Bengaluru-based Indian classical and film music composer Mahesh Mahadev has been pushing boundaries with his expanding repertoire. After creating more than 45 ragas in Carnatic and Hindustani classical music, he has now come up with another new raga, ‘Thyagaraja Mangalam’, to honour musicologists T.M. Thyagarajan and Mangalam Shankar. The music video, released as part of the Guru Purnima Celebration Series 2021, had a few compositions set to this new raga, and rendered by Singapore-based playback singer and classical vocalist Priyadarshini.
Explaining the reason behind choosing the name ‘Thyagaraja Mangalam,’ Mahesh says he thought it fitting to create a raga name that combined the names of two legendary musicians. “T.M. Thyagarajan was a celebrated vocalist, musicologist and composer, and Mangalam Shankar, an eminent disciple of TMT who followed his baani, has carved a niche for herself.”
The new raga is a janya of Gowri Manohari, the 23rd Melakarta, and is an Audava Sampoorna raga. Mahesh’s Virutham is the first known composition in it. “I have included the structure of the raga while composing the Virutham — the arohanam S G₂ M₁ P N₃ S and avarohanam S N₃ D₂ P M₁ G₂ R₂ S are explicitly embedded in it. I have composed varnam and kritis in this raga, which will be released later,” says Mahesh, whose other creations are also set to be released soon.
Mahesh included his recent creation, Raga Srirangapriya, in his latest album Kandenu Sri Ranganathana, and the composition was sung by the late S.P. Balasubrahmanyam. His other inventions include Raga Bhimsen, named after Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, and an experimental work where he has composed a complex song with modal shift of tonic (graha bedham) in odd time signature, in Kiravani raga, which then moves on to a rare combination of ragas. Sung by Priyadarshini, this composition is also slated to be released soon.
Speaking about Mahesh and their collaborations , Priyadarshini, a student of Mangalam Shankar, says, “As a composer, Mahesh demonstrates his thoughts and ideas about the tune and the melody of the raga to help us understand the melodic sequence. After that, improvisation with the lyrics takes place. Since the melody, tune and placement are all fixed by the composer, all we need do is understand the tune and render it with right expression and voice modulation. The complete process takes place in a few hours.”
Mahesh’s upcoming projects include a Tamil movie Maaligai and a Kannada one, Jhansi IPS, where he is the associate music composer and lyricist.
Priyadarshini, who began her playback singing in 2004 with Tamil film Kadhal Dot com , feels there is always scope for new ragas and they in turn open up horizons for new compositions. Mahesh says, “I’m looking forward to exploring more ragas, rare or otherwise, and composing a lot more.”