Sunday, September 19, 2010

Celebrating GNB: (3) Ni padame gathi in Nalinakanthi

As Octaves turns four this month, I present one of my favorite ragas today- Nalinakanthi. After a hiatus (Ram just had a baby girl- yay!), we return to the GNB series, and I'll let Ram do most of the talking (or writing!), but would just like to reiterate that I'm grateful to all the visitors here who've kept this blog going. I've turned my focus largely to Carnatic over the last one year or so and I'm totally enjoying this phase. I'm deeply indebted to my guru for this and I hope I constantly get better at it.
September is a very eventful month in our family- dad's, sister's and nephew's birthdays, and sister's anniversary- so this goes out to all of them! :) Hope I've done some justice to this piece...

Ram writes...

The kriti 'Ni PadamE' is probably the most famous composition of GNB. An article by BVK Sastri, written in the 1950s mentions that this song along with 'Sada Palaya' was very popular even then.

Despite being a popular raga, there aren't many compositions in Nalinakanthi. During GNB's time 'Manivanala' was probably the only composition known in this raga. Later compositions of GNB and Lalgudi Jayaraman are welcome additions to this wonderful raga.

While Tyagaraja's composition oozes with exuberance and brings out the briskness with its 'duritha kala' sangathis, GNB's "Ni PadamE' is set in 'reNdu kettAn' kaalapramaNam and that in my opinion adds more 'rakthi' to the raga without compromising on the briskness. The 'eduppu' or the starting phrase too is significantly different from 'Manavinala'.

GNB has embellished several famous kritis with new sangatis that contain beautiful swaraksharams. One stunning example is 'sa ma ni ga ma ga sudha' in the kriti 'Samaja Varagamana'. While all the 'aksharams' are right in front of our eyes, I still wonder why it takes such geniuses like GNB and Balamurali to unearth such swarakshara gems, while an ordinary mortal just reads the line and at the most appreciates the saahithya bhava.

GNB's compositions too are adorned with beautiful swaraksharams. Like in the Mohanam (Sada Palaya) and Khamas (Pada Bhajana) compositions, in the Nalinakanthi composition too, the kriti begins with a wonderful swarakshara phrase in 'Ni Pa'. Another attribute that elevates the composition is the 'dvitiyakshara prasam'(explained earlier in this series). While in the Sivasakthi composition, the lines in the anu-pallavi and charanam are adorned with 'Dvitiyakshara prAsam', in this composition along with those two parts even the pallavi contains DvitiyAkshara prAsam.

While usage of such rhyming words is common, occurance for such 'prAsam' in all the lines of a composition is rare. The greatness of this composition is that, at no place we feel that the 'rhyming word' is a forced fit. Like Dikshitar, GNB too has interweaved the raga name beautifully into the composition.

Despite several innovations and embellishments, the composition structure remains fairly simple and sounds uncontrived. Which, by the way, is not a simple task to come up with. (I'm sure Sindhu will vouch for that).

While Sindhu has rendered the composition nicely, probably for the first time in this series, I felt the 'absence' of Mridangam accompaniement. Also, the choice of the line 'nA pApamu' for swaraprastaram doesn't gel with the mood of the ragam. In my opinion, the pleading 'bhava' of the lyrics contradicts the raga bhava of Nalinakanti.

Song: ni paadame gathi
Ragam: Nalinakanthi
Thalam: Rupakam
Composer: GNB

Monday, September 13, 2010

RIP Swarnalatha

It still isn't sinking in. Swarnalatha is not with us any more. One of the most expressive, mellifluous voices, I'm sure she's been an inspiration to lots and lots of aspiring singers like myself. What I adore about her is the impeccable note precision while at the same time being so expressive! A sonorous tinge to her voice makes it all the more attractive. At the risk of sounding cliched, I say with all my heart that she continues to live with us through her songs. It's indeed a strange feeling when artists leave us with their works behind them- it brings to us lessons about permanence and impermanence at the same time...

ennuLLE ennuLLE pala minnal Ezhum nEram... RIP Swarnalatha. You shall be sorely and deeply missed.