On the morning of 25th December, those of us who were in attendance at the Music Academy were fortunate to listen to excellent demos. There was a record attendance too. Both dealt with the practical aspects of music and there is therefore very little for me to put down by way of writing.

The first was by Smt Suguna Varadachari, who this year receives the title of Sangita Kala Acharya at the Music Academy. She spoke on neraval singing for compositions and pallavis. She sang examples and pointed out how elaboration by way of neraval ought to be done.

The second lec-dem was by S Sowmya, easily one of the most intelligent Carnatic music artistes we have today. Battling conjunctivitis, she gave a brilliant demo on ghaNTa and allied ragas. She said that this was a raga that was essentially phrase rather than scale oriented. It appears to be a combination of phrases from kalyANi, bhairavi, tODi, dhanyAsi and even punnAga varALi at times. Sowmya’s lec-dem was largely based on Muttuswami Dikshitar’s navAvaraNa kriti and the padam nEyyamuna. Apparently, Tyagaraja has composed 8 songs in this raga (are there no limits to this great man?) and at my request, towards the end, she showed how his treatment of the raga as evident in his mangaLam, differed to an extent from that of Diskhitar. The range of the raga as evinced by the navAvaraNa kriti and the padam appears to be from M in the lowest octave to G in the higher octave. There is no D in the ArOhaNam but it does appear when the anupallavi joins the pallavi in the navAvaraNam. PDN appears to be allowed but not PDNS. The G appears to be an important note and allows for a variety of gamakas such as kampita, nOkku, ETra jAru and orikai. In the last the G appears to touch M. In the Dikshitar sampradAya there is no tendency to pause at M.

Sowmya sang snatches of raga alapana and also did tAnam in the raga. She sang the navAvaraNam in full and parts of the padam. It was a very interesting demo and the artiste had taken a very tough subject to present. Personally I would classify this raga as an inchoate one.