Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan – The Phenom

It’s 4AM and it’s been more than 3 hours now since I started to listen to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (BGAK) today. Time has just flown past and I am forced to wind up only with thought of catching some sleep before I leave for office in another 2.5 hours. Such has been the impact of the music of the legend on me in the past few weeks. 

I first heard the Ustad in an old recording of his about 10 years back and was held spellbound by the Marwa he had sung! But I somehow didn’t get a chance to listen to his music much after that … and I am making up for all of that these days by listening to him as much as I can amidst a really crazy schedule at work. 

My recent BGAK mania was triggered off when the audio of A.R. Rahman’s “Delhi 6”  got released. One of the tracks in Delhi 6 is “Bhor bhayi“, sung by the Ustad and by Shreya Ghoshal in the raga Gujari Todi. ARR has just included a part of the rendition by the Ustad. The entire original rendition is just too good, especially the parts that ARR has not included in the album. 

The thing that struck me when I first heard the Ustad was his voice. What a range and what a weight in his singing! How much riyaz he must have done to sing so effortlessly and to traverse 3 octaves with such ease! And what clarity even while singing lightning fast bhrigas! I feel I can just go on and on and on.  Let me however stop right here and drench myself once more in his Megh Malhar before I hit the sack.

Another milestone for ISB!

My alma mater, Indian School of Business (ISB), has been ranked 15th in the latest annual ranking of B-Schools worldwide by Financial Times (click here for details). As our dean put it, “To be so young and to achieve such heights is no ordinary feat”. What ISB has achieved in just a few years since its inception as a world class B-School in India is indeed commendable and it looks to be on track to achieve still greater heights. Way to go!

Proud to be an ISB-ian!

Slumdog Millionaire

The Golden Globe Awards and the Oscar nominations would certainly pull crowds to this well thought out and well made movie. Though the movie has many positives, I would love to watch it again just for the way the kids have gone about doing their roles. Just brilliant stuff! Young Jamal and Salim’s expressions in the first few minutes of the movie were just awesome! Not to take credits away from the rest of the cast who have played their roles very well too. 

A.R. Rahman’s music just rocks. Given the limited scope for BGMs in this movie and given the theme of the movie itself, I felt ARR has once again proved his mettle.  Starting with “O Saya” right at the beginning, the music just seems to uplift the movie and hold it high up right till the very end. I especially loved “Mausam” and “Latika’s theme” and the way they were placed in the movie. 

For some unknown reason,  I have been addicted to Latika’s theme ….. I was listening to it in the afternoon and have been listening to it ever since I came back from the movie. A simple but haunting track. Way to go ARR!

Padams & Javalis as handled in Brinda-Mukta Bani

The following are excerpts from a very informative lec dem on the above topic given by Dr. Nirmala Sundararajan and Dr. Subhashini Parthasarathy on 23rd Dec 2008 at Tattavaloka Auditorium, Eldams Road, Teynampet, Chennai under the aegis of Carnatica. I have taken the liberty to organize my notes from the lec dem under my own headings below.




1.1 Introduction

Padam is a musical monologue which resembles a kirtana in structure and propagates the sentiment of love for God through the innumerable aspects of nayika–nayaka bhava. It is a scholarly composition with a perfect blend of sangIta and sAhitya. 


1.2 Structure

It has the sections pallavi, anupallavi and caranam. There may be 3 or more caranams. There are not many sangatis or terse sancaras. Sangatis found are only later introductions. 

The signature or mudra of the composer may occur in the pallavi, anupallavi or the last charanam


1.3 Language

The diction is simple. Colloquial words figure in the sahitya.

Since padams admit of dual interpretations, the meanings have to be carefully studied.  It is difficult to do full justice to the poetic meanings of padams because of the language barrier, but a strong hold over their melodic aspects is enough to carry the piece through a test of musical excellence. 


1.4 Musical Aspects 

The music is slow, dignified and flows in a natural manner. All padams are replete with raga bhava and a sustained balance is maintained between the music and the words throughout. All caranams have the same music. The padams lend immense scope to expression of variegated sentiments and shades of emotion in a very leisurely tempo with exquisite raga bhava. The padams testify to the great proficiency in sampradaya sangitam. A detailed picturization of a ragam is made possible by the use of subtle nuances and variations figuring in the music of the padams. The raga aspect is brought out by reproducing and interpreting it cleverly.  There is no place for improvisation. 

Datu repetition is the most striking feature of padams. There are different types of datu repetitions. 

There are padams where the music of the caranam is the sum of that of the pallavi and the anupallavi. For example, in Kshetragna’s ninnujUda (punnAgavarALi), valapudAca (varALi) and cUDarE (sahAnA) and in Sarangapani’s sogasugADA (sahAnA)

In some padams, the anupallavi’s music is repeated with further development in the caranam. For example, in rAma rAma (bhairavi)

There is also the tradition of commencing padams with the anupallavi. The pallavi is sung only after that followed by the caraNam. A similar procedure is adopted in some of Sri Thyagaraja’s kritis like mitri bhAgyamE (kharaharapriyA), ElA nI daya rAdu (aTANA), sompaina (Ahiri) etc

The music of the anupallavi is relatively brighter and richer in padams mostly with notes of the upper tetrachord and the tAra sthAyi occuring. Hence by beginning with the anupallavi, the monotony of the long drawn out slow music of the padam is relieved to a certain extent. 

Of the three angAs, the anupallavi is the best developed (musically), followed by the caraNam and then the pallavi

Many padams are in identical varNameTTus. This has led to the standardization of certain tunes in Carnatic music. Padams of Kshetragna, Sarangapani and Govindasamayya were composed at a time when sangIta kavitvam had not reached its peak. There were hence plural sAhityAs for the same melody. The great composers were captivated by these tunes and adopted them for many of their compositions. Kshetragna’s shankarAbharaNam padam “evvarE” has been a model for:

  • Govindasamayya’s “mAnamE bhUshanamu” 
  • Muvanallur Sabhapathaya’s “dArijUcu cunnADi
  • Ghanam Krishna Iyer’s Tamil padam “tanakku tAnE”

Thyagaraja and Dikshitar have also been influenced by this shankarAbharaNam varNamettu in their kritis “manasu svAdInamai” and “akSaya linga vibhO”. Thus many classical tunes standardized in the padams have been immortalized in later musical compositions

The music set for the padams by the vaggeyakaras are themselves so rich as the ragas are almost exploited to the fullest extent. The padams are replete with gamakAs and long phrases that call for breath control, but codify the beauty of the raga with exhaustive sancArAs. Thus padams are acclaimed as the quintessence of musical excellence and as the finest expositions of rAga svarUpam. The music of the padams forms an interesting subject for study wherein the dAtu and mAtu are blended together with the musical and emotional content of the sAhityA being inseparable. 

Kshetragna has done yeoman service to the cause of Carnatic music in his choice of the appropriate raga perfectly suited to the sentiments and emotional atmosphere of the sahitya. Of the ragams employed by Kshetragna, mOhanam, kalyANi, pantuvarAli, shrI, suruTTI and kEdAragauLa have been used to depict sambhOga shringArA (love in union). Some of these have been used to depict vipralamba shringArA (separatation). 

The mood of a particular context in a padam is usually complex and is the resultant of various circumstances and problems of emotional nature. The sahitya of the padam alone may not be able to reveal the mood of the situation. When suitable music is used, the meaning of the sahitya is forcefully expressed.

Most padam compositions deal with the theme of separation in love with ample scope for varied treatment and the ragams have been so shaped as to suit the theme and the context. For example, sAvEri has been used as a vehicle for expressing the interference of a nAyikA born of pride and excessive love towards her lover and also to portray karuNa rasa arising from the quarrel between the lovers (?)

Padams explain the breath control and kArvais to be used. They have a few words interspersed with gamakAs and long kArvais. The music of the padam thus gives a real picture of how a rAga AlapanA or for that matter a neraval or a kIzh kAla swaram is to be rendered. The beauty of padams is in singing them with anuswrams. 


1.5 Rhythm

Telugu padams are always sung in a slow tempo. Tamil padams are always sung in a slightly faster tempo. A few padams in tamil are in madhyama kAlam.

Most of the padams are set in misra cApu and tripuTa tALams which help to bring out the musical gait inherent in padams. 


1.6 What does it take to sing padams?


To sing padams correctly with bhAva, a person should have

  • good raga gnanam
  • grasp of the viLambaya layam (slow speed)
  • ability for clear pronunciation of the sahitya
  • knowledge of the bhAvam involved

He/she should know where to break the sentences and the words without spoiling the meanings and sentiments expressed. 

In most padams, there are very few words and long kArvais. The gaps provided in sAhitya should be filled with long kArvais and beautiful gamakAs. Subtle inflections of the pronunciation of a particular sequence of vowels and weight of tone at heavy places are essential for the correct rendering of padams which take fresh shape with each new singing.  


1.7 Placement in concerts


Padams are sung in the latter half of a concert as the voice would have become mellow by that time and the artist will be also be immersed in full concentration.


1.8 Women and padam singing


Padam singing in music concerts was started by women singers and they also dominated the field right from the very beginning. 


1.9 Contribution of Veena Dhanammal & her family


The present popularity of padams in the music field is mostly due to the efforts of Smt. Veena Dhanammal and members of her family. There are also versions of padams from Andhra Pradesh and other regions but with style of singing different from that of Dhanammal’s. But today a state has been reached where connoisseurs of padams cannot tolerate any other version or even the slightest departure from Dhanammal’s way of rendering them. 

The ladies of the family of one Buchayappa Naidu (?) were reported to have been well versed in singing padams, although not in public. It is in their household that Veena Dhanammal is said to have learnt padams from one Balakrishnadas, a blind musician. It is stated that Balakrishnadas had learnt them from Veena Gauri Ammal but it is not clear as to how he got the versions which came down later in the family of Dhanammal. But there is no doubt that whoever composed the music for these padams was a genius who fully understood the mood and the setting of each padam and its literary merit.

Smt. Veena Dhanammal began to give public performance from her 7th year. Inheritance and acquisition alike placed before her the highest standards of purity and excellence and molded her taste for classical simplicity and elegance, which till the end suffered no loss. She represented the highest classical tradition in Carnatic music. Her achievements in padam singing were revealed by her slow and stately style. She perfected the padams in an easy and graceful manner. She was mature enough to study the exact limits of the oscillations of gamakAs, of the subtle nuances in the occurrence of sangatis and the use of phrases and embellishments that contributed to her beautiful rendition. She passed on the same to all members of her family. 

The practice of singing padams continued with Veena Dhanammal’s daughters and granddaughters. She seems to have taught Brinda and Mukta also directly, who have in turn done a great service to our music by their chaste style. They have maintained this great tradition for over four decades by adhering to a staunch view of following the pATanthara learnt by them and sung in proper style. 

About 30 padams of Kshetragna and Telugu and Tamil padams of other composers are found in the repertoire of Veena Dhanammal family



The music of the jAvaLis is slightly faster than that of the padams. The love theme – the heroine pining for the beloved – is the same in both padams and jAvaLis. The feeling is very strong in padams whereas jAvaLis mostly deal with mundane love. The music in jAvaLis is lighter, the language is colloquial and a lot of humor and satire is employed. The sangItam and sAhityam of the padam are both heavy. 

In jAvaLis, liberty has been taken to also use suggestive phrases of other rAgams. Ex: in the paras jAvaLi, phrases with prati madhyamam have been used. In behAg and khamAs jAvaLis, a few Hindustani phrases occur.  

There are jAvaLis that are in rAgams like kAmbhOji and kalyANi. There are some that are very heavy and similar to padams like . entaTi kulukE (kalyANi), Emi mAyamu (kAmbhOji) etc

Few javaLis like the ones in bEgaDa, kAmbhOji and kalyANi are sung in a slightly slower tempo than the usual khamAs, bilahari and paras jAvaLis




The following padams and jAvaLIs were sung in the lec dem:

  • kuvalayAkSirO (padam) – gauLipantu – musra cApu – kSEtragna
  • nI mATalE mAyanurA (jAvaLi)  – pUrvikalyANi – Adi – paTTAbhirAmayyA
  • meragAdu rammanavE (padam) – sahAnA – tisra tripuTa – kSEtragna
  • tiruvaTriyUr tyAgarAjan (padam) – aTANA – rUpakam – ghanam krishnayyar
  • samayamidE (jAvaLi) – mAyAmALavagauLa – rUpakam – dharmapuri subbarAyar
  • rAma rAma (padam) – bhairavi – Adi – kSEtragna
  • tAru mAru (jAvaLi) – nATTakurinji – Adi – paTTAbhirAmayyA 
  • yAr pOi sholluvAr (padam) – tODi – misra cApu – vaidIsvarankOil subbarAmayyar 
  • mariyAdA teliyakanE (jAvaLi) – suruTTi – rUpakam – paTTanam subramaNya iyer

Bowled over by Delhi 6 audio!

This has been one satisfying musical evening. Started with Hindustani Classical music of Kishori Amonkar and Malini Rajurkar. Then got an opportunity to listen to the audio of ‘Delhi 6’ inbetween office calls and just got bowled over by it.  A.R.Rahman has composed some unbelievable stuff.  Swept me off my feet instantly just like some of his earlier works Lagaan, Swades, Jodhaa Akbar etc had all done. I seem to be floating in a totally different world now 🙂

Concert with Prashant Prasad (Vocal) @ Sriranjani

Played mrudangam on 6th Jan 2009 for Prashant Prasad’s vocal recital at Swamy’s Hall, R.K. Mutt Road, Mandaveli, Chennai.  The concert was organized by Sriranjani Trust. 



Vocal:  Prashant Prasad 

Violin:  C.S. Anuroop

Mrudangam:  R. Ramkumar


List of songs:

1) karuNimpa (varnam) – sahAnA – Adi – tiruvOtriyUr tyAgayyA (AS)

2) danyuDevvaDo – malayamArutam – Adi – paTTaNam subramaNya iyer  (NS)

3) malariNai tuNaiyE – rItigauLa – rUpakam – pApanAsam sivan (R)

4) maragata maNi varNa – varALi – Adi – tyAgarAja (ANS)

5) paramapurusham – lalitapancamam – kanDa cApu – swAti tiruNAL

6) dakSiNAmUrtE – shankarAbaraNam – misra jampa – muthuswAmi dIkSitar (AST)

7) Etiruga nanu – nAdanAmakriyA – Adi – bhadrAcala rAmadAs

8 ) suvakSOjakumbhAm (shAradA bhujangam shLOkam) – rAgamAlikA – kanDa cApu – Adi shankarAcArya

9) patiki hArati rE – suraTi – Adi – tyAgarAja

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


The audio recording of the concert can be downloaded from the following link (courtesy: Prashant)


Happy New Year!

Wishing all readers of this blog a Happy New Year and great times ahead!

Ushered in new year hearing Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman perform live and heard him give a breathtaking performance again on the morning of the 1st. Couldn’t have asked for a better end to 2008 and a better start to 2009.