A really satisfying day!

Started the day with a beautiful lec dem on Dhrupad by Prof. Ritwik Sanyal at the Music Academy. The time allocated to him was too less to do justice to the topic. I would love to get an opportunity to spend more time with him and learn more about an art form that I love so much. An added advantage is that he comes from the tradition of the Dagars, who are easily my favorites when it comes to Dhrupad.

Moved from there to a lec dem on raga swarupam by Prof. S.R. Janakiraman, arguably one of the most knowledgeable speakers in Carnatic Music today and an able communicator. I think I can just sit for hours on end listening to him speak and hearing him sing. The session was very interesting and I was just left wanting for more when it finally ended.

Met a bunch of friends from the rasikas community and spent the afternoon with them.

TMK held the audience at Shri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha spellbound with his music in the evening. The phenomenal pUrvikalyANi RTP he sang made my day.  Heard from friends that Sanjay presented a great bhImpLAs RTP across the city for Tamil Isai Sangam at about the same time. Would have been great to hear that as well, but what to do. I love both Sanjay and TMK and they end up singing at the same time at different venues almost everyday.


Margazhi Raagam

Imagine a concert in Chennai’s music season where

  • you prefer the last row to the first
  • the balcony ticket is costlier than the ticket for a seat in the main hall
  • the sound system is excellent
  • there are no MTC buses honking
  • there are no mamas/mamis shouting raga names the moment the singer starts singing
  • no one seems to bother carrying/refering to a raga identification guide
  • there is an intermission
  • (last but not the least) the venue has clean toilets


This is Margazhi Raagam for you (Official web site: Link). 



  • Audio/video is of very good quality
  • Camera work is excellent
  • It is bound to appeal even to non-carnatic-concert-goers, going by the feedback from some of my friends who do not listen much to Indian Classical Music


A few things that I thought could have been better:

  • The intermission could have been done away with or else some carnatic audio could have been played. Instead, some pop music was played followed by ads of TV shows and what not. In Arar Asaippadar’s screening at the same Sathyam Cinemas (Chennai), Sanjay’s music was played before the movie began and during the interval which had a very good effect. 
  • The taniavartanam could have been shot better. For instance, both sides of the mrudangam could have been shown with the split screen effect. The tani also seemed to appear all of a sudden as if it was a disjoint piece force-fit to the song it was played for. But people did recognize the tani, for many of them got up and left the hall promptly, as they do in regular concerts 😉
  • Personally, I would have loved a more traditional kutcheri-ish stage and backdrop than the panels lit in blue with curtains dropping from the top. (The presence of smoke would have given it the effect of a Kollywood movie dream scene 😉 )
  • Volume for khanjira could have been higher. 
  • I would personally have preferred them record a live concert with the audience present, especially to capture the on-stage interactions between the musicians more completely. The on-screen personas of a few musicians were totally different from their on-stage ones. Some just seemed to be too concious of the camera.


PS: I loved the music on offer, especially the RTP

Concert with J.A. Jayanth (Flute) @ Shri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha


Played mrudangam today for the flute recital of J.A. Jayanth at Vidya Bharati, Mylapore, Chennai.  The concert was organized by Shri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha. 



Flute:  J.A. Jayanth 

Violin:  Parur M.S. Ananthakrishnan

Mrudangam:  R. Ramkumar


List of songs:

1) calamEla (varnam) – nATTakurinji – Adi – mUlaivITTu rangaswAmi naTTuvanAr (O)

2) sakala kalA vANiyE – kEdAram – Adi – suddhAnanda bhArati (OS)

3) tera tIyaga rAdA – gowLipantu – Adi – tyAgarAja

4) nenaruncarA – simhavAhini – Adi – tyAgarAja (S)

5) sabhApathikku vEru deivam – AbhOgi – rUpakam – gOpAlakrishna bhArati (AS)

6) parama pAvana rAmA – pUrvikalyANi – Adi – rAmanAthapuram srInivAsa iyengar (AST)

7) rAma nAmamE tudi manamE – dEsh – Adi – tanjAvUr sankara iyer (O)

8 ) nAnATi bratuku – rEvati – Adi – annamAcAryA

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

Concert with Girija Shankar @ Vani Mahal, Chennai

Played mrudangam on 18th Dec 2008 for the vocal concert of Girija Shankar at Vani Mahal, T. Nagar, Chennai.  The concert was organized by Shri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha. 



Vocal:  Girija Shankar

Violin:  B. Sudha

Mrudangam:  R. Ramkumar


List of songs:

1) gaNanAdanE – sArangA – Adi – periasAmi thUran (O)

2) AnandAmritAkarshiNi – amritavarshiNi – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkSitar (OS)

3) sarOja daLa nEtrI – shankarAbharaNam – Adi – syAma sAstri (ANST)

4) nAdalOluDai – kalyANavasantam – rUpakam – thyAgarAja (O)

5) celinEnEtlu sahintunE (jAvaLi) – paras – Adi – paTTAbhirAmayyA

6) mAdhava mAyA mAnava rUpa – hamsAnandi – Adi – pApanAsam sivan (O)

7) tanana dhirana dhIm (tillAnA) – khamAs – Adi – lAlguDi g. jayarAman (O)


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

Mridanga Cintamanih

The fingers dance gracefully on the mrudangam producing crystal clear beats soaked in divine nadham making one wonder whether the instrument being played is the mrudangam or a perfectly tuned string instrument. As the maestro unleashes a breathless roll puncuated by appropriate strokes at the appropriate places, the only other sound one can hear in the packed Music Academy hall is that of the unforgiving Roland Rhythm box playing out the 16 beat cycle (Adi tALam 2 kalai) at 90 pulses per second. Exquisite rhythmic patterns follow in different nadais, some at unthinkable speeds with utmost clarity. The enormity of this task is realizable only when one sits down with a rhythm box and tries to play complex patterns in different nadais to the beats maintained by it. If playing to the rhythm box itself is difficult, imagine the challenge to get every syllable at the place where it should be in the tala cycle!  Needless to say rasikas and artists in the audience sit wonderstruck, for they are yet again witnessing the “Sivaraman Effect” in “The Summit:  Man and the Machine”, the aptly titled finale of a function that saw the release of “Mridanga Cintamanih – A Treasure Trove of Rhythmic Lessons”. They do not forget to show their appreciation when they give the maestro not one but two standing ovations at the end of the program.

Sri Umayalpuram K. Sivaraman is arguably the most outstanding exponent of the mrudangam the world has ever seen and “Mridanga Cintamanih”, a magnum opus, is his gift to the music world. As the cover pack says, it is “a comprehensive, in depth encyclopedia on the art of mrudangam, encompassing the entire gamut of playing techniques from the basic lessons to the art of accompaniment to vocal & instrumental music meticulously designed for aspiring students of percussion” by the maestro himself. The over 22 hours long treasure is split into 7 DVDs (click here for details/buying) and is surely a boon for aspirants and practioners of the art alike.

About the DVD release function and anecdotes shared …. 

The dignitaries who had come spoke highly of their association with the maestro and his music. Sri N. Murali, Managing Director, The Hindu, recalled his conversation with Sri M.A. Baby, Minister for Education and Culture, Govt. of Kerala where Sri Baby compared Sri Sivaraman with Maradona, the football legend, to which Sri Murali said he is a combination of Pele’s discipline and Maradona’s brilliance. Sri Baby recalled Sri Sivaraman’s reverance and respect for past maestros by narrating how once he had organized a program in Delhi where Sri Sivaraman was supposed to play the mrudangam for Sri D.K. Jayaraman with Sri M.S. Gopalakrishnan on the violin. Upon learning the legendary Sri C.S. Murugabhoopathy’s presence in Delhi, he had requested Sri Sivaraman to convince Sri Murugabhoopathy to play mrudangam in the concert instead. It was no mean task, for Sri Murugabhoopathy had stopped playing in concerts long back and did not accept any such requests. Instead he wanted Sri Sivaraman to play as he himself was here. Sri Sivaraman managed to convince him by springing a surprise that he would sit besides him in the concert with a khanjira to which Sri Murugabhoopathy replied that not only is he being asked to play, but the great Sri Sivaraman is being paired along with him on khanjira, making the task all the more challenging. He finally relented and rasikas were presented a grand treat with all these greats performing together on the same stage!

Sri Baby also recalled how Sri Sivaraman has co-operated with organizers whenever they have made sincere efforts to give rasikas a great listening experience. He recalled how he has peformed “Vadya Manjari”s with percussionists from the Kerala, playing traditional Kerala drums. Once it seems Sri Baby requested Sri Birju Maharaj to perform along with tabla and mrudangam to which he replied that such things generally cannot be done without having practice sessions with all the artists involved. When told that Sri Baby had Sri Sivaraman in his mind, Sri Birju Maharaj immediately replied that there is no practice required then and that they can directly meet on stage. Sri Baby also recalled numerous performances he has heard of Sri Sivaraman with greats like Pt. Kishan Maharaj, Ustad Alla Rakha, Sri G. Harishankar etc, notable among them being a 2.5 hour percussion ensemble in Kolkata featuring Sri Sivaraman, Pt. Kishan Maharaj and Sri G. Harishankar on the same stage. That must have been quite an experience!

Sri Baby also recalled a 1 hour concert at Rashtrapati Bhavan when Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer was in his 90s in which Sri Sivaraman played a 5 minute tani that held everyone spellbound. He also recalled a concert in Delhi with Sri Doraiswamy Iyengar on the veena where Iyengar told Sri Sivaraman that with his mrudangam, it was like two veenas performing. 

Smt. Padma Subramaniam, well known Bharathanatyam exponent, spoke about her association with Sri Sivaraman’s music and about its greatness. Sri Madurai G.S. Mani highlighted the importance of playing for namasankeertanam, harikatha and other forms of music and spoke at length about his appreciation of Sri Sivaraman’s art. He also spoke about the difficulties of performing publicly with a rhythm box and how Sri Sivaraman is able to perform this to perfection time and again. 

The DVD release ceremony drew to a close with the screening of a short film on the maestro by Sri S.B. Kanthan titled “Naadha Laya Pravaham”. Copies of this film are available in each of the DVDs in “Mridanga Cintamanih”.

The evening saw Sri Sivaraman demonstrate how to accompany for namasankeertanam, harikatha, chaste carnatic classical kritis, tukkadas and bharathanatyam. He also played mrudangam along with western drums.

Concert with Aditya Venkatesh @ Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

Played mrudangam yesterday (11th Dec 2008) for the vocal concert of Aditya Venkatesh at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mylapore, Chennai.  The concert was organized by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. 



Vocal:  Aditya Venkatesh

Violin:  M. Vijay

Mrudangam:  R. Ramkumar


List of songs:


1) mAl marugan (varnam) – hindOLam – Adi – tanjAvUr shankara iyer

2) nenaruncarA – simhavAhini – Adi – thyAgarAja (S)

3) nekkurugi – AbhOgi – Adi – pApanAsam sivan (AS)

4) iniyAgilum – sAvEri – Adi – lalitAdAsar (A)

5) bhOgIndra shAyinam – kuntalavarALi – kanDa cApu – svAti tiruNAL

6) unnai allAl – kalyANi – Adi – pApanAsam sivan (ANST)

7) nagumOmu galavAni – madhyamAvati – Adi – thyAgarAja

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

Aditya Venkatesh @ Brahma Gana Sabha, Chennai

Played mrudangam today for the vocal concert of Aditya Venkatesh at Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium, Luz Church Road, Alwarpet.  The concert was organized by Brahma Gana Sabha. 



Vocal:  Aditya Venkatesh

Violin:  K.P. Haricharan

Mrudangam:  R. Ramkumar


List of songs:


1) Era nApai (varnam) – tODi – Adi – paTTaNam subramaNya iyer (O)

2) tuLasi daLa – mAyAmALavagowLa – rUpakam – thyAgarAja (ONS)

3) AnandAmritAkarshiNi – amritavarshiNi – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkSitar (S)

4) singAravElavan vandAn – Anandabhairavi – Adi – pApanAsam sivan (O)

5) bhOgIndra shAyinam – kuntalavarALi – kanDa cApu – svAti tiruNAL

6) bhajana sEya rAdA – dharmavati – rUpakam – mysore vAsudEvAcAr (ANST)

7) mahAdEva shiva shambhO – rEvati – Adi – tanjAvUr shankara iyer

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