29 April 2013

Bombay Jayashri at the Sydney Opera House

Concert list and review

Bombay Jayashri - vocal
HN Bhaskar - violin
VV Ramanamurthy - mrudangam
Giridhar Udupa - ghatam
Chitra Poornima Sathish & Keertana Vaidyanathan - tambura

Presented by Bhoomija Trust (Bangalore, India)
at The Sydney Opera House , Concert Hall
Sydney, Australia
28 April 2013
5pm to 7.20pm

calamu (varnam) - valaji - Adi - lAlgudi jayarAman (O)
SyAma sundarAnga - dhanyAsi - rUpaka - tyAgarAja (O,S)
mAmava mInAkshi - varALi - miSra cApu - muttusvAmi dIkshitar (A, N, S)
enta muddO enta sogasO - bindumAlini - Adi - tyAgarAja
O rangaSAyI - kAmbhOji - Adi - tyAgarAja (A, N, S T)
kaNDEn kaNDEn - bhAgeSri - Adi tisram - arunAcala kavi (O)
sarvam bhramamayam - darbAri kAnaDa – Adi – sadASiva bhamendra
dhIm tana dhIm (tillaNa) - bEhAg - Adi tisram - lAlgudi jayarAman
nInAmarUpamulaku nitya jaya mangaLam - saurAshTram - Adi – tyAgarAja

(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)

This was the first Carnatic vocal concert held at the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House. There have been instrumental concerts in the concert hall and vocal music presented at the smaller venues but in terms of a traditional vocal concert at the concert hall, this was a first and it was Carnatic music at its finest.

In the same week where the Carnatic world lost perhaps its brightest star, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, we had his most prominent vocal disciple performing at this world famous venue. Bombay Jayashri didn’t not give any speeches during the concert but rather let her music speak.

Jayashri commenced with her guru’s varnam in valaji and moved on to Thyagaraja’s kriti in dhanyasi. The pre-main piece was a touching varali followed by Dikshitar’s masterpiece describing the ruby studded Goddess Minakshi of Madurai. The Opera House concert hall created a very special ambience with her beautiful voice resonating throughout the large dome of the auditorium.

A filler (and Lalgudi favourite) was the sprightly enta muddo which led onto the majestic kambhoii alapana. The alapana was just exquisite. Sangati after sangati poured out like a torrent and as I closed my eyes I could hear the violin of Lalgudi Jayaraman in Jayashri’s voice. There could be no greater tribute to the guru than this. Almost twenty minutes of pure bliss. It was a kambhoji that will stay in my mind forever.

What followed was Thyagaraja’s ode to Lord Ranganatha. This was the same kriti that MSS presented at the famous United Nations concert but this time it was the modern nightingale at the prestigious venue down under. The neraval came not at the familiar place but at the last two lines: ‘mutyāla sarulayuramunu kāna vacciti tyāgarāja hṛd-bhūṣaṇa’. Jayashri’s neraval was like the pearl ornaments described by Thyagaraja in the line. After the neraval, Jayashri sang kalapana swarams for the pallavi line. Her koraippu traversed the raga resting at all the swarams of the arohana before finally resting at the higher Sa. There was not too much, not too little. Gamakam, briga, neraval, swaram – it was all just the right proportions and it was awesome. The piece concluded with a crisp tani avaratanam which included a beautiful misra nadai passage.

The concert concluded with a few lighter pieces rendered very sweetly. First was the beautiful trademark piece of Jayashri (kAndEn kAnden) in bhagesri. Next came the reflective, sarvam bhramamayam, which tells that everything we have is just the illusion created by God and finally came guru Lalgudi’s most famous tillana in behag.

The accompanists were very supportive. Bhaskar played very sweet alapanas in varali and kambhoji and his tone blended in well with the vocalist. He often played in the lower octaves, which created lovely overtones. Ramanamurthy and Giridhar provided unobtrusive support, lifting the music appropriately.

Overall this was such a satisfying concert. There were no speeches, no banners or advertising. It was just fine Carnatic music presented in a pristine venue with utmost dignity and class. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was perfect.

04 September 2009

Listening in a musical desert

After somewhat of a musical drought in Sydney (in relation to Carnatic music concerts by professional artistes), this weekend we have a concert by Sikkil Gurucharan and party. At least hear we are fortunate that we get to listen to such concerts every few months. There are many cities around the world where, due to the small population of Carnatic music lovers, there is no access to live concerts.
For such centres, the internet is surely a great blessing, particularly the sites where you can hear Indian music. I have several listed at http://www.carnaticcorner.com/downloads.html
 There are also kiosks in India where you can download a lot of music for a fee such as at Giri Trading in Chennai. Armed with a USB drive or Ipod you can choose songs of your liking and download them for a small fee. Of course there are a lot of decent online CD stores that will ship music anywhere in the world too.

06 March 2007

The legend of mrudangam

I had the priviledge of hosting Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman for a few days last week while he was in Sydney for a couple of concerts. Sri Sivaraman is truly a living legend of Carnatic music and perhaps the last true link between the current generation of musicians and those of yesteryear. He still accompanies and encourages a number of young artistes and if you heard and saw him play you would never guess he is 71. Sri Sivaraman mentioned he has played for four generations of artistes and as an example he mentioned he played for Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer, his son, Mahajapuram Santhanam, his sons Ramachandran and Srinivasan as well as their sons!

However, longevity is not a true measure of success. What is amazing is the way Sri Sivaraman plays. He makes the mrudangam literally sing. The nadham he is able to bring out from his instrument is so wonderful, the sound of his araichapu so crisp and the ruble of his gumiki so sweet. The energy he plays with lifts all around him.

There was one place in TM Krishna's concert where Krishna and Mysore Nagaraj were doing neraval. Sri Sivaraman also had a round and it was like there was another voice there. There were so many points in the concert where the incredible beats made the audience turn away from the vocalist and violinist and focus on the mrudangam artiste. In many concerts people walk out from the auditorium during the mrudangam solo, when Sivaraman plays they walk in!

His anticipation is phenomenal. We think of vocalists having large repertoires but it seems Sri Sivaraman knows every song in the book. As the song moves from the pallavi to the anupallavi or the anupallavi to the charanam, Sivaraman gives the perfect interlude to join the two sections.

Away from the concert stage, you must see how meticulous he is with his preparations. Every day he checks his mrudangams, applies the ravai and tunes them. Before a concert he takes even gives them even greater attention. When travelling he covers the instruments in bubble rap and foam and stores them in hard plastic containers to ensure their safe travel. All this preparation shows his immense dedication to the art.

As a person he is a kind gentleman, always enquiring about the wellbeing of everyone. He has a great sense of humour and wit and often speaks in puns! If you get chance to hear him play don't miss it!!

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07 March 2006

Making music

After a long while, I had the opportunity to perform a full-length synthesizer concert in Sydney. While I have accompanied in concerts, performing solo is a different challenge that requires a lot more planning and practice! This was probably my first 3 hour concert and I was lucky to be accompanied by two of Australia's top Carnatic musicians namely Murali Kumar on violin and Sridhar Chari on mrudangam.

You can hear a short selection of the items from the concert by clicking on Music at http://www.soundclick.com/mohanayyar. I would like to hear your comments after listening. I might be able to get you more tracks if you like what you hear.

The full concert list is here
1. Sarasijanabha, Kambhoji, Khanda Jathi Ata, Vadivelu
2. Varavallabha, Hamsadwani, Adi, GN Balasubramaniam (S)
3. Kamakshi, Bhairavi, Misra Chapu, Shyama Shastri (R, N)
4. Marivere, Lathangi, Khanda Chapu, Patnam Subramaniam (R,S)
5. Sabhapathiku, Abhogi, Rupakam, Gopalakrishna Bharati (S)
6. Rama katha, Madhyamavathi, Adi, Thyagaraja (R,S)
7. Sri madhurapuri, Bilahari, Rupakam, Muthuswamy Dikshithar
8. RTP, Hemavathi, Khanda jathi triputa

‘Hemavathi bhagavathy sivasankari, parameshwari kamakshi’
Swaram in Poorna Shadjam, Saramathi, Sahana, Behag
9. Ranjani mrudu, Ranjanimala, Adi, Tanjavur Sankara Iyer
10. Vishweshwara, Sindhu Bhairavi, Rupakam, Swati Tirunal
11. Tillana, Desh, Adi, Lalgudi Jayaraman
12. Mangalam, Kurinji, Adi-Tisra, Bhadrachala Ramdas

28 February 2006

2005 Music Season

I am writing after quite a long while. In November I went India and could spend a few weeks in Chennai in December. Rain played havoc in Chennai with many roads flooded, homes wrecked and lives lost. Rivers that are usually dry flowed again and temple tanks actually held water instead of just mud and rubbish.

The Madras Music Season carried on but crowds were down on the rainy days. I attended around ten concerts this year (many fewer than in 2002 where I attended 25). Unfortunately I was not overly impressed by the concerts I attended. While some artistes displayed flashes of brilliance, there is not one concert that still rings in my ears. Probably my mind was not with the music, but wondering what my 6 month old baby was doing!

The best of the lot this year was Sudha Ragunathan's Shastri Hall concert for Shanti Arts. The main items were Sankaranive in Begada and Karthikeya in Thodi (it was Karthi). Vellore Ramabhadran accompanied her - the first time I had seen him accompanying a female vocalist. In my ears, she is undoubtedly the reigning Queen of Carnatic music.

Canteens associated with the sabhas did roaring business as usual. Arasuvai Natarajan kept the stomachs satisfied at the Music Academy. Even if the music quality was not high the food was excellent! Apart from the canteens there are many more restuarants in Chennai offerring the best of Indian food. Whether you enjoy the traditional South Indian meal or prefer the delights of Mumbai, Punjab or even Thailand, there is somewhere in Chennai for you satisfy your culinary desires.

Likewise the recording companies did well. With so many NRIs visiting Chennai, there was good opportunity to sell in bulk. I bypassed Sankara Hall this year and visited the rival establishment further up the road in the Chettiar Hall run by Music World. As my wife and I filled our carry baskets with the latest releases, the sales assistants eagerly recommended new titles and bringing us fresh carry baskets. I was surprised to see a veena CD label 'Live in Sydney' - a concert which I had done the original recording!

Chennai is nice place to visit during December. If you are into good vegetarian food, carnatic music or shopping, you won't be disappointed. The sari and jewelry shops in Chennai (especially T Nagar) seem to have multiplied and grown much larger in the last few years and each of them are packed to the brim. There is some scope for process improvement in these stores however. To buy a single item you often have to deal with at least 4 different people (each with a different role) before you receive your goods. Maybe this is a good employment strategy.

As ever, India was a pleasant experience but I still like it in small doses. After 7 weeks, I craved for my dust free life of ordered traffic and clean tap water.

26 July 2005

The Digital World

Its been about two months since I last blogged. On May 22, my wife gave birth to our first child, a beautiful little girl who we called Rithika. Needless to say our lives have changed with this bundle of joy. Now at two months she is much more settled and has somewhat of a routine allowing music practice to recommence.

Over the last few months I have also got into the world of digital music. Nowadays a lot more Carnatic music is available on the Internet. While initially it was only real audio streams, now some kind folk have made vintage concerts available through MP3s and similar formats. This has allowed hitherto unheard recordings enter my living room - classic alapanas by GNB or Ramnad Krishnan, for example. Those interested should check out the forums on sangeetham.com for some sources!

This weekend we are off to Melbourne where I will be playing a concert. After a bit of a break some intensive practice was required to get the fingers moving on the keyboard again!

Addendum: See www.sangeethapriya.org for many concert recordings in mp3 format.

20 May 2005

Voice problems

A vocalist I know says that even a few days before a concert she tries to reduce the amount of talking she does. She stops practicing a few days before the concert too - all to give her voice complete rest and the stamina to sing on the day of the concert.

What happens if a vocalist loses their voice? I did some reading into this topic a couple of years ago when my wife went back to India for a holiday and developed a severe case of
Laryngitis. She saw a doctor in Chennai who told her she may have permanently damaged her voice and asked her to see a speech therapist. After several sessions with the speech therapist, there seemed to be no improvement. When we came back to Sydney and just relaxed and stayed calm, the voice returned to normal. Within a couple of months she was able to sing a three-hour concert.

Some useful tips for singers are available through the articles at: