On 13th September, I attended a concert of bay area vocalist Sri Ragavan Manian. This was a very special concert form me as it becomes clear as I go telling you about the concert.

I have written about Ragavan Manian before , more than once.  If you already know that I am a die-hard fan of Dr Balamuralikrishna, you might think that it is no wonder I like Ragavan’s music. But as good desciples of great gurus go, Ragavan does not stop with just following his Guru’s footsteps. Ragavan does sing Dr Balamurali’s compositions and also sings many other compositions that Dr BMK has made his own by his special touch, but also comes up with very great themes in his concerts. Ragavan is himself a composer, and I have seen him give astonishingly refreshing ideas every time I hear him. I’d say that’s his greatest asset.

When I came to know that our Kannada koota (Kannada Koota of Northern California) was having Ragavan’s concert as part of the 2008 Kannadotsava event, I was pleasantly surprised. For an audience where you have a mix of folks with varied interests, the organizers have to select programs based on what they think the crowd will like, and many times classical music takes a backseat. Dance is a different issue – it is a visual art, and people can be engaged in a classical dance program easily compared to someone singing an AlApane of punnAgavarALi or Ahiri, I would say.

But no need to worry I should say, as the concert proved itself. Ragavan made it a concert with all Kannada compositions, which made it a little easier for those who are not very much into classical music to appreciate it. And for a change, the concert had a Veena ( by Raja Sivamani) accompanying the vocalist in addition to violin (Keshav) and mridanga ( Ramesh Srinivasan).

The following is not a review, but just a listing with some music clips. I am thankful for my friends in KKNC who provided the video clips.

Ragavan started the concert  with a shatpadi ( a six-liner) of Kanaka dAsa (dIna nAnu samasta lOkake dAni nInu) followed by nammamma shArade, a very  popular composition of Kanakadasa set to hamsadhwani rAga

Next was a brisk and  short kharaharapriya followed by dharmave jayavemba divya mantra , a composition of Purandara dAsa.

The first rAga Ragavan took for elaboration was mAyAmALavagouLa.

When he announced the composition he was going to sing, it was a surprise to some of the audience, but not to me🙂. It was Tyagaraja’s classic kriti in mAyAmALavagouLa – mEru samAna dhIra in Kannada – translated by yours truly🙂.

I was really happy to hear the lines I had penned (of course, translated from Tyagaraja)  which came alive.

If you are interested in reading the sAhitya for this kannada version of this kriti, read it here in an earlier post I wrote around Tyagaraja Aradhane this year.

After this came a wonderful AlApane of kalyANi, followed by Purandara dAsa’s kELanO hari tALanO. This was the main item in the concert. I particularly liked how he included the ugAbhOga “malagi pADidare kuLitu kELuvanu” in one of the charaNas.

Next, Ragavan sang a rAgamAlika composition of PadmacharaN, manavE mantrAlaya.

Sandhyaa Raaga, a Kannada movie of the 1960’s had a number of good classical songs. This was a special movie for Kannada cinema, as both Bheemasen Joshi and BMK have sung as playback singers in this movie.

Ragavan sang a very popular song from this movie (sung by Dr BMK in the movie) nambide ninna nAda dEvateye in pUrvikalyANi next.

Then came two vacanas: kAyada kattaleya kaLeyayya, a vachana of Akkamahadevi set in rAga sindhu bhairavi and Chakorange chandramana beLakina chinte, a vachana of Basavanna, set in rAga Bhatiyar

Ragavan concluded the concert with one of his own compositions, a tillAna in Bhatiyar.

This is a concert I would definitely remember for a long time🙂

-neelanjana