Monday, October 28, 2013

A couple of dazzling Concerts

Bay Area residents were treated to a couple of dazzling Carnatic music concerts over the last month. There were several other Indian Classical / Light Music concerts in the Bay Area in this period. However, these were the two that I attended.

The first was a concert by Sanjay Subrahmanyan on September 28th at newly constructed Livermore Temple Lakkireddy auditorium. In fact, Sanjay's was the inaugural concert in this 700-seat auditorium. Sanjay's popularity among rasikAs was apparent as this concert was sold out! Sanjay was accompanied on the violin by S. Varadarajan and on the mridangam by Neyveli Venkatesh. Sanjay started the kutchErI with the bEgaDa varNam. This was followed by the Thyagaraja kritI "srI gaNapathini" in sowrAshtram. Sanjay then sang an exquisite pUrvi kalyANi alApanaI. In his previous concert in the Bay Area, I had mentioned how Sanjay held the gAndhAra swaram in kalyAni for over a minute without pausing to breathe.  This time he accomplished the same feat while rendering the pUrvi kalyANi alApanaI. This time, however, no one clapped in the middle! Sanjay sang the Ramalinga Swamigal composition "appA nAn vEnduthal". He performed a neraval around "tappEdu nAn seyinum nI poruttal vEnDum"
As is customary with Sanjay, he follows a heavy piece with a quick, light song. This time, he sang the Swaati TirunaaL composition "vandE sadhaa padmanAbham" in navarasa kAnnaDa. He followed this with a bhairavI alApanaI and the compositiion "mahA tripurasundarI". The short piece that followed this time was "nanda gOpAla mukunda gOkula" in yamunA kalyANi. The central composition of the kutchErI was Pooci Sreenivasa Aiyangar's "saraguna pAlimpa samayamurA" in kEdAra gowLai, which included an intricate thaniAvarthanam by Neyveli Venkatesh. I noticed people (sitting in the front row) walking out of the concert during the thaniAvarthanam. This was not the customary (sic!) bio-break while the percussionist played. They had collected their bags and were leaving. I felt like rushing out and telling them, "The best is yet to come".

This time, the short piece was "ozhukkam uyirinum ombapadUm" in kuntAla varALi composed by Tiruvalluvar. At this stage, Sanjay had already sung songs in Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit and Malayalam. Sanjay performed a divine RTP in cArukEshi next. The pallavi was, "ellAm sivan seyal illaI. kavalaI inrI iruppAi manamE". He performed the rAgamAlikA while singing the pallavi (normally, I have heard it done during the swaraprasthAram). He included kalyAninaLinakAnti, varALisahAnA and hamsAnandI in the rAgamAlikA. He followed this with a Sanskrit Shloka. At the end of this song he announced, "This Sholka was composed by a Sanskrit student some 10 years ago - who happens to be none other than my sister. She happens to be living in the Bay Area right now." The audience wanted to acknowledge her. Aarthi Natarajan stood up to receive an ovation. I notice that her spouse, Bala, tweeted this fact.

Sanjay sang as many as six tukkada's after this including, Purandara Dasa's "lAlisidaLu magana"in dEsh; Doraiswami Kavi's "solla solla" in behAg; Bharatiyaar's "ninnaiyE rathi inru ninaikirEn" in bAgeshreE; Gopalakrishna Bharati's "chidambaram pOgAmal" in chencuruttI; Bharati Dasan's "kundrin meedhu nindru kandEn" in kamAs; Muthiah Bhagavatar's "kAlino harismarana" in kApI. Finally, after almost four hours, he concluded the concert with a thillAna in sindhu bhairavI.

The second concert was by Bombay Jayashri on Saturday, October 26th at the San Jose Center For Performing Arts in Downtown San Jose. Jayashri was accompanied on the violin by HN Bhaskar, on the mridangam by P Satish Kumar and on the ghatam by Giridhar Udupa. The fact that Jayashri was an Oscar Award nominee, was probably a factor in having a "mainstream" auditorium for a Carnatic Music concert. Interestingly, the only sections that were sold out were the higher price tickets (for $150 and $50). The concert started 15 minutes late - perhaps due to the fact that there was still a long line at the "Will Call" window with the stragglers traipsing their way in. The first thing I noticed when the curtain raised was that there were two tamburAs. It is much harder for a singer to maintain her pitch against both instruments. Jayashri began her concert with the Narayana Theerthar composition, "jaya jaya swAmi" in nAtai. This was followed by a short, Thyagaraja kritI "teliyalEru rAma" in dhEnukaa

Next, Jayashri sang an alApanai in mOhanam. She brought in traces of Hindustani bhOpAli while rendering the alApanai. It was beautifully done. She sang another Thyagaraja kritI "nanu pAlimpa". The central composition of the kutchErI was Thyagaraja's "pakkala nilabaDi" in karaharapriya. She performed a neraval here around, "manasuna dalaci mE maraci". The 15+ minute thaniAvarthanam that followed was a treat. Satish Kumar and Giridhar Udupa delivered a very well orchestrated performance. Before the start of the thaniAvartanam, you could see that Satish Kumar was gesturing to desperately trying to catch the attention of the stage support folks. Then Jayashri announced, "Could you turn down the AirCon. It is freezing here." 

When Jayashri started singing an alApanai in yaman kalyAni, I assumed that she was singing a short piece. In fact, this turned out to be her RTP! The pallavi was, "bAla gOpAla sumadhura leelA. vEnu gAna lOla". Jayashri also performed the rAgamAlikA while singing the pallavi. She included cArukEshi, madhyamAvati and chencuruttI. She sang the Santhana Lakshmi stotram,"Aie khAga vAhini mohinI chakrinI rAga vivardhini gnanamayE" next. This was followed by a viruttam in kApi followed by the Purandara Dasa kritI "jagadO dhAranA". Jayashri concluded her concert with the Lalgudi G. Jayaraman thillAna in pahAdi.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Conversation between Gandhi and Boehner

[On the eve of Mohandas Gandhi's 144th. birthday, the following is a hypothetical conversation between Gandhiji (MG) and Boehner (JB). Note that Gandhiji was often endearingly referred to as Bapu or "Father"]

MG: You know John, I am going on a fast-until-death to protest against this move of yours to shut down the Government and hold the country ransom.

JB: Bapu, please don't do this. You are being swayed by Democratic propaganda in saying that we are holding the country ransom. Wait a minute, I thought your platform for non-violent protest was only in situations of war, terror and tyranny. None of these are applicable in our current situation.

MG: You obviously are unaware of the Dandi March to protest against Salt Tax by the British Government. There too, my goal was to drive sense into the British Government that they cannot levy high taxes on Salt. In a similar vein, you cannot shut down the Government just because you do not like the Affordable Health Care Act.

JB: Bapu, I am going to let you in on a secret. We (the GOP) cannot think of any other way to stop Obamacare. If we allow this to move forward, it will doom our party. You see, numerous Presidents in the past have tried to enact "Affordable Health Care" into law. They have all been foiled thanks to partisan politics. This one "slipped through".

MG: Why is that a bad thing. I was reading an article in NYT that this will benefit a large cross section of people.

JB: You are so wet behind the ears when it comes to politics, Bapu. If Obamacare becomes popular, that would shut the GOP from the White House for at least the next 12 years. We are grooming Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as candidates for the 2016 elections. We want them to have a fighting chance to win. We have to stop this one way or the other. It is unfortunate that it came down to our final option - to shutdown Government.

MG: Well! you have deal with me now and my fast-until-death if you do move forward with your I-will-because-I-can plan to shut down the Government.

JB: You are overestimating our sensitivity to your "threats", Bapu. Right now, all our focus is on the 2016 elections.

MG: Once again, you are demonstrating your short-sightedness, John. It is not "your sensitivity" that is  "under the gun" when I proceed with the fast. This fast is likely to gain the nationwide interest. I heard that CNN will be covering it live.