R. Vedavalli @ Lakshmipuram, Chennai

Venue: Lakshmi Hall, Srinivasa Perumal Koil, Lakshmipuram, Chennai

Date: 30th Oct 2006

Organizer: Srinivasa Music & Fine Arts

Vocal: Smt. R. Vedavalli

Violin: Smt. Charulatha Ramanujam

Mridangam: Sri N. Manoj Siva

Ghatam: Sri N. Guruprasad

List of songs:

1) gnAnAnanda mayam (slOkam) – nAttai – vEdAnta dEsikan

2) pavanAtmajA – nAttai – kanDa chApu – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (S)

3) OrajUpuchUchEdi – kannadagOwLa – Adi – thyAgarAja

4) mammu brOchu patla – simhEndramadyamam – Adi – vInai kuppaier (ANS)

5) tuLasammA – dEvagAndhAri – Adi – thyAgarAja

6) Azhi ezha – sarasAngi – Adi – nammAzhvAr (?)

7) venkaTashaila – hamIr kalyANi – Adi – subbarAya sAstri

8 ) srI vEnkaTagirIsham – suruTTi – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (O)

9) O ranga sAyi – kAmbOji – Adi – thyAgarAja (ANS – main)

10) chediyAy (viruttam) in rAgAs kharaharapriyA, sAvEri, mOhanam and sindhubhairavi

naDanda kAlgaL – sindhubhairavi – Adi (tisra gati) – tirumAzhisai AzhvAr

11) pathiki hArathi – suruTTi – Adi – thyAgarAja

12) pavamAna (mangaLam) – sOwrAshtram – Adi – thyAgarAja

(Key: O = raga outline; A = raga alapana; N = neraval; S = kalpana swaram)

SVK, who organizes concerts at Nada Inbam, Raga Sudha Hall in Mylapore was asked to speak a few words before the concert started and I think he aptly summed up what Sangeetha Kalanidhi Smt. R. Vedavalli’s music stands for in the words “… times have changed but if there is one person whose quality of music is still the best without any dilution, it is probably Smt. R. Vedavalli”. This concert is the first one being organized by the new sabha Srinivasa Music and Fine Arts and I don’t think they could have wished for a better concert to start their sabha with.

Smt. R. Vedavalli’s music I feel stands for its purity and pure classical music it was yesterday too throughout the concert. The simhEndramadyamam and kambOji raga alapanas, the step by step neraval and kalpanA swarams were all a treat to the ears. Vedavalli mami also sang two songs in suruTTi, one of my favorite ragas. (A few days back, I had gone to Sugandha Kalamegam mami’s concert and there also had been treated with two kritis in suruTTI raga).

Smt. Charulatha Ramanujam, who is no stranger to playing for Vedavalli mami, followed her like a shadow and played really well. Sri Manoj Siva and Sri Guruprasad also accompanied very well, playing with lot of sowkhyam and never beating their instruments loudly.

A trip to Gingee (Senji) Fort

While on our way to attend a friend’s marriage in Villupuram, Tamilnadu, four of us (the youths in the group ;-) ) decided to visit the historic Gingee (Senji) fort which gets its name from the place where it is located viz., Gingee (Senji). It is located about 160 kms away from Chennai and was apparently once termed by the Maratha ruler Shivaji as the “most impregnable fortress in India”.

To reach the fort from Chennai, one has to take National Highway no. 45 (NH45) and proceed till Tindivanam from where there is a road going towards the right which connects to NH66. The road till Tindivanam is awesome and it is just the opposite after Tindivanam. The Gingee fort is located about 25kms from Tindivanam, on either side of this road that leads to Tiruvannamalai.

The fort is supposed to remain open from 8AM to 5PM. One is not allowed to climb up the hills to reach the top in case one comes after 4PM. It is preferable to avoid the climb if it rains as the rocks and the steps can get pretty slippery.

Here are some snaps from the trip (please click on the thumbnails to get the enlarged view):

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There was not much sign of human life at the entrance to the fort. Just when we parked our vehicle, the parking ticket guy emerged out of nowhere. These parking-walas are just present everywhere:

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Information about the fort:

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Snaps from the fort:

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Kamalakanni Amman Temple, located en-route to the top:

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Hanuman ji on a rock:

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View from above:

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Thats Raam (not me, the other Raam in our group, whom we call Honda) on the roof of one of the buildings at the top of the fort:

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Sri Ranganatha Temple (there is no idol inside) at the top of the fort:

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This I think is the watch tower at the top:

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The snap below shows an adjacent hill that houses one more part of the fort. When seen carefully, one can observe a wall running from the portion of the fort from which this snap has been taken to the other portion on top of the hill in the centre of the snap and then to one of the hills on the right side:

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View from the top of the fort of the monuments housed in and around the fort:

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… and now the team of youths that scaled the peaks, despite discouragement, lack of enthusiasm and non-participation from the lazy oldies in the group ;-) , to reach the top of the fort:

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(L to R:) Raam (not me), Ram (thats me), KR and Suresh

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(Top to bottom:) KR, Ram (thats me) and Suresh

… and to sum it all up, the topmost point in the snap below is where we reached:

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More information on the fort can be found in the links below:

1) Wikipedia

2) Villupuram district tourist places

Charumathi Ramachandran on Srividhya, the actress/musician

There is an article by famous singer Smt. Charumathi Ramachandran in Newindpress on Srividhya (the actress-cum-musician daughter of one of the legends of Carnatic music MLV) who passed away recently. The article can be accessed by clicking here.

The line that struck me from the article is “It leads one to ponder on the private and sad lives of stars and celebrities and how much they have to sacrifice in life, to remain stars and celebrities in the fickle eyes of the public

TM Krishna @ Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai

Venue: Satguru Gnanananda Hall, Narada Gana Sabha, TTK Road, Chennai

Date: 27th Oct 2006

Occasion: Sri Nedunuri Krishnamurthy’s 80th birthday celebrations

Vocal: Sri T.M. Krishna

Violin: Sri Sriram Parasuram

Mridangam: Sri Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman

Khanjira: Sri B. Sree Sundar Kumar

List of songs:

1) alarulu kuriyaga – shankarAbharaNam – Adi – annamAchArya (S)

2) jAnaki ramaNa – sudha sImantini – Adi – thyAgarAja

3) tuLasi bilva – kEdAragOwLa – Adi – thyAgarAja (AS – main)

4) jAnaki ramaNa – kApi – Adi – vAnamAmalai jeer

5) tillAnA – kamAs – Adi – patnam subramanya iyer

The concert was supposed to start at 7:30PM and last for 90 min. It started only around 8:30PM due to delay in the performances scheduled before it and lasted for just over an hour. Even in this short time, TMK gave a very good performance. The last mOra-kOrvai played by Sri Sivaraman was simply superb.

Its pouring

Its been raining cats and dogs in Chennai for the past two days. It is quite normal that rains follow me wherever I go. It started drizzling in Chennai as soon as I came here. Hyderabad had a healthy rainfall when I was there last year. It rained in Bangalore too when I was there about a month or so back … and if that was not enough, it suddenly started raining in Delhi when I went home after finishing that blood and money-sucking year at Hyderabad. In fact it suddenly started raining the day I landed in Chennai on a short trip last year and in 10 minutes, the entire road to my mamaji’s place had turned into the river Cauvery, as it flows in Karnataka. May be its high time to start cultivating some entrepreneurial spirit to take advantage of such happenings …. not exactly the way Dev Anand tried it out in the Hindi movie Guide though. (Actually its been raining rather too much in Chennai this time, may be because the gods are happy that my friend Rajani had moved away from Chennai for a few weeks).

The electricity board in Chennai seems to be doing a much better job than the met department when it comes to predicting when the rains are about to come. For instance, I was sitting at home yesterday night and suddenly the power went off. The first reaction from my brother was “oh … it would have started to rain or a shower must be just a minute or two away”. I opened the door leading to the namesake balcony (that ends before it starts) and I saw the first few drops landing on the balcony floor.

Its been a struggle traveling outside home. Places that were just around the corner till about two days back now look very distant. Roads have turned into waterways with ferrymen gunning their boats without the slightest sympathies for creatures wading near the shore. I saw this old man in front of me get into one of the lakes that had formed last evening, stop there and look helplessly at an autorickshaw heading towards him from the opposite direction. What next? … the familiar Hajmola ad scene was enacted once again and the auto driver sped away adding a few new colors to the old guy’s life.

Meanwhile, a few people have been making hay while the sun doesn’t shine ….. the cinema houses in the city have apparently wisnessed a rise in ticket sales. This I think can be attributed to the fact that people travelling near the movie halls get a good option to take cover from the prolonged rains. What else can explain people sitting through horrible tam movies that have been released last week like … well …. I am not taking names. I think the time is not far off when the tamil movie industry starts organizing events/pujas for invoking the rain god alongwith the usual once-in-five-year-thanksgiving-ones they have been religiously organizing once a new Chief Minister gets elected, for god knows what.

Sugandha Kalamegam @ Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai

Venue: Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall, TTK Road, Chennai

Date: 24th Oct 2006

Theme: Dikshitar Day – Muthuswami Dikshitar Compositions

Vocal: Smt. Sugandha Kalamegam

Violin: Sri V. Srikanth

Mridangam: Sri K. Arun Prakash

Khanjira: Sri B. Purushottam

List of songs:

1) rakta gaNapatim – mOhanam – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (S)

2) angArakam AshrayAmyaham – suruTTi – rUpakam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

3) santAna rAmaswAminam – hindOLa vasantam – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

4) srI dum durgE – srIranjani – kanda Ekam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (AS)

5) aruNAchala nAtham – sArangA – rUpakam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

6) pAhimAm ratnAchala – mukhAri – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (A)

7) kanjadaLAyatAkshI – kamalAmanOhari – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

8 ) akshaya linga vibhO – shankarAbharaNam – misra chApu – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (ANS – main)

9)  akhilAndEshwari – jujAvanti – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

10) sOmasundarEswaram – suddhavasantA – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

11) lalitA paramEswari – suruTTi – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar

Every aspect of this concert was good, be it the raga alapanas, song renditions or the percussive support. Shankarabharanam alapana was beautifully executed by both the vocalist and the violinist. Sri Arun Prakash and Sri Purushottam played a very short and simple taniavartanam in misra chApu talam. Smt. Sugandha Kalamegam treated listeners with two songs in suruTTi, one of my favorite ragas.

Gayathri Venkatesan @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai

Venue: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Mini Hall, East Mada St., Mylapore, Chennai

Date: 23rd Oct 2006

Organizer: Ganamukundapriya

Vocal: Smt Gayathri Venkatesan

Violin: Sri H.V. Raghuram

Mridangam: Sri Tiruvidaimarudur A.  Shankaran 

Ghatam: Sri J. Ramdas
List of songs:

1) vanajAkshi (varnam) – kalyANi – Adi – rAmanAthapuram srInivAsa iyengAr (S)

2) pAlimpa rAvadElarA – Arabhi – rUpakam – pallavi sEsha iyer

3) sundara tara dEham – pantuvarALi – Adi – thyAgarAja (ANS)

4) aparnA pArvati – naLinakAnti – rUpakam – kalyANi varadarAjan

5) rAga sudhA rasa – AndOlikA – Adi – thyAgarAja

6) tAmadam En swAmi – tODi – Adi – pApanAsam sivan (ANS – main)

7) Ehi mutham dEhi – rAgamAlikA – Adi – nArAyaNa tIrtar (?)

8 ) thillAnA – mAnD – Adi – lAlguDi g. jayarAman

9) satyasya (viruttam) – rAgamAlikA

10) pavamAna (mangaLam) – sOwrAshtram – Adi – thyAgarAja

This is the first time I am hearing a concert of Smt. Gayathri Venkatesan and the first thing that struck me when the concert began was how beautiful her voice was. I feel hers is one of the most attractive female voices in the carnatic circuit today. As Prof T.R. Subramaniam said towards the end of the concert, a good voice alone can’t help and Smt. Gayathri had enough substance to go along with her good voice. In fact, she was single handedly responsible for making the concert a good one.

Of all the accompanists, the mridangist was probably the only one to actually play well technically but he banged his way to glory. His “hard-hitting” accompaniment coupled together with a more-than-necessary amplification resulted in many in the audience closing their ears at times. So unbearable it was at one point in time that one gentleman in the audience tried his best to point it out to the mridangist as well as to the organizer without any positive results. This particular gentleman was so frustrated that when the taniavartanam was about to start, he made a quick exit quoting the line from the charanam of the song using which vocalist did neraval on his way out i.e., “idhu inimEl mudiyAdhu …… porukka mudiyAdhu (roughly translated: I can’t bear it anymore)