Carnatic Music Season in Bangalore

A blogger’s world is rather an isolated one in general, mine is even more so. I live far away from the buzz of hotspots of Carnatic Music, listening almost exclusively to recorded music. The occasional live streaming is a treat for me. I don’t have anyone nearby who shares my interest and enthusiasm for this music; perhaps that is why I started blogging in the first place. In this isolated world, the comments left by readers of my blog always feel special. Ramesh has been my most regular commentator. He left his first comment on 20th of February, 2012. Since then, he has left me encouraging comments on almost every one of my posts, an encouragement I have been very grateful for. Though we have never met, this has been a virtual connection of more than six years. As my blog hardly ever features live events, I requested Ramesh to do a write-up of the Ramanavami concerts that he has attended during this period. Like me, Ramesh too is just an untutored rasika so his reactions and observations fit well into the theme of this blog. I hope you find his report as enjoyable as I do.


Ramanavami 1Ramanavami 4

(Photo Credits : Ramaseva Mandali)

If it is Ramanavami time, then all roads lead to Bangalore, at least for those who are humming Kalyani under their breath! This is the Carnatic Music season in Bangalore, which has now become a centre second only to Chennai, for this genre of music. This year  was a resounding success, keeping up with the trend that we have been seeing over the last 5 years. Crowds are getting bigger, younger people are coming to concerts, and, heartwarmingly, people are willing to buy tickets to kutcheris. It has been truly a lovely festival of music over the last month and a half.

There are half a dozen sabhas which conduct concerts daily for a month or so.  The grand old daddy of them all is the Ramaseva Mandali at Fort High School. This is the 80th year the Mandali concerts are being held –  from humble beginnings on the footpath of  a side street to a massive pandal now at the Fort High School Grounds in Chamarajpet. Virtually every musician of note in both Carnatic and Hindustani music has performed here over the years and it is now the largest classical music event in India.

The old problems remain. Bangalore does not have a concert venue of note, other than Chowdiah Hall, which has now become unaffordable for any Sabha. Almost all kutcheris are held in pandals with the cacophony of Bangalore traffic as the sruti. The sound system at any venue is guaranteed to give trouble, as usual. Facilities are non-existent and commutes are long for any Bangalorean attending concerts. And yet, we went in droves. Season tickets at Fort High School were put up for sale online for the first time and all but the cheapest tickets were sold out even before the season started, unheard of for classical music.  Traffic police had to be deployed for the most popular kutcheris. Wow! It is heartening to see the growing interest in classical music here. Not even in Chennai do we see such crowds.

The music was mostly wonderful. Kumaresh kicked off the season in more than one Sabha, with his wife Jayanthi in one and with his brother Ganesh in another. There were many violin concerts – Ganesh/Kumaresh, L Subramaniam, Kanyakumari & Embar Kannan, Nagaraj & Manjunath, Krishnan & Vijayalakshmi reflecting the fact that talent in violin is probably at its peak now. This year the Cleveland Music Festival was being held at the same time and whoever was not going to the US came to perform here. Regulars included Yesudas, Trichur Brothers, Kadri Gopalnath, Ranjani & Gayathri, Priya Sisters, U Rajesh, Shashank, Malladi Brothers, TM Krishna, Soumya, et all. Hindustani music stalwarts Ronu Majumdar, Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and  Pravin Godkhindi were also here. This is largely a Carnatic music festival, but there is also a smattering of Hindustani music.

This year seemed to be the season of Todi. After listening to it for 6 times over 20 days, I am willing to give it a break for few years! Surprisingly Kalyani, Bhairavi, Abheri and Sankarabaranam were rare. There were multiple Dharmavatis, which competed with Todi for the title of the Raga of the season. Thankfully the very obscure ragas were hardly to be heard,  reversing a trend from the last few years where we have heard ragas with unpronounceable names. The Ragam Thanam Pallavi continued to rule, much to my chagrin (Edit: Ramesh has a quite ununderstandable revulsion for RTPs!!). Freed from the shackles of a time bound 2.5 hour concert in Chennai, artistes let loose with elaborate RTPs, often starting at 9.00 PM !

Two concerts stood out for me and they will live long in memory. Trichur Brothers in Basaveshwara Nagar Sabha were at their absolute best.  A short 2 hour and a bit concert featuring Sahana, Hamsadhwani, Reetigowlam, Pantuvarali, Kaapi, Sarasangi, Kaanada and Kurinji  was mesmerising. They sang their main piece in Pantuvarali early on in the concert and after the thani avarthanam played a scintillating series of thukkadas to round-up the concert. The concert was such a brilliant one that even after the Mangalam, people were hesitant to leave.

The other was a majestic concert by Ranjani & Gayathri at Fort High School. The 3000 capacity pandal was full and people were standing in the aisles – such is their popularity here. And they delivered an absolutely divine RTP in Nalinakanthi. A complicated Pallavi and a thala structure, beautifully supported by the accompanying artistes was easily a classic for the ages. There were 1000 people at Mangalam time  at 10.00 PM; I have never seen anything like this in any kutcheri ever.

In keeping with this blog’s style I will feature a krithi which perhaps symbolizes this year’s season simply because it was the most sung krithi, 3 times no less ! Todi it has to be and it is Shyama Sastri’s swarajati masterpiece Raave Himagiri Kumari.

The featured renditions of the Swarajathi that I have chosen are both for sentimental reasons. The vocal rendition is from the Bombay Sisters, C Saroja and C Lalitha who were awarded this years SV Narayanaswami Rao Award.

The Instrumental rendition I have chose is by Mandolin Srinivas, the legend who was a star performer at every Bangalore season for many years, and who often did not accept a fee from the sabha just to support them. His concerts always attracted huge crowds in Bangalore and every time Rajesh now performs , it is hard not to miss the prodigy.

(Edit : For Lyrics and Translation, please refer to my previous post on this composition Rave Himagiri )




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4 responses to “Carnatic Music Season in Bangalore

  1. Good idea to have a report from the field!

    Ramesh, you have done a significant service by providing a summary of the CM season in Bengaluru. It is heartening to note that CM season is not confined to Chennai and December alone in India. And encouraging news is that listeners are willing to stay on beyond 2.5 hrs or the 9/9.30 pm deadline as it often happens in the twin cities of Hyderabad & Secunderabad. Evidently CM is still alive and kicking despite the frequent forecasts to the contrary by doomsayers.

    It is intriguing how one raga becomes a recurrent theme each season. Is it just we the rasikas feel so or there is statistically analysed data showing such a trend? If it so, it is just beats me, how artists who tend to pride themselves for their standing out from the ‘crowd’ make such choices that make them toe the trendline! On a personal note, I am willing to listen to any number of Todis (or Kalyanis or Sankharabharanams etc) provided they are expounded well and do not fall into a stereotype!

    While Suja helpfully informs us that you are averse to RTPs, your complimenting RaGa for their RTP (“they delivered an absolutely divine RTP in Nalinakanthi”) makes me think that a genuine and neutral rasika is not naturally prejudiced but is quite open to be being swept away by brilliance of a performer (or two, as is in this case)!

    • indigoite

      Thank you for your kind observations. Every season here, some raga seems to, become the flavour . A couple of seasons ago it was Keeravani (invariably the same krithi, Kaligiyunte). While there is no formal statistics, anecdotally, the number of times you hear it in a season is fresh in the mind. This triggers a thought as to how artistes plan their concert. They don’t seem to be taking any input from the organisers as to what all has been sung before.

      Look forward to your review of the Hyderabad season !!

  2. Thank you very much for a brilliant report. I am really impressed that one of the concerts had an audience of 3000 plus! that too for a CM orthodox concert! Secondly, , it is really surprising that there were so many wonderful solo instruments ( specifically violin) concerts! I am pleading that all CM kruthis in concerts are rendered as instrumental music. ( if possible, as Nagaswaram music) . It shows the real caliber of the audience.
    It is a heart-warming report and I cannot thank you enough.
    I have taken the privilege of sharing the link with high-lighted portions in rasikas org . Might have ruffled some feathers there!
    And intrigued that such a glorious series was totally ignored in chennai press and chennai-diaspora crowd.
    Keep up the good work.

    • indigoite

      Thank you very much for your kind words. Kutcheribuzz covers the Bangalore season a bit, but otherwise, yes, there is not much coverage in Chennai.

      I totally endorse your view on the Nadaswaram. Unfortunately, this most melodious of instruments seem to be on a precipitous decline. This year there was ONE Nadaswaram kutcheri – a great improvement from last year when there was zero ! I have been scouting for good concerts, and there are at least a few very good artistes, but unfortunately very rarely are they invited for concerts

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