Friday, September 09, 2011

TAP (Tyagaraja Aradhana Programme?) - 2011

Following the Chennai TAP on 2nd Jan, the BITSian version of it conducted by Raag was on the cards. It is indeed intriguing to think of Saint Tyagaraja’s compositions gaining audience in this small North Indian village of Rajasthan. This year’s iteration of the event began with much promise as a very enthusiastic bunch of people turned up for registration. Having signed up for what would be close to two weeks of daily practice sessions with six lead vocalists, 3 guys and an equal number of girls, the sessions began with the first piece: Jagadanandakaraka in ragam Nattai. The group soon settled into their singing voices and disparities of pitch were sorted out. As January drew to a close the progress made was remarkable: people with no previous experience in Carnatic music were able to pull off decent renditions of Saint Tyagaraja’s master pieces. The practice sessions usually scheduled after dinner had good attendance with people staying enthused for the full one hour. ‘Guruji’ Deepak was also delighted to be part of many engaging discussions one of which was based on a most pertinent question: At what speed had Tyagaraja himself sung these kritis??? This and other such seemingly innocent discussions on music and other topics with a surprisingly fresh outlook defined the practice sessions.
The program held on the morning of Founder’s day (8th February, 2011 this year) usually ends up having a certain magical quality to it. It was no different this year with a serene and soulful ambience being setup in the good old Room No. 2219. The songs rendered included Sri Ganapatini in praise of Lord Vigneshwara, The remover of obstacles, Guruleka etuvanti in praise of Guru, The Teacher, followed by the Five Pancharatna Kritis of Tyagaraja. Such Aradhanas are held in many places in India during this time of year in a tradition that dates back more than a century. It is a testament to the treasure trove of musical and lyrical beauty in each of Tyagaraja’s krithis that each such Aradhana succeeds without much effort in moving the performer and listeners to a different spiritual plane. As a tradition then, this celebration transcends a mere formality and we hope that TAP is a great example of the fact that with proper initiation Carnatic classical music too is very accessible to a lay audience and also to an amateur performer. Here is to the next iteration being even bigger and grander!!


The usual thought of depicting something different, something contemporary was in many people’s mind and mails started flourishing as usual from every corner. The idea of Meghdootam initially sparked off, but doing another Kalidasa story having a sort of similar plot as the Abhignanashakuntalam was not an idea worth taking forward. Then came the ideas for contemporary themes like the sister theme which was conceived a few years back, evolution of man and story of carbon atom (However carbon needed to lose some ‘electrons’ if the dancers decided to do it, so we decided not to mess with Dr. Mendeleev!). Once Deepak suggested the Ghanashyaam theme, a major decision had to be made between a whole theme-based show with this theme or following the NR-2k10 format and depicting Seasons for the contemporary part. The latter won.

For the auditions last sem, there were four to five people who turned up. Finally Bharat, the carnatic singer from Bangalore and ‘Yenna Panra’ (though his real surname is Yanamandra) Saicharan, a Mridangam player from Guntur entered the club. The trip to BGM and performance over there had warmed up (Though the weather was very bitterly cold) the musicians as well for the season, thanks to Pratik as part of the BGM cultural team. Though we were one short of the number of dance styles we had for NR, the excitement was no less compared to it.

We initially started out with an ambitious and loooooog list of pieces to be performed, but a couple of them had to be chucked later on due to time constraints for practice as well as for the show. January saw vigorous practice sessions for the songs for individual dance styles and towards the end of the month ‘Seasons’ started.

Four seasons were planned to be depicted. The scorching summer, the pleasant monsoon, the lazy winter and the joyful spring were aptly choreographed and composed with brilliant expressions and vibrant music. Though test series and other factors posed some hindrance, late night practice sessions till1am and morning sessions from 9am during holidays compensated for them. Sangamam show date was also changed quite a few number of times and was finally held on 6th March. Reminders, pep talks, publicity and other things added to the organizational dimensions of the event. In the end, we enjoyed the fruits of our hard work, which included some good choreography, music composition and, more than all that, sincerity and dedication.

The pieces performed in order:

Alarippu, meaning ‘flowering bud’, is traditionally the first piece that a Bharatanatyam dancer learns and performs. Based on the graceful movement of the hands, eyes, and the neck, it is entirely nritta-oriented, containing purely rhythm based steps. This dance ritual is usually accompanied by oral percussion and mridangam. The Bharatanatyam performance was a Chatusra Alarippu, which is set to a 4-beats cycle.

Dancers: Aishu, Manji, J, Sush
Musicians: Deepak, Ajay, Judee, Pras

Mata Saraswati
This piece invokes Goddess Saraswati (aptly with the raag Saraswati), who is the embodiment and epitome of knowledge, intellect and beauty. Interspersed with swara combinations with related dance steps, this piece was predominantly of a Nritya style. Interestingly this was a fresh new concept of Bharatanatyam danced for Hindustani music set to Char Taal

Dancers: Aishu, J, Sush
Musicians: Anubha, Ajay, Aayush, Sagar

Thaye Yashoda
Thaye Yashoda is a song wherein the gopikas describe to mother yashoda, the antics of her son Gopalakrishna. In the song, the gopikas narrate certain incidents that had occurred and complain to Yashoda. Thaye Yashodha in Todi ragam set to adi talam was presented in Kuchipudi style of dance.

Dancers: Manji, Ninja
Musicians: Preethi, Uthra, Ajay, Saicharan, Deepak

Pallavi is a pure dance piece in which a raga is elaborated through eye movements, body postures & intricate footwork. Both the dance and the music evolve in complexity as the dancer traces multiple patterns in space, interpreting the music dexterously in the multi-layered dimensions of taal (beat) and laya (rhythm). This pallavi set to raag Kalyan was performed in Odissi.

Dancers: Kuheli
Musicians: Yudhajeet, Deepak, Ajay, Isha, Aditya

Shiva Kama Sundari
This composition is in praise of goddess Parvati, who personifies beauty in its purest form. The poet addresses Devi as the pretty Consort of Lord Shiva and tells her that it is her burden to save him as he struggles through life, unable to see the end of this circle of births. Shiva Kama Sundari in ragam Jagan Mohini set to Roopaka Talam was performed in Bharatanatyam.

Dancers: Aishu, Manji
Musicians: Preethi, Neeraja, Ajay, Deepak, Pras

Thillana is the concluding piece of a Bharatanatyam performance. It means “Joyful” dancing. Happiness, joy and ecstasy are the feelings that are given expression to, in a thillana. This is a nritta piece, in which the brilliance of a Raga is reflected in the complex and vibrant footwork and the captivating poses of the dancer.

The dancers performed a Thillana in a Ragamalika, meaning a garland of ragas. It includes eight ragas namely Hamsanandi, Brindavani, Madhuvanthi, Hindolam, Mohanam, Vasanta, Kaanada and Kalyani. Every thillana is usually sung in praise of a particular deity. This thillana was in praise of Lord Siva.

Dancers: Aishu, Manji, J, Sush
Musicians: Deepak, Ajay, Preethi, Ashwin, Saicharan, Pras

The Music Filler
The intention of the music filler was to give dancers some time to get ready for the next part, which was the seasons. There was a musical performance with veena and violin accompanied by mridangam. The first song that was performed was a varnam composed by violin maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman in Nalinakanthi ragam set to adi talam. The second song was a thillana, which is yet another composition by Lalgudi Jayaraman in ragam Dwijavanti set to adi talam.

In the next part of our show was depicted, the myriad hues and multiple facets of the four seasons. This yearly cycle that we witness on earth, has left many an impact on our classical art forms. The dancers attempted to portray the brilliant colours and tempestuous forces which characterize the seasons as well as the evocative emotions which they spawn within each of us.

Our Sun, the immense source of energy is responsible for life on earth and is also the chief architect of seasonal change. Thus, we began with summer, the season which belongs to the sun.

Invoking the Sun God through a multitude of names, Surya, Ravi, Mitra, Bhanu, Aaditya and Bhaskara, we witness the everyday morning spectacle as the Sun rises to greet a brand new day. The rays, gentle at first, soon spread to all corners and light up the day.

As the sun rises, two people come outdoors to enjoy a bright sunny morning. The day wears on and by afternoon the Sun’s rays have reached their peak intensity. Soon the pleasure of sun-bathing changes to irritation at the unbearable heat. The discomfort causes tempers to rises as temperatures increase even further. Not much later, the life giving forces of the sun’s rays turn destructive as trees, animals and people fall victim to the intense heat and an inevitable drought sets in.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ashwin, Ajay, Preethi, Deepak, Pras, Hemant, Isha

The scorching heat of the summer has left behind an aftermath of death and destruction. River beds are dry, plants withered, people are desperately in need of water. Two people pondering this sad scene, however notice the dark clouds gathering the distance and the sound of rolling thunder fills the air. The sky soon splits open and the first drops of rain fall to the ground, rejuvenating the whole world. The monsoon arrives, bringing with it the calmness and respite from the heat, which the trees enjoy silently. In the forest, all creatures , the majestic elephants, the beautiful peacocks, and the light-footed deers, celebrate the arrival of the rains. The dancers danced with joy, as nature itself responds to the revival of the beauty of the earth.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ajay, Hemant, Isha, Aayush, Deepak, Sagar

The rainy season ends with the onset of the winter. As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, temperatures fall and cold breezes and fog set in. The sky turns dark and the sun has lost its penetrating power thus bringing with it a mood of gloom, sloth and desolation.

This mood does not last forever in the hearts of people as they soon realize the joys that winter brings with it. Be it gathering around a warm, crackling wood burning fire or indulging in a fun snow fight, people soon start enjoying this season of cold.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ajay, Preethi, Isha, Deepak

Spring is the season when the earth blossoms back to life in a brilliant display of colours and hues. The sun shines pleasantly bright, green shoots peep from the ground, and the world begins to wake up after its winter slumbers.

The dancers depicted this season's effect on the glum spirits of a girl who along with her friends revels in the inviting outdoors with birds chirping and plentiful fruits on the trees. The depiction included the dancers dancing to a folkish tune signifying the joy and energy that spring creates within us.

Dancers: Manji, Aishu, J, Ninja, Sush, Kuheli
Musicians: Ajay, Preethi, Hemant, Isha, Judee, Deepak


Post written and edited by Ajay and Deepak.