Janaranjani, Purnachandrika & Kedaram – A clarification

Dear Rasikas,
I presented a concert at The Music Academy, Madras at 4.15 pm on December 24th 2007 accompanied by Dr. M. Narmada, Neyveli Narayanan and Bhagyalakshmi Krishna. This concert was reviewed in The Hindu, by Shri. V. Subrahmaniam, a senior vidwan and disciple of the late Shri. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The review is reproduced below:

But for the mridangam (Neyveli R. Narayanan) it was an all-woman ensemble as Sowmya took the stage on Christmas Eve! Narmada was on the violin and Bhagayalakshmi Krishna on the morsing. Sowmya’s opening for the concert was th Saveri Adi tala varnam Sarasuda of Kothavasal Venkataramayya. The pallavi, anupallavi, and mukthayi swaram were presented in two speeds and the charanam onwards in a fast single speed as commonly done.
‘Nadadina,’ (Janaranjani, Misra Chapu) of Tyagaraja came with a brief alapana of the ragam. The phrasing ‘ri ga ma ri sa’ is indicative of Poornachandrika, a very close ragam. In Janaranjani this should be eschewed and instead ‘ga ma pa ma ree’ be used to avoid any identity crisis. The opening words of the charanam were taken up for niraval and kalpanaswaras. Being Somavara (Monday), the day’s vara kriti of Muthuswami Dikshitar, ‘Chandrambhaja Manasa,’ (Asaveri, Matthya talam was sung.
A Kalyani ragam, Adi talam kriti of Ghanam Krishniyer, ‘Paarengum Parthalum’ was rendered next. The texture of the piece was suggestive of a padam/javali and was rather a misfit in the earlier part of the concert. Sowmya could have it pushed to the post-pallavi part.
After an alapana of Kedaram, a Misra Chapu kriti, Ananda Natana Prakasam, the Akasalinga kriti of Muthuswami Dikshitar was presented with kalpanaswaras at Kedareswaram. Again the ‘sa sa ri ri ga’ jhanta prayogam seemed out of place.
Up to this point, the concert ambled at a sedate gait. Sowmya brought in tempo by presenting a pacy ‘Manasuloni Marmamu’ (Tyagaraja, Varamu, Adi). It did achieve the effect of making the audience sit up. The mood being achieved Sowmya took up Madhyamavati for alapana with ‘Palinsu Kamakshi’ of Syama Sastri in Adi talam. Thani avarthanam by Narayanan and Bhagyalaksmi was creditably done.
Sarasangi was the Ragam Tanam Pallavi choice of Sowmya. The words of the pallavi — ‘Sarasangikadhyutha Pathe Natana Pathe Sivakama Valli Pathe Sada Namasthe’ set in Khanda Jathi Ata talam. Rendered with all the due features, the pallavi had a ragamalika kalpanaswara embellishment. The ragams were Kanakangi, Latangi, Swarnangi, Rathnangi, and Shyamalangi. As a forerunner of ‘Krishna Nee Begane’ in Yamuna Kalyani, Misra Chapu talam a Kannada couplet was rendered in Sindu Bhairavi and Yamuna Kalyani. The closing piece of the concert was ‘Chidambaram Pogamal Iruppeno’ in Chenchurutti. Narmada’s violin support in solo versions was well presented, enhancing the concert. The percussion support was neat.

In the review, Shri. Subrahmaniam makes certain observations regarding my rendition of the ragas Janaranjani and Kedaram. He suggests that certain phrases that I used in these ragas should be eschewed. In response to this review, I wrote the following letter to The Hindu. It was published on Jan. 11th 2008 in the Friday Review:

Standard Phrases

This has reference to the review of my concert at the Music Academy (Music Season, January 1). While I do not dispute the reviewer’s right to make the subjective opinions about my music, there are certain factual errors and inconsistencies that I’d like to repudiate in the interest of rasikas and music students who peruse these columns.

The reviewer says “the phrasing ‘ri ga ma ri sa’ is indicative of Poorna Chandrika, a very close ragam. In Janaranjani this should be eschewed and instead ‘ga ma pa ma ree’ be used to avoid any identity crisis”. This is plainly incorrect.

There are a number of examples both in Janaranjani and Poornachandrika that admit these phrases, eg: the phrase ‘edabaya’ in the Anupallavi of the kriti ‘Nadadina Mata’ (Janaranjani-Tyagaraj) would be noted as ‘ri ga ma ree saa’ (in the upper octave). Also the second line of the Cittaswaram of Pahimam Sri Rajarajeswari ends as ‘ri ga ma ri saa, sa da pa maa ree, sa ri gam ma’ An excellent example of the same is Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendition. Similarly for Poorna Chandrika, in the anupallavi of the krithi ‘Telisi Rama’ , the phrase ‘Talapulanni Nilipi Nimisha’ is noted as ‘paa pama ree-pama ga ma ree-ree ga ma ree- ga ma pa ma ree’.

The anupallavi of the krithi ‘Palukavemina’ o f Tyagaraja, ‘Aluga Kaaranamermira’ is notated as ‘pa paa ma paa pa ma ga maa ree- ga ma pa ma ree’. These examples are from standard krithis and have been sung time and again by great stalwarts of yesteryears and also by contemporary veterans and vidwans.

To summarize, the main distinction between Poornachandrika and Janaranjani would reside in the pa-to-sa regions, both in ascent and descent. The reviewer has pointed out that the Jhanta phrase ‘sa sa ri ri ga’ is out of place in Kedaram. This is again incorrect.

The phrase “prakasam” in ‘Ananda natana’ of Muthuswamy Dikshitar is noted as ‘sa sa ri ri ga sa.’ Also in the Swati tirunal kriti ‘Paramanananda natana’ as notated by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, the phrase ‘natana’ is represented as ‘sa sa ri ri ga sa’. This is a very common phrase in Kedaram and many musicians have rendered this in krithis, alapna and while singing kalpana swaram. I have several examples in my audio archives of past masters to back up this assertion

S. Sowmya.

Rasikas would note that I have specifically mentioned that the subjective aspects of the review do not bother me. I responded only to the technical points related to the Raga Lakshana of Janaranjani, Purnachandrika and Kedaram. I have cited specific examples to back my claims. Yet, Shri. Subrahmaniam responded in the following manner in The Hindu’s Friday Review pages of Jan. 18th 2008:

Raga intricacies

I refer to the letter of S. Sowmya (Friday Review, January 11) with regard to my observations on certain phrasings of the ragams Janaranjani and Kedaram while reviewing her concert at the Music Academy.

My views only reflect those of my guru Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. While teaching the intricacies of the ragalakshana of Janaranjani and Poornachandrika, the doyen pointed out that these specific phrasings which have now come under debate. He explained that these phrasings which are found in certain kritis should be left alone, as the composers have included them under exceptions. But as they nearly tread on an allied ragam, they should be avoided when handling aspects of manodharma such as alapana, swaraprasthara, etc.

Similarly, Kedaram as handled by Muthuswamy Dikshitar in ‘Anandanatana Prakasam’ contains certain sancharams which do not bring out the full flavour of the ragam. Perhaps Kedaram had those sancharams at the time when the composition was created. Or, in the process of the kriti coming down generations, certain deviations took place. Swati Tirunal’s composition in Kedaram had an original structure and this as such was notated under Semmangudi’s supervision.

His view was that the composition should not be tampered with and liberties should not be taken with Manodharma. I have had the privilege of being with my guru for 47 long years and he has imparted to me the intricacies of many ragams the details of which cannot be explained through these columns. A senior authority on Raga lakshanams totally corroborated with my view. I can also assure the rasikas that my comments on the ragams are not off the cuff remarks to be called ‘factual errors’ but on the other hand are fully supported by authorities in the field.

More than anything else, remarks and observations are made with a view to enhancing the quality of the concerts of the artists in the future and not aimed at decrying them. The reviews, therefore, should be taken in the right spirit.

V. Subrahmaniam

The print medium has inherent limitations in discussing music. It does not allow me to back up my case with audio clips. So I’m responding to Shri. Subrahmaniam using the World Wide Web, with audio samples to support my case:

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Editor,

The Hindu, Chennai

Sir,

This has reference to Shri. V. Subrahmaniam’s letter published in the Friday Review on Jan. 18th in response to my comments published a week earlier.

I admit to being perplexed by some of the comments made by Shri. Subrahmaniam. Referring to Janaranjani and the phrase “ri ga ma ri sa”, he invokes the late, respected doyen Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer to state: “…as they nearly tread on an allied ragam, they should be avoided when handling aspects of manodharma such as alapana, swaraprasthara…” Before composing this response, I have listened once again to recordings of the doyen himself singing “Pahimam Shri Rajarajeswari” & “Smarane Sukhamu”, where he has rendered an elaborate round of kalpanaswaras in two speeds, which includes the “ri ga ma ri sa” sequence that is presently the bone of contention! Not only Semmangudi mama, legends such as Musiri Subramania Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer and M. D. Ramanathan have also employed this phrase in their manodharma expositions of Janaranjani. I have recordings to back up this assertion.

As for the statement “phrasings which are found in certain kritis should be left alone, as the composers have included them under exceptions”, may I submit that it would be contrary to what my guru and many other elders have counseled me. It is commonly accepted that one’s knowledge of raga swarupa is shaped by acquiring a sizeable repertoire in the raga and repeated listening to the masterpieces of the Trinity and other composers – a point made by Shri. Subrahmaniam himself in his Raga Lakshana CD. In his Raganubhava lectures he repeatedly stresses the importance of internalizing the kritis, the prayogas therein and their swara patterns in order to hone one’s manodharma.

Why would Dikshitar’s “Ananda Natana Prakasam”, one of the most important compositions in Kedaram alone be an exception to this conventional wisdom? For Kedaram, my revered guru Dr. S. Ramanathan, Shri. K. V. Narayanaswamy and other elders have sung the phrase ‘sa sa ri ri ga sa’, not only as part of the kriti, but also for manodharma.

I have also run my thoughts on these technical points past several senior artistes and experts and they have concurred with me. Shri. Subrahmaniam rightly points to the futility of debating these musical points in print. So I have posted this response, accompanied by relevant audio clips of my Academy concert and renditions by the veterans that I have referred above, on my website (See Below). Rasikas are welcome to listen and make their own judgement!

I have no problem in “taking concert reviews in the right spirit” and I respect Shri. Subrahmaniam’s vidwat and his musical lineage. However, since some of the observation was based on technical points and also because it was made in public in the print media, I felt it was my duty to respond, both as a responsible artiste and as a student of music.

S. Sowmya

Audio Samples:

  1. My rendition of Janaranjani – Music Academy Concert, Dec. 24th 2007 (Note: As this was recorded on my personal handheld device, audio quality may not be the best)
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      Alapana Extract 1

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      Alapana Extract 2

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      Alapana Extract 3

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      Alapana Extract 4

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      Kalpanaswaram Extract

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    Extract from Shri. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendition of kalpanaswarams in “Pahimam Shri Rajarajeswari”

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    Extract from Shri. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s rendition of kalpanaswarams in “Smarane Sukhamu”

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    Extract from Shri. Musiri Subramania Iyer’s alapana for “Nadadina Mata”

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    Extract from Shri. Musiri Subramania Iyer’s kalpanaswarams for “Nadadina Mata”

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    Extract from Shri. Madurai Mani Iyer’s kalpanaswarams in “Vidajaladura”

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    Shri. M. D. Ramanathan’s rendition of kalpanaswarams in “Padayugamunu”

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    My rendition of Kedaram – Kalpanaswaram Extract (Music Academy Concert, Dec. 24th 2007

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    Extract from Shri. K. V. Narayanaswamy’s alapana for “Ananda Natana Prakasam”

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    Extract from Shri. K. V. Narayanaswamy’s kalpanaswarams for “Ananda Natana Prakasam”

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    Extract from my guru Dr. S. Ramanathan singing kalpanaswarams for “Rama Nee Pai”

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    Shri. V. Subrahmaniam talking about the importance of knowing composition structures, especially of the Trinity to develop manodharma in Raga Alapana [Extracts from i) “Sangeetha Sagara” – CD on Raga Lakshanas and ii) proceedings of Raganubhava – Yadukulakambhoji, held on Jan. 31st 2001]

Please note that all the tracks posted above are only brief extracts from full recordings. These are for academic / illustrative purposes only.

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21 thoughts on “Janaranjani, Purnachandrika & Kedaram – A clarification

  1. R.Gurumurthy

    It is a great fortune to listen to Smt.S. Sowmya with her unique sweet voice and technical superiority. Every person can not be Subbudu and such criticism should have discussed with her before going public.

  2. R.Gurumurthy

    It is a great fortune to listen to Smt.S.Sowmya with her unique sweet voice and technical superiority. She is born for music. Everybody is not Subbudu. He could have discussed with her before going public.

  3. suresh

    You have written something like “To summarize the main difference between Janaranjani and Poornachandrika likes in the pa-sa range both in ascent and descent”. As I am unable to copy-paste, I am repeating this using my short-term memory :-) Not sure which passage you were summarizing here as I did not read your views on the main differences between the two ragas. Can you elaborate on this?

  4. violinist

    dear subrahmaniom sir, can u clear me the difference and the bhava of kharaharapriya and chiththaranjani??pl dont critizise the good artistes..

  5. neeraja rao

    Hello Soumya
    I admire your grit and determination in sticking to the point, not upsetting anyone and only sticking to facts and data to prove your point. Apart from being a great singer, your vast knowledge, maturity and seniority and authority in music shows in the arguments above. Cudos to you.
    neeraja

  6. guess my name

    It’s very great to share my comments here. I’ve listen to all your concerts and I like the raaga kharakharapriya because of your aalapana.Guess my name janya of the above mentioned raga and a shaadava raga.

  7. guess my name

    It’s very great to share my comments here. I’ve listen to all your concerts and I like the raaga kharakharapriya because of your aalapana.Guess my name janya of the above mentioned raga and a shaadava raga.After guessing tell my name to ranjanihari@gmail.com

  8. Balaji

    Sowmya,
    your arguments and all the audio clips provided by you to substantiate and to support your point is amazing. Need to learn a lot from you.
    Best wishes,
    Balaji

  9. liam

    mahishashura mardhini kanadkara stothram … did you record that orange cd with the lovely indian artwork ? …..I would like to know the translation please … regards … L .. p.s I like your hindolem also .

  10. liam

    hail snail email .. ” on number 11 I would I happy if you can let me know ” regards … L

  11. suresh

    nice choice of photograph… almost as if you are taking the an oath to defend raga lakshanas :)

  12. R.Gurumurthy

    About phrases used for Ragas. phrases handled by veenai Dhanamal are different for many Ragas from what is used today. Subbudu’s pen did not spare stalwarts like Tiger, GNB and others and these were accepted by the artists and their Rasikas. These were guinine remarks. Not biased. That is why I mentioned his name earlier.

  13. Saranya

    Dear Mam,
    I admire your courage to tell what is right. Not many are having this. Few people they purposely want to write something criticising if nothing is found. The above one is like that. And admitting the mistake is the most difficult one.

    Regards,
    Saranya

  14. Dr. Prashant

    Dear Sowmya and all rasikas
    i am glad that this article was published otherwise we would never have known of it. Talking on behalf of those who were not ther for the concert at Music Academy. Only because of the article which was published did all of us get the intricacies and their evidences. So cudos to Sowmya again for her Wit, her talent and also the high spirits. Also thanks to Sri Subramanium for all the help he has been.
    Namaskarams to all
    Dr. Prashant

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  17. Ram

    Sowmya,
    You were spot on. Good that you people are voicing out your concerns at last. We (Of Course, not blessed to have the best knowledge despite) have been simmering for a long time. I don’t have any kind of respect towards so called self appointed music critics who just don’t know what they are really talking about. Anyway, its never late to do the right thing.

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