Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

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bhasi
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#1 Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by bhasi »

I spent a particularly enjoyable Friday evening with Smt. Kiranavali as she presented a thematic concert titled "Traditional thukkadas". She provided lots of context to each song she presented and thus made it a very memorable evening, featuring trivia and lesser-known facts galore.

Artists
  • Kiranavali Vidyasankar - Vocals
  • <a disciple of hers for vocal support>
  • Hemmige Srivatsan - Violin
  • Vinod Seetharaman
Setlist
  1. sotruNai vEdhiyan sOdhi vAnavan potruNai - kEdAragowLa (tEvAram)
  2. mAlE maNivaNNA - kuntaLavarALi (tiruppAvai)
  3. kalla nAgara kandarE hAlanera embaru - jOnpuri, mishra jhampa (basavaNNA vachanA)
  4. shrtakamalakucha mandala dhrta kundala - bhairavi (jayadEva ashTapadi)
  5. rAmachandrudithadu raghuveerudu - dwijayavanti (annamAchArya sankeertanam)
  6. apakAra nindai paTTulazhAthE - chakravAkam (tiruppugazh)
  7. pavadisu paramAtmanE - <rAgamAlika> (purandaradasa kriti)
  8. yAr pOi solluvAr enakkAna pEraiyum kAnOr (or is it kAnEn?) - tOdi (kshEtrajna/kshEtrayya padam)
  9. gOvardhana giridhara - darbAri kAnaDa (nArAyaNa teertha tarangam)
  10. mAnasa sanchararE - sAmA/shyAmA (philosophical works set to tune)
  11. kaNNan varuginra nEram karaiyOram - <folk tune, no specific ragam> (kAvaDichinthu)
  12. vishvEshvar darshan kar - sindhubhairavi (bhajan)
  13. tillAna - mandAri (tillAna, Tanjavur Ponniah Pillai)
  14. parulanna mATa - kApi (jAvaLi)
  15. AduvOmE paLLu pADuvOmE - dEsh (non-bhakti, patriotic themed song)
  16. English Note - shankarAbharaNam (miscellaneous curio)
  17. karpagamE kaN pArAi - madhyamAvati (kriti typically sung as thukkada)
  18. pavamAna - sourAshTram (one of the many mangaLams in existence)
Thoughts and ruminations

Kiranavali was introduced as having been a Carnatic child prodigy who could correctly identify scores and scores of ragams and thalams at the age of two (?!). I was completely in the dark about her background and identity except for the tidbit of info from @ CRama that she was Chitravina Ravikiran's sister. I realized that she was very much an equally accomplished musician in her own right from the litany of her achievements that was recited. Hemmige I was very familiar with, but Vinod - not so much.

Anyway, Kiranavali began by delivering a short speech which attempted to address the question of what qualifies a song as a thukkada. I was immediately impressed by her diction and style of delivery - she chose her words carefully and spoke deliberately with very few filler words ("you know", "err", "umm"). Most Carnatic musicians of today I've seen so far cannot claim to possess her level of felicity with the language. That is a very rare trait in a public figure, and also one that always commands my respect.

By way of introduction, Kiranavali spoke about how Ariyakkudi created the modern-day concert format and how thukkadas occupy the "post-main" slot therein. In the process, she mentioned something very interesting (she would drop many more such nuggets during the course of the evening) about gender norms in Carnatic music singing during Ariyakkudi's time. Apparently, back then (as indeed it still is even today) it was the wont of men back then to indulge in feats of prowess (both manodharmam and physical endurance) by way of their music: feats such as singing the same raga for days on end, impressive pallavi singing in royal darbars and such. On the other hand, it was the women, the devadasis, who were mostly the font and repository of kalpita sangeetham, kritis and compositions. They had the unique opportunity to hobnob with the intelligensia and learn kritis from them, which they would then perform in temples. The modern day concert format has egalitarianized the scene, and no such gender differentiation in repertoire exists today. Ariyakkudi's concert format is a true crowd-pleaser in that it caters to both surly academic and unsophisticated rasika alike - something for everybody!

With that beautiful sweeping introduction, she listed the many types of compositions that everybody agrees are thukkadas. Apart from the categories she presented that evening (please see Setlist), this list included ugabhogas, sampradaya bhajans, and makudis (snake-charmer music).

She then embarked on a chronologically ordered journey, traversing southern India in a roughly clockwise direction (she declared North India as being out of scope for that evening).
  1. Thevaram : sotruNai vEdhiyan is sung in the raga (paN) known to the Sangam era Tamil ancients as the gAndhAra panchamam paN and to us lesser mortals as Kedaragowla. People usually lament about how each Nayanar and Azhwar composed tens of thousands of verses, of which only a fraction survive today, but preserving all of them would have been impossible as all of these people were itinerant minstrels given to spontaneous bursts of inspiration. Preservation of all verses would be possible only if they had attentive hangers-on 24x7 mulling about them with the mental capacity and pecuniary means to not only remember their utterances accurately but also commit them to palm leaves. Then there is the question of preserving and rewriting the palm leaves in the tropical climate. In short: no need to beat yourself up over this, it couldn't have been helped.
  2. Thiruppavai : It was Ariyakkudi who tuned most of the Thiruppavai.
  3. Vachana : Vachanas do not adhere to poetic meters as such. Main poets: Basavanna, Akka Mahadevi. Kiranavali mentioned that "today's feminists" and their "empty feminism" would be put to shame by the socially progressive ideas enshrined in the centuries-old vachanas. I heaved a deep sigh at her passing jibe at modern feminism - would have loved to hear more about her position on the subject.
  4. Ashtapadi : "Moving on to Orissa", she began, and I wondered, "eh? Orissa?!" I had no idea that Jayadeva was from Orissa! Apparently he was the first litterateur in history to talk about Radha's love for Krishna - it was all Satyabhama et al before that. Some of his ashtapadis have even made their way to the Guru Granth Sahib, it seems. Wow!
  5. Annamacharya Sankeertanams: Annamacharya is known as the pada-kavita pitamaha. He and his entire family were prolific composers. Ramachandrudithadu was tuned by Nedunuri's disciple Balakrishnaprasad. She pronounced the name of this raga as Dwijayavanti - I didn't know that that was the correct name.
  6. Thiruppugazh : Most of these verses don't follow a set meter and hence it is difficult to set them to tune; choosing thalams is especially difficult as the syllable counts are 19, 21, etc. The thalams are therefore chhanda thalams. This particular song was set in a combination of 2 khanda chapus + 1 rupakam. Plain old Adi would also have made sense mathematically here, but this choice was made in order to highlight the poetry.
  7. Devarnama : Sangeetha Pitamaha Purandaradasa created the standard Carnatic pedagogy which is the envy of Hindustani musicians. Apparently in the Hindustani system, they start off by teaching raga singing, while that is taught only at a later stage in the Carnatic system.
  8. Padam: Padams are steeped in the shrngAra rasa and feature themes such as yearning and intense longing. The language used is typically lofty. I was delighted to learn that the composer of this song was the same composer of "Athuvum solluvaal", one of the songs I like a lot.
  9. Tarangam : I didn't know Govardhana giridhara was set to tune by Ramnad Krishnan! :O
  10. Kavadichinthu : Traiditionally these are sung as part of the Kaavadiyaattam ritual. Mostly folk ragams. This song is an Oothukkadu composition, not originally intended as kavadichinthu. This was a lovely, lovely, lilting Tamil song.
  11. Thillana : Interesting point: It is possibly easier to compose a thillana than a kriti because thillanas don't need mastery over a classical language.
  12. Javali : Usually mentioned in the same breath as padams. Same shrngara rasa, but themes dealt with are different: romantic jealousy, petulant behaviour, jealous anger. Ragas used are lighter and language is also more colloquial.
  13. Patriotic songs : A common perception of Carnatic music in general is that it is all about bhakti rasa to the exclusion of any other rasa. But the adoption of Bharatiyar's songs in the general corpus proves the opposite. I still think bhakti-related songs form 99% of the corpus, so the perception is very much warranted.
  14. English note : I knew that there are many English notes in existence, so I felt a twinge of pride at knowing this seemingly lesser known fact. Kiranavali said that "there is nothing that has not been done before" in Carnatic music, which kinda makes sense, but I'm not certain that is completely true.
  15. Kriti : Some kritis are standalone kritis in their own right, but conventionally are sung as thukkadas.
  16. Mangalam : Like the English Note, I knew that there exist many Mangalams apart from the entirely ubiquitous Pavamana Mangalam. She mentioned that there are Dikshitar mangal kritis and Purandaradasa Dashavatara mangalams, which are extremely interesting! I shall learn more about these.
continued in next post...
Last edited by bhasi on 12 Aug 2019, 07:49, edited 2 times in total.

bhasi
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#2 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by bhasi »

Finally, she wrapped up the evening by musing on the plurality and preponderance of the many different types of compositions we have today, and issued a strong peroration to support monetarily the many keepers of the more arcane branches of the Carnatic corpus, and to provide them avenues for public performances of their art. She cited Othuvars as an example (they are Thevaram specialists). Dr. Venkatachalam who was in audience very wisely noted that composers - the vaggeyakaras - do not achieve the same recognition as the people who sing and popularize their compositions, and gave the vote of thanks. Since it was mostly thukkadas, Hemmige didn't really get a chance to display his solo prowess, and Vinod's mridangam playing was very enjoyable overall.

I got what I wanted from this concert - a list of new songs to explore! This was a very wholesome and well-presented memorable concert.

rupavathi
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#3 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by rupavathi »

bhasi wrote: 12 Aug 2019, 07:42 [*] yAr pOi solluvAr enakkAna pEraiyum kAnOr (or is it kAnEn?) - tOdi (kshEtrajna/kshEtrayya padam)

[*] Padam: Padams are steeped in the shrngAra rasa and feature themes such as yearning and intense longing. The language used is typically lofty. I was delighted to learn that the composer of this song was the same composer of "Athuvum solluvaal", one of the songs I like a lot.
This is NOT a kSetrayya padam. It's a Tamizh padam attributed to Ghanam Krishnayyar.

rajeshnat
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#4 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by rajeshnat »

bhasi
lovely review kudos to u and kiranavali. i was thinking even slokham and viruththam needs to be mentioned as part of thukkadas. keep up ur great work in writing.

CRama
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#5 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by CRama »

bhasi, The programme is one of its kind. In the regular concerts, post tani items called as tukkadas occupy last ten to fifteen minutes in todays concert. Nevethless, many of the listeners have those songs on their lips as they walk hone. IN the earlier days of longer duration of concerts, half an hour to forty five minutes used to be devoted for this branch of music. It was thoughtful for Kiranavali to conduct a special programme like this and this favoured you to lap up many compositions which otherwise you would have missed.

Kiranavali has got good presentation skills besides the subject matter specialist she is, as I have heard her a few times in Chennai. Only thing I have not heard her concert of late.
Your writing skills offer pleasure for all of us to read in this forum. Continue your reviews and in the process, you can acquire additional inputs from the host of members here. Good luck.

HarishankarK
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#6 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by HarishankarK »

The song list - does it refer to the thukkaddas that should be sung traditionally or that have been sung by yesteryear artistes traditionally??
Many of the songs in the list are unfamiliar to me from a point of carnatic music thukkaddas-any of the schools MMI, GNB, SSI, Maharajapuram
Don't think these schools sang these thukkaddas-but for a few.

bhasi
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#7 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by bhasi »

@rajeshnat She did mention shlokams and viruthams - I forgot to include them in my list.

@CRama Thanks a lot sir for your comment sir! :)

@HarishankarK So this was more of a lec-dem than a proper concert. The overall format was her giving an overview of the kind of compositions that are usually sung as thukkadas, and then proceeding to perform a representative example of each category.

CRama
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#8 Re: Kiranavali Vidyasankar | Aug 9, 2019 | San Diego, CA

Post by CRama »

Harisankar, the songs given in the list have been sung by many front ranking musicians. I have not heard only two numbers in this list- song no 3 Basavanna vachana and song no 7- a Ragamalika of Purandaradasar.

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