/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": February 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Harikathe by Shri Arunkumar (''Gururajulu Naidu'')

Another famous exponent of Harikathe was Shri Arunkumar. Trained by his father, this versatile and dynamic artiste made a mark for himself all over South India as a Harikatha exponent. Interestingly, he was equally at home in the cinema world and he acted in many Kannada movies.

As he mentions in this Harikathe, he also had served in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Shri Arunkumar came and performed in Parvathi when he was much sought after all over Karnataka. His reputation was for his fast-paced, interesting and humorous style which was quite different from that of the other more traditional exponents. He had a prolific repertoire and recorded many Harikathes on cassettes. He knew several languages other than Kannada, viz. Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, English and so on. He performed Harikathes through the length and breadth of Karnataka and also in the neighbouring states.

Mr, Srikantiah recalls that this artiste had a busy schedule and travelled extensively. Many times, he had multiple Harikathe assignments in a single day. He would not disappoint his fans.

Shri Arunkumar was at the peak of his popularity when he passed away .We learn that his daughters and students have carried forward his legacy.

Mr. Srikantiah recalls that this artiste had a lot of affection and respect for him and Mr. K. K. Murthy. When Arunkumar fell ill, it seems he had expressed to Mr Srikantiah's assistant a desire to meet Mr. Srikantiah and his brother Mr. K.K. Murthy. But before either of them could do so, Shri Arunkumar had left for his heavenly abode.

In this Harikathe, at many points, Shri Arunkumar expounds the philosophy of Vairagya, and the theme of reaching life's true goal before being felled by the stroke of death. He quotes the metaphor of a mouse riding a cat... the mouse symbolizing our momentary life and the cat signifying Death.

We pay tribute to this great artiste by featuring his wonderful Harikathe, Seethaparithyaga (Kusha Lava Charitre).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A friendship strong as diamond

January 22nd, 2010
Two veterans, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman and Sri K. Srikantiah
greet each other in the Maestro's house in Chennai!

It was circa 1948.

The Bidaram Krishnappa Prasanna Seetharama Mandiram of Mysore was featuring the redoubtable GNB in the annual Ramanavami festival. The organizers had also invited a young violinist from Madras to accompany the star. This youngster, sporting the traditional tuft (kudumi), was still in his teens, and yet was already making waves with his prowess on the violin. But that day, he wasn’t destined to go on stage in the GNB concert. The reason? GNB had brought along his own set of accompanists from Madras, including another violinist. It was indeed a disappointment for the young lad named Jayaraman.

But Jayaraman surprised everyone with his decision to stay back, and he sat through the concert as a member of the audience. He happened to sit next to another teenager, the son of Mr. K. Puttu Rao who was then the President of the Rama Mandiram. The youngsters broke the ice and exchanged notes, and soon were friends. Thus was born a friendship between Advocate K. Srikantiah and Vidwan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. It grew decade after decade like a huge Parijatha tree, being a friendship built on mutual affection and respect for each other’s qualities of excellence. This bond of friendship between an epochal musical genius and a musical connoisseur and patron is now past its diamond jubilee, i.e. more than 60 years.

One can paraphrase Shakespeare while describing this association between K. Srikantiah and Vidwan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman; “age cannot wither nor custom stale its infinite variety”. And after that initial occasion when Jayaraman was sitting in the audience, there would be countless occasions when GNB would ask for the violin accompaniment of Lalgudi Jayaraman and the rasikas would be treated to a double delight.
January 22nd, 2010
Another picture of the Srikantiahs together with the Jayaramans!

During the marriage ceremony of Mr. Srikantiah, Vidwan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman accompanied Vidwan T.K. Rangachari in the concert featured at Parvathi. A photograph taken in this concert has been included in the documentary film on Vidwan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman. Recently, a commemorative volume has been brought out titled “Lalgudi 80”. That book also features this photograph.

Mr. Srikantiah recalls that Vidwan Jayaraman’s wedding was held in Salem in the same period and he would have loved to attend the function, but could not do so on account of some family preoccupations. Mr Srikantiah recalls that a veena concert of Vidwan S. Balachander had been arranged during Lalgudi’s marriage ceremony.

Lalgudi has come and played in Parvathi year after year as a soloist as well as accompanist. He has given solo violin concerts and also violin duet with his son G.J.R. Krishnan and later with his daughter Vijayalakshmi. He has also accompanied stalwarts like GNB, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer, T.K.Rangachari, K.V. Narayanaswamy, Madurai Somasundaram, Balamuralikrishna, Maharajapuram Santhanam, and others.

In 1986, a grand function was organized in Krishna Gana Sabha to celebrate the 50th solo concert appearance of Vidwan Lalgudi G. Jayaraman at that Sabha. The function was attended by the glitterati of the musical world and fine arts. Lata Mangeshkar, a close friend of the violin maestro, represented Bombay. The doyens Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and M. S. Subbulakshmi represented Tamil Nadu. The Travancore Ilayaraja represented Kerala. Dr. K. Pinakapani represented Andhra. Mr. Srikantiah, whose family were invited and hosted graciously by the organizers, represented Karnataka.

In later years, a musical archive project was undertaken by the Indian Foundation for Performing Arts to commemorate Lalgudi Jayaraman’s achievement. Mr. Jayaraman himself suggested to the Managing Director of the project, Ms. Padmasani, that Mr.Srikantiah be interviewed in that regard. We share below a letter from Ms. Padmasani to Mr. Srikantiah thanking him for the contribution to this project through his sharing the memories of his association with the violin maestro.

Mr. Srikantiah recalls he has been in frequent touch over all these years with the maestro and they have always had something to share with each other. Once he heard over the radio how Vidwan Lalgudi Jayaraman had won the Best Violinist award in some European City music festival and immediately phoned the maestro. The maestro himself had not received the news yet and was delighted to get the good news from such a close friend.

We also add some more spontaneous comments from Mr. Srikantiah on Padma Vibushan Lalgudi Jayaraman

"...I tell you Lalgudi’s violin is really something else…the melody that he produces is simply out of this world…he will take that raaga’s Jiva and squeeze it completely of it’s rasa…I will really play some concerts for you to hear what I am saying …"

"... a truly great man…no bad habits…I used to see him when he used to live in Saidapet having moved from Lalgudi…his father Shri Gopala Iyer used to be in that house before they moved to T’Nagar and I used to go there to pay my respects …. "

We are also delighted to share with listeners some excerpts from a solo concert in Parvathi (distinct solo pieces from the concert on April 13, 1984 with Vellore Ramabhadran and H.P. Ramachar (kanjira) )

[ 1-Enduku Peddala-Shankarabharanam -Thyagaraja; 2-Ragamalika Pallavi; 3-Bageshri Bhajan and Misra Shivaranjani Tilllana ]

and a full-fledged scintillating 1975 “Parvathi”concert with the “Pithamaha” Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

[ 01-Devadeva-Mayamalavagowla-Swati Tirunal; 02-Dwaithamu-Reetigowla-Thyagaraja; 03-Pahimam-Janaranjani-Mahavaidyanatha Sivan; 04-Kamakshi-Bhairavi swarajati-Shyama Shastri; 05-Biranabrova-Kalyani-Tarangampadi Panchanada Iyer; 06-Teliyaleru-Dhenuka-Thyagaraja; 07-Kshinamai-Mukhari-Thyagaraja; 08-Srimathrubhotham-Raga Kannada-Muthuswami Dikshitar; 09-Ramaneesamana-Kharaharapriya-Thyagaraja; 10-RTP-Todi; 11-Ramajogi-Kamas- Bhadrachala Ramdas; 12-Mangalam ]

Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer-Lalgudi Jayaraman-Vellore Ramabhadran-V.R.Krishnan


“… you know for years whenever Semmangudi came … he would usually stay in our house when he would come for AIR auditions and he would come with the office bearer of the Music Academy Subbarao … I would drive him all around Mysore … This started when I was hardly eighteen with no driver’s license also. We would sleep in the corner room … and then every time at 5 o’clock in the morning he would wake me up …’ Srikantiah get up … get up ... I am going to sing now … and I want you to listen’ … this was the atmosphere … how could I escape this personality and his music? ... ”

[All text in this posting is excerpted from R.Sachi’s "Recorded Conversations with Kunigal Srikantiah" (a private collection) ]

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Nectar of Musical Discourse

"….you see our house "Parvathi" was not just about Music and Sangeethakaraas only…for example my father would call me to tell me that his wish was that every Ekadasi day all the famous Karnataka Harikatha artists must be assembled in our house….Gamaki Ramakrishna Shastriar, Venugopal Das, Lakshmipati Sahodar…then that famous person in Chamundi extension whose name I forget. Ours was a huge 40x35 hall…then we had another hall in front of it…and we used to have 3 hours of non-stop Harikathas... I was young, then, and everywhere I would jump on my bike and go up and down Mysuru’s extensions to assemble everyone. Then we used to have those huge Chandi Homas,too...imagine Parayana for 45 days! Mother was highly religious...she would do dhyana to the Audumbra (fig) tree in our orchard for hours…she believed Lord Dattatreya lived in that tree…so we performed even 'Upanayana' to that tree in 1954/55….with full Nadaswaram to it ...hundreds of people showed up even for this event..."

K. Srikantiah

[ From R. Sachidananda's "Recorded Conversations with Advocate Kunigal Srikantiah" (a private collection) ] /font>

Brahmashri T.S. Balakrishna Shastrigal in 'Parvathi'
KUjantam rAma-rAmeti madhuram madhurAkSaram
Aruhya kavitA-SAkhAm vande vAlmIki-kOkilam

The story of Rama has always been sung. Its honeyed narrative was first and foremost sung by Valmiki himself. Valmiki was a sage blessed by none other than Narada and entrusted with the task of singing the story of Rama. Valmiki has been compared in this shloka to a cuckoo singing from the branches of the tree of poesy, in a nectarine voice filled with the chant of Rama's charming name. Valmiki delighted in the highest musical values, and taught Lava and Kusha the story of Ramayana to be sung in the most classical way, and Rama was totally captivated by that recitation when they sang in his durbar. There is much proof of that in the original Ramayana itself. Saint Thyagaraja, the Valmiki of our times, is the composer non-pareil in Carnatic music. Therefore imagine a musical discourse from a learned scholar, filled with gems from Thyagaraja's life and times, and music culled from the saint's glorious compositions. Can there be a more fitting finale in a Ramanavami festival?

Thus it came to pass that on the evening of 12 April 1982, the rasikas who filled the pandal were fortunate to immerse themselves in a musical discourse by Brahmashri T.S. Balakrishna Shastrigal. Shastrigal was famed far and wide for his Harikathas filled with sweet Carnatic music, learned discourse on Vedantic ideas, scholarly story-interpretation, couched in a captivating narrative, and punctuated by humorous digs at our so-called modern life style. Shastrigal had retired from the position of a senior official in State Bank of India, Madras. Born in 1919, he had been giving musical discourses for over 40 years, and had even undertaken foreign tours. His style was such that the music, the narrative, the language easy to understand for anyone who knew any South Indian language, were sure audience-pullers. Senior musicians like Ariyakudi were all admiration for his learning and musical interpretation. It is interesting how Mr. Srikantiah arranged this Harikatha discourse. He (Srikantiah) was a regular during the Thiruvayyaru festival year after year. One year, he had heard the legendary Annaswami Bhagavatar's Harikatha there, and recalls that Palghat Mani Iyer himself played the mridangam in that discourse. Similarly, as Shastrigal narrates in his own discourse, once, during the Purandara centenary festival at Thiruvaiyyaru, he had occasion to give his discourse in front of several famous musicians. Captivated by his exposition of the raga Saranga, with support from his gifted brother (who provided the musical vocal accompaniment during the narrative), the maestro T. Chowdiah had remarked to the doyens of Carnatic musicians that day that he had felt compelled to take up the violin and accompany Shastrigal himself but could not do so. Mr. Srikantiah repeatedly stresses that 'Parvathi' saw and heard not only great musicians, but also played host to famed stage and cinema artistes, writers of international repute, scriptural experts and Sanskrit scholars from all over. It is therefore no wonder that he was keen on arranging good Harikathas during the Ramanavami festival. The devotional musical narrative has been a key feature of all Indian fine arts, and Kathak, Kathakali, Baul music, Harikathas from Maharashtra to the end of South India, have all been a rich cultural heritage for us. Carnatic music and the concert format in fact is said to have evolved from Harikathas. A Harikatha exponent was expected to be trained in singing, scriptures, languages, the art of story-telling, acting, mimicry, humour, and even dancing. Only performers of great intelligence and skills in fine arts succeeded in this genre. And Brahmashri Balakrishna Shastrigal was a shining star in this difficult art-form. Having heard about Shastrigal, Mr. Srikantiah took the trouble in one of his Madras trips to find out where Shastrigal was discoursing that day. So it happened that he went to a Harikatha in Mylapore area and had a chance to see and hear Shastrigal. His mind was made up on the spot and soon the occasion arose for the Harikatha in Parvathi in 1982. Mr. Srikantiah recalls that the audience that day had many scholars and eminent men from all walks of life. One of them, Mr. A. Ramaswamy, was the Principal of the Administrative Training College in Mysore, where budding IAS officers would undergo training before their posting. Mr. Ramaswamy was so taken with Shastrigal's Harikatha that he requested him to come and perform the next day in front of his officer-trainees at the college! Mr. Srikantiah says appreciatively that the Principal did a world of good to the future IAS community by giving them a chance to listen to a learned, musical discourse from a doyen like Brahmashri Balakrishna Shastrigal, who represented all that is precious and sacred in Indian culture. WE BRING YOU THE MUSICAL DISCOURSE IN FULL, as we are lucky to have a good quality recording done by Mr. Srikantiah himself nearly 28 years ago.  
The words of appreciation spoken towards the end of the Harikatha are by the senior musician and musicologist from Mysore, Sri M. Cheluvarayaswamy. PS: Look out for another delectable Harikatha treat soon, this time by the famed Arun Kumar, who was a rage with his wonderful Harikathas all over Karnataka even at a young age.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

" The Genius at Nine"

April 10, 1984 in "Parvathi": The fifteen year old maestro U. Srinivas enthralls audiences
with M.S.Govindaswamy (Violin) – Tanjavur Upendran (Mridangam) – Bangalore Venkatram (Ghatam)

It was the year 2005.

"Parvathi" Ramanavami concerts honoring the memory of Sangeetha Kalanidhi T. Chowdiah were in their 35th year. Advocate Sri K. Srikantiah wanted to feature the world famous Mandolin U. Shrinivas once again, after a gap of two years. The date set was the 18th of April.

But when contacted, the maestro confessed that there was great logistical difficulty. He would be performing April 17th, just the previous day at Kolkata. And he was bound for the US concert tour just the day after on the 19th. How could he fit in the long trip to Mysuru by road within the constraints of this extremely tight schedule and come to perform at "Parvathi" ? Nevertheless, the humble genius gave his word to the elder statesman, and this is what followed.

The maestro finished the concert in Kolkata and immediately departed by a 'red-eye' flight to Chennai. As soon as he landed, he transferred at the airport terminal to the Bengaluru flight. The ever meticulous Mr. Srikantiah had arranged for a car to ferry the artistes straight from the Bengaluru airport to Mysuru while comandeering the driver that he could not stop anywhere for any reason. They barely made it in time but the concert went off as scheduled. The mammoth crowds were satiated with the heavenly music, ever the hallmark of a Mandolin Shrinivas performance. Later, as was the delightful custom at "Parvathi", dinner and post-dinner sessions of singing, chatting and Bon'homie' followed. It was 3 AM before the maestro and his entourage could leave back for Bengaluru in the same car as they had come. They reached the airport in time and bleary-eyed took the early morning flight to Chennai , just in time to board the flight to US directly. The baggage for the long trip had been packed and brought by the family to the airport.

What an astounding commitment to his music, his listeners and keenness to honour the wishes of a venerable person like Mr.Srikantiah ! This episode shows how a real prodigy-turned maestro was still connected to his music and his early beginnings, unswayed by the global adulation and the never-ending craze of his fans for his music, be it Carnatic, fusion, Jazz or the world music genres.

1994 : U.Srinivas – Mysore Nagaraj (Violin) – T.K. Murthy (Mridangam) – M.A.K. Murthy (Ghatam). Keeping an eye on his brilliant son with the 'Thalam' is father Sri. U. Satyanarayana

Born in 1969, this child star came on the scene before he was 12. He learnt under Mr. Subba Raju, a vocalist who had studied under Chembai. His musical sensibilities were honed in classicism by his teacher, but Shrinivas showed prodigious talent in playing the western instrument mandolin, and in the way he tamed it to the rigorous demands of 'gamaka-laden' Carnatic music. These are verily his own breakthroughs. Mandolin U Shrinivas blazed a brilliant trail across the Carnatic world from late '70's. So much so that even great musicians like Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer were ready to acknowledge this new phenomenon.

The elderly Mr. Srikantiah felicitates the young Prodigy (also seen approving is Sangeetha Vidyanidhi , Violinist S. Mahadevappa)

Mr. Srikantiah remembers the first time Shrinivas came to Mysuru. Hardly 12 years old, he was a timid boy, clinging to his mandolin, and sitting quietly on the red carpet in a corner next to his father. Every now and then, he would touch the instrument with a prayerful gesture. He was all humility and respect to elders, a quality he has retained in spite of his phenomenal worldwide success as the 2005 episode bears testimony. Mr. Srikantiah also recalls the 1988 concert, when Shrinivas's father Sri U.Satyanarayana came over to him, asking him to make a recording as the boy was going to play 'Saramathi' that day. And what a 'piece de magnifique' !

[Excerpted from
R. Sachidananda's "Recorded Conversations with Advocate Kunigal Srikantiah" (a private collection) ]

We proudly feature that 1988 U.Shrinivas concert for your listening pleasure with Mysore Nagaraj(Violin)-Vellore Ramabhadran (Mridangam)-Bangalore Venkataram (Ghatam) .