Sho(w)banal! - Mahanadhi Dr.Shobana Vignesh


Sho(w)banal !


Sri Ranga Ranganathan .. yes that is the song which gave the young girl who acted in that film the name Mahanadi Shobana. Now, is this a good thing for someone aspiring to be a Carnatic singer is a debate for another day. 

Last week I heard her for the first time at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. It is just that, when you have so many options in Chennai especially during the season, I never gave Shobana a place in my list of choices. It’s not any prejudice or bias, it’s just that too many choices and too little time. I have heard her voice chanting the ‘Kanda Shashtri Kavacham ‘ in full volume at some roadside temple. Somehow, temples blasting music has never met my approval. Instead of creating an environment conducive to spiritual awakening, it used to only disturb my trail of thought. Also, having grown up listening to either Sulamangalam Sisters or my mother chanting Kandha Shashti Kavacham, no other person’s rendering caught my fancy. Same as in the case of Venkatesha Suprabhatam and Vishnu Sahasranamam, for me it’s only M S Subbulakshmi and no one else. Call me a creature of habit if you wish ! 

As I walked in, she was singing Mysore Vadudevacharya ‘s composition ‘ Maa Mavathu Sri Saraswati ‘ in Ragam Hindolam. It was a straightforward rendering . It was followed by a Thevaram in Ragam Attana, which was again good but nothing to leave you open mouthed in awe ! 

Shobana who has come from a musical inclined family and had formal training under P S Narayanswamy, Swamimalai Janakiraman and Professor T R Subramaniam which speaks for her confident delivery. 
She had chosen all the songs which are largely familiar with the audience. No brainteasers, no need to look up Google, no whispering to the person next to you. Just simple and direct singing. In a way, this was pleasant because I could enjoy the song and not get overwhelmed by the singing or get baffled by some unknown Ragam & equally unheard of compositions. 

She sang Maa Dayai in Ragam Vasantha, a composition by Papanasam Sivan. Her next rendering was from Jayadeva’s Ashtapathi ‘ Lalita Lavanga , Viharati Haririta ‘ . Today every concert seems to have compositions by Saint Thygaraja, Dikshitar/ Sama Shastri either or both),Swati Tirunal, Ashtapathi ( maybe / maybe not ) RTP and some Tamil song. Her next song was again a Papanasam Sivan ‘s ‘ Sadashiva Bhajaname ‘ in Ragam Todi . She concluded it with a Tamil song of Bharatiyaar ‘Dehimudam Radhe Radhe‘ in Ragam Khamaas. 

In a world that is changing so rapidly, it’s sometimes good to have predictable and familiar experiences like the Kalathi Rosemilk !!

About the Author:
Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.) 

‘O Some‘ crowd for O S Arun ! - O.S.Arun


‘O Some‘ crowd for O S Arun !


One of the early childhood tales, we all have heard is that of the Hare and the Tortoise. The moral of the story was: Slow & Steady Wins the Race. Many years later, I modified this story to suit my corporate training programs. After all, that is creative liberty coupled with occupational needs. Fortunately, nobody accused me of distorting the story. The reason being that I am not a famous personality ....yet !
My story extends beyond the tortoise winning the race. After losing the hare does some root cause analysis and realised that being competent is not enough, and one needs self discipline and focus in order to win. So, the hare suggests another race in which it doesn’t relax but just runs with grit and reaches the goal post in no time. Now, the tortoise realises it’s limitations, which is even if it runs to the best of its ability, it can never win against a determined hare. So, it smartly calls the hare for a third race where it suggests a change of the goal post, which is on the other side of a river. This time, the tortoise swims across the river, since the hare can’t swim, he is left standing on this side of the river bank . The story goes on but let me stop here. It was just to explain how it’s a brilliant strategy to change the playing field to suit one’s competencies. And that’s precisely what O S Arun has done !
He has successfully created a place for himself where he has less or no competition. 
I was at his concert at Bharati Vidya Bhavan to see the crowd completely connecting with him. Infact, he announced that we could sing along with him loudly and boldly, which is not possible in a Sanjay or RaGa concert. His genre of music is a mix of Carnatic, bhajans & light music. Most important is that it is appealing to people.
One of his early songs was ‘ Palisamma Muddu Sharade’ composed by Purandara Dasa. It was just in my last post that I had lamented how people sing Purandaradasa’s compositions so infrequently. The interesting thing about Purandaradasa’s compositions are that everyone sings them in a Ragam of their choice. Bhakti is essence of his compositions not so much Chittaswaras or complicated notations. Neither Purandaradasa or anyone around him put it on record as to which Ragam he set every composition or maybe he simply didn’t care. Probably for him music was a means to reach God . 

Arun’s next song was a Marathi Abhang which was set in Raag Mishra Mand. It’s called Raag in Hindustani not Ragam as in Carnatic. Just like its Krishn not Krishna, Ram not Rama, Ravan not Ravana. See, it is not difficult to learn Hindi ! 

Arun got the entire audience involved converting the place to bhajan mandali. He is certainly a people’s person with his own following. 

He sang verses from Jayadeva’s Ashtapathi in Ragam Vasantha (mind you not Raag Vasant). Following this was a song I had never heard ‘ Ododi Varuvan Murugan ‘ written by Mrs Natarajan, nor had I heard of her ! Arun simply had the audience eating out of his hand. His next song was Calcutta Gurumurthy’s ‘Mylai Viraithodi Odivaa Valli Manala ‘ set in Ragam Charukesi. I must say, it’s interesting to listen to rarely sung compositions such as these. 

It’s only sensible for the organisers to have O S Arun as the last artiste of the day. The audience were just demanding so much more that he had extend his concert. One of the requests was ‘Vishamakara Kannan ‘ and he was so animated himself that it was like watching a dance performance. Undoubtedly, he enjoys whatever he sings and that is infectious as far the audience goes.
He planned to end the concert with a Marathi Abhang by Sant Ramdas on Raghava but the audience would not be satisfied until he obliged them with the Abhang ‘ Bhakta Jana Vatsale , O Vittale ‘. 

Incase anyone is curious to know how the story of the hare & the tortoise moves forward and who ultimately won the race, keep reading my blogs and I will sneak it in somewhere ! 
About the Author:
Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.) 


Future Present - Ashwath Narayanan


Future Present - Ashwath Narayanan 



‘Future Present’.. Before anyone doubts my English Grammar, I must assure them, that did I study English at school and had a mother at home who made us do hundreds of exercises from Wren & Martin, even during our holidays. I am doubtful if today’s school children use Wren& Martin, atleast mine didn’t ! 

Ashwath Narayanan is the future of Chennai’s Carnatic music who is singing in the present ! His concert at Bharati Vidya Bhavan 
was a compact offering of songs, well chosen and well delivered. 

He started the concert with a traditional Varnam in Kalyani ‘Vanajakshi‘. Anyone who has had some formal training in Carnatic Music would have inevitably learnt this Varnam along with Mohanam and Hamsadhwani. More Varnams you learn, stronger is your foundation in music. And a Varnam is a kind of a yardstick to determine the competence of the singer. 

Ashwath is certainly someone to watch out for, after all he is trained by none other than Sangita Kalanidhi Sri K V Narayanswamy. After KVN ‘s passing away, his wife Padma who is also Ashwath’s aunt, taught him and shaped him to be what he is. 

His next song was Saint Thygaraja’s composition ‘Manasaa Yetulortunte’ set in Ragam Malayamarutham. He handled it very well and moved on to sing a composition of Muthuswami Dikshitar. He sang ‘Angarakam Ashrayamyham’ set in Ragam Surutti. This is one is among the nine Navagraha krithis composed by Dikshitar. Each song is dedicated to one of the nine planets. This one is an offering to the planet Mars which is known as Angarakan or Chevvai in Tamil and Mangal in Hindi. Dikshitar explored all the Navagraha temples which are situated in and around Kumbakonam. Vaitheeswaran Koil is for the planet Mars. 

I always marvel at the fabulous work of all these composers who have left such invaluable wealth for us. And while I wish, I could compose or create such poetic marvels, I am atleast glad that I am having an opportunity to enjoy these gems and am grateful that I have a taste for this ! 

Ashwath went on to sing ‘Manasuloni Marmamulanu’ again a composition of Saint Thygaraja set in Ragam Varamu. His next song was ‘Pahi Parvata Nandini’ a composition by Swati Tirunal set in Ragam Arabhi. 
Swati Tirunal’s composition seems to be a definite item in everyone’s program. Just as, atleast one Tamil composition has become mandatory in every concert. My only regret is that Purandardasa the ‘Father of Carnatic Music‘ is marginalised and hardly anyone’s choice ! Maybe this is because I am from Bangalore and Kannada songs and Purandaradasa’s Devaranamas and Dasara padagalu are close to my heart. 

He concluded the concert with a mandatory Tamil song ‘Manadurkugandadu’ a composition by Thanjavur Shankar Aiyar set in Ragam Sindhu Bhairavi. 

It was a very nice concert and I must say that Ashwath has great stage presence. Yet, just one hour plus concert is too short to form a serious opinion. He shows great promise and with sincere commitment & consistency he will soon sing during the prime slots. 
And I am waiting !! 

About the Author:
Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.)

This King can Sing! - Prince Rama Varma


This King can Sing !


I must admit, that it was for the first time, that I was hearing Prince Rama Varma’s concert. And I came with back with a feeling of having attended a lecdem (lecture demonstration) program and an interesting one at that. 

To explain myself better, when he sang a Varnam in Ragam Shanmugapriya composed by the inimitable Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna, who was incidentally one of Prince Rama Varma’s teachers, he gave an elaborate background to it .
Rather than dissect and discuss Prince Varma’s singing, I must mention that there was so much value add in the form of explaining the swaras of the composition and the way Dr. Balamurali had his unique way of composing songs. Almost everyone knows Dr Balamurali’s fascination for himself. Like Prince Rama Varma mentioned smilingly that Balamurali Sir was a big fan of Balamurali himself. To the extent, he even created a Ragam and named it after himself. Prince Varma was witty & amusing while narrating this anecdote about how this particular Varnam was composed in a moving train by Dr Balamurali who was accompanied by Dr Padma Subramanyam. She was so impressed that she expressed her desire to dance to this and instantly Dr Balamurali recreated it to suit the Bharatnatyam dance form. Just imagine, the very next day, Dr Padma Subramanyam had choreographed and performed this composition on stage. These are our legends who took their own chosen art as a personal mission. 

Prince Varma even mimicked his teacher Dr Balamurali so well, in a good natured manner. Haven’t all of us mimicked our favourite schoolteachers ? We often imitate those who we admire. Isn’t imitation the best form of flattery? 

Prince Varma next sang ‘Shobilu Saptaswara Sundarula‘ in Ragam Jaganmohini composed by Saint Thyagaraja. He described the grandeur of the song which talks about the beauty of the 7 notes or Saptaswaras in a Ragam which has ONLY 6 notes. Our composers have had their own creative puzzles and I am sure they derived a lot of fun & joy in the process. 

The last of the anecdotes was something not many people will know. Apparently, the song ‘Enna Kutram Seidheno’ written by the one & only M D Ramanathan set in Ragam Huesini which was dedicated to the Goddess Kanyakumari. This song was composed during a train journey. Looks like trains have a deep connection with some best music ever created . Whether it’s Dr. Balamuralikrishna’s Shanmugapriya Varnam or MDR’s Huesini Krithi or S D Burman’s ‘Mere Sapno Ki Rani‘ from the film Aradhana, all had a train backdrop. Probably the rhythm of train moving is musical enough to inspire. 

Anyway, the story is that the Goddess Kanyakumari desires to marry Lord Shiva who resides in the nearby Suchindram temple. And as she is waiting for him, Narada wants to abort these plans because the purpose of Kanyakumari’s incarnation will be futile if she ends up getting married. The reason being that only a virgin can kill the demon Banasura for such was the boon the demon received. Narada calls out like a rooster and Kanyakumari thinks the Brahmamuhurtam has gone past and Shiva has not come to marry at the fixed time. Hugely disappointed, she takes a vow that she will remain celibate. That is why people who want to enter celibacy go to this temple like Swami Vivekananda who stood on a rock gazing into the Indian Ocean. This is the famous Vivekananda Rock ! Coming back to MDR and his song.. MDR is eager to see the Goddess but the temple is closed as he reaches there. He boards the train to Madras without a darshan of Kanyakumari. He is deeply anguished and bursts into this lovely song and the person who sets the tune to this is his co- passenger who was none other than the violin mastero Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman. 
It is indeed a long story but Prince Varma had the complete attention of the audience. He also mentioned how he was lucky to hear MDR himself sing this song in his unique voice and in the slowest possible manner. Today some well known singers like T M Krishna and Bombay Jayashree sing so slowly and are highly lauded. MDR who was a devoted student of Tiger Varadachari, used the name ‘Varadadasa’ as the signature for his compositions. A man with a squint and a tuft on his head and who served for a long time at the Kalakshetra, was recommended for the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi award. But, because of prejudice and bias he didn’t receive it, which left him very disillusioned and he died shortly after that . Atleast this disproves a theory floated by a senior musician like TMK that being a Brahmin or dressing up like one gives a person an advantage in the Carnatic Music world. We have seen Sheikh Chinna Moulana for the Nadaswaram and Thirupampuran Swaminathan Pillai for the flute being awarded the Sangita Kalanidhi title and deservedly so !
MDR had a style of starting a song from the Anupallavi which today singers like Shreya Goshal do it in their live shows. 

He went on sing a song ‘Anjaneya Raghuraman Dhoota’ composed by one of his ancestors Swathi Tirunaal in Ragam Saveri. 
Prince Varma is a descendant of both Swati Thirunal and Raja Ravi Varma the artist .., what a combination of genes ! 
He concluded the concert with a composition of Muthaiah Bhagavathar. It had western notes and he hit the audience involved by making them clap and sing with him.

Prince Rama Varma is a treasure of musical knowledge and historical anecdotes. This post will say so little about his singing and more about his talk but that was what it was ! 

All of us are familiar with a marketing strategy, which is ‘Buy One and Get One or Get Something Free’ offer ! That is exactly how I felt ... I went for a kutcheri and got a lecdem on the nuances of music and lot of gossip free ! 
Haven’t many of us bought something we don’t so much need but bought it only because we like the FREE gift that comes along ???


About the Author:


Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.)

Mother of all stories - Vishaka Hari


Mother of all stories - Vishaka Hari


That any program of Vishaka Hari will be packed with people is a given. Ever since she made her debut as a Harikatha exponent in 2006, there has been no looking back for her. Several Carnatic musicians who had made an entry after her have already exited. What is it that keeps this lady still at the top of the game, drawing people to her program? 

It’s clear that she is an expert story teller, and a competent Carnatic musician with a strong people connect. Now, is that enough to last more than a decade? I think, it is also because of her audience demography. They mostly comprise middle or upper middle class Tamil Brahmin. Again, for an average ‘TamBram’, academics play a critical role in their lives, career choices, marriage and that even decides their social standing. How often does one come across a young lady clad in a nine yards madisaar? 

Enter Vishaka Hari a qualified Chartered Accountant, who is able to strike a balance between marriage and Harikatha. A Sanskrit student trained in Carnatic music under a tough task master Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, and inspired by her father-in-law Sri Krishna Premi. 
What more can the Chennai audience ask for? A Chartered Accountant, who can sing Carnatic music, versatile in languages, steeped in tradition.... a perfect prescription to have them eating out of her hand. 

On my way to attend her Upanyasam at Bharati Vidya Bhavan, I was hoping that she will confine to narration and not make it a 2 hours of singing. My concern was legitimate because she is guilty of singing too much and too often which usually leaves her with very little time to do justice to the story telling. Agreed that she is a good singer but we have no scarcity for good singers. It’s like this, all of us know that Sachin Tendulkar can bowl but we look forward to seeing him bat or Kamalhasan can sing but we are keen to see his acting skills. She must have read my mind (or read my earlier reviews 😜) there was more talking and bare minimum singing. 

The topic of the evening was ‘Mathru Devo Bhava’. Now this subject can never fail in our country. Be it politics , religion or movies. 
Who can forget MGR’s ‘ Thay Illamal Naan illai ‘ or Rajini’s ‘ Amma Endrazhaikadha ‘ or Amitabh Bachchan starrer ‘Deewar’ , where Shashi Kapoor says the famous dialogue ‘ Mere Paas Maa Hai’ !

The mother sentiment can move any person. 
Majority of Vishaka’s audience were senior citizens, so you can imagine how close this subject was to their hearts. She shared stories of the sacrifices of the Indian mothers, like Adi Shankara’s mother Aryambal, Rama’s mother Kausalya, Lakshmana’s mother Sumitra, Krishna’s mother Devaki, Kauravas mother Gandhari , Pandavas mother Kunti, Chhatrapati Shivaji’s mother Jija Bai and finally Panna Bai, Raja Uday Singh’s foster mother who sacrificed her own child’s life for the sake of her Mathrubhoomi. The list would have gone on and on but she had no time for more. She interlaced their stories with relevant examples contextual to today’s scenario. She simply had almost everyone there moist eyed, clucking their tongues and wiping their tears. I feel, that they were thinking of their offsprings rather their own mothers. 

It’s common that most people have NRI children living faraway in different time zones. They visit their children probably once a year and Skype or FaceTime them frequently, and send them WhatsApps which is rarely opened. It’s not me but Vishaka who activated their tear glands by fanning their emotions. If they didn’t cry she pushed them to it by sobbing herself and that was enough for everyone to follow. Most of them were recalling all sacrifices they had made for their children’s success in a poignant manner.  Frankly, it’s the children who should have been her audience. 

I was personally reminded of my grandmother because she played the role of a mother in bringing me up. She not only had infinite patience in bringing up a precocious child but taught me the meaning of unconditional love and how to be unselfish and above all how to be a mother.  In a lighter vein, though I don’t have NRI children and we all live together, I often feel we are in different time zones!

About the Author:

Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.)

Tugging at the heart strings, the Rajhesh Vaidhya way! - Rajhesh Vaidhya


Tugging at the heart strings,
the Rajhesh Vaidhya way!


The exquisite Veena instrument in my childhood home in Bangalore still lingers in my memory. There were many Veena(s) at home, since my paternal grandmother used to play the instrument. Yet my grandmother’s prized possession was this special one placed on its ivory stand, looking absolutely grand and regal. It had ivory work all over and she had a story behind it. Apparently, when she was a child, the Mysore Maharaja was so impressed with her talent, that he gifted her with this Veena. Sadly, none of her children or grandchildren took to playing this instrument. Today, after three generations have passed on and with the family having dispersed all over the globe, nobody knows where this Veena is and with whom. 

I had gone to the inaugural of the Music festival at Bharati Vidya Bhavan which started with Rajesh Vaidya’s Veena recital . 

This man has got magic in his fingers and he knows it. It was absolutely delightful to watch him enjoy himself as he played to the spellbound audience. 


We saw a much slimmer Vaidya start with a Varanam in Navaragamalika ‘Vallachi Vacchi‘ and followed by ‘Samana Rahithe’ set in Ragam Saranga Taarangini and composed by GNB. 




There was drums besides mrindagam, kanjira and ghatam. All of these along with Vaidya’s own Veena playing, magnified by some superior personal mike system of his, was actually bordering on becoming too noisy & loud. After all, Bharati Vidya Bhavan has a medium sized hall which was booming with the sound sorry music! 

Next rendering was the popular Saint Thygaraja’s composition ‘Nadhaloludai‘ in Ragam Kalyanavasantha which was wonderful. He ended it with his own composition in Ragam Sallabam or Srothasvini also known as Surya. I have never heard of this Ragam and knew it only because he announced it. 

Altogether, he played with brilliant ease and aplomb. I left the concert with two questions running in my head. First question being, where could my grandmother’s antique Veena along with ivory stand, have gone? 




Second question being how did Rajesh Vaidya lose so much weight? I could also adopt that method since it seems so effective. 




There is more hope in the second question being answered but I am very sure nobody has the answer to the first one. I can just hope the person who has it, values it and plays on it!

About the Author:

Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.)

And there was Kaushiki too! - Kaushiki Chakraborty



And there was Kaushiki too!



My first serious encounter with Hindustani Music was as an 8 year old child, when I heard Pandit Bhimsen Joshi sing. To this day my brother & myself love Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s singing especially Kannada Devaranamas written by Purandara Dasa in Hindustani style. Unfortunately this didn’t result in my learning Hindustani music, barring a few Meera bhajans, because I grew up in an environment saturated with Carnatic Music. Some rare occasions of attending concerts by Pandit Jasraj, Parveen Sultana, Kishori Amonkar and Sanjeev Abhayankar was my limited romance with Hindustani Music. So, when I heard that a popular musician like Kaushiki Chakraborty was giving a concert at Music Academy, instantly I decided to attend it . 

It was a very grand ensemble of musicians Fazal Qureshi (son of the famous UstadAllah Raakha) on the tabla, Rakesh Chaurasia (nephew of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia) and Gino Banks (son of Louis Banks) on the drums. This should be enough for Kangana Ranaut to scream ‘Nepotism‘ and T M Krishna to point out how music is being hijacked by the privileged ones and it does not reach the kids sitting along the seashore! 
They were joined by Purbayan Chakraborty on the Sitar, Rickraj on Guitar, Sangeet Haldipur on the Keyboard, and oh yes, Kaushiki Chakraborty on Vocals. 


The concert opened with Purbayan playing on a transparent sitar, which was looking very unusual as if it was made of glass, or plastic or acrylic. Whatever it was, despite his dexterity and his mastery, neither my friend Kavita Rau nor myself could connect with Raag Shree during the recital. Almost as if he heard us, he switched over to the traditional sitar and the difference was undoubtedly much more wholesome and absolutely lovely! 

Then walks in the much awaited Kaushiki, who was continuously smiling and interrupted it with some singing. She chose a Taraana in Raag Yaman, which has it’s origin from Raag Kalyan. This was like a Thillana but quite short compared to our very very elaborate RTPs . 
Anyway, after this one rendering, she exited for a break. Imagine next month onwards, we are going to have artistes sitting for hours and hours and not getting up at all . Often even the audience have the freedom to go away during the Thani Avartanam but the artistes on the stage can’t even think of doing it. 

Kaushiki leaves Rakesh Chaurasia to hold fort, and then Purbayan played a medley of lullabies, to accelerate our sleep. There was a cute moment when Rakesh played the unforgettable BG tune from the all time Hollywood hit ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. 

The second song, which was also the last song by Kaushiki was ‘Rangi Saadi, Gulabi Chunari‘, and those four words were the lyrics of the whole song. She was very good with her swaras and yet no match for a Gayatri or even Ranjani for that matter! Here everyone got to exhibit a bit of their talent, and they being talented is a fact, especially for the guitarist Rickraj it was a relief. It was a relief because, till almost the end he was standing on the stage just looking in both directions like a traffic constable! 

It was clear that this group of talented artistes had just got together to perform and had not invested some time to put this program together, and were not in complete sync with each other. 

As we left the venue, we bumped into a lot of friends. They were expressing their disappointment that while it was marketed as Kaushiki’s concert, she was only a selling point... coming in exactly for two songs. It is to be noted that time is lost in these appearances & disappearances. 

Why is it that this concert was pleasant but did not leave us mesmerised? Why is that it did not leave us singing to ourselves or leave our souls enchanted, as used to be the case with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi or Begum Akhtar? I think the difference being, all of those musicians drowned themselves in the ocean of music and not just dabble their feet at the edge of the sea! 

While there are protests to learn Hindi, there is also hype and awe for anything coming from above the Vindhyas in other words North India! It could be a ‘Salwar Kameez’ which has successfully replaced the South Indian ‘Pavadai Dhavani‘ or the not-so-authentic but inevitable ‘Paneer Butter Masala‘ served on a banana leaf in every South Indian wedding reception!

About the Author:

Sandhya Shankar belongs to a well respected business family in Chennai. She is a Life Skills & Corporate Trainer by profession. She is an avid reader and a natural writer, who has written several poems and articles. She even presented her poems as a reading at the British council. She has keen interest in all art forms  and has explored many different forms of painting like stained glass and Tanjore being among them. 
Music being her first passion, she had her formal training under Terakotti Chandrasekharaiah at Bangalore and later briefly under Mrs Champa Kumar. She is a regular visitor of concerts, theatre and other live performances. Her witty reviews have gained a loyal and interactive readership for their sound technical commentary and relevance for every kind of melophile, from the casual-goer to the ragam expert, frequenting Chennai’s rich music scene.

(*The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not necessarily those of Music of Madras.)

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