Learn the technicalities and the grammar of four ragas, featured in this album, from veteran musician V. Subrahmaniam.

Carnatic music students have to rely a great deal on their Lakshya gnana which is imbibed by repeated listening to live concerts of both vocalists and instrumentalists. Of course, media such as radio and television do provide opportunities to listen to the artists but serious listening, which would enhance one’s sangeetha gnana, can be derived only by listening to the live concerts. This is as far as Lakshya gnana is concerned. Mere Lakshya gnana is insufficient for a student to blossom into a full-fledged performer. The technicalities and grammar associated with ragas and talas have to be learnt from competent gurus.

A set of four compact audio discs, released as ‘Sangeetha Sikshavali’ by Swati Soft Solutions, has senior vocalist V. Subrahmaniam from the Semmangudi school imparting kriti learning lessons as well as explaining in a lucid fashion the raga lakshanas of the kritis taught.

The first disc has kritis in Anandabhairavi in addition to the explanation on the raga lakshana. Both the kritis taught are not ones which figure frequently in the current concert scenario. ‘Neemathi Challaga’ of Mathrubhoothamayya and ‘Pahitharakshu’ of Swati Tirunal are the compositions taught.

Subrahmaniam patiently breaks the sangatis of the songs into easy-to-follow phrases enabling the students to repeat the sangatis with ease. Each sangati is repeated at least four times to make sure that the students grasp the variations in the sangatis perfectly. Subrahmaniam traces the existence of Anandabhairavi to the medieval times and sings and demonstrates the swaras associated with a folk song. He also is of the opinion that it would be proper to classify Anandabhairavi as a janya of Kharaharapriya rather than Natabhairavi. He cites the reason for this as the chatsruthi daivatham is the one used predominantly, with the suddha daivatham being just an anya swara which contributes to Anandabhairavi being a bhashanga raga.

Important aspect

Students should also make a note of the important aspect which the vocalist mentions regarding the mandra sthayi limitation in Anandabhairavi. Below the nishada there is no usage of other notes. This a point which will be of educational value to students and rasikas. Allied ragas such as Ritigowla, Madhavamanohari and Husseini are dealt with. The vidwan opines that even though the opening phrase of Syama Sastri’s ‘Pahi Sri Giriraja Suthe’ is with the notes Sa Pa Sa, this prayoga is more relevant to the allied raga Husseini.

The K.Ata tala varnam of Veena Kuppa Iyer, sung by Semmangudi apart from Subrahmaniam’s alapana and thanam, followed by Syama Sastri’s ‘Marivere’ and Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s ‘Tyagaraja Yoga Vaibhavam’ bring the CD on Anandabhairavi to a close. Begada is the chosen raga in the second CD. The kritis taught are ‘Vande Deva Devam’ of Swati Tirunal and ‘Lokavanachatura’ of Tyagaraja. The explanation of raga lakshana has Subrahmaniam expressing his view that though technically Begada is considered a janya of Sankarabharanam, since the usage of the kaisiki nishada usage is predominant over the the kakali nishada, it would be justifiable to classify Begada as a janya of Harikhambhodi. The kakali nishada is used sparingly only as an embellishment. The vocalist renders the Adi tala varnam ‘Intha Chala’ apart from an alapana and thanam. Compositions sung are the ones which figure in the teaching session apart from a javali of Thirupanandal Pattabhiramaiah. Exquisite renderings of ‘Tyagarajaya Namasthe’ sung by D.K. Pattammal and ‘Yarukagilum Bhayama’ by T. Muktha are treats to listen to. Subrahmaniam states that the raga Begada suits all the rasas and this is evident from the various types of compositions ranging from varnams, kritis, padams and javalis in the raga. He sums up the raga lakshana talk on Begada by recollecting that his guru Semmangudi had told him that while the raga was taken up on a number of occasions for discussion at the conferences of the Music Academy, Chennai, between the 1940s and 50s, no proper conclusion was arrived at regarding the lakshana of Begada.

The Purvi-Kalyani combo

Purvikalyani one of the frequently handled ragas in concerts is covered by the teaching of kritis and lakshana explanation in the next disc. The compositions taught are Purandaradasa’s ‘Manava Janma’ and Swati Tirunal’s ‘Deva Deva.’ The guru renders additionally ‘Meenakshi Memudam’ (Muthuswamy Dikshitar ) and a lively javali ‘Neemata’ of Thirupanandal Pattabhiramaiah. It is informative that Purvikalyani is also known as Purvakalyani and Purikalyani.

Subrahmaniam explains that the purvanga of the ‘arohanam’ of Purvikalyani matches with that of Purvi of the Hindustani system and the first half of the avarohana matches with the Carnatic [raga] Kalyani and the name Purvikalyani is a combination of both these ragas.

The lakshana session states that the raga has ample scope for manodharma. An exquisite rendering of an alapana of Purvikalyani followed by ‘Gnanamosagarada’ sung by Semmangudi finds the veteran at his best with his voice in fine fettle.

The fourth CD is devoted to Ritigowla raga in which the kritis taught are ‘Paripalayamam’ (Swati Tirunal) and ‘Dwaithamu Sukhama’ (Tyagaraja). Lakshanas of allied ragas such as Anandabhairavi and Sriranjani are explained in a manner which can be easily grasped by students with a certain understanding of the ragas. How the common swaras are to be handled in Anandabhairavi and Sriranjani without trespassing into Ritigowla are demonstrated vocally. The swaras ‘ga ri sa’ are sung to show how they are to be employed in different ways for the allied ragas.

The compositions which are offered for listening are ‘Vanajaksha’ (Varnam-Veena Kuppa Iyer) and a Thiruvempavai both of which are rendered by Subrahmaniam’s students while he renders ‘Janani Ninnuvina’ (Subbaraya Sastri) with kalpanaswaras.

This album has immense value for students and would also serve as a useful ready reckoner for concert artists. The students who take part in the learning of the kritis are Shankar Venkataraman and Meenakshi (Jyoti) Ganesh. Meenakshi painstakingly and convincingly repeats the sangatis in the upper octave.

Sangeetha Sikshanavali

Swathi’s Sanskriti Series

Raga Lakshana and Kriti Lessons

V. Subrahmaniam

Carnatic CDs

Price Rs. 750