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Today’s 9/27/2014. The fourth day of Navaratri. In the first three days of this Navaratri, I wrote about a music composition of Syama Sastry, Muttuswamy Dikshita and Tyagaraja, who are popularly called the Trinity of Karnataka Sangeeta and then shared with you links for those compositions being played on a “Veena”. And no prizes for guessing today’s post will be on similar lines!
In the 18th and 19th centuries, when the British had taken over most of the princely states under their arms, only two major kingdoms had remained, albeit under reduced strength. The Wodeyars of Mysore and the Kings of Travencore ( Thiruvananthapuram) continued to be great patrons of music, dance and other art forms. In some cases, the rulers were artists themselves.
Thiruvanathapuram is well known for the chamber concerts at the Navaratri Mandapam, adjacent to the famed Padmanabhaswamy temple. A special feature feature of these concerts is that unlike most other concerts, the main item presented on each day of the music festival is known in advance. The artist of the day elaborates a composition of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal from what is called the Navarati kritis. Each of these compositions is in Samsktra and set in rakti ragas such as Bhairavi, Shankarabharana, Natakuranji, Kalyani etc. I’d written about these compositions earlier during a previous Navaratri series. You can read them here.
Maharaja Rama Varma is better known by his star name – Swathi Tirunal, In a short span of 33 years (1836- 1846 AD) he accomplished a lot musically. He was a Veena player as well. Unlike other composers who had their students spread the compositions across the country, his compositions remained known only in Kerala for quite some time. Also, for some of his compositions nothing but the raga and tALa names were known, and were tuned by later day musicians. In the 20th century his compositions become popular outside Kerala, and now have become a part of the standard concert repertoire.
Swathi Tirunal adapted some Hindustani ragas into Karnataka sangeeta as well – and thus the Raga Hamsanandi was born from Sohini. The composition I’m sharing today, pAhi jagajjanani is in this raga – Listen to this played on electric guitar by Abhay. The Guitar, although a western instrument falls in the class of what has been traditionally called a “Veena” in India.
Interestingly enough, Guitar Abhay has not changed the way the guitar is traditionally tuned. He is a student of Mandolin Shrinivas whom we lost recently. It’s but a sad coincidence, both Swathi Tirunal and U Shrinivas had short lives , but they sure have touched many hearts in their lifetime and will continue to do so much beyond their life time.
Now over to Guitar Abhay’s magical fingers, playing pAhi jagajjanani in rAga hamsAnandi:
Today, September 24th, 2014 is the first day of Navaratri – The Festival of Nine Nights. Navaratri, also known as Dasara in many parts of India, is a good time for classical music listeners – The music festival at Navartri Mandapam in Thiruvanantapuram and at Mysore Palace are well known. In some of the earlier years (2007, 2008, 2010… ), I have written about some musical compositions that are dear to me during the this ten day festival. I thought of reviving this tradition and make a few posts during this year’s Navaratri as well.
Since Navaratri is a celebration of the various aspects of Devi, I will confine to the compositions to those that are about Goddesses such as Parvati, Saraswati, Durga etc who are worshiped during these Nine Nights. Also, as a way of remembering the recently-departed ‘God of Mandolin’, U Srinivas, I will confine to only instrumental renditions of such compositions. I will try to point out to some interesting tit-bits about those compositions too.
First a couple of words about U Srinivas – I think we were plain lucky to have lived in the same time as this artist, who brought in an alien instrument and turned it into our very own, as far as Indian classical music is concerned. If you ask me, it is high time we call this instrument as Sri-Veena :-) . Although we tend to associate the word Veena with the Saraswati Veena (which is actually only as old as the early 17th century), the term Veena actually refers to a stringed instrument, with or without frets, which may be played using plucking or bowing etc. We have had Veenas such as Nagaveena, Dhanurveena (which were played using a bow), just like a modern day violin. We have the Chitra Veena (a.k.a. Gotuvadya), Rudra Veena and the like. Guitar which has been adapted for Hindustani music by Vishwa Mohan Bhat is being called as Mohana Veena, and why not call mandolin as Sri Veena ? Just a passing thought as I started out writing this post!
In the 18th century, Tanjavoor was a great center of music and arts. Syama Shastry, who is considered as one of the “Trinity” of Karnataka Sangeeta lived in Tanjavoor city. His compositions bear his signature as ‘Shamakrishna’. He was the priest of Bangaru Kamakshi temple in Tanjavoor, and often addresses his favorite deity as “Shamakrishna sodari” – the sister of Shamakrishna (Vishnu). Although numerically his compositions are lesser than those of Tyagaraja or Muttuswamy Dikshita, each of his compositions is indeed a gem.
During Sharabhoji’s reign (1777 AD – 1832AD), a musician named Bobbili Keshavayya, visited his court. Keshavayya was well known for challenging musicians. Since no other musician in Tanjavoor court were ready to face Keshavayya who was known for his expertise at singing pallavis with extremely complicated rhythmic structures, the responsibility fell on Syama Sastry.
(Picture courtesy: The Hindu, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/carrying-on-the-legacy/article4463886.ece)
In the music-duel that followed, Keshavayya sang a pallavi in Simha nandana tALa, which Shama Sastry comprehended and reproduced. Now, it was Shama Sastry’s turn to challenge Keshavayya next day. That night during his prayers to Goddess Kamakshi, Syama Shastry sang a new composition in a brand new raga – Chintamani, pleading her to protect him at this critical moment (dEvI brOva samayamidE ati vEgamE vacci).
For the first day of Navaratri, the composition I want to share with you is this – “dEvi brOva samayamide” in Raga Chintamani, played on the mandolin by, who else but U Srinivas, and U Rajesh?
Wishing everyone a very happy time during this Navaratri.
I figure it is better to post the this video of Navaratri celebration at our home – since Deepavali is around the corner already!
Today is the tenth, and the last day of Navaratri – Vijaya Dashami. We celebrate this festival to commemorate Rama defeating Ravana, and goddess hamundeshwari slaying demon Mahishasura.
Yesterday when I wrote about a composition of Mysore Vasudevachar, I also wrote about his illustrious deciple – Jayachamarajendra Odeyar, the last king of Mysore. Odeyar was another notable composer of the 20th century. Initially, he was trained in western classical music. He received the highest honors possible to be awarded for student at the Trinity college of Music in London. Later on, went on to learn the intricacies of Karnataka sangeetha from Vasudevachar for some years. Between 1945 to 1947, he composed 94 kritis (A few more have been unearthed recently, I heard). Apparently he played his compositions on the Piano first, and got feedback on them from Vasudevachar and other court musicians and shape his compositions. Click here to read some more about this “Gem among Kings”.
Another unique feature about his compositions is that he has composed only one kriti in one raga, thus using 94 ragas for the 94 kritis. He is probably the only composer who has done this. In this process, he has composed in very rare ragas resurrecting some ragas such as Poorna Lalita and Pratatpa Varali in which Tyagaraja had composed earlier.
Odeyar was a practitioner of Srividya worship, and he has used the signature as ‘Srividya’ in the compositions. He has also used his initiation name ‘chitprabhananda’ in some compositions. All his compositions are in Samskrta.
Chamundeshwari is the deity of Mysore from where Odeyars ruled. In a few hours, Goddess Chamundeshwari will be in a grand procession through the city. On this occasion, I think Jayachamarajendra Odeyar’s composition in Hindola raga – ‘Chintayami Jagadambam’ is the most appropriate composition to listen to, and to conclude this series “The Days of Navaratri”.
I consider myself fortunate to have written this series on this auspicious time of Devi Navaratri 2010 and to have been able to listen to some wonderful music in that process!
I wish this year’s Navaratri brings you the very best in your lives.
Today is the eighth day of Navaratri. Durgashtami is celebrated on this day. The Swathi Tirunal composition that would be elaborated at Navaratri Mandapam is ‘Pahi janani santatam’ in raga Natakuranji. Listen to this composition sung by Amrutha Venkatesh, sung at the Navaratri Mandapam in 2008. Till quite recently, women did not perform in the Navaratri Mandapam concerts. Thankfully, that has changed now!
Here is another rendition of the same composition, by K V Narayanaswamy.
Thanks to my post yesterday, I am in a ‘ranjani’ mood! The raga ranjani is a contribution of Tyagaraja. It is one of the many ragas that sprang to life with his compositions. There are a number of ragas with end with the suffix ‘ranjani’. They are not related musically, though.
But how about making creating a garland of such ragas? The composition you are going to listen to is indeed a garland – a ragamalilke in four ragas – Ranjani, Sriranjani, Megharanjani and Janaranjani. Interestingly, each section also includes the name of the raga in the sahitya. This is a composition of Tanjavoor Sankara Iyer, and quite well known as ‘Ranjani Mala’ because that is what it is – A garland made of Ranjanis.
Tanjavoor Sankara Iyear, born in 1924, is a well known composer, and known as ‘Musician of musicians’. Ranjani Mala is one of his famous compositions.
If you can read Kannada, here is the composition in Kannada script. The song is in simple Samskrta, and there are nice chitte svaras after each raga.
ರಂಜನಿ ಮೃದು ಪಂಕಜ ಲೋಚನಿ
ಮಂಜು ಭಾಷಿಣಿ ಮನೋಲ್ಲಾಸಿನಿ ಮಂದಗಮನಿ ಶ್ರೀರಂಜನಿ
ಸಾಮಗಾನ ವಿನೋದಿನಿ ಶಶಾಂಕವದನಿ ಮೇಘರಂಜನಿ
ಪಾಮರಜನ ಪಾಲಿನಿ ಶೂಲಿನಿ ಪಾಪವಿಮೋಚನಿ ಜನರಂಜನಿ
Listen to Dr Nagavalli Nagaraj and Ranjani Nagaraj singing Ranjani Mala here:
Happy Durgashtami to all!