Thursday, May 20, 2010

Celebrating GNB: (2) Varnam in Andholika

Here is our second in the GNB series started here last month.

Ram writes...

Andolika, a Karaharapriya janyam, has an asymmetric structure to its scale, despite having the same number of swarams in the arohanam and avarohanam. Tyagaraja's 'Raga Sudha Rasa' is the most famous composition in this raga. While Tyagaraja beautifully brings out the essence of the raga in the very first phrase of the kriti, GNB's varnam builds on it and showcases several new facets.

Before getting into a discussion on the varnam, a few lines about GNB and Andholika:

It is interesting to note that several of GNB's favourites belong to the Karaharapriya family. GNB has handled ragas like Abhogi, Jayamanohari, Reethigowlai, Andholika elaborately. However, he has hardly sung Karaharapriya.

The modern day Andolika is based on the framework conceived by GNB. (Although Sri. S.Rajam once told me that Andolika was among the favourites of the legendary Naina Pillai and Muthiah Bhagavathar). On GNB's 81st birthday, Sri. T.M.Tyagarajan spoke at a function at Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai; about GNB's first concert in Thanjavur. GNB was yet to establish himself at Thanjavur, the (then) Mecca of Carnatic Music. His appearance in movies had hampered his reputation as a Carnatic musician. While the Thanjavur audience were sceptical about the 'Talkie Vidwan', GNB launched into an alapanai in Andolika. Even as the experts were trying to identify the raga, GNB had delved into the depths of the raga through his brilliant brikas. (TMT's recount left such a deep impact on my mind that I used the same as the opening chapter of my book on GNB)

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was so impressed with GNB's delineation of Andolika that he started singing them in his concerts too. (While GNB started singing Gavathi due to the Ustad's influence. He even composed a varnam in Gavathi.)

Onto this varnam: There is a popular notion that Varnams are practice pieces - widely used for warming up. While it is true in the case of some elementary varnams, in many cases they turn out to be a brilliant medium to project both the composer's as well as the performer's innovative musical ideas. I would even go to the extent of saying that the Bhairavi varnam and the Nattakurunji varnam are each the most beautiful piece in the respective ragas. Such varnams give us deep insight into the various facets of the raga. One can also add this particular varnam in Andholika (along with the GNB varnams in Kadanakuthuhalam and Gavathi)- which is probably the most popular among the GNB varnams- to this list. While his other varnams are predominantly sung by the GNB school singers, this varnam is widely performed by musicians of other schools too. In my opinion, Sri. DK Jayaraman's rendition of this varnam is the best.

This brisk Adi Tala varnam is on GNB's Ishta Devatha 'Nadarupasundari'. Musicologist SAK Durga notes that, "The term 'Nadarupasundari' is very unique. Usually 'Naada Rupam' is associated with Lord Shiva. Tyagaraja says, "Nada Thanum anisham shankaram". GNB was probably the first person to concieve Shakthi as "Nadarupini".

Several interesting patterns can be noticed in the chitta-swarams of the varnam. Various porthams such as,

Ri Ma Pa Nadarupa
Ma Pa Ni Sa Nadarupa
Ri Ma Ri Sa Nadarupa

reflect GNB's style of singing Kalpanaswarams.

The phrase without Sa and Pa in the third chittaswaram (ririma niniri mamani ririma niririma) is rendered almost completely without gamakams. Such prayogams are truly ahead of his times. One can find such usages today in ragas like Madhyamavathi too.

Although GNB does not indulge in complex arithmetics, he uses several interesting patterns. One example would be the Gopucha Yati in the fourth Chitta Swaram (sanidhamari nidhamari dhamari mari..)

While Sindhuja does justice to this composition through her rendition, the listener is invariably left longing for more. GNB, when rendering varnams, usually compliments the chittaswarams with a few brisk rounds of kalpana swarams. Probably a few rounds of spontaneous swarams from Sindhuja would have served as the icing on the cake :-)

Lalitha Ram


Song: nee dayaradha (thana varnam)
Ragam: Andholika (S R2 M1 P N2 S, S N2 D2 M1 R2 S)
Thalam: Adi
Composer: GNB

Pallavi: nee dayaradha neerajaakshi naa taramerigi nanneluko
Anupallavi: kadhamba dhaNda sumachara paashaankusha, sitaamsu kalaadhariNi
Charanam: naadaroopasundari naaraayaNi

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