Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thyagaraja Aaradhana - The Chennai Chapter

"Let's meet one last time......only until the next time"

I never really was serious about the 'next' time - I have begun to believe that these are fancy things one talks about during their last times.
But someone actually turned that fancy thing around.

Casual threads on Google Groups - I can't even remember who ignited the idea (pardon me for that!) I have to go back a hundred mails to know that.
But Sankar has managed to give shape to that idea - amply supported by Srikanth!

"So lets have TAP in Chennai!"
"Sure! Why not!?!?"
“yeah! Let us! Its been so long since we all met…”

I thought mails would stop there ...until Sankar come up with

"So guys - I have spoken to the authorities in the temple near my place - they are okay with the idea!"

Ok so we are serious here or what!!

And to just bang that nail hard on my head, Sankar comes up with more stuff

1. Head count of people who are willing
2. Arrangements for the temple premises - include Shamiana , flowers,chairs, prasadam , a huge poster of thyagaraja, a flautist for the show
3. Srikanth pitches in with a huge part - Smt Padmavathy Anantagopalan ( a BIG veena artiste!) and her disciples land up for theshow
Our very own former Diro - Sri Venkateswaran and his wife kick us with their presence!
4. VSP promptly prepares invites - and there is a good chunk of alumni who warm us with their presence
(while we still were contemplating relaying the whole video live for apu nimmy and loki! - we just didn't have the logistics!)
5. Srividya makes copies of the songs and they are ready for distribution to the audience

On the day of the event ......
The place is beautifully decorated. Was like a mini marriage - all of us waving enthusiastically to the known ones whom we havent met for long!

The rendition starts with vibrancy as we speed our way through the Pancha ratna krithis.Audience is pouring in every moment.
There is so much energy that fills in the entire street.We glide through the songs with brigas (practised and spontaneous!) Krithis are followed with renditions by Orginal thadar to the Junior Thadar! It was a wonderful moment of pride.Those 2 hours were bliss - all of us were transported back to Pilani and the beautiful memories associated with it.

As the concert drew to an end, we were privileged to hear a few words from Smt Padmavathy who was highly appreciative of our efforts , who edso genuine with it , that’s probably when the
sense of success touched us gentle.

Thus ended Thyagarajan Aaradhana in Mambalam - high in energy and vibrance.
We missed all of you who weren't there. We spoke about you. We laughed about you. We wished we could see you. We missed you. And we only hope you are there the next time around.

"So...Let's meet one last time......only until the next time"

Sunday, May 11, 2008



(Find out the fund pls)

Oh ya!! That's "YO 2004!!" passing out.
(missing - vsp, srividya, pd, ro, jaggu)


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Maan gaya Ustad...

It's the fag end of the semester, almost obvious from the dull look that the campus bore. We, in raag, actually got some time to breathe free from the numerous concerts that we performed for until now. Sometime back, we had lots of discussions on whether to have a 'trinity' day, the usual event at this time of the year. However , padma mam had informed us that she would not be able to teach songs to us because of the supposedly busy schedule. Well, that would be a totally different story.Now, there comes this big question - whether we go ahead with the event, learning the songs ourselves or scrap the event for good. At times, it's often better to be pragmatic than to listen to your heart. We decided to call it off. We had already done way too much, whether for ourselves or for the insti - it does'nt matter.

The next thing would be the psenti concert, or so we thought. One fine afternoon, pratik came to me and told me that they would like to have a totally hindustani concert in a few weeks time. We had actually planned for something like this at the beginning of this semester, but that quite got out of our minds with the many many other things that we had to do. Now that the fire has been lighted, we started the usual round of practice sessions. Anil Rai sir trained them - pratik and aakash (second yearite - fresher to the club) on the vocals, Hardik, Ritesh and Aditya on the tabla. Well, it was a totally dedicated effort with extended practice sessions, which had started way back in October. Kudos to the Hindustani guyz.

It was again one of Raag's 5.30pm's in E.T. A familiar scene awaited all of us. The performers were ready to take on the stage, with confidence writ large on their faces. After the compering, done for the first time by a male (atleast until the point I can remember), pratik started with an alap in raag brindavanishrana. It was a brilliant exposition for a solid 25 minutes that concluded with the song 'Na Bolo Shyam Hami Sang' set to teen taal. Commendable effort at that. :) With 45 minutes of uninterrupted music, the first piece came to an end. Next to take on stage was Aakash - a second year entrant into the club. He started with raag Bahar. Starting at a slow pace, he elaborately brought into his rendition the grandeur of the raga, infusing it with brisk swarams towards the end. The concluding piece of the concert was a bhajan "prabhuji mere avagun chit na dharo..." rendered by pratik. A very famous bhajan, it made the audiences sway, ending the evening on a lighter and happier note.

Apart from the brilliant run up to this event and an even more cherishable concert, there was something else to note durin this concert. Audiences - never before seen faces in a Raag's concert came to sit in the front benches and happily revelling in the music. And quite a few professors too. :P

Well, that concludes the first Hindustani concert of Raag. Times change and we evolve too. And this time, beautifully. We have opened to doors to a whole new set of possibilities. This is just a start. A new dawn. A new feather to our cap. To take this tradition forward, we would only strive. The long road stretches far in front of us. It's for us to do the walking. The journey of a thousand miles. And it has just started here...

For formality's sake...

It's that time of the year when everyone would be scurrying to the library - the days we dread the most are often the days that come very soon. Its COMPREE time - which translates to mean times where the light does'nt go off the whole night, times where books find a place in our daily schedule and the only times when raag activity doesn't happen.

I'm coming from the insti, the last few days of classes coming to a close, all weary and tensed. Upon entering my room, I find a slip saying that I had to meet our NVM (now the SWD dean) at 5 pm. I was just wondering why, that too during this time of the semester, silently eating away my fears. I slowly walked up to his office and waited outside. After sometime, he calls me IN in the most endearing manner and started off with one of his long puranas - How these big shots don't understand the students and all other blah blah!  When I thought he was about to finish, he just smiles at me and says "There's a programme in CEERI and they want ragamalika's performance. I've told them that comprees are coming up but they don't seem to listen. Not much, just 30-40 minutes and you can repeat what you've done before." Aaaga! Aapu vechutaangale! It's so easy to say 30-40 minutes. Only we know what that 'few' minutes of performance entails. As I was walking back to my room, thinking on what to perform, I just realised...

This semester had been one hell of a cramming session and the credit should definitely go to our insti. 4 full fledged concerts within the span of one month. All because of a mere obligation and the 'goody goody' image of raag that we are supposed to maintain.

The first one came a few days after NR. We had to perform in the audi along with MC and DC for some biological conference. Not surprisingly enough, none of us were ready to sit for another round of practice sessions. So, we decided to perform some veena instrumental and give some of the pieces from NR itself. Nandy and Sreevidya gave solo performances. They were accompanied by Ganesh and Shravan respectively on the violin and Madhuji on the Mridangam. The audiences were treated to an extra dose of melody with kurai ondrum illai and the likes. It ended with the English note. That was part 1. Then we performed the kapi varnam 'taraka brahmame' and madhuvanti thillana for a dance recital. 30 minutes and we were done with it. Of course, there were minor hiccups (I'm actually down-playing the mistakes here :P ),but that didn't deter us from enjoying the presumptuous dinner afterwards. Well, that's one of the main motivation for having accepted to perform. :P

The next one was a double take. There were back to back schedule of performances. The first one at 5pm was in LTC. The stage was perfect and it was probably Raag's first open air concert. The accoustics (or the absence of them :P) well suited the carnatic mood and there were these delegates sitting on the lawns, swaying to the melodious tunes of vsp and Sreevidya. The content of the concert was quite varied - from the traditional semi-classical song and like tukdas to marathi abhang and bhajans. Reminded me of one of those lovely part concerts in chennai - a must attend for everyone. The second one that day was in CEERI at 6 30pm. A car picked us up from LTC and we were soon there in the auditorium. The crowd was very intimadating though - lots of Rajasthani folk and school children. We just hurried with our performance and went on to have dinner. There was a problem of choice though - dinner was arranged for us both in CEERI and in VFAST. And without doubt, we feasted at both places. :P

The penultimate one was also quite memorable. This was in VFAST lawns. Our beloved Venki had also come for this particular EMBRYO conference. Ro, radha, vsp, sreevidya, shravan and myself planned to take part in this one. Ro and radha started it with reethi gowlai varnam and followed it up with pulli kalaba mayil. Next came vsp and sreevidya with Kulukaka nadavaro and a meera Bhajan Aaj Shyam. The evening concluded with EntaroMahanubavulu - literally a comedy of errors. 8pm and it was definitely cold. Vocal cords began to shake and fingers crippled with numbness. All this culminated in us singing one particular swaram and an altogether different sahityam for it. :P Well, not much on that though coz the dinner that followed more than made up for our mistakes. And an icing to the cake : We got 10k as renumeration for performing that night. :)

The last one for the semester came just before the comprees - the one concert for which I started drafting this post. This again was in CEERI. However, the crowd this time was atleast not bad, if not good. It was just three songs and we were soon done with it.

Well, the next day was compree day and we were more than happy for that - not something usual. Yes! We are done with our share of concerts for obligations' sake. It's time to become the Jack, with all work and no play. Within minutes, I find myself buried under a huge pile of books. But the music still alive...

A perfect Symphony...

Life often amazes us with simple yet profound things. Composing a post is just one of them. I had been wanting to do this for a long time now ( I mean really long..) and somehow it just escaped the schedule of the day. Here I am, with a passion and fervour to finish something that ideally should have been done long back. However, it also helps me to relive those very moments that bought joy into us like never before - the last minute swarams mugging up (:P), the last minute practices, and sooo many other things that just gets to happen in the last minute.
This was a concert that was supposedly planned during the summer vacations. Songs were decided and practice had also started. It was to be a duo concert by Vsp and Nandy. With practice starting this early (and that is reallly early considering the 'usual' duration for a 'typical' concert), we knew how it would turn out. Initially scheduled for the 10th of October, it was postponed to the 4th of November due to the test series and the trip hangover. With extra days at our disposal, we started planning for a purely veena-violin concert on the same day. Things soon fell into place and sreevidya, myself and shravan started with the process of song selection. The first list was prepared and predictably enough was soon revised. We all had to first learn the songs and so started practicing everyday with the regular breaks due to the test series.

It was 8pm and we were franctically moving about with all the regular stuffs - writing on the board, dharis, mike setting, fetching water bottles, the mridangams, and yeah the famous 'missed calls'. :) Vsp, was a testimony to the pea out of the pod - revising swarams and ragam, tension write large on her face. (no prizes for guessing). Nandy was her usual cool self. It was only now that we got to know that the theme of the concert was a collection of rare Thyagaraja Kritis. The duo started the concert with a brisk and effervescent pada varnam in ragam karaharapriya which set the right pace for the concert. Subsequently came "Seethalakshama Sahitam" in ragam Ataana. The slow pace of this kriti lent itself well to display the melody that this raga essentially stands for. This was followed up with a brilliant exposition in Pantuvarali - a heavy heavy ragam that is. Vsp's extended brighas and Nandy's well structured korvais blended very well - the fruit of the practice that had gone into it. Cheers to you guyz! :) This was Harihari Enukove. Swarams were really peppy and kept the audience well entertained, althought the 'periya swaram' met up to the standards of raag's list of 'periya swaram renditions'.:P The neraval too suited the song to a tee. With Kaushik on the mridangam doing the successive rounds of thani avardhanam, it was a definite treat to music buffs. Next came 'Undi Yemi' in ragam Yadukula Kamboji. The concluding piece of the concert was 'Lali Yuga' in KedaraGowlai. Well, most of these songs were first timers, and yeah, needless to say, the 'duo' really made quite an impression with it.

With the first half successfully coming to a close, it was time for an enthralling and captivating jugalbandhi. Sreevidya, myself, shravan and madhuji (mrigangist) took on the stage. Although the practice had gone quite well, the final day tensions can never be done away with. The concert started off with the eternal Kalyani varnam setting the mood for a pleasant evening. Next came "Sathapaalaya" in the mellifluous mohanam. It was supposed to be played at a slow pace, but with the kind of stress that we were under (:P), it seemed like we were on the racing track. Subsequent to this came the popular "vellai thaamarai" in Abheri. Well, some songs are made just for being played on an instrument and this definitely is one of them. The following piece was a folk tune - one of the long standing wishes of our beloved president Sirimatha (read Sreevidya). Thanks to Ganesh (pretty effortless for him though) we had a brilliant self composed folk tune in aanadhabhairavi. That done, with the audiences already in quite an awe, next came the effervescent classic "Karpaga valli" in Ragamalika. The concert concluded with the soothing Maitreem Bhajeta. Instrumental music definitely takes you to a different plane.

At last, we are done with one of the brilliant Raag performances. What comes next is pretty much obvious. Marathon snap sessions, appreciations from all quarters for the wonderful evening, and more importantly the smile in everyone's faces. At the end of it all, this is what we work for - to enjoy whatever we are doing. And without doubt, we can all say Mission Accomplished! :)