Vocal : Neyveli Sri Santhanagopalan
Violin : Charulatha Ramanujam
Mrudangam : Arjun Kumar
Ghatam : Ranganatha chakravarthy
Thematic concert on Allied Ragas
( this being a lecture concert, it might not follow the typical concert format. Few of the kriti’s aren’t sung in full)
01. valachi vAchi ( varNam) – navarAgamAlika – Patnam Subramanya Iyer ( S )
swaras in sankarAbharaNam/kalyANi/bEgaDa … kAmbOji/yadukula kAmbOji…bilahari/mOhanam
02. mInAkshi mEmudam – pUrvikalyANi – Dikshitar ( N,S )
neraval @ ‘madurApuri nilayE maNi valayE’
(demonstrating pantuvarAli / pUrvikalyANi differences)
03. tirupugazh – rItigauLa&Anandabhairavi… Arabhi&dEvagAndhAri – ( tuned by Sri Santhanagopalan to demonstrate the allied raga concept)
04. nI bhakti bhAgya sudhA – jayamanOhari – Thyagaraja
( demonstrating abhOgi/srIranjani/jayamanOhari)
05. lAvaNya rAma – pUrNashaDjam – Thyagaraja
srI mAnini manOhara – pUrNashaDjam – Thyagaraja
(comparing pUrNashaDjam with the above group)
06. marivErE – Ananda bhairavi – ShyAma Sastry
janani ninnu vinA – rItigauLA – Subbaraya Sastry
( Ananda bhairavi & reetigaula connection )
07. SrI soundararAjam – brindAvana sAranga – Dikshitar
( demonstration of brindAvani / brindAvana sAranga and SrI )
08. viruttam ( nanmayum selvamum) – kEdAragauLa
vENugAna lOluni – kEdAragauLa – Thyagaraja ( N,S )
(demonstration of nArAyaNagauLa & kEdAragauLa )
09. RTP – mukhAri & bhairavi – Chaturasra triputa x 2 kaLai , samam eduppu
rAgam & tAnam in mukhAri & bhairavi
pallavi line ‘ daSamukhAri sOdari, bhairavi paramESwari’
swaras in mukhAri and bhairavi
10. chEtASri bAlakrishNam – dwijAvanti – Dikshitar
(demonstrating sahAna/yadukula kAmbOji / harikAmbOji/ dwijAvanti )
11. demonstration of dEvamanOhari & guharanjani
12. demonstration of kharaharapriya & nAtakapriya
13. demonstration of shaNmukhapriya & jyOtiswarUpiNi
14. comparison of harikAmbOji janya ragas ( bahudhAri / kApi nArAyaNi / saraswathi manOhari / nArAyaNi / ravi chandrika)
bhajanasEya – nArAyani – Thyagaraja ( only pallavi line)
15. niravadhi sukhadA – ravichandrika – Thyagaraja
16. demonstration of mOhanam & navaroz
17. viruttam ( kunDari kumAri ??) – kAnaDa , phalamanjari , darbAri kAnaDa , miyAn ki malhAr, surutti, dEsh, madhyamAvathi – ?
vinAyakuni – madhyamAvathi – Thyagaraja ( S )
18. mangaLam – saurAshtram – Thyagaraja
It is difficult to write about this concert. For one, this is not in typical concert format . Nor was this a standard lecture demonstration. Hence, I took the liberty to write this as “Lecture-concert”. As is my practice, I carried a short piece of paper along with me to note down the kritis for writing this report. And this is not a typical concert but with lot of explanation in between, and I am sure to have missed to gather/absorb a great amount of his wisdom. What my ailing memory can retain after 40 hours is what you read here. Others do can fill in, as this is one which should be retained and recorded. The error, which I expect to be aplenty, is only mine.
Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan , probably is the best, to take up such a theme. His music, his overwhelming knowledge, his uncanny ability to connect with the audience, the subtle wits ( not the laughter riots , but simple elegant way of cracking an odd one) , his ability to carry the rest of the performers along with him ( especially for such a program) and his pleasing stage mannerisms makes one to sit and listen to him forever. It was no surprise, that the hall was over flowing even before the commencement of the concert.
He started his lecture, as the ‘mike-vidwan’ hadn’t arrived for 5-10 mins (he used the word mike vidwan, not me) . He said, this can be described as a concert or a lecture demo as you please.he said in tamil, ‘pAttupOla pEcchu’ is agreeable, but ‘pEcchupOla pAttu’ is a disaster.
Allied ragas, he said are like friends. There has to be some common interests or traits to be friends. There are two approach to this topic. One is ’emotional’ and the other ‘technical’. One need to rely upon these to distinguish the ragas from one another. A lay listener will rely on the emotional aspect of the raga than going for intellectual analysis. Its the question of heart versus mind. However, he added few of the discussion will have to have the intellectual analysis to understand the connection and or differences of some of the allied ragas.
The best place to do this is by singing kritis and ragas and then discuss about them. He said the navaragamalika varnam of Patnam Subramanya Iyer is a prime example of how allied ragas are deployed. Starting at kEdAram, moving to SankarAbharanam , kalyAni and bEgada as one group, then kAmbOji and Yadukula AmbOji as the second group , bilahari and mohanam in third group before concluding with Sriragam. He elaborated his points by singing the respective lines again and singing kalpana swaras at these allied ragas, to demonstrate the subtlety and nuances.
He joked that for the last 40 years of his concert experience, the most common question had been regarding pantuvarALi and pUrvikalyANi. Quizzing the audience with a starting phrase of the alapana ( a clever and effective tecnique he used through out the evening), he said it is important to use the ‘jIva’ phrases to start the alapana for easy identification. Demonstrating pantuvarali and purvikalyani phrases, he moved on to sing dikshitar’s master piece in detail. Both in neraval and kalpana swaras, he tried in incorporate the ‘pantuvarali swaras’ to test(the audience) and demonstrate the difference. He said pUrvikalyani in the ancient ages was called ‘sa da ri pan’ ( few surviving ‘pans’ from the olden era). He did mention the difference in Dikshtar’s school where it is ‘gamakakriya’. He added, that is another topic by itself ( purvikalyani Vs Gamakakriya) and he will not dwell into that now.
He tuned a tirupugazh in allied ragas to demonstrate the next couple of alied raga. He started with reetigaula and ananda bhairavi. But shifted to Arabhi and dEvagAndhari elaborating the differences between Arabhi and dEvagAndhari. He did a clever alapana using both the raga ‘symptoms’ ( starting the phrase with arabhi, drifting into devagandhari) , with a mischievous smile on his face, asked the audience to identify the ragam. He turned his gaze later to Charulatha who smiled and evaded the question, and to Smt Neela Ramgopal who was present in the audience. I couldn’t here what she replied, but there was hearty laughter in the front row and with the artists. He said, one shouldn’t do these things, but is only trying to establish a point with the listeners for making it clear.
Abhogi/srIranjani were the next group and after singing both the ragas he shifted to jayamanOhari to show the similarities. Jayamaonhari paved way to pUrNashaDjam ( I am not still able to understand that connection. Helps , welcome !) singing both lAvaNya rAma and Sri mAnini ( incomplte, though). He said the ‘nishadam’ of pUrNashaDjam almost touch the ‘shaDjam’ as if pushing it further, and probably that is why it is called ‘pUrNashaDjam.
Coming back to reetigaula and Anandabhairavi, he did the same exercise of mixing his alapana to demonstrate the drift. He said, it is difficult to start the kritis in such ragas from places other than the shadjam, but mari vEre is an exception.
Brindavana saranga and brindavani were the next. He demonstrated the hindustani style of singing these raga, and said Dikshitar understood the nuances of these ragas and adopted them into Karnatik mould. He said the difference between brindAvani and brindAvana sArang is the addition of gAndhAram in the later. He moved from brindavana sarang to Sri , a shift or similarity I had never observed previously.
Narayanagaula and kedaragaula combination was next. Without mentioning the raga, he sang few sangati’s of nArayaNagauLa, mentioned this was a popular raga a century ago, slowly moved to obscurity taken over by the popularity of ‘kEdAragauLa’. “Swallowed by kEdAragauLa” , remarked Arjunkumar from the flanks.
Continuing on the concert form, adding further glamour to the ‘allied raga’ theme, he decided to sing a pallavi in dwi-raga. What an apt choice ! MukhAri alapana followed by bhairavi. Thanam was in the reverse order ; bhairavi came first before mukhAri. He said, while singing a difficult combination, he decided to retain the rest of the variables to the simplest; tALam, edupu and naDai. Pallavi line was very nice.Pallavi itself was alternating between the ragas to begin with and later split as purvanga in mukhari and uttaranga in bhairavi. He did the same with kalpana swara , but to a lesser effect and impact ( it did not seems to have come out as good as the tanam and pallavi) . He later joked that “What we thought as mukhari and sang should have appealed to you as mukhari and what we thought as bhairavi and sang should have come out as bhairavi” or something to that effect.
Arjunkumar, always on the appreciative end of the main artist, played well and with restraint through out. He added his flavour in the tani avartanam, by mimicking the ‘allid raga’ concept into tala, played a complicated tani ( he did explain the structure intricacies but I fail to recollect now) along with Ranganatha Chakravarthy.
The allied theme continued post the pallavi into Sahana/ yadukula kamboji / hari kamboji and Charulatha completing it with dwijavanti. Upon which he sang chetasri balakrishnam. In one place, he compared the ‘lines’ to the yadukula kamboji similarity ( dont remember the place). Devamanohari versus guharanjani ( a raga identified by Muthaiah Bhagavathar), kharaharapriya versus nAtakapriya ( the similarity in the first four “swara sthana” ), shaNmukhapriya versus jyothiswarUpiNi were explored mildly.
He took on the janya’s of harikambOji later by comparing bahudhAri, kApi nArAyaNi, saraswathi manOhari and nArAyaNi, before singing a short ravichandrika. He also mentioned some commonality in mOhanam and navarOj.
One should learn all these intricacies only through ‘keerthanam’ and not by merely following the ‘ArOhaNa – avarOhaNa’ pattern. He explained with examples of the gItam ‘lambOdara’ ( the “sa ri ga ri sa” usage) and the sAvEri varNam ‘sarasUDa’, where the arohana-avarohana grammar is deviated ( I could be wrong here, feel free to correct me). Concert concluded with a rAgamAlika viruttam again set to allied raga pairs, and a madhyamavathi kriti, before the traditional mangaLam.
While the initial expectations was more for a traditional concert of ‘allied rAga’ theme, on the after thought, I prefer this method of mixing the concert and lecture in a right proportion. This was very informative, engaging, and aesthetically planned by the vidwan. His free flowing narrative, the controlled wit, his prudent anecdotes ( there are a few but not putting it here) , the crisp analysis, the measure of the audience and their level of understanding made this presentation a memorable event. The supporting artists, was in perfect alignment with the lead singer. Charulatha reproduced most of his expositions with her own improvisations and Arjunkumar did fill in with his own mastery strokes to lift the overall effect.