Priya Sisters @ Ayodhya Mandapam, Chennai

Venue: Ayodhya Aswamedha Maha Mandapam, West Mambalam, Chennai

Date: 06 Apr 2007

Organizer: Sri Ram Samaj (Rama Navami Celebrations)

Vocal: Priya Sisters – Vid. Haripriya & Vid. Shanmukhapriya

Violin: Vid. M.A. Krishnaswamy

Mrudangam: Vid. Pathri Satish Kumar

Ghatam: Vid. Madippakkam Murali

List of songs:

1) vanajAksha (varnam) – mandAri – Adi – mysore vAsudEvAchAr

2) gaNanAyakam – pUrNashaDjam – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (S)

3) rAmanukku mannan muDi – hindOLam – Adi – aruNAchala kavi

4) rAma bANa – sAvEri – Adi – thyAgarAja (AS)

5) shrI rAgahavam dasharatAtmajam (viruttam) – Anandabhairavi

palukE bangAra mAyenA kOdanDapANi – Anandabhairavi – Adi – bhadrAchala rAmdAs

6) banTurIti – hamsanAdam – Adi – thyAgarAja (AS)

7) kAlai thUkki ninru – yadukula kAmbOji – Adi – mArimuthu piLLai

8 ) sAgA varam aruLvAi – sudha hindOLam (varamu) – Adi – subramaNya bhArati

9) pakkala nilabaDi- kharaharapriyA – misra chApu – thyAgarAja (ANST)

10) konDal vaNNanai (viruttam) – Arabhi – tiruppaNNAzhwAr

srI ranganAthan guru sEvai kANa – Arabhi – Adi – ??

11) tolliyun marrAku – hindOLam – kanDa chApu – annamAchArya

12) kurai onrum illai – rAgamAlikA – Adi – c.rAjagOpAlachAri

13) vIDivO aDa vijayarAghavuDu (?) – brindAvani – chatusra Eka – ??

14) tIrAda viLayATTu piLLai – rAgamAlikA – chatusra Eka (tisra gati) – subramaNya bhArati

15) mudA karAtta mOdakam – kalyANi – chatusra Eka – Adi shankarAchArya

16) jagadapu tsanavula jAjarA – hindOLa vasantam – Adi – annamAchArya

17) Asai mugam marandu pOchE – jOnpuri – Adi – subramaNya bhArati

18) Dolanu ? sAi gOpalabAla – yamunA kalyANi – kanDa chApu – ??

19) nI nAma rUpa mulaku (mangaLam) – sowrAshTram – Adi – thyAgarAja

(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)

How would one feel as an artist if he/she performs a concert to a packed house (full of people who have come to hear his/her concert and not the one after his/hers), if he/she gets thunderous applause after almost every song/alapana and if audience requests keep pouring in even before he/she starts the concert? There isn’t probably anything better he/she can ask for !!! For Priya Sisters, all the above have just become a routine affair. The audience simply love them and lap up whatever they sing and today’s concert was no exception. They received a roaring welcome as soon as they just appeared on stage from one of the corners and the first audience request had reached the stage even before they had seated themselves properly.

The sisters started the concert with the mandAri varNam of mysore vAsudEvAchar. As they started the sAvEri alapana two songs later, audience requests written in small pieces of paper (chits) seemed to pour in from all directions. Sri P. Satish Kumar on the mrudangam acted as the channel and collected the requests while the alapana was on. Soon he also found himself helpless as requests kept bombarding the stage left, right and center even when the kriti and the kalpana swarams were on. Kalpana swarams were put in “rAma bANa” at “tammuDu baDalina vELa …”.

The viruttam “srI rAghavam” and the song “palukE bangAra mAyenA” brought out anandabhairavi beautifully. The song could have been requested by many people in the audience as almost the whole Ayodhya Mandapam seemed to start clapping along with the song when it began. Needless to say, the song got a thunderous applause when it got over. This was followed by a hamsanAdam alapana. Sri M.A. Krishnaswamy played his version of the alapana very well. I hoped against hope that the song would be “kalyANa rAma” but that was not to be the case. The sisters sang “banTurIti” with kalpana swarams put in the charaNam at “rAma nAma …. “.

The main alapana of the day was that of kharaharapriyA. It lasted for 15 minutes and was a delight to hear right from the word go. Neraval and kalpana swarams were put in “pakkala nilabaDi” at “manasuna dalachi …. “. After kharaharapriyA came the viruttam in Arabhi which had me speculating “srI ranganAthan” from the time it started and “srI ranganAthan” was what came next !! The viruttam was so fitting for the song as it described Lord Ranganatha so beautifully. This was followed by a series of tukkaDAs, most of which I am sure where requests from the audience. They were interspersed with Annamacharya kritis which are an essential component of all concerts given by the sisters. The shlOkam “mudA karAtta mOdakam” was preceded by a nice chant of “gam gam gaNa gaNa gaNapati …. ” with a kalyANi base with a good use of harmonics. As one of the sisters sang with their normal pitch as the base, the other sang in parallel using other frequencies as base and this gave a very pleasing effect.

Sri P. Satish Kumar on the mrudangam was at his usual best. I have always found him to be a delight to hear. He seems to have something or the other for both the lay man as well as the connoisseur, especially while playing for the songs. The taniavartanam he played along with Sri Madippakkam Murali was a delight as well, especially with his kOrvais and endings structured so as to lead to the start of the song with an eduppu of 3 aksharams (0.75 beats) after samam. The two primary nadais were chatusram and tisram. The tisra naDai was an interesting one where Sri Satish Kumar would play a pattern twice in tisram and then once in chatusram to lead to the eDuppu. He played many patterns this way. An example would be the pattern “tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times”. He played this as (take 1 avartanam of misra chApu = 3.5 beats = 14 aksharams in chatusra naDai):

(tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times) tha,ngu – in tisram = 18 aksharams = 3 beats (18/6)

(tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times) tha,ngu – in tisram = 18 aksharams = 3 beats (18/6)

(tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times) – in chatusram = 15 aksharams = 3 beats (12/4) + 3 aksharams

which comes to 9 beats + 3 aksharams and would lead to eDuppu if started after 1.5 beats from samam (or 2 beats before samam).

After many similar patterns using combinations of 5, 6 & 7 and 5, 7 & 9, he played kOrvai also in a similar format. The korvai was played as follows:

Starts 3 aksharam after samam:

First time (in tisram) 39 aksharams

tha ka dhi na tha,ngu – 3 times

tha dhi, ki na thom – 3 times

Second time (in tisram) – 42 aksharams

tha ka dhi na tha,ngu – 3 times

tha, dhi, ki na thom – 3 times

Till now total aksharam count = 3 (for offset from samam) + 39 + 42 = 84 aksharams which lands at samam.

Third time (in chatusram) – 45 aksharams

tha ka dhi na tha,ngu – 3 times

tha dhi, tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times

which lands 3 aksharams after samam which is the eDuppu !!!!

The kOrvai that took the cake was however the last one that led to the start of “manasuna dalachi .. “. Will have to decipher that from the notes I took and post  later as it is already 3AM now and high time I signed off for the day (or should I say “signed off for yesterday”).

The concert started at 7.00PM and was supposed to end before 9.30PM. It went on till about 10.30PM with the hall still well populated (many people even standing near the gate). As for the audience requests, they came in even as the sisters sang the last song of the day before the mangaLam. When the mangaLam began, a gang of kids, as has become their usual practice at this venue, rushed towards the stage and stood in front it, blocking it completely. They were armed with notebooks and pens and were apparently vying for autographs.

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12 thoughts on “Priya Sisters @ Ayodhya Mandapam, Chennai

  1. Vignesh says:

    hi, good review as usual.. Here is a small incident which my friend witnessed at bangalore… this is between sri rajarao and a layman.. that fellow walked out during the tani.. suddenly rajarao stopped playing and asked him the reason and that fellow said, i did not understand.. rajarao got angry and said what did he understand till the time he sat.. now this fellow replied.. the main singer(sri unnikrishnan, i think!) made me sit with good singing.. u play well then even i will sit…

    now, as a normal human being, i would not say it is wrong. here in coimbatore when murthy mama came for a concert, audience walked out and he said avva pona apparam vasikalame..

    It would be unfair to compare mridangists with sri KRM or UKS.. they are simply great and the fact of the matter is there are many people who come to listen these masters only!! i come to chennai for only 3 days in the season and i see to that i hear KRM,UKS and prof sankaran when i am there. i dont care who the main artist is as i feel they are capable of lifting the standard of the concert to a dizzy height by their mastery.. so dont compare others with krm/uks/tss

    my guru used to tell this, even palghat mani iyer had problems with crowd moving out and it is a shapam for all mridangists.. i am also hurt when i write this comment becoz i am also learning mridangam for past 12 years… if things have to change, there is only one solution.. that is change the concert structure in such a way that tani should be in the early half..

    I also remember a concert where sri t v g sang a concert here in coimbatore and gave the tani to vid arun prakash, at 6.50PM. which is 50 mins from the start of the concert. the concert concluded at 9pm. you could see that people started moving out at 8-8.30 Pm during the main ragam as they may not have a tani again. No main artist would want crowd going out when they are singing thodi/kharaharapriya/bhairavi, so it is highly unlikely that this change will happen.. we cannot complain about it.. just move on with it.

  2. Ram says:

    Most of what you say is true Vignesh. I agree that not all mrudangam artists can be like say Sri UKS whose wizardry appeals to everyone – from the lay man to the average rasika to the connoisseur.

    However I feel there is just one more thing that can be tried to see if people who get up and go just because the taniavartanam has started (without any other genuine reason) can be made to sit and enjoy it. Apart from giving the tani a bit earlier which both of us have talked about and which kind of looks highly unlikely without co-operation from the main artist, I feel that before the tani begins, the mrudangam artist can try and briefly explain what he is going to play. Say when one nadai finishes, he can just repeat what he had said earlier about that nadai so that people can reflect back and think if they were able to identify with what he said. If all this cannot be done in the concert, then I think one should hold lec-dems or very basic sessions where people can interact with mrudangam artists who have got good communication skills and learn more about what taniavartanam is. If it is difficult for upcoming mrudangam artists to do the talking about tanis in a concert because they feel they might be eating into the concert time, I feel the older artists/maestros can take up the task easily. Most older artists anyway talk about some thing or the other during concerts. Why not start talking about tani and ask people to try to see if they understand the tani the next time they go to a concert? Even the main artists who just keep lamenting about people leaving during taniavartanams can take the lead and ask their mrudangam accompanists to explain a bit about the taniavartanam. Just talking about people leaving will result in nothing constructive.

    In one of the talavadya programs that Sri Karaikudi Mani had organized in Asthika Samajam, Alwarpet here in Chennai, he had said that unless people start listening to taniavartanams, they will not be able to appreciate it. This is just like a person not going to a carnatic music concert because he has never heard carnatic music and only heard from others that it is difficult. Only when he starts hearing concerts or recordings does he stay on and listen to the songs being sung. Similarly, if people were somehow educated about taniavartanams and if enough interest is induced to make them listen to it say 3-4 times, I am sure there will at least be some positive effect for us to see.

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