I attended this session at the indiranagar Sangeetha Sabha, part of their Africa meets Asia – Music Conference. Though I am not the expert to write about them, I am capturing some of the discussion that I could note down. You may point out any ‘fundamental errors’ in this. Apologise for this LONG post.
Swara Kalpana : Smt Gayathri Venkataraghavan
Tanam & Pallavi : Dr. T S Satyavathi
Violin Support : Nalina mohan
Mrudangam : H S Sudheendra
For singing the raga alapana , the artist should have the strong foundation of the raga. They should know ..
a) grasp of Raga – Notes and scale
b) Lakshana – The grammer of Raga ( eg: shankarabharanam – the ‘g’ has no oscillation.. )
c) nyasaswara – the anchor swara to take off, landing and stretch.
d) ranchaka(?) prayoga and rakti prayoga – which adds colour
She also discussed the use of syllables to the swara ( euphonic syllables) which gives soul. She also said that the artist keep the krithi in mind while singing the alapana. Sangathi’s put in alapana is keeping the mood of the krithi in mind.
Types of alapana
c) alapana for Ragam Tanam Pallavi – Details, elaborative and is different from the alapana for a krithi.
She demonstrated the difference of singing alapana for the krithi and for Ragam Tanam Pallavi. While singing for RTP there is no mood of the composition in mind. It is a show of expertise. Here you will add symmetric singing, dhatu prayoga, vadi-samvadi etc. Also, while singing alapana for RTP there is certain rhythm in place which corresponds to the rhythm of pallavi. She then explained this singing ‘thODi’ alapana for ‘kaddanu vAriki’ and for a RTP and demonstrated the subtle difference.
d) alapana of rare ragas – very basic and swara based alapana
e) alapana for ‘bhava’ ragas – singing alapana for ‘bhava’ laden ragas , the flavour and the colour of raga will have to be kept in mind. She mentioned , nattakurinji , dhanyAsi and sahAna and sang few phrases of nattakurinji and sahana.
f) sanchari raga – Not very clear to me, but she used ‘surutti’ for example.
3. sthai sancharas – take from one swara and raga alaborated either arohana or avarohana. Deployts “durita phrases”.
Preparation : The importance of preparation is essential for alapana singing. You have to be trained under a ‘guru’, learn many krithis in the same raga , practice diligently, practive to traverse in octaves and have breath control.
a) Performance : Both Sanskrit tradition and Tamil Traditions. Vedic patterns can be related to the present day neraval. In Tamil, tiru viruttams can be related to neraval singing.
b) Scholastic : She quoted the 10th century poet Parshwadeva who talks about 16 types of Alapti. The word ‘sAkshara Alapti’ or alapana done with words was used to describe the neraval.
Stages of Neraval
She also explained the difference between ‘sangati’ and ‘neraval’. Sangati is pre-set and is built in the original composition , where are neraval is extempore. Sangati is sung usually in 2 kala and neraval is sung in 3 kala. Each sangati is repeated twice but neraval is done only once ( I’m not sure).
She was running out of time and received 2-3 time buzz from co-chair R.S.Ramakant, and had to stop the ‘tiru viruttam’ she was singing ( kunita puruvam.. in bhairavi)
c) jeeva swaras
d) nyasa swaras eg : mayamalavagaula and kalyani
e) tisra/chatusra combination
f) ottu swaras eg : charanAlayamulu of HMB
g) rAgamAlika swaras in pallavi
h) atItha and anAghata phrases ( not sure of these)
c) mukthaippu / makuta swaram
d) koraippu/ korvai.
She concluded that singing swara kalpana lifts the spirit of the audience as well as the artists, before sri R S Ramakanth alerted “Its time up”.
To my delight, she gave examples with Sriragam. She says the swaras in the ‘pancharatna krithis’ of Thyagaraja, are compised in tanakrama. She explained this by singing the tanam in sriragam and then singing the p,p,m,g,r p,p,m,g,r phrase from ‘endarO mahAnubhavulu’ to substantiate the point. She gave many such examples from stotrams of Sri Shankaracharya ( mudhakara..?) from the common prayer slokams ( vina venkatEsham ) and “sumukham sukrutham” etc.
She said there is ‘deepti ( excitement) and ‘shanti’ ( pease) in tanam singing. It is best suited for Veena and should be sung in lower or middle octaves. She said tanam is also called as “madhyama kala vikas”.
She explained various types of Koota Tanam ,both musically and through physical gesture (!).. They are:
Gaja tAna – elephant
KukkuDa tAna – Hen/cock
mayUra tAna – Peacock
mANDUka tAna – Frog
ghanTa tAna – Bell
hariNa tAna – Deer
Unfortunately, these can not be explained here in words as these were demonstrated by her.
By this time, she had overshot the allotted time of 15 mins and to do basic justice, she needed another 15 mins. Hence, the session closed at Tanam without taking up Pallavi. The organisers announced later that the Pallavi part of this session would be done on Tuesday and the time will be announced later.
Sri R K Srikantan, concluded the seminar with his words of experience and wisdom. He praised all the participants and congratulated those presented. He said, work of art is, first and last a human experience. It is to create a mood coloured by emotion. Music can never reveal its secret – by imaginative beauty and creativity we can only reveal it to an extend. He says, musical experience to a person is spontaneous.