Audio | Shobhillu Saptasvara: Abhyasa gana guided by Savithri Rajan

Savithri Rajan

This production is based on the book Shobhillu Saptasvara: svarāvali, gītam, prabandham, sūlādi | Find a library copy on Worldcat.org >>

Savithri Rajan provides a spoken “Introduction to Shobhillu Saptasvara” on the first track.

View or download two excerpts from the book: (1) a gitam in standard notation (raga Hamsadhvani) and (2) an excerpt on the historical context and current value of the didactic repertoire covered: Gitam_Explanations_Notation_Hamsadhvani_Shobhillu.pdf

Also listen to her veena recording: Dedication to her guru, Veena Dhanammal >>

Tips: (1) to automatically play all the tracks, click the play button; (2) scroll down to access the remaining tracks; (3) download the audio files, item lists and images here: https://archive.org/details/shobhillu-Saptasvara-savithri-rajan
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A music for all: How Carnatic music unites and keeps spreading

by Ludwig Pesch

Carnatic music – the classical music of South India – unites people from a variety of social backgrounds. Over two hundred fifty million people now inhabit a region that comprises five modern states (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana) drawn up on the basis of their respective linguistic majorities. They take pride in regional cultural traditions and festivities in addition to those celebrated all over the country.

So it hardly surprises that this music has long attracted creative minds from other regions of India; and since the mid-20th century western scholars and performers have marvelled at its capacity for connecting people by overcoming cultural, linguistic, political just as religious divides. Most importantly, all of this often happens in enjoyable, seemingly effortless ways even as “outsiders” have struggled to comprehend the underlying principles or the causes of political strife.

Not so long ago each manifestation of Indian music was understood to be firmly rooted in a specific context, rarely if ever allowed to transcend “natural”, “sacred” or “social” barriers; in the words of Nazir Jairazbhoy:

Classical music is the most refined and sophisticated music to be found in the subcontinent of India. There are many other forms, however, which have a specific function in the society, and these are by no means devoid of artistic expression. The great diversity of music in India is a direct manifestation of the diversity and fragmentation of the population in terms of race, religion, language, and other aspects of culture. The process of acculturation, so accelerated in modern times, is still not a very significant factor in many areas of the country.

Listen to a rendition of Intakannaanandam emi by Balamurali Krishna on Youtube >>
Image © Kutcherbuzz.com >>

Even if matters have changed considerably since the advent of the internet, the resilience of Carnatic music seems firmly rooted in local history and mythology just as in the lyrics of composers, or in the styles represented by performers and choreographers of national standing. At the same time, they often stand united by their yearning for “unity“: an identification with something greater than one’s “mortal self”.

As a case in point, we may consider the undiminished popularity of songs written by Sri Tyagaraja (1767-1847) expressing the conviction that “immersion in music” is a potent remedy against bigotry, hypocrisy, self-deception and vanity.

In this regard it seems as if he anticipated the quest for truthfulness (Satyagraha) as expounded by Gandhi, to start with as precondition to peaceful advancement for all of humanity.

Learn more and listen to Savithri Rajan >>

According to Savithri Rajan, this goes beyond a personal fight against self-delusion or structural discrimination of (religious) minorities and instead, amounts to a lifelong quest for a sound understanding of “reality” (be it in utilitarian terms such as general welfare or personal fulfillment):

Savithri Rajan believes that Tyagaraja, like these other great men, was always meditating, but his medium of expression was nādam, “sound” – he was an aspirant who followed nādopāsana, the approach or worship by way of sound. She points out that Tyagaraja composed a song beginning with the word nādopāsana saying there is nothing higher than worship via sound, music is the best vehicle because Brahman is nādam – divine sound – which is the omnipresent, omniscient power, “call it Power with a capital ‘P’, call it God, call it Christ, call it Krsna, call it Rāma.”

“There is music of mind, of the senses and of the heart” – Mahatma Gandhi >>
Photo © Ludwig Pesch
Selected poems
Selected Poems: Subramania Bharati
Search this book in libraries near you:
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Needless to mention that several others have followed in the great composer’s footsteps in a variety of ways and for different reasons, even for causes like India’s independence from colonial rule at a time when this was a dangerous proposition. They emulated proven models from different epochs and regions including “folk” music, be it consciously or otherwise. Thanks to the widespread appeal of drama, and the emergence of film as soon as sound technology permitted, several Carnatic musicians and composers crossed into new domains beyond “classical” music (here understood as following, even transcending time proven conventions, local tastes and appreciated by generation after generation).

Such issues are readily addressed in practices akin to “mindfulness”, as one would now describe a remedy that’s freely available to all, young and young at heart. Some are compelled by an irrepressible moral compass that helps them to promote causes including social justice that leaves no room to “untouchability” and other forms of discrimination.

The infinite scope for creativity inherent in this tradition, including self-expression and – most relevant for modern societies the world over – lifelong learning, has ensured that Carnatic musicians has endured; and this even in the face of unprecedented pressures such as those currently debated by way of social media, book writing and commentaries in Indian press.

Search this book in libraries near you:
Worldcat.org >>

Most interestingly some of these issues echo the ideals of India’s founding fathers just as those of their peers, as part of global peace and ecological movements (both inspired by Mahatma Gandhi); most notably so in the legacy Rabindranath Tagore bequeathed to many spheres of the arts and sciences that continues to reverberate in our time; and Maria Montessori, the great educationist he admired for insights that were to took roots in Indian music and dance, notably at Kalakshetra, an institution of national importance founded by Rukmini Devi.

It does not, therefore, come as a surprise that experiencing the beauty and depth of Carnatic music found its congenial expression in the newly emerging practice of an ancient form of dance, today regarded as an integral part of India’s cultural heritage; and accordingly referred to as Bharata Natyam when merging with India’s mainstream culture (from the first half of the 20th century onwards) rather than continuing as the heirloom of a particular “community”. As a result, all the strands are united as envisaged in distant antiquity, in the Natya Shastra, a treatise on drama or “total theatre”, ascribed to the legendary sage Bharata and further elucidated in several commentaries and other works on similar lines.

In short, what should matter most to us today is an open invitation long extended by some of the most talented exponents of this music in and outside India: not merely to appreciate but actively participate in it – all this in a spirit of mutual respect in the face of outward differences, driven by our shared love for lifelong learning; some equally inclined towards critical inquiry (as suggested by many of its poet-composers throughout the ages). So without exaggeration this is all about a music whose exponents have long welcomed new discoveries. And in the meantime, even the “brilliant Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, who was himself deeply religious, clarified that bhakti is essential for a Carnatic music, but this bhakti is for music, not for any personal deity”.

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Flow | Mela practice

sa = middle octave (madhya sthayi), ‘sa = higher octave (tara sthayi)

The present “Flow” series of exercises is meant to supplement the comprehensive standard syllabus (abhyasa ganam) attributed to 
16th c. composer Purandara Dasa | Janta variations >>

Concept & images © Ludwig Pesch | Feel free to share in accordance with the 
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license >>

Explore renditions of raga Mayamalavagaula, raga (Dhira)Sankarabharanam and raga (Meca)Kalyani on YouTube >>
Listen to two kritis in ragas
Simhendramadhyamam and Sankarabharanam (6th and 7th items)
sung by Bhushany Kalyanaraman >>
Find song lyrics (composers) & translations for these and other ragas >>

Become fluent with the help of svara syllables (solmisation): practice a series of exercises, each based on a set of melodic figures that lend themselves to frequent repetition (“getting into flow”) | Practice goal, choosing your vocal range & more tips >>

South Indian conventions (raga names & svara notation): karnATik.com | Guide >>

raagam: mAyAmALavagauLa
Aa: S R1 G3 M1 P D1 N3 S | Av: S N3 D1 P M1 G3 R1 S

raagam: shankaraabharaNam 
Aa: S R2 G3 M1 P D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S

raagam: kalyANi
Aa: S R2 G3 M2 P D2 N3 S | Av: S N3 D2 P M2 G3 R2 S

Listen to Uma Ramasubramaniam demonstrating the svaras (notes) for the present raga(s) on Raga Surabhi >>

Practice with basic “Sa” = G#
Note: this recording has no fifth note “Pa”
(as advised for those janya ragas wherein “Pa” will not be sung or played)
Download this audio file (2 MB, 2 min. mono)
Credit: eSWAR / FS-3C Sruthi petti + Tanjore Tambura

The above svara pattern may be sung, hummed or practiced silently with any svara variants: those you are already familiar with (e.g. raga Mayamalavagaula, mela 15, raga Dhirasankarabharanam, mela 29, raga Mecakalyani, mela 65) or any other you want to practice.

Once internalized you may want to contemplate and remember the same exercise with the help of the “8 x 8 beads” pattern shared here >>

Enjoy practicing by way of gradually getting into a state of flow: deep concentration while feeling completely absorbed by an activity.

And with a rich store at our fingertips in the digital age, let’s remind ourselves that there really is no such thing as a ‘learner’ raga’; a fact that sets us free to explore any raga with a sense of wonder: through joyful – active – involvement, whatever level or age group we happen to occupy!

The long-term goal is to become fluent in all the 72 melakarta ragas (including those rarely heard). In this manner it becomes easier to recognize both, melakarta and janya ragas, by distinguishing their characteristic notes even when modulated or “embellished” in accordance with classical conventions (gamaka). Their application is demonstrated in an elegant, highly instructive video (duration: 7 min.): The 13-part Sanskrit composition of Chitravina N Ravikiran. For a more detailed application, listen to Smt Kiranavali’s students at Cleveland Aradhana (Part 1) | Part 2 >>

Learn more and download a free mela-pocket guide here: Boggle Your Mind with Mela (BYMM) method – free mini course >>

For learners interested in staff notation for the above ragas and more, also check this course author’s reference work:

Find a copy of the Oxford Illustrated Companion to South Indian Classical Music

Audio | “Dedication to her guru, Veena Dhanammal” by Savithri Rajan

“The greatest, most beautiful thing is compassion expressed through music” – Savithri Rajan

Excerpt from: Tyagaraja and the Renewal of Tradition: Translations and Reflections by William Jackson (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, 1994), pp. 174-175
https://search.worldcat.org/en/title/878687716

How does Savithri Rajan perceive Tyagaraja? She characterizes Tyagaraja as an heroic soul who was able to reach out through shared feelings and colloquial idiom to ordinary people; he was willing to serve selflessly like a mother risking her own life to jump into a pool and save a drowning child. Yet she feels that Tyagaraja simultaneously holds to the tradition of communicating the greatest message of the Upanisads. To her, this is an important point, “Because to Hindus the Upanisads together form the core of the Hindu religion; the ultimate, the last word in philosophy, the Upanisads lead one to a transcendental silence,” which is found in the lives of the Buddha, Sankara, and Ramana Maharshi. Savithri Rajan believes that Tyagaraja, like these other great men, was always meditating, but his medium of expression was nādam, “sound” – he was an aspirant who followed nādopāsana, the approach or worship by way of sound. She points out that Tyagaraja composed a song beginning with the word nādopāsana saying there is nothing higher than worship via sound, music is the best vehicle because Brahman is nādam – divine sound – which is the omnipresent, omniscient power, “call it Power with a capital ‘P’, call it God, call it Christ, call it Krsna, call it Rāma.”

What was it that Tyagaraja was expressing in his songs? Savithri Rajan believes that everything Tyagaraja felt in his search to understand and have compassion was experienced and expressed through the medium and vehicle of music. In her view, “the greatest, most beautiful thing is compassion, karuna, the ability to feel for others.” And every song of Tyagaraja has “karunā sāgara” – an ocean of compassion in it.

“The music of Tyagaraja’s compositions can be so poignant I have seen people with eyes wet when listening to a great piece rendered by a great vidvān [a very learned performer]. To one who does not understand Telugu and does not know the rāga, but is nevertheless moved by the piece and feels the sentiment and emotion in it, the communication is through the nādam – and there are many such people.”

The reason there are many is that the communication of realizations occurs at a deep level utilizing notes and rhythms best able emotionally to move South Indians of various backgrounds: the unsophisticated, the temple-anchored faithful, the festival-goers who express inner spiritual urges through participation in music and pageantry. These various South Indians feel a serious lack if a Tyagaraja song is not part of any musical or religious program. […] 

Savithri Rajan feels that today’s performing musician “owes everything” to Tyagaraja. “What is his concert worth if he cannot render an Ayyarval kirtanai [song by Tyagaraja] well? His merit and reputation are judged by this touchstone.” Further, she recalls, that her mother, who had “unerring bhakti” held that the music-charged words of Tyagaraja in honour of Rama constitute a talisman with special power.

As Savithri Rajan sees it, the listener, the performer, the housewife, the spiritual seeker, and various kinds of students, – each in a different way approaches Tagaraja and his multifaceted personality, which he pases on to others, his simplicity, renunciation and sensitivity to the onslaughts of materialism and human frailty, all made this “emaciated, fragile man, a mendicant by choice, a seer, a sage, and a saint by the grace of Rama,” and thus he stands out as an inspiration to all.

She believes that in the fast pace of the modern world Tyagaraja’s bhakti message of music and love of God and man is of great value, and that it influences many who have the ear to hear and leisure to meditate. She recalls that her teacher, Tiger Varadachariar used to say that Tyagaraja brought Valmiki’s Rama closer, “adorably closer,” and in a moment of great appreciative experience he would even declare that Tyagaraja’s Rama was greater than Valmiki’s Rama. “Tyagaraja talks to his Rama, praises, cajoles, and even quarrels with Rama.” She feels that the aesthetic experience is heightened by this intimaciy. She feels that the depictions of Tyagaraja’s yearning have elevated and ennobled her thoughts and helped her to keep equanimity in various situations in her life, and she believes many others born in her culture have had similar experiences. […]

In her private LP recording titled “Dedication to her guru, Veena Dhanammal”, Savithri Rajan (1908-91) pays tribute Veena Dhanammal (1867-1937). As a child she was tutored by the legendary singer and composer known as “Tiger” Varadachariar (1876-1950, a disciple of Pattanam Subrahmanya Ayyar).

Veena Dhanammal is a legend

Veena Dhanammal is a legend; she was one in her own lifetime. Was she for real? There’s so little of her music which has survived and even loss which is heard, and yet her music has been praised in such superlative terms by those privileged to have listened to her. – Sruti Magazine >>

Item list with composers and research link

Intacalamu (varnam) – Begada – Adi – Tiruvotriyur Tyagaiyer

Ninuvinagati gana – Kalyani (alapana) – Adi – Subbaraya Sastri

Sri Raghuvara sugunalaya – Bhairavi – Adi – Tyagaraja

Nicittamu na bagya – Vijayavasanta – Adi – Tyagaraja

Tanam – Ghanaraga panchakam (order: Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Sri, Varali)

Maname bhushanamu – Sankarabharanam – Misra capu – Govindaswami Ayya

Mariyada teliyakane (javali) – Surati – Rupaka – Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer

Find song lyrics and information about Carnatic ragas including those by the above composers >>
(e.g. type “Tyagaraja rare ragas” or “javali by Patnam Subrahmanya Iyer”)

Obituary by V.R. Devika 1991 © Courtesy Sruti Magazine >>

Tips: (1) to automatically play both the sides of the LP-recording, click the play button; (2) scroll down to access the remaining tracks; (3) download the audio files, liner notes and images here: https://archive.org/details/savithri-rajan-LP-record-dedication-guru-veena-dhanammal
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Tips: in the above search field, type a combination of names and subjects of special interest: to find more audio and video contents sung or played by a favourite musician or musical instrument; along with preferred raga or tala, on the occasion of a festival or lecture demonstration (e.g. Music Academy Madras), location (e.g. Narada Gana Sabha) or item (e.g. varnam, kriti, tillana) | How “Safe search” is used on this website >>

Audio | Live concert by Bhushany Kalyanaraman

Bhushany Kalyanaraman

Complete live recording of a classical South Indian (Carnatic) vocal recital with announcements for each item

Items

1. Mangalavara Ganapate (Varnam) 05:14
Raga: Hamsadhvani; Tala: Adi; Composer: Tanjavoor S. Kalyanaraman

2. Sogasuga Mridanga Talamu (Kriti) 11:29
Raga: Sriranjani; Tala: Rupakam; Composer: Tyagaraja

3.Taye Tripura Sundari (Kriti) 07:05
Raga: Suddhasaveri; Tala: Khanda Chapu; Composer: Periyaswami Tooran

4. Minakshi Memudam (Kriti) 25:31
Raga: Purvikalyani (= Gamagakriya); Tala: Adi; Composer: Muttusvami Dikshitar

5. Shobhillu Saptasvara (Kriti) 05:17
Raga: Jaganmohini; Tala: Rupakam; Composer: Tyagaraja

6. Ninne Nammiti (Kriti) 35:26
Raga: Simhendramadhyamam; Tala: Misra Chapu; Composer: Mysore Vasudevachar

7. Raga Tanam Pallavi 24:40
Raga: Sankarabharanam and Ragamalika; Tala: KhandaTriputa

8. Bhavayami Gopalabala Sevitam (Padam) 04:55
Raga: Yamunakalyani; Tala: Khanda Chapu Composer: Annamacharya; 

9.Tillana 05:33
Raga: Brindavani; Tala: Adi; Composer: Tanjavoor S. Kalyanaraman

10. Ni Nama Rupamulaku (Mangalam) 00:59
Raga: Saurashtram; Tala: Adi; Composer: Tyagaraja
(followed by Madhyamavati raga)

Place and date: Hitzacker (Germany), 27 May 2002 

Listen to the full concert

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  • Download and other options are seen on Archive.org >>
Performers

Bhushany Kalyanaraman – Vocal
Pakala Ramadas – Violin
T. R. Sundaresan – Mridangam, Kanjira, Morsing and Konnakkol
Katharina Bunzel – Tambura

About the main performer

SINGLE-MINDED devotion to Carnatic music — that sums up Bhushany Kalyanaraman. Hers is an extraordinary tale, spanning oceans. Born and brought up in Colombo, Sri Lanka, it was a typical Tamil household where her father used to ensure that everyone was awake at 5 a.m., reciting the Tiruvempavai. A renowned musician, her father had won the title “Sangita Bhushanam” from Annamalai University. All her sisters too sang well.

Love of Carnatic music brought Bhushany to Chennai, at 16,to stay and study music at the Government Music College. She went back to Sri Lanka, to teach music at a Jaffna college. The riots in 1982 brought her back to India, drawn by her deep admiration for her subsequent guru and husband, Tanjore S.Kalyanaraman, senior disciple of the legendary G.N.B. […]  

A senior vocalist today, Bhushany has number of students both here and abroad, and many foreign students of Indian origin, who come to live with and learn from her. Many of her foreign-based students have had their formal arangetrams, proving her success as a teacher. […]  

Grateful for everything that music has bestowed on her, she also wishes to do something for destitute women and children “to be able to reach out to people who do not have the luxury of music, people weighed down by pressing basic needs, to survive.” […]  

Bhushany is a fortunate person — she has the best of both Sri Lanka and India, the best gained by besting life’s many odds

Source: Rupa Gopal in The Hindu (print edition), 7 March 2004 profiling “women who have made a career out of their passion”

Credits

Johann Wellendorf and Media Department, University Lueneburg (Germany); recording for the benefit of participants in its distance education course The Music of South India www.carnaticstudent.org

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