The lecdems as part of the KK Murthy Memorial Music festival were interesting

The Academy of Music held Sri K.K. Murthy Memorial Music Festival in Bangalore last week and as part of it there were lecture demonstration sessions. Dr. R. N. Taranathan of the Rudrapatnam Brothers fame presented a lecture demonstration on the topic – “Various facets of Raga Athana”. He was accompanied by his daughter Sangeeta Taranathan, son Sanjay Taranathan on the mridangam and Arjun on the violin.

Raga Athana is one of the ancient Ragas primarily showcasing the Veera and Bheebhatsa rasas. There are differences in terms of the raga’s Janya – some claiming it as 29 Dheera Shankarabharana Janya, and some classifying it as 28 Harikambhoji janya. The prominence of the kaishiki nishaada in its arohana and the kaakali nishaadha in its avarohana is at the root of this debate. The raga itself is considered phrase based rather than scale based. The aarohana and avarohana swaras Sa Ri2 Ma1 Pa Ni3 Sa and Sa Ni3 Dha2 Pa Ma1 Pa Ga3 Ri2 Sa respectively are indicative rather than prescriptive. Thus variations to the above can be found in some of the compositions of Muttuswamy Dikshitar. Dr. Taranathan began with Ganesha Pancharatnam set to Athana in tishra nade, aadi taala. Eruditely presenting the various facets, he demonstrated the fine nuances of the raga by performing several famous krithis of Sri Tyagaraja, Muttuswamy Dikshitar and Ootukkadu Venkatasubbaiyar. Memorable of these were “Baala Kanakamaya”, “Bruhaspate Tarapate”, and “Anupama Gunaambudhi”. Arjun’s rendition of “Ilalo pranataarti” by Sri Tyagaraja was notable as also “Sri Saraswati Bhagavati” – a composition of Mysore Vasudevacharya.

Speaking on “Mysore Veena Parampara and Mysore Veena style” veena maestro D. Balakrishna recalled the tutelage of his father Doreswamy Iyengar under Sri Venkatagiriyappa who in turn was the direct disciple of Veene Sheshanna. He narrated several anecdotes while brilliantly showcasing the finesse and uniqueness of the Mysore Veena tradition. The importance given to the quality of the meetu is the hallmark of the Mysore Veena style. This allows for the player to elicit complicated swara jatis with ease. However, it requires strenuous practice and several finger exercises – many of which were created by the brilliant Veene Sheshanna.

The talk trailed through the history of the Mysore Veena style highlighting the contributions of the stalwarts from Veene Sheshanna to Sri Doreswamy Iyengar. His performance of “Naa Jeeva Dhaara” in Bilahari, Mohana swara jati and Karnataka Kapi raga was brilliant. The Karnataka Kapi raga, a janya of Kharaharapriya raga has the arohana swaras set to Sa Ri2 Ga2 Ma1 Pa Dha2 Ni2 Sa and avarohana swaras set to Sa Ni2 Dha2 Pa Ma1 Ga2 Ri2 Sa. The intricate daatu swaras for raga Khamaj were performed effortlessly though he emphasized on their difficulty and complicated nature from a performer’s perspective. The personal experiences and fluid narration of Balakrishna held the audience in rapt attention. Such events should be planned in such a way that it enables maximum participation by music lovers.