Last morning (I am writing this early on the 19th) was a rushed affair what with the younger junior having an exam and having to be dropped at school. From there it was straight to the Academy for the lec dems.
The first had Prof Mysore V Subrahmanya assisted by Rajalakshmi Tirunarayanan and Ratnaprabha on the tillanas of Veena Seshanna. It was a performance right through with the Professor restricting himself to a few announcements and pronouncements. The veena performance however was top class and in a jiffy I was transported to a world of lace turbans, Mysore silk, Maharanis with long names and longer trains in their sarees, perfume, roses, navaratri celebrations, illuminated palaces, the goddess Chamundi, gandaberunda birds, fascinating jewellery and the Mysore State Band.
Rajalakshmi is a disciple of Veena Venkatagiriappa and Prof V Subrahmanya is a great grandson of Seshanna.The tillanas heard were in kEdAram, kalyANi, shankarAbharaNam, khamAs, darbAri kAnaDa, bEhAg and the most popular jhinjhOTi ones.
Seshanna used is own name as a mudra in his kritis but for the tillanas used the pOShaka mudra or that of his patrons. The sAhitya is in Telugu (which fact for some reason came in for high praise from the expert committee. “See?” said one member. “In those days people composed only in Telugu.”). The darbAri kAnaDa piece had gopuccha and strOtOvaha yatis (though there was no way of knowing where as the lyrics were not read out).
By way of complimenting the speaker (if there was one), R Vedavalli said that she had the feeling of having attended a concert. Though it was said perhaps in all sincerity, given the way the lec dem went, it was received as a joke. Dr MB Vedavalli after having reminded the audience that she had done her thesis on Mysore as a Seat of Music, opined that the Seshanna tillanas are more suited to the concert platform than to dance. She also drew attention to the influence of Western music in the kalyANi (I thought the shankarAbharaNam one had more) and khamAs pieces. She said that Seshanna had also learnt western music at the Mysore Court thanks to the presence of several experts in that genre.
The next speaker was Dr Vyzarsu Balasubramaniam, whose topic was the role of the anuswara. He began by stating that the anuswara is a recent definition as earlier texts have all focused on the gamaka. He defined the anuswara as the subtle melodic nuance that explains the notes associated with a swara. He demonstrated several instances from the various ragas. I had to leave midway. The lack of breakfast was making the stomach growl and add a few vivAdi swaras. For some reason the Experts Committee was all keyed up and kept chatting away among itself right through this presentation.
In the early evening slot managed to attend two hours of Amrita Murali at the Music Academy. Great concert, the highlights being varALi, chakras 5 & 6 of Maha Vaidyanatha Sivan’s mELa rAgamAlika and kAmbOji. Crowd which was moderate to begin with, filed in later.
From there it was a quick dash to Gnanambika (though why he now calls it Gnanambiga I dont know) Jayaraman. The highlight was ‘capcigum’ paruppu usili sevai. With the delicate flavouring the lentils and the occasional cashew, it was a wonder. Sarada had a rava dosa while I had the old masala dosa. Then some coffee (Jayaraman has to be given the title of Sangita Coffeenidhi). Having ignored all attempts by the serving staff to make us try the delectable sweets, we rushed off. Sanjay beckoned from the Indian Fine Arts Society (IFAS).Driving to Habibullah Road is a challenge but we made it in good time.
There are times when I reflect that I may have been a Komatti Chetty in a previous birth. I am fascinated by this community and of course, without them, this city would have had no Carnatic music. Therefore, I make it every year to IFAS at least once. Several of its senior members (with fascinating inti perus such as Vupputur, Candagaddala, Voora, Vemuru, Chinniyelamanda etc)are personal friends. But the hall like the Sabha has seen better days and has a brooding atmosphere like a Bengali novel or a Guru Dutt film. Rats run around (I was blissfully ignorant till Prof Premeela Gurumoorthy most helpfully drew my attention to them), there is no airconditioning and as for the seats, they are hard on the butt and are not above tearing into your clothes and sometimes the skin. But the warmth and the welcome make up for these things.
Conversation was almost exclusively in Telugu with I am quite sure topics centering on the way Kooragayala Kesavulu Chetty gave his land on lease to the Kothwal Chavadi in the 1760s. Several of those in attendance had large namams. The audience is largely of two kinds. The first owns tracts of land in Chetpet and comes from stately homes with names such as Llanstephan (pronounced Thlanstephan), Gorleston and Runnymede. The other comes from the narrow lanes of George Town. And so under the photos of people like Addanki Varadappa Chetty we sat and listened to Sanjay. The sound system was all set to break the sonic barrier in the varnam but an enterprising mami went up to the audio man and had it set just right. Wonderful concert (do I need to say that for a Sanjay performance?) with hindOLam, kalyANi and karnATaka dEvagAndhAri being the highlights. The RTP was in the last one with rAgamAlika in kathanakutuhalam and jOg.
And so to bed as Samuel Pepys said.