' program in which a Professor of Strategy from one of IIMs was talking about 'path advantage' (It has been a while since I attended this course so my terminology may not be exact.) He said that if a company is at a certain position it is because of a certain path it has taken and it is possible that learnings in this path will provide them with an advantage as they move forward. So we also need to look at the path Carnatic music has taken rather than talk of Carnatic music in isolation. As if whatever is good or bad in Carnatic music happened in the last decade. Understanding the history will give us a better grip on the sort of problem we have in hand and can give us some on how to solve it.

Historically, Hindustani music seems to have always had a secular facet to it and we all know of the great Muslim masters who enriched the art and who were in the forefront of various gharanas. The khayal lyrics are generally about love, longing, weather and so on. Carnatic music, on the other hand, has always been closely associated with Hinduism. In Carnatic music itself, we can say there are two types: one, what we hear in the concert halls, the other is the music derived from Pann. Pann is the Tamil name for ragam and Tamil Isai (Tamil Music) has a hoary history having been mentioned in Silappadikaram, an ancient text. Pann, more than the other form, is intricately meshed with the devotional output of the Nayanmars. The artists who sing Devarams and Tiruvasagam, sing them based on Panns. These artists are known as Othuvars. As far as I know, Panns are not used beyond the rendering of Shaivaite hymns.

The other side of Carnatic music, the one we hear nowadays, is also closely linked to Hindu religion and philosophy. The music and religion combination did not happen during the Trinity period but has been so centuries before they composed their immortal krithis. Annamayya of Talapaka, Jayadeva, Bhakta Ramadas and Sangita Pitamaha Purandaradasa have all composed piece using Carnatic ragas. Their krithis were just not about ragas but also about the god they served and the philosophy they followed. So when the great Masters of the Tanjavur delta set out to compose their krithis, they already had their musical ancestors works with them.

I speak about the Trinity here because every art form has its canon. In case of Carnatic music, the works of the Trinity form that canon. Every other major piece is Carnatic music will be judged against the quality of the compositions of the trinity. This is inevitable since these three composers laid the path and took Carnatic music to a different level altogether. Today, the same people trouble you when you want to break the shackles of Hindusim and 'liberate' carnatic music.

Liberation can come in two forms. One, with the complete negation of the past. Second, expanding the art to include newer pieces which break with the past. Let us take a couple of examples from the west and we see that rather than negate and reject the past, western art has expanded the possibilities of the art.

First, let us look at the Western painting. In the earlier times, most paintings had religious themes. All of us know of the 'Last Supper' of Da Vinci. We also know that Michelangelo pained the Sistine Chapel and so on. I saw a small write-up in Tate Museum, London, wherein the works of the English painter, Turner, were being exhibited. The write-up said that there was a lot of criticism of Turner's work during his times since critics felt that paintings should always be of religious themes and only those gave gravitas to the painting. Turner painted landscapes and hence was scorned upon. Later days, western painting moved away from religious themes and we had the Impressionists who painted nature, then we had the Expressionists, who were reacting to the external, the Cubists like Picasso and the abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Rothko. Seeing a painting of say Raphael and Pollock side by side, you can make out how much distance western painting has covered and how it has moved away from being a religious activity to being a form of self-expression.

It was a very similar trajectory in Western Classical music as well. Some of the great counterpoint melodies were composed by Johann Sebastian Bach for the church. There were other great composers like Handel, Haydn and so on who also composed religious. In fact, you can look up the impact of Christianity on Western Classical music on the web and you will that lots of composers had composed religious music. At the same time, there is enough non-religious music in Western Classical Music. Music which is more used for self-expression than for expounding religion.

The modern masters, who did not paint religious themes or compose religious works, did not really reject the past masters. We need to ask the question, "Will removing the works of the past masters, works which were religious in nature, enhance the art and make it grow?". The answer would be that when such pieces of art are removed, it diminishes the art rather than enhancing it. That is the problem Carnatic music would also face if we want to eliminate the past.

The problem of Carnatic music is that even though its primary concern is about the possibilities of sound, which we call raga, these possibilities cannot be explored without learning the krithis. The krithis happen to be religious in nature. The great S.Ramanathan in one of his lec dem speaks about Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer singing an elaborate Atana. Madurai Mani Iyer, who was in the audience, walks upto Vishwanatha Iyer after the concert and asks him, "Anna, how is it possible for you to sing such an elaborate Atana?". Vishwanatha Iyer asks Mani Iyer, "How many krithis do you know in Atana?". MMI replies, "Only one, 'anupama gunambudhim'. MVI replies, "I know 30 pieces in Atana. So think of how much of Atana I would have imbibed. Learn a lot of krithis in the ragam. It will help your imagination".  Semmangudi Srinivas Iyer, in an interview (available in youtube) says that he gets lots of Bhairavi when he sings the Syama Sastry's masterpiece Swarajathi, 'Kamakshi'. He sings the phrase 'baktha jana kalpa lathika' and then starts singing swaras there. He ends the swaras and says, 'See how much Bhairavi you can get'. This is in contrast with Hindustani where the lines of the khayal probably give you only a starting point and then it is upto the musician to discover the raga. In Carnatic music, every music discovers the raga when he sings the varnams and the krithis.

So how do we expand Carnatic Music beyond its Hindu roots? For the time being, let us not debate on whether we should compose on Jesus and Allah or some other non-Hindu God. Rather let us look at the proposition of using Carnatic music for self-expression, wherein the lyrics of a particular krithi reveal the state of mind of the composer. A state of mind which is not religious. It is said that a lot of great Western Music symphonies were created by the masters to express their state of mind: the joy and sorrow they felt, the pain they had to undergo before a final resolution and so on. Can such a work exist in Carnatic music? Here is where the canon comes into play. If you compose such a piece and want to sing it as a central piece in a concert, then that piece should match up to the canonical works of carnatic music. Otherwise, the audience would reject it. So a Kambhoji krithi which speaks about the emotions of the composer or maybe speaks about the wonders of nature must measure up to the Kambhoji that an 'O Ranga Sayee' or 'Sri Subramanyaya Namaste' or 'Evari Mata' is able to conjure. Only then will it slowly enter the canon.

How some works of art become standard work of that art is a complicated process. It has something to do with the inherent quality in itself, how the public views it and how the critics view it and how it survives over a period of time. So composing a piece and getting it to become a standard in Carnatic music concert is not an easy job. Semmangudi sang and popularized a lot of Swathi Tirunal songs. Yet today, the number of Swati Tirunal songs you hear in concerts is limited. Many artists including Chitravina Ravikiran have been singing and trying to popularize Oothukadu Venkata Subbaiyer songs. Again the numbers you hear in concerts are very limited. In both cases, the efforts put in have been high and yet the acceptance has not been high. (On the other hand, I see more Dikshitar krithis slowly making their way into concert platform, krithis which were not heard earlier.)  This will give you an idea of the challenge one would face when they introduce a new non-religious piece into the concert. I can understand why many artists would balk at the suggestion of singing non-religious and unheard of pieces. As it is, for most carnatic musicians, getting an audience in tough. They would obviously fear that they would alienate the meagre crowd if they start singing non-standard piece. I can't blame them.

Another way of getting pieces into Carnatic music would be to expand the audience and pull in new folks to listen to this art form. T M Krishna has been trying to take the art to places it has not gone till now. While the intent is good, whether it has expanded the listeners base may be still early to tell.  When the new audience comes in the expectation would be that they would come with the baggage that the standard audience carries. While theoretically, it may be true, in practice any new audience will look up to the standard audience for guidance and slowly the prejudices get transferred. (Finding newer audience has always been a problem for Carnatic music. In fact, some of the second rung artists would say that finding an audience itself is a problem)

So is Carnatic music destined to be stuck to its Hindu roots? Can't we break the shackles? The answer lies in the dedication and the vision of the artists. This can only be achieved by artists and composers. You cannot dictate the audience and ask them to listen to all piece and prove that they are 'liberal'. Instead, the composers must come up with compositions of great quality and the artists must regularly sing these compositions so that the audience slowly starts identifying the composition and then accept the composition as a genuine Carnatic composition.

As I said earlier, the Trinity has given us innumerable gems. They have set the standard. They are to be revered. At the same time, their works are the high barrier which any modern non-religious composition has to cross in order to be successful.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Kanu Roy: The unknown music director

(Kanu Roy)

Kanu Roy is not a well-known music director. He has worked only on a few Hindi films and yet he has given songs which are long lasting. I will put up a few of them here.

First up, this lovely song 'boliye surili boliya' from the film 'Grihavpravesh'. The lyrics of Gulzar.  Sung by Bhupinder and Sulakshana Pandit.

I would suggest you listen to the song and not see the visuals :) The song setup is very nice. The melody is top class and Sulakshana Pandit does the fun part very well. This is the domain of people like SPB and Janaki. Sulakshana Pandit matches them in this regard.

I had first heard of Kanu Roy when I heard a Manna Dey song 'phir kahin kohi phool kila'. I came to know Kanu Roy was a friend of Basu Bhattacharya and gave the music to some of his films. Here is the lovely 'phir kahin'

Kanu Roy also gave us another melodic Manna Dey number 'hanse ki chaha ne' from 'Avishkar'

And finally, it was Kanu Roy who gave Geeta Dutt her last songs. 'meri jaan' from Anubhav

'koi chupke se aake' is another famous song from Anubhav

'kaali pyala' from the movie 'Sparsh' in the voice of Sulakshana Pandit. A nice melody

Here is an article about Geeta Dutt singing for Kanu Roy: 

Here is an article in which Gulzar talks about Kanu Roy: 

Wish he had given more songs. His melodies are definitely addictive.

Rajavin Ramanamalai

Recently, 'Rajavin Ramanamalai' was released. This title could cause some confusion as a title named 'Ramanamalai' with Raja's tunes had been released earlier. As it stands, we have two Ramanamalais. I am going to write my opinion on the second Ramanamalai.

This album has a total of 10 songs, 8 of which are tuned by Raja and 2 of them tuned by a person called KVS and orchestrated by Raja. Let's have a look at the songs.

Except for the Bombay Jayashree song, 'arunagiri ramanan', all songs start with a small speech of Raja, wherein he talks about Ramana Maharishi. I am including samples of some songs. You can buy the album here:

'thirunalum' - Sung by Raja. This is a wonderful tune. Very simple and touching. I am not sure which raga this is based on. Is it Pahadi? If you know, let me know. The song has a lovely bass line. The orchestration in all songs in kept simple. The chorus adds to the beauty of the song and keeps up the bhajan mood of the song.

'arunagiri ramanan' : Sung by Bombay Jayashree and chorus. This is the simplest song of the album. It is meant for group singing with very little in the way of twists and turns in the tune. That is compensated by the interlude. The first interlude is a gem.

'annamalai saralile' : Sung by Sriram Parthsarathy. Based on Saranga Tharangini ragam. It sounds very close to Hamsanadam. I was told it was not so I am writing Saranga Tharangini. If it sounds like Hamsanadam to you, you are in the same boat as me. A gentle melody with some nice interludes. The soft touch is maintained throughout and Sriram does a nice job.

'idayathai eduthukkondan': Sung by Sriram Parthasarathy. This song will appeal to you almost instantly for it is based on ReethiGowla. Once again some lovely interludes and a charming charanam.

'yaar arivar': Tune composed by KVS and sung by Shankaran Namboodhri. A light classic tune. Shankaran Nambhoodri sings it well.

'edhai adaya': Another KVS composed tune sung by Shankaran Namboodhri. Based on Gowla. Once again a classical sounding composition.

'vedhamum vilakkadha unnai' : Sung by Bombay Jayashree. A lovely tune based on Shanmukhapriya. It becomes better in the charanam. Jayashree's singing adds lustre though sometimes there is a bit of confusion between la and La. The way the tune reaches high in the charanam and then effortlessly joins the pallavi is typical Raja.

'arputham arputham': Sung by Raja. What a charming melody. So delicate and delicious. Based on Sudha Dhanyasi.

'ennaiyum thaan ennum': Sung by Sriram Parthaarathy. It is difficult to select one song as best but if I need to, then I will choose this melody. A complex melody with a superb rhythm structure. Sriram once again does a nice song. A lovely amalgamation of folk and classical without being obvious.

'eesan enru sollavo': Sung by Rajashri Pathak. The most aggressive tune of the lot. Based on Mayamalavagowla. One more variation to Mayamalavagowla. Raja comes up with so many variations in this raga that it is mind boggling. The volume of this song is very low in my CD. No idea why.

This album pack also has a DVD. In that you have the video of Raja singing two songs, Sriram Parthasarathy singing one song and Bombay Jayashree singing one song. You can buy the album for this video alone. In the video, there is a place where Bombay Jayashree finishes a line and then like a small kid asking if she has sung right, she smiles and looks up. Priceless. So are the parts where Raja is at the console and singing along with the singers.

Overall, a top class devotional album. Very simple and sweet. Gives a very peaceful feeling. Go buy it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Kishori Amonkar - A personal journey with Ganasaraswati

It was in 1990s that I got interested in Hindustani music. Till then film, carnatic, rock and especially blues, were my staple diet. Those were the days of newsgroups and I joined the famous rmic and rmim newsgroups. In rmic, a lot of Hindustani music discussions happened. My interest in Hindustani music was kindled then. The best way to get introduced to a musical form is to hear the masters of that form. So I started buying tapes of Hindustani masters. One of the earliest tapes I bought was that of Kishori Amonkar in which she had sung 'Bhoop' and 'Bageshree'.

Sometimes without your knowledge, you hit gold. This was one such serendipitous occurrence. What I didn't know at that time was that the Bhoop that Kishori Amonkar sang was what Zakhir Hussain would later comment on as, "Some creations will last forever. Kishori Tai's Bhoop is one such creation". It was easy to be charmed by this raga because it is the Mohanam of the north. The familiarity drew me in instantly and then there was the magic of Kishori's voice. I kept playing this in the car daily for a long time. The Bageshree on the other side was equally good. This was my first introduction to Kishori's music and it would develop into an everlasting love for her music. Rajan Parikkar wrote about Kishori's Bhoop thus: "Kishori Amonkar‘s artistry stands as tall as the Himalayas, and in Bhoopali is realised its summit. Upon her 'sahela re' no human hand can improve." 

Kishori's Bageshree, of which Rajan Parrikar says, "Kishori Amonkar matches Amir Khan swara-for-swara."  And I can't agree more

The next set of Kishori Amonkar tapes that I bought were dedicated to the Malhars and I was particularly smitten by Gaud Malhar. She was singing the standard, 'Man na kariye'. It was a different khayal, 'Kuo yako Barsat Nahin'. It evoked the dreamy cloudy season and was the perfect companion when I drove to western ghats during the monsoon time. Driving in the pale light with the dark cloud blocking out the sun, a powder thin drizzle, curving ghat roads, lush green paddy fields and dark forest areas with Kishori singing Gaud Malhar is as close to heaven that you can get.

I couldn't find that Khayal in youtube. Youtube has 'maan na khariye', another wonderful khayal

Till this time I had just bought whatever Kishori tapes I could lay hands on, I never searched for anything specific. Kishori's Binna Shadja tape was the first one which I went searching for specifically because Rajan had said this on her Binna Shadja. "We open with the finest Bhinna Shadaj there is. No man or woman, compos mentis, can escape the force of Kishori Amonkar‘s genius on display here. Notice the occasional rishab in the upper register." It was an excellent rendition indeed. Got it on a tape which had a live performance of Bhoop with the Binna Shadja towards the end. The raga also goes under the name of Kaishik Dhwani. There are other renditions of 'ud ja re kaga' including a Hridayanath tuned one which Lata had sung. Yet it is Kishori's Binna Shadja that attracts me the most. Binna Shaja would later become the title of the documentary that Amol Palekar made on Kishori. More about that later.

I had read in Rajan Parrikar's article that Rageshree of Hindustani was the counterpart of Carnatic Natakurunji. Sufficiently intrigued, I bought a tape of Kishori sing Rageshree. Well, it was nowhere close to Natakurunji but that did not stop me enjoying the raga. Kishori does a leisurely job with Raheshree and I have heard it many times since I bought that tape. To my Hindustani untrained ears, it sounds more like a modified Bageshree.

I have always been fascinated by the classical musicians singing Abhangs, Kabir, Bhajans and so on. I love Bhimsen Joshi's rendition of Purandaradasa Devarnamas. So when I found a CD of Kishori singing Abhangs I picked it up. I played it at home one day. The CD was playing 'bholava vittala'. My wife, who had never heard Kishori sing till then, asked me, "Who is this? She has such a nice voice". This Abhang does highlight her captivating voice. Carnatic fans may have heard this abhang sung by Ranjani and Gayathri. Here it is in Kishori's voice.

When I saw the DVD titled 'Bhinna Shadja' with Kishori's photo on the cover, there was no way I was coming out of the shop without buying it. The documentary made by Amol Palekar gave a glimpse into Kishori life and her philosophy. She was always in search of the perfect swar and she believed music to be something which helps you transcend beyond mere existence. For her music was not just about fame but was a personal journey, a dialogue with her maker. The documentary is now available on youtube. Your time will be well spent watching this documentary.

She always took her music seriously for it was something very personal to her. If you hear this jugalbandhi with Balamurali you will realise it. Balamurali, ever the showman, tries to infuse some fun into the proceedings but Kishori never lets her hair down. It is a sort of study in contrasts. You need to hear the Bhimsen Balamurali jugalbandhi and then hear this one to realise the difference. Bhimsen and Balamurali try to outdo each other in their showmanship but in the case of Kishori, though she makes some concessions for the jugalbandhi format, she predominantly sticks to her path. The singing of the greats is in keeping with their respective philosophies.

Kishori also gave music to the movie 'Dhristi'. I have this tape with me. I had read an interview in which she was very unhappy with the placement of a song in the movie. It was used as background to a love making scene and that her mother, the great Mogubai was so upset by it that she didn't speak with Kisori for a few days. Here is a song from that movie, 'megha jhar jhar barsat re'

Finally,  a raga which my carnatic friends know and love, Bhimplasi. An piece of which Rajan Parikkar says, "Kishori Amonkar‘s unpublished Bhimpalasi is one for the gods, almost certainly the greatest exposition of that raga on tape." ( ). Here is the link to the piece

Here is an elaborate Bhimplasi on youtube:

Along with Kesarbai, Mansur and Amir Khan, Kishori Tai is one that I hear often amongst the Hindustani singers. She has given so much music and we are lucky that a lot of her recordings are available for us to enjoy. (Unlike Kesarbai's music which has very few recordings).

Kishori's music will always be close to my heart. I am sure she is now one with the nadabrahmam. Om Shanthi.

Rowdy Baby : Two Dances

  Was meaning to write this post since the time the video of 'Rowdy Baby' song was released but for some reason or the other, it was...