The last of the lec dems at the Academy for the season took place today. On stage (apart from Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao and AKC Natarajan) were Dr N Ramanathan (NR), Chingleput Ranganathan (CR), Dr Ritha Rajan (RR), Dr RS Jayalakshmi (RSJ) and Suguna Purushottaman (SP). The ragas discussed were Rudrapriya, Karnataka Kapi, Darbar and Kanada. All of these are now classified as janyas of the 22nd mela Kharaharapriya.

After a few preliminary remarks by NR, Rudrapriya was taken up for discussion. CR spoke of how according to his Guru, Alathoor Venkatesa Iyer, the best rendition of the song Amba Paradevate (composed by Krishnaswami Ayya) was by Naina Pillai. Later Tirupamburam Swaminatha Pillai made it his own. Naina’s renditions according to CR made use of phrases such as N S N P M G G R S, P D N P M G R S.

A clipping of the Alathoor Brothers singing this song was played. CR drew attention of the audience to the use of the prayoga P N S  in the rendition and as to how Alathoor Subbier later asked CR to render it as PDNS as that would conform to the arohana and avarohana defined (S R G M P D N S/S N P M G R S).

A clipping of T Viswanathan singing and playing on the flute Amba Paradevate as per the Tirupamburam style was played.

RR said that the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarsini (SSP) gives a lot of glide phrases in the Muttuswami Dikshitar kriti Rudrakopajata. These phrases are N and G centric. These glides are more akin to the Hindustani Kapi of old (not to be confused with the present day Hindustani Kapi of the Carnatic tradition) which was marked by occasional use of the Kakali Nishada and Antara Gandhara.  The Tanjore Quartet have a pada varnam in Rudrapriya which also uses these glides. The usage of jhanta prayoga in N is also present, though according to RR this may have been a way of expressing a dhirgha N. The SSP specifies N,G, M, R as nyasa swaras for this raga. The song Valli Devasenapate from SSP has prayogas such as SNRSNSR. The notation for Amba Paradevate given in the SSP has phrases which recall to mind the old Hindustan Kapi. RR sang these and showed. Some were PMPNSRR, MGRMP, NPMPNS, PNSR. She also said that these same prayogas were present in the old way of rendering the javali Parulanna Mata (now sung in modern Hindustani Kapi of the Carnatic tradition). The use of RMPD also suggests its origin from the old Hindustan Kapi. Antara Gandhara is heard in places like MGM. The song Muruga in SSP also has such phrases.

RR was of the view that this raga was originally the old Hindustan Kapi and was rechristened as Rudrapriya for Carnatic music as there was already a Kapi (the Karnataka Kapi) flourishing here. It was once a composite raga reflecting many influences and phrases but the arohana/avarohana definitions have straitjacketed it into a bare bones raga scale.

NR said that it was Muttuswami Dikshitar who gave this raga a shape.

RSJ said that in the SSP there were differences in the way Muttuswami Dikshitar handled the raga and the way Balaswami and Subbarama Dikshitars handled it. The former used phrases such as RMPDN, RGMPDN, SGRG. The latters (pardon this terrible usage but I cannot simply type Balaswami, Subbarama etc again, but there I have done it) use phrases such as SNDN, SRG, RGMPDN, GMPDN, PDN etc which are more indicative of Kharahapriya.

There was a debate here as to how when the ascent and descent scales specify a sequence, notations for songs appear to vary from it. SP was of the view that even in ragas such as Shankarabharanam, we use phrases such as SDP, SP etc, but because the raga is so well known everyone accepts. On the other hand Rudrapriya being a less well-known raga, there is an emphasis to adhere to the scales.

NR recalled that Pattamadai Krishnan (a disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar and who set to tune many songs of Subramania Bharati) did alapanas in Rudrapriya.

The discussion shifted to how Tyagaraja handled this raga. Lavanya Rama and Sri Manini Manohara were taken up for discussion. It was agreed that the second kriti used the same varnamettu as Gananayakam and that it was a kriti that had surfaced relatively recently (was that a euphemism for buruda/factory/dupe?). The raga for Lavanya Rama is given as Purna Shadjam in books. Poona Rajagopal’s book lists it under Rudrapriya. It was agreed that the publisher/compiler may have listed it as such based on prayogas such as SRGMPNS which occur in the song. But the record of Veena Seshanna of Lavanya Rama also states that it is Rudrapriya.

So where do we go from here?

The next raga taken up was Kapi, which I must clarify here is Karnataka Kapi today though old texts only call it Kapi. The usage of Antara Gandhara and Kakali Nishada is specified at certain places in all texts on this raga. If you thought all this was simple, four records were then played:

1. Ramnad Krishnan singing a brief raga alapana which had so many traces of Darbar.

2. KVN singing the present day Kapi (the Carnatic Hindustani Kapi to be precise) as a prelude to Sumasayaka (of Swati Tirunal) which was always listed under the old (Karnataka) Kapi.

3. Madurai Mani Iyer singing a fast version of Venkatachalapate of Muttuswami Dikshitar which sounded more like Kanada.

4. A vilamba rendition of the same song sung at home by Smt Ramani, NR’s mother in law.

To add to the confusion, Venkatamakhi gives the scales for this raga as SRGMPDNS/SNDPMGGRS while KV Srinivasa Iyengar gives it as SRGMRPMPDNS/SNDPMGRS. More confusion to follow for the Tyagaraja kriti Nityarupa is sung in both Kapi and Darbar.

RR then sang Nityarupa as per the Kanchipuram Naina Pillai style. She said that the SSP definition for Kapi differs from what is sung now in that it allows for DSNP/GGRS/RPMP/RGMP/RPMPRS/PMRMRS phrases. The song Akhilandesvari of Syama Sastry shows usage of MPRMRS in addition to above. The phrase RMP is avoided in all sources but is in vogue in today’s Kapi. Other phrases pointed out by Subbarama Dikshitar but not used by him are SNMPM/PMGMR. Tyagaraja kritis use phrases such as SNDNP/RGMP/RMPDN/SNDP/RGMGR all of which are akin to Rudrapriya.

To further add to the confusion, NR stated that the present day Carnatic Hindustani Kapi is Pilu in Hindustani Music. A clip of Pt Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhim performing this raga together was played. Dr Pappu said that there was a Bharata Natyam Kapi and a Kuchipudi Kapi as well!! NR said that Jagadoddharana was set in Dana Kapi or Madhyama Kapi in some books. ( I needed a Mocha Kapi just then).

Darbar was taken up for discussion next. There are two versions, the Muttuswami Dikshitar and the Tyagaraja ones. NR was of the view that Dikshitar’s Darbar was a composite raga like the Kapi of old and RR agreed with him. She said that Dikshitar’s Darbar showed shades of Sahana, Kanada, Kharaharapriya (present day) and Athana. She sang phrases like DNNDD (Kharaharapriya), NSRPG (Kanada), DPRSDMPRGMDPDPDPDPRS (Nayaki), SPMDD (Sahana). She said that Dikshitar kritis in the SSP reflect the old Darbar while the later kritis in the same book reflect the influence of the Tyagaraja school.

RSJ pointed out that Dikshitar’s Darbar as per the SSP has the phrase GMRS with a line on top. No sahitya occurs for this phrase in the book and it always appears after R. So was this Subbarama Dikshitar’s way of showing a gamaka svarupa? There was also a discussion on whether the phrase GGRS now so common was originally RMRMRS. It was pointed out that the notation for Subbaraya Sastry’s Mina Nayana has no G anywhere in it.

Kanada- NR stated that KV Srinivasa Iyengar had emphatically stated that this was not a raga at all and that it was the Kannada of the 28th mela which had deviated to become Kanada of the 22nd mela. RR sang phrases to demonstrate this. She also sang parts of the Devaranama Na Ninna Dhyana to show how this raga had shades of Surutti in the old style of rendition. Though the arohanam moves as GMDNS there is an ata tala varnam and a tillana which use the phrase PDNS. Here again it would appear that the raga had moved from a composite framework to a simpler straighter structure.

AKC wanted to know what the end recommendation was. But nobody was willing to give anything. It was more a scholastic discussion. Dr SAK Durga pointed out that Rudrapriya had already been discussed in 1931 and 1956. I dont know where we got with all this. I would have expected a better coordinated discussion within a set framework at least. But I suppose that ragas cannot be discussed like I would do pumps or valves. Even two pumps from the same line differ in performing charateristics. So how can ragas be so tied down? All said and done I agree with Dhanammal. It is better sing music than to debate it.

Attendance was close to what it was for Nedanuri’s lec dem. The programme sheet said that R Vedavalli would moderate this discussion but she was not present.