Bangalore Bangalore International Centre had arranged a highly educational lec-dem titled “Carnatic Concert Appreciation – How to be an educated rasika” on Friday, May 18, 2012 at 6:30 PM. Vidya Subramanian, an eminent vocalist from Chennai and disciple of the legendary musician and composer PadmabhushanLalgudi Sri Jayaraman, held the audience in rapt attention throughout the 90 minute event. Vidya was ably accompanied by two accomplished artists based in Bangalore – MeeraRajkumar on the violin and A. Rajkumar on the mrudangam.
The lec-dem was packed with sublime music and clear and concise explanations. Vidya began the lec-dem with a popular piece, Sri MuthuswamiDikshitar’sVatapiGanapathimBhajeham in HamsadhwaniRagam. She demonstrated different techniques in kalpanaswaram singing and explained the importance of jeevaswarams (life giving notes in a particular raga), calculations that blend in subtly with the melody of the song , use of koraippu (progressively short swara patterns and interchanges between vocalist and violinist) and final korvai (calculation that provides a finale to the kalpanaswara rendition).
The next segment of the lec-dem highlighted aspects of concert planning – how a Carnatic musician works to provide the audiences with an interesting mix of pre-composed and creative elements, diversity in ragas, talas and composers, tempo variations and compositions in different languages and themes.Vidya highlighted the exalted status enjoyed by the Carnatic music trinity of Thyagaraja, Dikshitar and ShyamaShastry due the unmatched richness and diversity of their compositions.
Vidya possesses a special ability to bring out apt illustrations. She picked two ragas to demonstrate how musicians vary their approach based on the raga. First, she sang a scintillating alapana of Raga Anandabhairavi followed by ShyamaShastry’s majestic and masterful composition, “MarivereGati”. She demonstrated how highly developed Anandabhairavi’sgamakams (embellishments) are by singing the chittaswaram (pre-composed swara segment) with and without the traditional gamakams. She discussed how the presence of traditional swara combinations and established phrases in this raga make it difficult to perform unless the musician has had deep exposure to this raga through the study of compositions and years of listening. She also sang snippets from other songs in Anandabhairavi to illustrate the strong melodic undercurrent that make the raga easy to identify. Next, Vidya took up a relatively rare and new raga, Raga Urmika and sang a beautiful alapana laden with fast and catchy phrases. She explained how Urmika, being a scale oriented raga is relatively easy to perform for a well trained musician but harder to identify by the listener due the lack of traditional phrasings and compositions.
Vidya seamlessly wove into the next segment of the lec-dem that dealt with the lyrical richness and diversity of themes in Carnatic compositions. She took up three compositions to illustrate – “Ranganayakambhavaye” by Dikshitar (describing the Ranganathaswamy Temple of Srirangam), a “Nada loludai” by Thyagaraja (describing how involvement in music is a source of bliss) and “Sakhiprana”, a javali (approaching devotion in nayaka-nayakibhava through the theme of love).
The penultimate segment of this highly educational lec-dem dealt with manodharma (creative aspects). Vidya demonstrated the progression of sangatis from simple to complex and also how Carnatic compositions lay the foundation for manodharma. She sang tanam (improvisation using rhythmic syllables called jatis) in Raga Kaapi and followed it up with a brilliant Pallavi (one line composition) set to Khandatriputatalam. Vidya’sneraval (melodic improvisation of the Pallavi line) followed by trikalam (exposition in three speeds) and tisram (dividing the beat into 3 as against the default of 4) brought out her mastery of this difficult exercise. She also explained how varnamsmay be used in advanced level training for tanam and tisram practice.
The presentation concluded with LalgudiJayaraman’s brilliant tillana in Raga Madhuvanti – a Carnatic composition in a Hindusthani raga which exemplifies the ongoing interaction between Carnatic and Hindusthani music.
Finally, Vidya answered audience questions. Topics covered included the association of Carnatic ragas with the Navarasas (nine emotions), the typical repertoire of a Carnatic musician, types of gamakas (embellishments to a swara) and the interaction between the main performer and accompanists.