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Music — different perspectives

DR. PAPPU VENUGOPALA RAO

From archives to history, the Music Academy morning conference sessions dealt with varied subjects.


The various components of Roopamu Joochi and the secrets embedded in each line of the text have been fully exploited by Rukmini Devi in choreography.

Photos: V. Ganesan

Comprehensive study: (Top row, from left): Shubha Choudhri, Jaya Chandran, Tiruchi Sankaran and K.G. Vijay Krishna. (Second row): Ganga Ramachandran, N. Ravikiran, Suhash Vyas and Sriram Parasuram. (Third row): Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Students of Kalyani Sharma, Rajasree Ramakrishna. (Fourth row): T.K. Govinda Rao, Vikram Sampath,Tiruchi R. Thayumanavan and the B.M. Sundaram-AKC Natarajan duo.

The morning session on December 20 was dedicated to the memory of Palghat Rama Bhagavatar. Dr. S.A.K. Durga spoke about him. There were two lecture-demonstrations in the session.

The first lecture demonstration was by Dr. Shubha Choudhri, from the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute of Indian Studies, New Delhi. She spoke on ‘Creating and Maintaining Music Archives.’ She said capturing and recording audio video, documentation of the photographs and other materials help us in understanding the evolution and preserve music for posterity. She emphasised that the contextual information is also equally important of any music concert like — how, when, where, for whom and why.

A collection is different from Archives, Dr. Choudhri said. Archives is a structured and organised collection, catalogued and documented properly. While there may be digitisation with new technological skills, it is important to keep the originals under safe conditions of temperature and humidity. Tiruvarur Sthalam as interpreted in Rukmini Devi’s choreography in the Rupamu Joochi Varnam – that was the subject handled by S. Jayachandran. It was packed with explanation, a power point presentation and dance demonstration all put together. Jayachandran spoke of the significance of Tiruvarur as a famous Saivite pilgrim centre with sthalapurana, the iconographic details of Somaskanda Murty and the esoterics of the temple. He dealt with the choreography of Rukmini Devi line by line of the Chowka varnam Rupamu Joochi in Thodi, Aadi taalam. The various components of the varnam and the secrets embedded in each line of the text have been fully exploited by Rukmini Devi in choreography. The Pallavi of the varnam talks about “I came to see your form out of love – why should you be so angry?”

Esoteric secrets

In Tiruvarur it is protocol that the Lord conceals His body. It is covered with flowers and this is popularly known as Tiruvarur Rahasyam. The speaker then went on to Anu pallavi and Charanam giving the choreographic nuances of Rukmini Devi, based on various philosophical texts and esoteric secrets. Each line was explained and demonstrated in dance.



Ganga Ramachandran, N. Ravikiran, Suhash Vyas and Sriram Parasuram.

The analysis provided a deeper insight of the various concepts of Tyagaraja Swamy at Tiruvarur and more than that it established the necessity to understand the Agamic and ritualistic information before attempting choreography of any particular composition like this.

The session on December 21 was dedicated to the memory of S. Balachander, the great veena exponent. Sangita Kalanidhi R. Vedavalli spoke about him.

There was only one lecture-demonstration and it was on “Multifacets of Khandam and Thrisram with a special reference to Guru Sri. Palani Subramania Pillai style” by Prof. Tiruchi Sankaran, star disciple of the legendary mridangam maestro Sri. Palani Subramania Pillai.

Varieties of tisram

Sankaran spoke about the art of accompaniment. He was nostalgic about his guru and played the mridangam in different permutations and combinations as taught by him. He talked about the many varieties of trisram, chaturasram, khandam etc and of the evolution of the Tala concept itself. He tried to emphasise the subtle differences between gati and nadai. He demonstrated with a couple of audio recordings of his guru.

The morning session of December 22 was dedicated to Soolamangalam Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar (1866-1952) an erudite scholar, musician and playwright about whom Dr. SAK Durga spoke. There were two lectures in the morning. The first one was by a young and dynamic scholar Vikram Sampath from Bangalore on ‘Mysore as seat of Music.’ Vikram recently published a book entitled ‘Splendours of Royal Mysore, the Untold Story of the Wodeyars.’



Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, Students of Kalyani Sharma and Rajasree Ramakrishna.

He classified the Wodeyars period of rule into three eras — 1399-1750, 1799-1868 and 1881-1950 — early, middle and modern respectively. He said Mysore has been a culturally dynamic and musically vibrant kingdom and substantiated his point with several examples. He began with Chikka Devaraya (1673-1704) who composed Gita Gopala, with seven charanams known as Saptapadis, on the lines of Jayadeva’s Ashtapadis in different ragas and talas.

Shifting his focus to the modern period he attributed the evolution of Mysore Veena bani to Veena Seshanna, the great grand son of Pacchimiriyam Adiseshayya. He showed how the Mysore Veena bani got established during this period with the contribution of stalwarts like Veena Seshanna, Shamanna, Venkatagiriappa and others. He elaborated on Seshanna’s life and gave details of how the Mysore Venna is structurally different. He talked of the reforms and modernisations that took place during the period of Nalwadi Krishnarajendra (1884-1940).

He elaborated on Mysore Vasudevachariar’s contribution. The last ruler Jayachamaraja (1919-1974) and his sister Vijaya Devi qualified in Western Classical Music. Jayachamaraja was a Sri Vidya upasaka and most of his compositions were on Devi.

The second lecture of the session was on ‘Comparing the language and music faculties in humans’ by Prof. K.G. Vijayakrishnan from Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages, Hyderabad. He began with the statement that two major substantives that all systems of music share with language are rhythm and pitch. He showed the similarities in accentual shifts in pronouncing the words in speech and music. Rhythm and meter in poetry relate to musical phrases in compositions. He demonstrated this with clips of Hamsadhwani and Sahana.

Prof. Vijayakrishnan concluded with some interesting inferences, one of them being that knowledge of pitch of any one system does help transfer to another system categorically.

The discussions of December 23 were dedicated to Sathur Subramaniam about whom Prof. S.R. Janakiraman spoke briefly. There were two lecture demonstrations during the day and the first one was by Ganga Ramachandran on ‘Contribution of Ennappadam Venkatarama Bhagavatar (1880-1961) - rare ragas.’

Rare ragas

Ganga Ramachandran started her presentation with a brief biographical sketch of Ennappadam Venkatarama Bhagavatar, who composed about 146 kritis of which about 108 are on Krishna with his mudra Venkataramana. He also composed nirupana songs for Harikathas without any mudra. He was honoured by The Music Academy in 1959 with a Certificate of Merit. She spoke of eight rare ragas and talas employed by him and listed them; Sumukhi, Raasabouli, Muralinadam, Vrndavanakutuhalam, Prakasini, Sreedhari, Priyadarsini and Rasavarali and also mentioned some talas like Nuti, Preethi and Devaranjanam.

Chitraveena N. Ravikiran presented a lecture demonstration on ‘Oothukkadu Venkata Kavi,’ whom he described as one of the most brilliant composers. He started his presentation with questions about his existence and whether he wrote all the compositions attributed to him. He listed the kshetra kritis composed by him on different pilgrim centres to substantiate his style and lyrical structure. He said that a sannidhi, a memorial, exists at Oothukkadu. His composition on ‘Guru Ennapunyam’ in Ritigowla establishes a human guru to him while the Suratti composition reiterates the guru factor. Oothukkadu’s mention of Purandara Dasa and Tulsidas establish his time as after 1623.

Ravikiran brought to the attention of the audience the article of TV Subbarao in 1956 Journal of The Music academy in support of Oothukkadu. He was one composer who wrote about Radha, he said. He also talked of his Sanskrit compositions and Navavarana Kritis to establish his mastery over the languages. Ravikiran talked of a secondary signature in some of his compositions.



T.K. Govinda Rao, Vikram Sampath,Tiruchi R. Thayumanavan and the B.M. Sundaram-AKC Natarajan duo.

The morning proceedings on December 24 were dedicated to Karukurichi P. Arunachalam. B.M. Sundaram spoke of his contribution to music.

There were two lecture demonstrations during the session; the first was by Pt. Suhas Vyas on ‘Bandishes of Pt. C.R. Vyas, which was more a performance. Suhas talked of his father Pt. C.R. Vyas and his compositions, the spiritual nature of them and presented a few of them. His signature was Gunijan and they are rich in sur, taal and laya, he said. He demonstrated brilliantly bandishes in Nat Bhairav, Yaman, Bilaskhani Todi, Ramkali and concluded with a beautiful bandish in rag Basant Kedar.

The second lecture demonstration was by Sriram Parasuram on ‘Hindustani ragas and their adaptation into Karnatic Music.’ He chose five pairs of ragas, Begada (Bihagada), Ramkali (Ramakali), Dvijavanti (Jayjayvanti), Bilahari (Bilaval) and the Kanada family ragas. He emphasised the process of transformation was complete in some cases as in the case of Begada. He drew the attention of the audience to how the two nishadas are hallmark of Begada and how they are employed in terms of gamaka. He gave examples of many compositions and demonstrated some shifting from one style to the other with great facility and ease.

Sangita Kala Nidhi Nedunuri Krishnamurthi, assisted by disciples, the Malladi Brothers gave a lecture demonstration on ‘ Annamacharya’s compositions and the music he composed for them.’ Dr.Pappu gave a brief introduction of Annamacharya and his compositions.

Influence of Annamacharya

Nedunuri began his lecture with a sublime note of how he was influenced by the Lord and Annamacharya every time in deciding any raga for any composition. When he was working in Tirupati as Principal of Sri Venkateswara Music College, he came across these compositions and was approached to set some songs to tune. He was initially reluctant, being an ardent devotee of the trinity and their music. But when he first set to music ‘emoko cigurutadharamanua’ in Thillang there was no looking back. He completed 108 of Annamacharya’s compositions and still engaged in composing more.

The morning session on December 26 had one lecture demonstration by Rajasri Ramakrishna, the presentation of Bodhaka Award to Kalyani Sarma and a brief performance by her students. Rajasri Ramakrishna presented a lecture demonstration on ‘An analytical study of abhyasagana in Sangita Sarvaarthasara Sangrahamu.’

She introduced the work Sangita Sarvaartha Saara Sangrahamu, of Vina Ramanuja as first published in 1859 with subsequent editions up to 1917. She listed the contents and said that the unique feature of the work was exercises in swaravali, datu, janta and alamkaras all with sahitya in either Telugu or Sanskrit for the benefit of students of music. She gave examples of the lessons and demonstrated them and compared them with similar works like Prathamabhyasa Pustakamu of Subbarama Dikshitar (1905), the Gayaka Siddhanjanam of the Tachur Brothers (1905), the Sangita Swara Prasthara Sagarahamu of Nathamuni Pandita (1914) and the Thenmattam Brothers’ Sagitananda Ratnakara (1917).

Sangita Kalanidhi T.K. Govinda Rao presented a lecture demonstration on ‘Periasami Thooran’s compositions,’ on December 27. The morning sessions were dedicated to his memory to mark his centenary. Govinda Rao set about a hundred of Thooran’s compositions to music. Thooran was a devotee of Murugan and composed many songs in His praise.

Unique composition

Interspersing with some nostalgic moments TK Govinda Rao presented a few compositions, including the rare ‘Picchai edukka vanda,’ a raga malika in nine ragas in the form of srotovaha yati which grow as the lines grow. The second lecture of the day was on ‘Konnakkol’ by Tiruchi R. Tayumanavan who accompanied legends of yester years like Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, Alathur brothers, MM Dandapani Desikar and many others. He talked briefly about his introduction in to the art of Konnakkol and then proceeded with demonstrations beginning with basic patterns and moved on to more complicated. He talked about the ‘Solkattu’ used by the Vidwans of those days while rendering Konnakkol. He showed how it was used in tani avarthanam along with other percussion instruments. On the request of R. Vedavalli he demonstrated konnakkol along with other accompaniments, while his own disciple sang ‘Vatapi ganapatim’ in Hamsadhvani.

The day’s proceedings on December 28 were dedicated to Alathur Venkatesa Iyer. Sangita Kala Acarya Chengalpattu Ranganathan spoke about his Guru and his contribution to the field of music. Incidentally, Sangita Kalanidhi designate A.K.C. Natarajan was one of the senior students of Alathur.

AKC Natarajan and Dr. Sundaram presented a lecture demonstration on ‘Nagaswaram and Clarionet – A Comparative Analysis.’ After a brief introduction by Natarajan, Sundaram talked about the origin and evolution of nagaswaram. He attempted to set at rest the discrepancy in the name Nagaswaram by quoting from many earlier works including a composition of Dikshitar in Sri. He said Nagaswaram was a mangala vadya with a great scope for raga alapana.

AKC Natarajan talked about the evolution of clarionet from sadir to Thevaram to AIR to concert platform. Popular dancers of yester year included a clarionet artist in their orchestra. He recalled his first appearance and performance at The Music Academy. Then he demonstrated how gamakas are played on the clarionet, choosing the ragas Thodi and Varali.

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