Everyday in households all over South India children would be setting out their Sruti box (drone instrument) after school and sitting down for music practice. Young voices would be raised, perhaps a bit off-key, to be kindly corrected by parents and grand-parents so that the youngster is ready for the next lesson. Violins would be squeaking in frequencies not suitable for human ears and the adults would manfully ignore the discomfort hoping that one day beautiful music is going to pour out of the same instrument. One song which will cross all thresholds during this period of training is Ninnukori, a varnam in Raga Mohanam (see footnote).
Mohanam in Sanskrit means that which is pleasing, seductive. Mohan is the name of Krishna for He is the one who seduces all of us. ‘O Lord of the universe, I exist only because of my yearning for you. This is the time to take charge of me! Kindly show mercy upon me.’ Thus pleads the poet Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar (1860 – 1919) of his namesake. If you would like to know more about this raga, click here.
Are you wondering why I am writing about so basic a song? I just chanced upon violinists Ganesh and Kumaresh’s ‘enhanced’ version of the song on youtube and I wanted to share it with you. I confess, I am not sure what to think of it! They stray too far from the traditional for me at times. Yet its really interesting to hear this very new treatment of this well-known varnam. What do you think?
Click below to listen to a vocal version by Maestro Neyveli Santhanagopalan.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
ninnu kōri yunnAnurA
nikhila lOka nAyaka
nannu pAlimpa samayamurA
nAmIda kṛpa jUḍarA
As the swarams are sung for varnams, it is better to consult the notation here .
O Lord of the entire universe, I yearn for you!
This is the right time to save me! Show compassion on me!
O Srinivasa! I pray to your discernable form!