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Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

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Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by varsha » 27 Jan 2017, 07:23

I hope we can have a nicely curated discussion with samples and good example clips sometime in the near future.
MahaVishnu and the rest
Please Please deconstruct for me , why I may be finding this track is so adorable... yummy.Somebody who recorded this was stupid enough to cut the tani out .To save on magentic tape :geek: ... mTyAgarAja

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by kvchellappa » 27 Jan 2017, 11:10

Nice. The mrdangam, quite audible, but non-intrusive, sings along. Possibly, the best mohana rama. What a voice, what a melody, what classicism!

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by mahavishnu » 27 Jan 2017, 12:11

Varsha-ji: Thanks for setting this up. Semmu and others, please feel free to step in.
Let us begin with two examples for accompaniment.

1) The first is KVN-MC with the legendary UKS and the piece I have chosen in Telisi rama in poornachandrika in Adi Talam. In some sense, in this simplest of pieces these three great vidwans have given us the entire universe of carnatic music in a capsule.

I would like for us to first notice how UKS marks the kalapramanam with clear and crisp strokes, right at the outset. From the second sangati of the pallavi, he sets up the cadence of the piece. With each sangati he adds embellishments and he finally adds a compatible sollu along with "ri sa ni pa ma ga ma ri sa". You will see how this inspires KVN soon.

Then watch how carefully he keeps time with just a simple chapu (his trademark) instead of a tirmanam before they launch into the anupallavi. And to keep the gait of the piece going UKS alternates between highlighting the elements of the sahityam that fall on the beat of the talam, while also using a generous amount of gumki along with the "dhim ta dhimita ta dhim" to provide the perfect rounding. This is especially important in Tyagaraja's compositions where the syllables fall so perfectly on the beat, to the extent that you don't even have to keep talam with your hands!

Now note the perfect pause before "nijatatva". As he enter the charanam, "rAmAyaNa capalakSula pEru" UKS launches into continuous phrases and attempts a simple nadai variation that adds so much zest to the proceedings.

KVN as though inspired by UKS's accompaniment for the last sangathi, launches into his first kalpanaswaram as "ri sa ni pa ma ga ma ri sa" - Telisi rama! Just 2-3 short round of swarams. I will let you enjoy the rest without my running commentary :)

Such understated elegance. Beautiful nadham. The gentle accompaniment lifts the piece to great heights. And to top it all off, KVN-UKS make it appear so easy.

2) This is TVS with Trichy Sankaran. A relatively rare combination. Despite being contemporaries, it is not often that you see these two come together. The piece I have chosen is an MMI classic: Sri Mathrubootham.

This misra chapu nadai amaippu is a Pazhani school classic. For the first few sangatis, you will find that TS does not come into the standard misra chapu gait of "dhim tha tha dhim, taka dhim tha tha dhim"; almost leaving the audience longing for it. And when he does, it is absolute magic!

By this time, TVS is exploring the beauty of the anupallavi: sOma sakhaM nata Suka sanakaM. At this time TS is providing very solid reinforcement with the classic misrachapu pattern. But when TVS starts sOmaM SirO-dhRta sUrya gangaM, listen to how Sankaran launches into his trademark continuous play. Such a gift he has, to be able to produce that pattern on demand with providing variation at high speeds too without what we refer to as "thesal". But note that, he pauses at just the right time to embellish "guruguha" taranga lingam with straight strokes. Imagine the level of knowledge of the composition these mridangists have! The short tirmanam of: dhim takita dhim played three times stops in time for the grand opening of the charanam.

The charanam is a in typical Dikshitar fashion, fairly complex with multiple rhythmic variations. TS sings along till dAsa jana santOsha karaNam. And then the madhyama kalam begins. How beautifully he anticipates the beat and the metric structure and plays perfect on the syllables of sadasivam paramasivam. And then he know that TVS is coming back to do the sangati again. He uses the gumki to great effect, while he waits for the return. Then he pounces.

The swarams follow this. This is such classic MMI, with superb variations on gmpgmrs, with the ri going dheergam on occasion. Sankaran's anticipation is superb on every element of this.


Now, it would be great if you can spare 11 minutes and listen to both the pieces again. But this time close your eyes!


If there is sufficient interest we could now proceed with the following features in our curated listening.
Nadai amaippu, providing variations for sangatis, vallinam-mellinam embellishment and sensitivity to sahityam. And perhaps after this, we can start contrasting styles. Maybe after this we can discuss, how to play for varnams, neravals, rtps etc with suitable examples.

That said, I will pause now, so we can have some discussion of these pieces. I am sure others, esp Semmu will have valuable opinions on this.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by Rsachi » 27 Jan 2017, 13:25

This discussion is becoming so interesting! Thank you.
Please don't hold back. Share the clips AND the commentary.
Thank you!

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by semmu86 » 27 Jan 2017, 23:01

Ramesh, Scholarly post. Thanks for the links. My two cents.

KVN MC UKS Track :- This has got to be one of my all time favorite KVN-UKS concerts in my collection. The quality of the recording is unbelievable. The accompaniment for "heccarikagA rArA hE rAmacandra" in the same concert, is a case study by itself, which I hope to discuss here sometime later, with your valuable inputs.

Anyways, coming back to telisirAma track, the first thing i noted when i heard this first time was the control over the nAdham in the kuchi vAdhyam. Its something similar to the control of the swing of the new ball in cricket. The treble-bass balance is something i have marvelled at when the vAdhyam is at the hands of vidhwans like UKS/ TS. One can notice that UKS sir would have established the tempo of the krithi for the first couple of avarthanams with sollus in the mEETu and would have delved into the madhyama kAla tempo only from around 0.20 seconds, which helps in internalizing the tempo.

The inclusion of the thoppi and the gumukkis needs repeated listenings to decipher. The first usage of the gumukki starts around 0.25 seconds when the madhyama kala gait sits so perfectly alinged @ "sEyavE O manasA" with KVN singing it with beautiful gamakkams. The gumukkis supplement them so beautifully that it becomes almost unnoticed because the Mrudangam became the song itself. And if one can carefully observe, there was no thoppi for an avarthanam (0.20 to 0.25 seconds) before the gumukki came for "sEyavE O manasA", creating the effect.

The mEl kAla phrases played in the mEEtu around 2:03 till 2:08 in the charanam is an embellishment as soft as jasmine creating an atmosphere of excitement, but everything is like a cushion beneath the performer,. As UKS sir would say "pATTODa otti irukaNam vAsippu". Playing for the swaras is short and with with some nice anticipations. One can observe how UKS sir would have anticipated the pattern of 5's in the swars around 3:13 to 3:20. And as Ramesh says, the kind of effort that would have gone through in making this sound easy is just beyond comprehension. Finally, there was no complex or explosive arudhis at all between the krithis and also at the end, it was ending along with the singer. The concept of minimalism at its best.

I would like to share a PMI track in a day or two, which would best illustrate the final point.

TVS- TS Track:- Intersting you bring out the TVS-TS combo, which i have heard only once live. You have described it beautifully, nothing much more for me to add, except reinforcing the same point that the accompaniment in this is not something earth shattering, but just simple pakkavadhya dharmam, which is made to sound unreal, by these vidhwans. The mElkAla patterns which Sankaran Sir plays are his and his only, with the variant coming in like "na ka tha dhi mi tha dhi mi" played along with the gumukki in that tempo (Comes around 2:27 and continues for a couple of avarthanams). Your body automatically shakes and nods in appreciation when he plays that hauntingly beautiful pattern.

Again, the same emphasis here on "pATTODa otti irukaNam" can be found when he comes back to the kEEzh kAlam around 2:37 when TVS sings "kOmala kara dhRta kurangaM" and later emphasizes on "guru guhAntaranga lingam". For a vidhwan with such divinely gifted hands and the ability to play any phrase at any tempo, He carefully resists the temptation of going on and on with the mElkAla phrases and thereby ending like a crescendo and killing the sAhithyam in the process. As you told, just goes to show the "pAATu gnyAnam" of these greats.

And as Ramesh told, once these two get digested, we can get into more tracks with lot more insights from more knowledgeable people.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by rajeshnat » 28 Jan 2017, 07:49

Can you add the names of the artist as part of the file name . That way those who browse only your site will know . Instead of just having the file name as ThelisiRama-Poornachandrika-Adi have it as ThelisiRama-Poornachandrika-Adi-KVN-UKS

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by mahavishnu » 28 Jan 2017, 07:57

Thank you Semmu. I hope you have all enjoyed it as much as we have :) Here is the next one in the list. (3rd track in the series

In my mind, this features some of the greatest stage performers of all time. Madurai Somu with Lalgudi. The highlighted mridangist is the amazing and versatile Palghat Raghu; playing Rama Nee Pai in kedaram. The recording is old, but the mridangam comes through very clearly.

I will refrain from saying too much here. Watch out for the nadai development and the excellent sarvalaghu even as he switches patterns. Especially noteworthy is how Somu enjoys the accompaniment with saying "ayyo" between the pallavi and anupallavi. When the khanjira joins in during the charanam, you can almost feel that there is a tavil playing in the background. Again, the beauty is in the simplicity!

I am sure Semmu will have more technical things to add.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by varsha » 28 Jan 2017, 10:07

Keep them coming !!!
Very Very interesting and educative

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by vasanthakokilam » 28 Jan 2017, 12:29

Great thread. Thanks Varsha, Mahavishnu and Semmu. Yep, keep it going.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by semmu86 » 28 Jan 2017, 13:57

I think we discussed this Somu-LGJ-Raghu track in the "Evolution of Mrudangam schools" thread, to understand the thavil influence on Thanjavur school masters. Rajamani Sir (PMI's son) once told me that if anyone asked him what made PMI special, then his answer would be, that it was special because of the way he played Mrudangam. Again if he was probed what was special in his playing, the answer would be "it would be tough to qualitatively expand on why its special, but its special". IMHO, The same holds good for masters like PSP, UKS, TS, PRR, KRM etc.

Coming back to the Somu-Raghu track, it is tough to point out one single parameter on why it sounds so great. The balance, the faithful following of the main artiste like a shadow, The gumukki variation techniques and above all, its made to sound so deceptively simple.


Here is the PMI track that i originally wanted to start with.

I dont know how to keep it as a continuum to the 3 tracks we have already seen. If Ramesh can add this as the 4th one, in his parent folder @

Anyways, this is PMI, accompanying Violin duet of TNK & Viji Krishnan, a concert from the 70's. Its "anupama guNAmbudhi", played in a beautiful kAlapramANam. Again, I can only marvel at the balance and the clarity of the sollus of these masters, in mikeless days. Am sure since this was in the 70's, at best we could have had one "kondai" mike at the max in the middle for TNK and nothing for PMI. But the clarity of PMI's strokes sit with the precision of Surgeon's knife.

Couple of things to note- If one can carefully observe, there would be no arudhi at all, when the pallavi finishes around 1:02. From 1:03 to 1:07, for a duration of 3 full avarthanams, the uneasy calm, the tension and the anticipation builds up. The pause would just stab you like a dagger and the unison with which PMI joins TNK for the anupallavi is sheer ecstasy. When TNK pauses at mEl sthAyi @ "manupakayE yunnAvu", PMI plays a simple but yet elegant and appropriate arudhi around 1:13, which so beautifully leads into "manupakayE yunnAvu" @ 1:16. And listen to the careful embellishments for "manupakayE yunnAvu", which he plays in the mEETu from around 1:22 to 1:33. One can see where the inspiration for masters like UKS PRR TS came from, when they attempt such embellishments. As the anupallavi draws to a close, PMI ups the ante and finishes with a flourish from 2:04 to 2:10, to create an atmosphere of excitement, appropriate for that tempo.

Again from 2:13 till 2:17, the silence for 3 avarthanams haunts you like no other. The charaNam too, both PMI and TNK start in unison. The gentle chApu and gumukkis that he gives @ the start of "rAjakula kalashAbdhi" is a stark contrast, to the way he started the anupallavi. Again, it is aesthetics at an inhuman level. Also at the charaNam, the variants for "rAjakula kalashAbdhi" is to be observed. Again, the way he finishes the krithi, along with TNK, is something LOT of artists would do well to emulate.

Enough from me as of now :) Its amazing how much a 3 minute track of PMI can teach us so many things.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by Sreeni Rajarao » 28 Jan 2017, 17:40

Thank You all for this enriching thread!

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by mahavishnu » 29 Jan 2017, 08:38

Thank you everyone. Please feel free to add to the discussion and/or comment on the selections so far.
Semmu: As suggested, I have added the TNK-PMI track to the parent folder. It would be excellent to add a special section in the end on the subtleties of accompanying instrumental performances.

I am trying to locate a good quality PSP track. Most of the recordings do not do full justice to his nadham!

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by varsha » 29 Jan 2017, 10:33

I am trying to locate a good quality PSP track
Skirting around the mm iyer memorables and gnb's effort at acdemy 60 / lp record with chowdiah
I searched far and wide and could locate only two
this one of semmangudi
pls pick a track of your choice that fits the requirement here

and another of mdr-tnk-psp which i need to correct a bit to get the nadham you need for discussion .Let me work on it.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by semmu86 » 29 Jan 2017, 22:04

mahavishnu wrote:I am trying to locate a good quality PSP track. Most of the recordings do not do full justice to his nadham!
Probably the below youtube link is THE best available recording I have heard of PSP. Sounds like GNB & PSP at their peak before their unfortunate ailments. One cant help but notice Lalgudi's genius here. Since this thread is on the art of laya accompaniment, am sure myself and Varsha Ji would resist the temptation of discussing on Lalgudi's accompaniment here ;)

The nAdham is just unbelievable. The accompaniment for the pallavi and the thani that follows is just one of its kind. More on that soon. Maybe Ramesh can add on more. Some of the arai chApus here are just worth their weight in GOLD. Fascinating!!!!

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by mahavishnu » 30 Jan 2017, 06:12

Excellent choice on both concerts! I will give them both a thorough listen and work on annotating a couple of kritis.
A good place to start in Varsha-ji's selection will be SSI's Dinamani Vamsa and of course the kalyani RTP in the GNB concert the Semmu linked to.

And then perhaps we can contrast the Dinamani vamsa with SSI-Sankaran from the airport concert.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by shankarank » 07 Feb 2017, 01:17

Digressing a bit into post Golden era , I think some great concerts indeed have happened in the 80s with TNS. Here is one: ... 1-TNS_TIS/

Opening varNam the way he starts it and the laya and sensitivity with which the phrase "arava.." of aravabharananai is handled especially the second round itself bowled me over. pambu pOl meduvaga oru asaivu. Snakes meant different things in yester year artistry :lol:. His sweetest moment that I can recall in all of recorded history of his available. In the preceding raga sketch trademark brigAs are absent. His conviction draws KRM slowly into it and KRM as a track is intelligible only for people who want to hear him ( also who raise the volume as well as balance is not perfect!).

I think TNS in this case came as close to ARI in gait handling as he could.

enna sodanaiYO refrain is met with a matching undulating flourish from KRM everytime.

In the short svara rounds following the varNam , you can hear KRM, the locomotive as TNS holds kArVai in the last round and as TNS switches to svarams with darrisari, naDai switches to matching pattern so continuously.

MC's ( Not Manjunath as noted in the details) bhavam chottum replies remind us that Arabhi is not a guaranteed success for anybody just because it is janaranjakam. Here as well in his reply to the long kArvai svara round, the flourish of KRM cannot be missed.

KRM mAdiri vidvAnai maraikka veNum enDrAl ivvalavu uzhaippu vENum!

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by semmu86 » 07 Feb 2017, 10:12

The KRM-TV Vasan- Harishankar Trio (Sometimes with the outstanding Srirangam Kannan completing the quartet) is probably one of the most legendary combos we were fortunate enough to listen to. Especially in the 80's with all three of them at their absolute peak, some unforgettable concerts with TNS, TVS, DKJ, M'Santhanam, Lalgudi Duets will remain as the stuff of legends. That combo continued for a few concerts into the 90's as well, playing selectively for few artists like Hyd Bros, Flute Ramani etc.

Am trying to locate a TNS-KRM-Harishankar track (Krishna Gana Sabha 1982/83 with a bAlagOpalA main and an immortal thani avarthanam following it.) I remember someone posting that here before but couldn't locate that. Will try to post that here sometime in the weekend, with some small inputs.

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Re: Curated links - on the art of laya accompaniment

Post by advaitin » 07 Feb 2017, 11:20

Hi Semmuu
I know the thread is more about laya accompaniment. But since you are active, any clue on what happens from around 1:08 onwards , PMI moving to tisram. again i guess with just one mike and SSI going "ga ga"" ecstasy?

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