Sunday, July 15, 2012

The mind's battle of the Rajas

Yesterday was another of those days - experiencing (note: not merely "listening to") an endless chain of Ilaiyaraja's melodies. My heart leapt with joy, swelled with love and wept with pain; all with the same intensity. My mind faithfully followed every note, every inflection and every syllable that came out of Chitra's voice - it soared with her high notes and swooped down with beauty, as does her magnificent voice. I've never felt a deeper and more surreal connection with another voice.

And then suddenly, Thyagaraja seemed mundane. I couldn't help wondering if he could ever bring out the myriad emotions that Ilaiyaraja can (and I got reminded that growing up I would argue with my dad that I've learnt more Mayamalavagowlai from Ilaiyaraja than from Thyagaraja). Can Rama bhakti make you feel all the *real* emotions that life brings us, that are so beautifully brought out in Ilaiyaraja's music?

I woke up this morning humming Hecharikaga ra ra. I felt beauty. I felt peace. I felt serenity. Thyagaraja is not just about Rama bhakti. There's so much more to take from him.

Humbled and thankful to whatever it is that has made me live in a time and place where I can experience both, judge and obsess over one rather than the other, and then finally realize the smallness of it all. The "cycle of awe" continues...

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Nattaikurinji and Kharaharapriya

I recently performed a thematic concert for my cousin Hari Devanath's music school in the Bay Area, Sri Paduka Academy. The theme was melam-janyam and I tried to explore various melam-janyam relationships. To this end, I picked three melam-janyam pairs: Kalyani-Amritabehag where the janyam has little or no resemblance to the melam; Harikambodhi-Nattaikurinji where the janyam has all seven swaras, yet does not qualify as a melam due to its characteristic vakra usages and despite sharing all the swaras with the melam, has a unique identity of itself; and lastly Kharaharapriya-Sriranjani where the janyam conforms to the very conventional understanding we have of janya ragas: its swaras form a subset of those of the melam and the flavor/ feel of the raga is also very similar to that of the parent raga. For lack of time I couldn't take up the interesting class of bhashanga janya ragas but briefly spoke about it. Many thanks to Hari and Vivek Sundarraman - who also teaches at Paduka - for the opportunity. The energy of the kids was infectious.

Here are the Nattaikurinji and the Kharaharapriya pieces. I can't but add disclaimers: there are shruti lapses (which unfortunately I couldn't notice when I sang), and my obstinate voice refuses to go below the middle Sa - I've a long way to go. But this post is mainly for the accompanists: Divya Mohan on the violin and Gopal Ravindran on the mridangam, both all of 16 years, were great. You'll see how Divya's violin carasses the raga - especially Kharaharapriya, and the gait of Gopal's thani is beautiful. I learnt a ton from these folks!

Last but certainly not least, thanks to my Guru for everything.

Here we go. Needless to say, criticisms welcome!

Last edit: July 23 2012 - included the Nattaikurinji recording.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Vatapi - debut playback song

Happy to share that a song I recorded - Vatapi Ganapatim - for a Telugu movie for Praveen Lakkaraju of New Jersey is now out! I recorded this exactly a year ago and after many anxious and exciting moments, the song has finally seen the light of the day. Also happy that the song features Shankar Tucker on the clarinet. So here goes:

Click here to listen to all the songs in the movie.

And click here for a video of the music director Praveen and lyricist Sreejo talking about their experience with each song in the movie.

Thanks very much to Praveen for the opportunity.

And thank you Octaves - you know how big a role you've had in this.