/* START Google Analytics Code*/ /* END of Google Analytics Code */ A home called "Parvathi": February 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Music's Lady Virtuoso : M. L. Vasanthakumari

A lady musician, just 26, was conferred the title Sangeeta Vani in Madras in 1954. Her accomplishments were worthy of being recognised at a function graced by some of the greatest music exponents of that era including Rajamanickam Pillai, Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer, T.L. Venkatarama Iyer, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, C. Saraswathi Bai, K. B. Sundarambal, and M.M. Dandapani Desikar; and connoisseurs like Dr. R. Krishnaswami, Dr. U. Krishna Rao and finally the Chief Minister C. Rajagopalachari. That lady virtuoso was none other than Dr. M. L. Vasanthakumari or MLV.

[ Courtesy: South Asian Woman's Forum ]

MLV went on to win many more laurels including the Sangeetha Kalanidhi in 1977 as the youngest woman recipient till now (49). Among the legion of her fans, her acronym was expanded also as Melody-Laya-Vidwat. MLV was born into a musical family, but during those difficult times, she needed strong encouragement from a musical celebrity like GNB to dare choose a career in music. That she became his most famous disciple is the stuff of legend.

MLV's mother Madras Lalithangi once met a saint visiting from Karnataka who initiated her into the rich treasure of Purandara Dasa kritis. It made such an impact on her that Lalithangi and her guru-husband Mr. Iyer spent all their fortune to bring out a compilation of kritis, “Sri Purandara Mani Malai” during the difficult times of World War II. It was Life's way of honouring the family's unremitting efforts that MLV was conferred a doctorate by Mysore University in 1976 for her contribution to the propagation of Dasa Sahitya.

MLV was much loved and honoured in Parvathi. She performed there many times. In 1971 she was honoured along with Mysore V. Doreswamy Iyengar and the function was followed by a brilliant MLV concert. We are privileged to offer that recording here.

[ Mr.M.S.Swaminathan IAS, Divisional Commissioner of Mysore, Presides ]
[ Sangeetha Natak Academy Award Winners felicitated in "Parvathi" 1971 ]
[ Dr. M.L. Vasanthakumari and Vidwan Doreswamy Iyengar ]

The concert itself is remarkable on many counts. Following an emphatic rendering of Begada -something rare from a lady vocalist, MLV proceeds with a wonderful Kalyani. There are many moments of explosive creativity in the rendering. The kriti Rama Ni Vadukonduvo is a rarely heard Thyagaraja piece in Trishra Nadai, and it is a feast. Then comes an elaborate Bhairavi RTP. Add to that a Pancharatna kriti and some splendid Devaranamas, and you have a quintessential hallmark concert with the stamp of MLV's musical genius. It is doubly satisfying to feel the camaraderie and virtuous collaboration from the violin and mridangam accompanists. The ensemble's delightful musical journey is akin to a joyous family's travelling in good old times on Chamundi Express from Bangalore to Mysore, savouring every tasty treat and scenic delight on the way. What a blessing indeed!

The Concert
Ramanavami Concert - 8 -4- 1971.

M.L. Vasanthakumari – Vocal
T.M. Prabhavathi – Vocal Support
Tiruvallur Subramanyam – Violin
Tanjavur Krishnamurthy Rao – Mridangam
? - Ghatam

01. Vanajaaksha- Mandari varnam – Mysore Vasudevachar*** 02. Pranamaamyaham- Gowla- Mysore Vasudevachar*** 03. Jagadaanandakaaraka – Naata Pancharatna – Thyagaraja *** 04. Laalisidalu magana – Aarabhi – Purandara dasa *** 05. Shankari neeve – Begade- Subbaraya Shastri *** 06. Raaka Sashivadana - Raga Takka – Thyagaraja *** 07. Rama Ni Vadukonduvo – Kalyani – Thyagaraja *** 08. Mariyaadagaadayya – Bhairavam – Thyagaraja *** 09. Bhairavi RTP + Bauli-Saama-Kiranaavali ragamalika *** 10. Shloka and Yaadavaraaya- Basant Bahar-SindhuBhairavi-Durga –Kanaka Dasa *** 11. Uga Bhoga, Yaake Nirdayanaadeyo – Ragamalika (Bhairav, Kalavati, Bhimplas) – Purandara Dasa *** 12. 12. Vaame Bhoomisuthaa – Shloka – Hamsanandi, Saveri, Shubhapantuvaraali, Suruti *** 13. Dhanashri Tillana – Swathi Thirunal *** 14. Mangalam


Even after so many years, her name brings a hush in the "Parvathi" household. It is a hush caused by reflection on so many beautiful and personable moments of her having been there. There is even one, that includes her coaxing family members to join her in singing (yes, there are some recordings of that too!).

So we egged on, someone, who was almost like a daughter to her. Here are the words of 'that' daughter, captured solemnly:

"What really can I add to the things that have already been said? She was everything to me! I have but only very fond memories of 'dear MLV aunty'.

When I was a child, she would almost, always , bring me the gift of a beautiful doll, an expensive frock, or some such thing whenever we visited each others homes.

Later on as I grew up and started to sing, after each of her concerts in "Parvati", and as we used to relax, she would invariably ask me to sing old Lata Mangeshkar's songs. She would appreciate them so much, that she would ask me to sing more and more. She would make me feel as if I was on top of the world!

I also cannot forget the affectionate, encouraging and appreciative words that she spoke during my cassette release function.

Personally, I put her in the number one spot amongst carnatic vocalists. What 'shaareera' ! What gamakas! What ease with which she sang! and what creativity!, be it 'alapana', 'neraval', 'swaraprastara' or 'sloka'!


I was sitting listening to that very same Karaharapriya which is posted on this blog, when we got the news that she was no more.

Above all, what a fine human being she was! Never spoke a harsh or ill word about anyone. She lived just for the sake of her art.

These few words of mine are just MY VERY HUMBLE OBEISANCE to this great soul... "

- Mysore Prabha


Thursday, February 3, 2011

"Where is your abode?" - Vidwan Maharajapuram Santhanam

Imagine that you ask someone, “Sir, where are you from?” And he replies: “I was born in the land of kings.'' A great start to a conversation about credentials!

It so happens that one can translate the name Maharajapuram Santhanam to mean 'one born in the land of kings'. Once you have a name like that, its a big task to live up to. With Vidwan Santhanam's music, you feel his music reflects the regality in his name. Vidwan Santhanam was the son and disciple of Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer, a monarch in the world of Carnatic music. Hailed in his time as first among equals, he ruled supreme on the concert stage. People to this day recollect his incomparable renderings of ragas like Mohana and Mukhari, and his explosive creativity.

[ Courtesy Carnaticdurbar.com ]

Vidwan Santhanam, whose scintillating concert at Parvathi we have already featured several months ago, is our artiste again this time.

Vidwan Santhanam came into his own in the '70s, after his father's demise. He rose in popularity for his resonant and sweet voice, his great stamina, and the ability to please audiences with engaging, happy music. He put his trade-mark on songs such as “Srichakraraja Simhasaneshwari”and “Narayana”. He was conferred the Sangeetha Kalanidhi title in 1989. The music world lost him prematurely - he died in a car accident in 1992.

In this concert, in the company of the ever-excellent Lalgudi G. Jayaraman, Santhanam presents E Tavunnara in Kalyani. This song is popular for a long time and makes an instant connection with the listener. Like so many other songs of Saint Thyagaraja, this song also has several layers of meaning.

The meaning given in the Spiritual Heritage of Tyagaraja is this: “Which is your place of abode? You are not easily to be found, however closely you are searched for.

Is it in the feminine forms of the deity like Sita, Gouri and Saraswati or is it in the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether or in the innumerable worlds or among the Trinity?”

To this writer, the song unveils three layers of God's presence in one's spiritual discovery. The first layer, encountered through the stirrings of bhakti, is that of grace. The mother goddess personifies grace through benign protection (Durga), the gift of intelligence (Saraswati) and prosperity (Lakshmi). After passing this phase of basking in God's grace, the aspirant starts to experience God's immanence: His all-pervading presence in this world, finally composed of the five elements. As Krishna says in the seventh chapter of the Gita, prakriti personifies Him. But the bhakta's journey finally takes him to the point when God is pure transcendence- all this and more. The ultimate conceptualisation of God in Hinduism is that of Trinity- the Creator Brahma, the Protector Vishnu, and the Destroyer Shiva. This song is just one way of saying that for a true bhakta like Thyagaraja, Lord Rama is grace, immanence and transcendence all combined.

Come, let us now enjoy the feast of music from Vidwan Santhanam, in the Ramanavami festival of Parvathi 1979.

The Concert

Maharajapuram Santhanam ------Vocal
Lalgudi Jayaraman ------------ Violin
Vellore Ramabhadran -------- Mridangam
M.A. Krishnamurthy ----------- Ghatam
on April 5, 1979 at Parvathi during Ramanavami.

Song List
01. Orajoopu – Kannadagowla – Thyagaraja *** 02. E tavunara – Kalyani – Thyagaraja *** 03. Haridasulu – Yamuna Kalyani – Thyagaraja *** 04. Ragam- Tanam – Pallavi – raga Kharaharapriya *** 05. Narayana - Shuddha Dhanyasi – Purandara Dasa ***

This Yamuna Kalyani is the version other than the version employed in the famous Krishna Nee Begane).

Red Flag: Embedded audio player not picking correct song names


The mere roll of names like Maharajapuram Santhanam, Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer, The Bidarama Krishnappa Rama Mandiram, Mysore Vasudevachar, HH Jayachamrajendra Wodeyar, and "Parvathi", and all of it in one breath, stands to create a huge welter of emotions. For, it presents a world of great charms once beheld, of a world of kings and courts and composers and gentle Musical strains, not just Carnatic, mind you, but a far flung one with inroads, too, into a European culture.

Through a few collections, some ours and some from the other great souls of erstwhile Mysuru (as found on the Internet), we connect you to a grand era, which with each day's passing seems to roll away from our eyes into an indistinguishable distance.

From 1970 we show you (below), the very popular Chief Minister of Karnataka D. Devaraj Urs, alongside Mr. K. Srikantiah, unveiling the photograph of Mysore Vasudevachar in "Parvathi".

[ D. Devaraj Urs, Chief Minister, Karnataka ]
[ 1972 to 1977 and 1978 to 1980 ]

Somewhere in the 1930's, Vasudevachar found one of his compositions being extolled by the father of our featured artist, Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer who started to render Vasudevacharya's kriti- 'Brochevarevarura' in Khamas in his concerts. Vasudevacharya, who happened to be at one of the concerts was noted to have remarked to Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer "My composition like a simple girl was metamorphosed into a beautiful damsel. That is how well you beautified the composition with your embellishments"
[Text Courtesy: Hummaa ]

One of Mysore's greatests gifts, however, was a handsome king, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyer. Handsome, perhaps, in every way including his extraordinary patronage of Music.

He was a connoisseur of both Western and Carnatic (South Indian classical) music and an acknowledged authority of Indian Philosophy. He helped the Western world discover the music of a little-known Russian composer Nikolai Karlovich Medtner (1880–1951), financing the recording of a large number of his compositions and founding the Medtner Society in 1949. Medtner's Third Piano Concerto is dedicated to the Maharaja of Mysore. He became a Licentiate of the Guild Hall of Music, London, and honorary Fellow of Trinity College of Music, London, in 1945. He was the first president of The Philharmonic Concert Society, London, in 1948. The Maharaja also enabled Richard Strauss's last wish to be full filled by sponsoring an evening at Royal Albert Hall by London's Philharmonia Orchestra with German Conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler in the lead and Soprano Flagstad singing his Four Last Songs (Going to Sleep, September, Spring, At Sunset) in 1950.
[ Please also see Time magazine Monday, Jun. 05, 1950 at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,812590,00.html? promoid=googlep ]

Harry Walter Legge(1906 – 1979) an influential English classical record producer for EMI whose recordings include many sets later regarded as classics and produced as "Great Recordings of the Century", was invited to Mysore by the Maharaja and had this to say "The visit to Mysore was a fantastic experience. The Maharajah was a young man, not yet thirty. In one of his palaces he had a record library containing every imaginable recordings of serious music, a large range of loud speakers, and several concert grand pianos...."

[ In the photo above His Highness is seen greeting his Guru Mysore Vasudevachar. To see several photos like the one above and to hear the Maharajah speak of Vasudevachar, please visit the magnificent Face book page of Mr. Raja Chandra at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=123413267676612&v=wall ]

After becoming Maharaja, Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar was initiated to the Indian Classical Music (Carnatic Music) due to the cultural vibrancy which prevailed in the Mysore Court till then. He learnt to play the Veena under Vid. Venkatagiriappa and mastered the nuances of Carnatic music under the tutelage of veteran composer and "Asthana Vidwan" Sri. Vasudevachar. He was also initiated in to the secrets of Shri Vidya as an "upasaka" (a spiritual intern) under the assumed name Chitprabhananda by his guru Shilpi Siddalingaswamy. This inspired him to compose as many as 94 Carnatic music compositions under the assumed name of Shri Vidya. All the compositions are in different raga's and some of them are for the first time ever. In the process, he also built three temples in Mysore city: All three Temples were sculpted by the famous sculptor, Shilpi Siddalingaswamy.

The patronage and contribution of Wodeyars to Carnatic has been researched in the 1980s by Prof. Mysore Sri V. Ramarathnam, Carnatic musician, author, teacher and composer, vocalist disciple of Sangeetha Rathna Mysore T. Chowdiah and first Principal of the University College of Music and Dance, University of Mysore. The book was titled "Contribution and Patronage of Wodeyars to Music".

[The above text regarding his His Highness Jayachamarajendra Wodeyar has been appropriated in small and paraphrased courtesy of www.absoluteastronomy.com, from where many more magnificent details of the Royal Lineage can be obtained ]

Finally, we close out this edition of our blog with a very rare and original photograph of Princess Sujaya Kantha Ammani, sister of HH Jayachamrajendra Wodeyar, later the Thakurani Sahiba of Sanand, taken in Coimbatore in the early 1970s at the house of a member family of "Parvathi"

[ Princess Sujaya Kantha Ammani, Royal Family of Mysore ]