The various facets of a raga were elaborated by a group of musicians.

Listening to classical music is a pleasure; but to enjoy it, some basic knowledge goes a long way, especially to identify the raga and appreciate the raga essays, niraval and swaras. Then it becomes a wholesome experience. That is what Dr. Radha Bhaskar tried to drive home at the 12th session of Music Appreciation, Lecture Demonstration Series, organised by Mudhra.

‘Raga Anubhavam’ showcased seven ragas of depth and charm and these were demonstrated to the audience via a raga alapana, well known and lesser known compositions, a brief explanation of the speciality of the raga, the swaras in certain cases and how classical music is unique in this aspect.

The programme was led by Dr. Radha Bhaskar supported vocally by Dr. Subhashini Parthasarathy, Salem Gayathri Venkatesan and K. Dharini accompanied by K.J. Dileep on the violin and Thillaisthana Suryanarayanan on the mridangam.

The nuances

Starting with Poorvi Kalyani alapana by Gayathri Venkatesan, the singers sang in succession the pallavis of the following composition: ‘Paripoorna Kama’, ‘Meenakshi Memudam’ and ‘Ananda Nadamaduvar’. Radha elucidated the vakra prayoga of the notes in the arohana of the raga (‘pa da pa sa’) and how ‘gamaka’ adds extra weight and sheen to the raga.

She emphasised this with the flat notes of Sankarabharanam and how they change with the gamaka.

Ritigowla, a raga with a zig zag swara fashion, provides extra shades to the melody and the doubling of the nishadam creates a significant impact, as explained. Here the offerings included ‘Janani Ninnuvina’, ‘Chera Ravathe’, ‘Paripalayamam’ and ‘Oararu Mugane’.

Varali which came next included a solid but short alapana by Radha with songs such as ‘Mamava Meenakshi’, ‘Ka Va Va’, ‘Seshachala Nayakam’ and ‘Valabu Tala’. Radha explained how the extra stress on gandhara adds allure to Varali. After the main item, there were short takes on the ragas such as Anandabhairavi (another ‘vakra’ raga with a long history, found even in folk music and a favourite of Syama Sastri).

Tyagaraja's works

Songs include ‘Marivere Gati’ and Dikshitar's ‘Kamalambasambra’, Arabhi (an audava sampoorna raga in which Tyagaraja has eschewed nishadam fully but has made no compromise on the shade of the raga with kritis such as ‘Jooda Murare’, ‘Nadasuda’ and ‘Tsala Galla’), Thodi (‘Sri Krishnam’, ‘Ninne Nammi’, ‘Karthikeya’ etc.), preferred a lot by Tyagaraja who has composed nearly 30 kritis in the raga, and finally, Madhuvanti, a later entry (‘Kanda Naal Mudalai’ and a tillana of Lalgudi Jayraman) from Hindustani music.

Why were all the kritis presented through pallavis alone? Some could have been taken up from anupallavi or taken off from the charanam, as many times the raga's full essence can be felt in these sections rather than in the pallavi!

Maybe, Radha can give a thought to this. Also, touching upon the more inimitable, significant prayogas of the ragas in different kritis chosen would have definitely added greater logic to the lec-dem.

Radha reiterated the importance of holistic approach to music which requires regular listening; that makes one enjoy the music better and internalise the raga and the kriti. Though familiar, the raga expositions take a new dimension every time, for both the artist and the listener.

That is perhaps the exquisite and exclusive nature of Carnatic music. However, Radha did not try to impose too much theoretical aspects of the raga as these might have resulted in ennui.

This programme should have provided a different feel to the sizeable audience gathered in the Infosys Hall, T. Nagar; possibly this was an opportunity for the rasikas to listen to many kritis in the same raga and also to comprehend some important facets of the raga structures.