Vocal : T S Sathyavathi
Vocal Support : Lavanya & Anjana
Violin : Charulatha Ramanujam
Mrdangam : Tumkur Ravishankar
Ghatam: G Omkar Rao
Lecture on Compositions of Mysore Vasudevachar
01. shLOkam ( yo’ntaH pravishya mama vAcam imAm prasuptAm)
Dr.Sathyavathi, started her evening lecture with explaining the importance of understanding the composer in appreciating his music. Knowing the musical vision and the musical acumen of the composer can enhance our ‘joy’ of listening to his compositions. Getting closure to the composer, his sensitivity and sensibility in creating ( and our ability to interpret ) each sangati, is an experience to the listener. Vasudevachar’s 150 odd compositions with notation is available in Kannada, and now in English ( compiled by Sri Bangalore S Shankar and released recently) for everyone’s access. By following the notation you can only repeat what is created, but by studying the composition closely, you can give it a new dimension.
Mysore Vasudevachar is one of the most illustrious composer post trinity. In fact, he was one of the ‘Mysore Trinities’ of the 20th century – Sadashiva Rao and Muthaiah Bhagavathar being the other two, patronised by the Wodeyars. During Wodeyar’s time, all types of music was thriving in Mysore. Western Bands and Hindustani Music was also popular and had great influence on the carnatic music. The evident is in the increased use of hindustani originated ragas in carnatic music. Importantly, these hindustani ragas weren’t used as is, but were given a “new personality, new life and new shade” by Vasudevahar. He studied Sanskrit and Music were his elective during his education at Maharaja College. His Sanskrit was akin to Dikshitar’s. His music had a lot of influence from both Dikshitar and Thyagaraja. From Dikshitar, he followed the ‘madhyamakAla model’ and ‘the bhAva’ aspect and the use of ‘colloquial’ Telugu from Thyagaraja. He did not copy them , but created his own original versions. From Dikshitar, he also imbibed the use of variety of tALa. He composed in large number of irregular talas like chaturashra dhruva, khanda ata, mishra mathya, mishra jhumpa, khanda jhumpa, tisra triputa, mishra triputa and also in tisra roopakam ( different from khanda chapu and probably the only thillana in this tala).
Use of Chitta swaras ( Chitraswara)
He had composed 4 varnas in Sanskrit, including one in praise of Ganesha (probably the only one). Vasudevachar’s use of chitraswara ( she preferred the word chitraswara in stead of chittaswara , gave an explanation of the former and the possibility of the change over the period of time) were special. Each of them were beautifully designed and incorporated. They could have been the result of spontaneity or a deliberation from the composers part. She went on with few examples by singing them and explaining the nuances.
02 chittaswaram from kAnaDa varnam ( vAraNAsyam pranamAmi )
She mentioned this as ‘sarva svara svarAnga??’ ( do correct me) where every swara takes one akshara.
03 chittaswaram from naLinakAnti varnam ( evarunnAru)
She explained this can be sung in two modes, in ‘Ghana’ and in ‘naya’, singing the same set of swaras in two style with and without emphasis to give it a different feel.
She made parallel to the ‘Kadambari’ of Banabhatta here. Banabhatta after completing the epic, wasn’t happy with the ending and had requested his sons’ help. The story goes like this, he asked each of them to describe the dry tree. The elderly one came up with something like “shuSkaH kaSTaH tiSThaty agrE’ and the younger one came up with ‘NIrasa tarUriha vilasati purataha’ and he supposed to have chosen the latter, even though both has the same meaning.
Note : I am gravely erred here to my confession, but it was nice way to describe the nuances of the changes in the way one can perceive and practice the swaras without any differences to the original meaning. I will seek help from ‘knowledgeable’ people and correct it soon.
04 chittaswaram from mandAri varnam ( vanajAkSA )
This chittaswara traverse in 3 octaves, singing this is a good exercise to the voice.
Vasudevachar composed many kritis with madhyamakala sahitya, similar to Dikshitar, but it was not a regular feature in his compositions. She explained some of the highlights of his madhyamakala sahitya with these examples
05 madhyamakala sahitya from ‘praNamAmyaham’ in ranjani.
She explained how he adjust the sahitya to the tAla ( mishra triputa). She said, even if you are listening to the composition in Radio, one should be able to put tala to it, such should be the placing of the sahitya in a composition.
06 madhyamakala sahitya from ‘mAmavatu shrI saraswati’ in hindOLam
He was very keen in using the zig-zag pattern – vakra sanchara, here.
Chittaswaras in viLambakAla Compositions
Vasudevachar, spent nearly 6 years at the Kalakshetra, setting music for Dance. Rukmminidevi Arundale was the beneficiary. This stay, however, helped in his popularity. People came to know about Vasudevachar and his compositions and artists and musicians started singing them in the concerts. She mentioned her own personal experience of a Lec-Dem in Chennai on Sadashiva Rao. She said, very few people knew about Sadashiva Rao and his compositions, where Vasudevachar on the other hand was very popular.
07 chittaswaras from ‘rA rA rAjIva lOchana’ in mOhanam
She explained the patterns of 3 and 5 in the mukthai in both rA rA rAjiva lOchana’ and ‘chAmuNDEshvai pAlayamAm’.
She mentioned an anecdote on GNB singing this kriti in front of Vasudevachar. GNB was hesitant, to sing it for obvious reasons, but in the end with tears in his eyes Vasudevachar was magnanimous to admit that GNB sang the kriti better than he himself has composed. He said some thing in the lines of ‘what I gave you was a ‘nirAbharaNa sundari’ ( help needed !) but you presented it as a ‘sAlankita bhUSita kanya’.
08 chittaswaras from ‘shrI chAmuNDEshwari pAlayamAm’ in bilahari
She sang the chittaswaras a couple of times and said until you reach the ‘ri’ you don’t know where is he leading you.
09 chittaswaras from karuNisau tAyE in saraswati manOhari
Vasudevachar composed only one kriti in Kannada Language. This was after much request from the King. After all other composers yielded to the demand, and after much persuasion he finally composed one in Kannada.
10 chittaswaras from ‘manasA vachasA shirasA anisham’ in bEgaDa
She said, it was the beauty and duty of him to enhance the lyrical vision of the kriti here. Same notes takes a different approach. She explained this change of ‘bhava’ of the raga at the charanam line karuNAnvitam
11 chittaswaras from praNatArthi haram in chenchurutti
Vasudevachar has many compositions on Vishnu and a few on Rama. He had composed only one or two kritis on Shiva. Pranatarthi haram is one of them.
Vasudevachar composed in many rare ragas, or new ragas like kadanakutuhalam, sudha sALavi ( not heard this before) etc and in hindustani ragas ( 3 in hindustani kApi and 2 in behAg).
She said the version of the hindustani kApi kriti she was taught by Doraiswami Iyengar was a different pAThAntaram from what is popular now. Her version, did not have kAkaLi niSAda or anthara gAndhAra. It was a janya of kharaharapriya. But, she said, the current version is different and the book of Vasudevachar’s compositions is also with the new version.
12 bhajamAdhavam anisham – hindustAni kApi
Bhava aspect in his compositions
Sensitive and subtle interpretation of the rAga is essential to bring out the bhAva in the compositions. She explained this with shAradE pAhimAm in yadukula kAmbOji
13 shAradE pAhimAm – yadukula kAmbOji
She said, her Guru was the best in singing this kriti and she is only making an attempt to go closure to his singing.
Before concluding her lecture on the specialties of his compositions, she did give the statistical highlights for the record ( 8 jati swaras, 16 varna, 150 kritis, 10 thillanas,6 javali and 8 ragamAlika compositions including those in praise of each of the trinities). She said it is important to understand the composition and know the meaning for one to appreciate the composer. Otherwise, one will say ‘music is good’ but will not be ‘special’ to him. Grammar alone can’t help. Mere grammar is not poetry, it had to come from within. Its the same with music.
Note 2 : These are some of the points I ‘noted’ from a running lecture. There are many short comings in this update and it is my own limitation in capturing the essence of what was spoken. There are few mistakes above and I welcome anyone correcting me here.
01 evarunnAru ( varNam) – navarasakannaDa
02 mama hrdayE – rItigauLa ( S )
03 bhajarE rE bhaja mAnasa shrI narasimham – mOhanakalyANi ( A,N,S )
neraval & swara @’paramAtbhuta rUpadharam karuNAkaram harim’
04 palukavadEmirA – dEvamanOhari
05 bhajarE rE mAnasa shrI raghuvIram – AbhEri ( A,S,T )
06 tillAna ( nadru dhIm nAdru dhIm dhIm taraNa dhIm) – kAnaDa
07shLOkam ( mangaLam kOsalEndrAya)
Concert was the continuation of the lecture. She explained each compositions ,its nuances, the specialties as she moved on. The selection of varnam, made my day. Beutiful reetigula came in with some memorable swaras to accompany. But the highlight of the evening was the mohanakalyani kriti. A classy alapana, allowing one of her disciples to pitch in occasionally, followed by probably the best kriti in mOhanakalyani ( my personal preference). An elaborate neraval at ‘paramAtbhuta’ was brilliant. I’ve heard this kriti from TNS (and fallen for its beauty ) many years ago at Gayana Samaja ( he sang neraval at ‘paramabhakta prahLAda) and again last year at Sanjay Nagar. The kalpana swaras were impressive too. Abheri was the main, and it had to be his masterpiece ‘bhajarE rE mAnasa’. Alapana was short, there was no neraval but had a detailed kalpana swaras. Tumkur Ravishankar and Omkar played a delectable tani avartanam post main. The percussion, especially Ravishankar, was very good through out the evening. So, was Charulatha on violin. Her following for Abheri and Mohanakalyani was very good. She concluded her concert with the tillana in thisra roopakam set in kAnada. Very informative session followed by a sweet and short concert.