Priya Sisters @ Ayodhya Mandapam, Chennai

Venue: Ayodhya Aswamedha Maha Mandapam, West Mambalam, Chennai

Date: 06 Apr 2007

Organizer: Sri Ram Samaj (Rama Navami Celebrations)

Vocal: Priya Sisters – Vid. Haripriya & Vid. Shanmukhapriya

Violin: Vid. M.A. Krishnaswamy

Mrudangam: Vid. Pathri Satish Kumar

Ghatam: Vid. Madippakkam Murali

List of songs:

1) vanajAksha (varnam) – mandAri – Adi – mysore vAsudEvAchAr

2) gaNanAyakam – pUrNashaDjam – Adi – muthuswAmi dIkshitar (S)

3) rAmanukku mannan muDi – hindOLam – Adi – aruNAchala kavi

4) rAma bANa – sAvEri – Adi – thyAgarAja (AS)

5) shrI rAgahavam dasharatAtmajam (viruttam) – Anandabhairavi

palukE bangAra mAyenA kOdanDapANi – Anandabhairavi – Adi – bhadrAchala rAmdAs

6) banTurIti – hamsanAdam – Adi – thyAgarAja (AS)

7) kAlai thUkki ninru – yadukula kAmbOji – Adi – mArimuthu piLLai

8 ) sAgA varam aruLvAi – sudha hindOLam (varamu) – Adi – subramaNya bhArati

9) pakkala nilabaDi- kharaharapriyA – misra chApu – thyAgarAja (ANST)

10) konDal vaNNanai (viruttam) – Arabhi – tiruppaNNAzhwAr

srI ranganAthan guru sEvai kANa – Arabhi – Adi – ??

11) tolliyun marrAku – hindOLam – kanDa chApu – annamAchArya

12) kurai onrum illai – rAgamAlikA – Adi – c.rAjagOpAlachAri

13) vIDivO aDa vijayarAghavuDu (?) – brindAvani – chatusra Eka – ??

14) tIrAda viLayATTu piLLai – rAgamAlikA – chatusra Eka (tisra gati) – subramaNya bhArati

15) mudA karAtta mOdakam – kalyANi – chatusra Eka – Adi shankarAchArya

16) jagadapu tsanavula jAjarA – hindOLa vasantam – Adi – annamAchArya

17) Asai mugam marandu pOchE – jOnpuri – Adi – subramaNya bhArati

18) Dolanu ? sAi gOpalabAla – yamunA kalyANi – kanDa chApu – ??

19) nI nAma rUpa mulaku (mangaLam) – sowrAshTram – Adi – thyAgarAja

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

How would one feel as an artist if he/she performs a concert to a packed house (full of people who have come to hear his/her concert and not the one after his/hers), if he/she gets thunderous applause after almost every song/alapana and if audience requests keep pouring in even before he/she starts the concert? There isn’t probably anything better he/she can ask for !!! For Priya Sisters, all the above have just become a routine affair. The audience simply love them and lap up whatever they sing and today’s concert was no exception. They received a roaring welcome as soon as they just appeared on stage from one of the corners and the first audience request had reached the stage even before they had seated themselves properly.

The sisters started the concert with the mandAri varNam of mysore vAsudEvAchar. As they started the sAvEri alapana two songs later, audience requests written in small pieces of paper (chits) seemed to pour in from all directions. Sri P. Satish Kumar on the mrudangam acted as the channel and collected the requests while the alapana was on. Soon he also found himself helpless as requests kept bombarding the stage left, right and center even when the kriti and the kalpana swarams were on. Kalpana swarams were put in “rAma bANa” at “tammuDu baDalina vELa …”.

The viruttam “srI rAghavam” and the song “palukE bangAra mAyenA” brought out anandabhairavi beautifully. The song could have been requested by many people in the audience as almost the whole Ayodhya Mandapam seemed to start clapping along with the song when it began. Needless to say, the song got a thunderous applause when it got over. This was followed by a hamsanAdam alapana. Sri M.A. Krishnaswamy played his version of the alapana very well. I hoped against hope that the song would be “kalyANa rAma” but that was not to be the case. The sisters sang “banTurIti” with kalpana swarams put in the charaNam at “rAma nAma …. “.

The main alapana of the day was that of kharaharapriyA. It lasted for 15 minutes and was a delight to hear right from the word go. Neraval and kalpana swarams were put in “pakkala nilabaDi” at “manasuna dalachi …. “. After kharaharapriyA came the viruttam in Arabhi which had me speculating “srI ranganAthan” from the time it started and “srI ranganAthan” was what came next !! The viruttam was so fitting for the song as it described Lord Ranganatha so beautifully. This was followed by a series of tukkaDAs, most of which I am sure where requests from the audience. They were interspersed with Annamacharya kritis which are an essential component of all concerts given by the sisters. The shlOkam “mudA karAtta mOdakam” was preceded by a nice chant of “gam gam gaNa gaNa gaNapati …. ” with a kalyANi base with a good use of harmonics. As one of the sisters sang with their normal pitch as the base, the other sang in parallel using other frequencies as base and this gave a very pleasing effect.

Sri P. Satish Kumar on the mrudangam was at his usual best. I have always found him to be a delight to hear. He seems to have something or the other for both the lay man as well as the connoisseur, especially while playing for the songs. The taniavartanam he played along with Sri Madippakkam Murali was a delight as well, especially with his kOrvais and endings structured so as to lead to the start of the song with an eduppu of 3 aksharams (0.75 beats) after samam. The two primary nadais were chatusram and tisram. The tisra naDai was an interesting one where Sri Satish Kumar would play a pattern twice in tisram and then once in chatusram to lead to the eDuppu. He played many patterns this way. An example would be the pattern “tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times”. He played this as (take 1 avartanam of misra chApu = 3.5 beats = 14 aksharams in chatusra naDai):

(tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times) tha,ngu – in tisram = 18 aksharams = 3 beats (18/6)

(tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times) tha,ngu – in tisram = 18 aksharams = 3 beats (18/6)

(tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times) – in chatusram = 15 aksharams = 3 beats (12/4) + 3 aksharams

which comes to 9 beats + 3 aksharams and would lead to eDuppu if started after 1.5 beats from samam (or 2 beats before samam).

After many similar patterns using combinations of 5, 6 & 7 and 5, 7 & 9, he played kOrvai also in a similar format. The korvai was played as follows:

Starts 3 aksharam after samam:

First time (in tisram) 39 aksharams

tha ka dhi na tha,ngu – 3 times

tha dhi, ki na thom – 3 times

Second time (in tisram) – 42 aksharams

tha ka dhi na tha,ngu – 3 times

tha, dhi, ki na thom – 3 times

Till now total aksharam count = 3 (for offset from samam) + 39 + 42 = 84 aksharams which lands at samam.

Third time (in chatusram) – 45 aksharams

tha ka dhi na tha,ngu – 3 times

tha dhi, tha dhi ki na thom – 3 times

which lands 3 aksharams after samam which is the eDuppu !!!!

The kOrvai that took the cake was however the last one that led to the start of “manasuna dalachi .. “. Will have to decipher that from the notes I took and post  later as it is already 3AM now and high time I signed off for the day (or should I say “signed off for yesterday”).

The concert started at 7.00PM and was supposed to end before 9.30PM. It went on till about 10.30PM with the hall still well populated (many people even standing near the gate). As for the audience requests, they came in even as the sisters sang the last song of the day before the mangaLam. When the mangaLam began, a gang of kids, as has become their usual practice at this venue, rushed towards the stage and stood in front it, blocking it completely. They were armed with notebooks and pens and were apparently vying for autographs.

12 thoughts on “Priya Sisters @ Ayodhya Mandapam, Chennai

  1. A marathon concert with so many Thukkadas!It has become quite usual for the sisters.An immediate observation is that there is only one Neraval(as done by most,except a few).
    They have earned a star-like status.Once,at a felicitation to Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman at Krishna Gana Sabha during the last season ,the son of Shri Palghat Mani Iyer said in those days applause from the audience were reserved.But,today,they clap as if they were on a cue.
    Sathej

  2. Yes … actually there seemed to be a tukkada marathon !!

    On the comment of audience applauding, it may indicate that they have become more knowledgeable and appreciative these days 😉

  3. Appreciative of what?Thukkadas and Abhangs?Well, he (Shri Palghat Mani Iyer’s son) actually the meant the opposite!And moreover,if they are so appreciative and knowledgeable,they wouldn’t walk out of Tani Avarthanams,would they?Leave alone Tanis.As the Ghatam Vidwan Shri S Karthick remarked,people have now started taking a break and going out even as the violinist begins his turn of Alapanas.
    Maybe,the Priya sisters can modify their concert format a bit-they can deliver exclusive Thukkadas Kutcheri and in the others,they can do more justice to the conventional kutcheri paddhathi by singing more elaborate Ragas.I can’t remember an instance when they sang a detailed RTP.
    Sathej

  4. Well … well … I was just joking !!!!

    On a more serious note, I once heard santoor maestro Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma say something that seems very relevant to the question you have raised. I am trying to adapt what he said to the carnatic music scene in the first two paragraphs below. The rest of the stuff is purely my opinion and is debatable.

    In the olden days (say the time when sabhas were just starting to get formed), the number of people who would attend concerts would be very less and among them the percentage of people who would be knowledgeable rasikas would be high. For example, if 10 people attended a concert (say a chamber concert as was usual in those days), say 5 or 6 of them at least would be very knowledgeable rasikas. Concerts were also not open to the masses as it is now and the number of concerts happening in a year were far lesser.

    Today, the number of concerts happening in a day/month/year is far far higher and more importantly, the number of people in the audience is far higher as concerts are open to the public (with or without fees). But the number of very knowledgeable rasikas present in a gathering has not increased at the same rate. For example out of 500 – 800 people present for a concert, there might be only about 10-12 rasikas who are very knowledgeable (I even doubt whether there would be 5-6 people of this kind). So the percentage of knowledgeable rasikas as a percentage of the total number present is very less these days.

    A person who comes to a concert has a set of objectives in mind and some constraints too. For example, certain people might come only to hear tukkadas, certain people might come to hear very detailed raga alapanas, certain people might come just because their relative/guru/friend is playing and might be only interested in that etc etc There are also many constraints that people have. For example, many ladies have to go back, cook and serve food and can’t stay beyond say 7 or 7.30PM. As for me, if I attend a concert, it usually means that I try to postpone some office work or some official conference calls to very late in the night. Sometimes I might have say a official call at 8PM which I cannot avoid and might also not want to miss out on the concert. This means that I would have to attend till 8PM and leave after that (which I don’t usually do as I do not like to enter or leave concerts half-way through).

    The bottom line is that people are free to come in and go out when they want and cannot be stopped. Different people will also have different expectations and it is the artist who has to chose which sections of the audience he/she wants to satisfy. This is similar to ads on TV being targeted to some sections of the viewers. The others may not like or appreciate or want to see them. This is what applies to clapping too. If the audience likes tukkadas, they will clap for that. If someone likes a detailed raga alapana, he will clap for that.

    If you want people not to go out during taniavartanams, try educating them about what taniavartanams are or try to make them stay using different means. Or ask the main artist to give the taniavartanam a bit earlier. Do people move out when say Sri Umayalpuram Sivaraman or Sri Karaikudi Mani play the taniavartanam?

    Having said all this, I feel Priya Sisters have tried to seek a good balance between satisfying the connoisseur and the lay man alike. The first half of their concert is strictly classical and the second half is what caters to the masses. And even in the second half, instead of just singing “kurai onrum illai”, “brahmamokaTE” etc, they also try to sing many Annamacharya kritis which are not heard in other concerts.

    On a side note, I feel that instead of giving speeches saying that the audience is not interested or is not knowledgeable, people have to start thinking about how to make the audience stay or how to make them know more about music. Times are changing and times will change. It is upto the artists, the organizers and the like to adapt and to make things work their way.

  5. Hello Ram,
    A good reasoning out.However,I personally do not agree with the last bit.It is not about ‘making’ people stay.Musicians can educate people about music by having lec dems and such programs.But,at no rate should they suit their kutcheris to meet the audience needs.And walking out,yes,people may have various reasons.But,having come to a kutcheri,it is impolite and disrespectful to walk out midway,especially when senior vidwans are performing.Some people just walk out coolly right infront of them,like the day when Shri Anantharaman was performing at Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall.Once,there was a mass exodus during the Tani of Shri Thiruvarur Bhakthvathsalam in a Shri TN Krishnan violin kutcheri.He stopped playing and just looked on.Shri TNK remarked ‘Mangalam Vasichudlama?Ellarum Porale.’He continued and said that they were planning to finish soon anyway.It was so unlike him to say something like that.And finally,musicians need to perform as they ought to unmindful of audience.The audience will get used to it.Of course,a certain section will behave as above.But,one cannot tailor kutcheris for their needs.They ought to know better.Once Shri Semmangudi was asked what was the difference in audience between those days and today.He said that in those days,people used to go to a Kutcheri with a frame of mind of visiting a temple(infact,many kutcheris were held in temples),but nowadays,they go to a kutcheri as if they go to a movie for mere entertainment.
    Sathej

  6. Hi Sathej,

    You are entitled to have your opinion. However I do not agree with some of the points you mentioned:

    “Musicians can educate people about music by having lec dems and such programs. But,at no rate should they suit their kutcheris to meet the audience needs.”

    I agree that musicians shouldn’t go to the extent of compromising on music itself for the sake of meeting audience needs. But they should always be aware of the needs of the audience and be mindful of the changing times. Had it not been for this, Sri Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar would not have introduced the present concert format at all. He was wise to foresee that concerts of those days that included a 3-4 hour RTP with just one or two songs preceding/following it were no longer suited to the changing times.


    “And walking out,yes,people may have various reasons.But,having come to a kutcheri,it is impolite and disrespectful to walk out midway,especially when senior vidwans are performing.”

    It might be considered impolite and disrespectful, but if I have some other pressing thing to be done, I cannot be forced to remain seated. Rather, there must be a feeling created in me (not through compulsion) that I should avoid walking out of concerts and one must start thinking of how to inculcate this feeling.

    “Once,there was a mass exodus during the Tani of Shri Thiruvarur Bhakthvathsalam in a Shri TN Krishnan violin kutcheri.He stopped playing and just looked on.Shri TNK remarked ‘Mangalam Vasichudlama?Ellarum Porale.’He continued and said that they were planning to finish soon anyway.It was so unlike him to say something like that.”

    I agree that people have made it a point to leave just as the taniavartanam begins which is unfortunate. But there is nothing achieved by you and me or even TNK just talking about it. What needs to be done is to see how a thing like this can be prevented from happening. Making people aware of what taniavartanam is and what are the components etc is just one of the ways to go about doing this. Giving taniavartanam earlier in the concert when the listener has still some time left is another. As Sri Karaikudi Mani said once, it is only after listening to taniavartanam a few number of times at least that people will start making sense of it. You must give them the opportunity to listen to good taniavartanams at least that number of times.

    For instance, the mrudangam artist can communicate to the audience saying that these are the things he is going to play and then play them. If he keeps doing something like this in some of the early concerts, it is but obvious that people will start taking interest.

    “And finally,musicians need to perform as they ought to unmindful of audience.The audience will get used to it.”

    Oh … this I am afraid is not the correct attitude at all. For instance, how many instrumentalists announce the name of the song or the raga and try to sustain the audience interest today? They just keep playing as though everyone needs to already know what they are playing and as though they will stoop down if they announce the songs or the ragas. The Parur family gave a good example of how one can communicate with the audience to just the extent required in their concert at NGS Mini Hall the other day. You are performing for the audience and cannot be completely unmindful of them.

    “Once Shri Semmangudi was asked what was the difference in audience between those days and today.He said that in those days,people used to go to a Kutcheri with a frame of mind of visiting a temple(infact,many kutcheris were held in temples),but nowadays,they go to a kutcheri as if they go to a movie for mere entertainment.”

    I don’t think people interpret what Sri Semmangudi said properly (or may be he just meant it that way). I think I have already said this in my previous comment that the percentage of people among the audience who are knowledgeable rasikas and who treat music with bhakti is lower these days but the number of people who treat music with bhakti is not. Pre-Semmangudi days or even early days of Semmangudi didn’t have that many concerts which had masses thronging to listen to artists. These days a lot more people come than the 10-12 who are very knowledgeable and then you start seeing all the exodus, requests for tukkadas etc. I don’t agree that our ancestors were much better in terms of bhakti towards carnatic music. Where are the facts to prove it? They never allowed women (especially Brahmin women) to sing. Women were not supposed to take up music after marriage. Caste system was rampant. Is this what is bhakti towards music?? If there are screwed up people now, there were screwed up people back then as well.

    If there were 10 people who had bhakti towards music, there are 10 people now also. Its just that there were just those 10 back then but there are about 400-500 more of the other kind along with them now and it is what those 400-500 do that is more visible.

    Do you know what might be the biggest problem facing carnatic music today? I think it is the fact that the average age of the audience falls somewhere in the range of 50s and 60s. There are hardly a few youngsters like you and me who attend concerts. Again there is nothing achieved by just lamenting over this. What needs to be done is to see how more youngsters can be encouraged to participate. Holding lec-dems and teaching how to appreciate concerts etc could be one way. Senior artists who have good name in the field and have good knowledge of the art must take a lead here.

  7. Hello Ram,
    ‘I don’t agree that our ancestors were much better in terms of bhakti towards carnatic music.’
    I don’t dispute that at all.
    As regards,making music suit,what I meant was that the music must not be compromised.You can’t have Abhangs and Tukkadas dominating a concert.If too much emphasis is laid on the audience,there would soon be a day when a Carnatic music concert will end up being an Abhang concert( or Bhajan concert like the ones by Shri OS Arun-I don’t blame him-he has specialised in Abhangs and delivers them) or a Thukkadas only kutcheri.
    Many people announce the songs.There are different views on that.Even Shri Lalgudi used to do that at MFAC.I don’t think that is bad.What I mean to say when I mention that people should be unmindful of the audience is this:There have been instances like people walking out when TMK sings Shyama Sastri pieces at a slow pace.He shouldn’t stop singing them for that reason.This is just one example.
    And regarding youngsters attending kutcheris,yes,they are indeed few.The problem is time and the fast paced life.Imagine some youngsters learn msuic through video,audio,skype and what not.There is no substitute to direct learning from a Guru.My point is if you are seriously interested,you will make time available to go to a Guru and learn.
    And walking out during Tanis-yes,you are right.People must have respect for the artist from within.It cannot be enforced.
    It has been a good detailed exchange of views!Always nice to know about various lines of thoughts
    Sathej

  8. Hi Sathej,

    Its been nice knowing your views. I just wanted to make sure that the proper context in which you made the statements came out. For example just saying that musicians should be unmindful of the audience is a sweeping statement but the point comes out well when contextualized to singing of slow songs despite many people not enjoying.

    Ram

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s