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A song book for music enthusiasts

July 21, 2022 06:34 pm | Updated July 22, 2022 11:58 am IST

Athishaya Vara Prasadini, by Maragatham Ramaswamy, contains lyrics and notations of 50 rare Carnatic songs by 24 composers

The book cover.

Maragatham Ramaswamy, a musician and a long-time teacher, has compiled select songs by 24 different composers, precisely notating each one.

Having learnt vocal music from a host of veteran musicians such as Musiri Subramania Iyer, Ramnad Krishnan, T.M. Thyagarajan, K.V. Narayanaswamy and B. Rajam Iyer, and individually training with Thanjavur S. Kalyanaraman, it is only natural for Maragatham Ramaswamy to have a vast repertoire of compositions rendered in the authentic style .

Maragatham, a performing musician who moved to the U.S., established Ragamalika Music School in 1987, and became a sought-after teacher. She has received the Best Teacher Award at the Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival and Sivan Arts Academy, and the Sangeetha Acharya Ratnam from Kanchi Kamakoti peetam.

In the book Athishaya Vara Prasadini, released recently by Ramapriya Arts Foundation, Maragatham Ramaswamy has chosen 50 compositions by various composers — from Purandaradasa and the Trinity to contemporary composers such as Thanjavur Shankara Iyer, ‘Spencer’ R. Venugopal and N.S. Ramachandran — and has presented the lyrics along with meticulous notations. The book also includes a pronunciation and notation guide to assist users in learning the songs transliterated into English. Keeping it simple, she has utilised lower and upper cases to express short and long vowels, respectively, in Tamil, Telugu, and Sanskrit.

The kritis mentioned in this book, though created by well-known composers, are rarely heard on concert platforms.

The notations of one of the kritis given in the book.

Using proper symbols

The author’s violin training , under many eminent musicians including Trivandrum V. Harihara Iyer, M.S. Anantharaman, T.N. Krishnan and Lalgudi Jayaraman, may have served as a foundation for notating the gamakas (oscillations) and anuswarams (the slide from the preceding note) using proper symbols. The swaras for short fillers are also provided with notations in the book. For example, in Muthuswami Dikshitar's composition ‘Chandrasekaram sada bhajeham’ (Margahindolam), the phrase in the first line of the madhyamakala segment ‘Asta siddhi dayakam mukundam’, followed by a set of swaras in avarohanam (descending) pattern highlights the raga lakshana.

The anuswarams distinctly notated in Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar’s Mandari raga composition, ‘Athishaya vara prasadini’, after which the book is titled, and in Mysore Vasudevachar's ‘Hare paripahimam’ in Kedaram provide the instrumentalists a flawless image of Ni and Ga in these ragas. There is also a sign that suggests meaningfully dividing the sahitya.

The song and chittaswaram for Pallavi Seshaiyer’s rare composition ‘Entani vinnavintura’ in Urmika raga are so skilfully notated that even if one is learning the composition for the first time, he or she may pick up the subtleties of the raga well.

Maragatham Ramaswamy’s altruistic work, with a passion for sharing her knowledge, is reflected in the compendious presentation of each of the compositions. The book will be a useful asset to any Carnatic music practitioner and student. The book (₹ 750) is available at Srutilaya and The Karnatic Music Book Centre, Chennai.

The writer specialises in Carnatic music.

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