Category Archives: Rama Varma

Just Listening 1


I have such good intentions! I tell myself, I need to post more often. It’s not that I don’t listen as often to music, or that I don’t have as many ideas. It is time that is missing. My life has become more and more a whirlwind of movement. Days, weeks and months rush by without my even registering their existence. The few periods of stability are taken up with unavoidable (and boring) chores. It doesn’t help that I have a number of hobbies which take up my free time. I have been walking ten kilometres a day for almost a year now, missing just a few days when I have been travelling. My fitbit tells me that I have walked 3675 km and climbed 9719 floors since last November! I amaze myself! I am very much into photography and digital scrapbooking. I read at least a few hours everyday. I travel often..since the start of this year I have travelled to Australia, Dubai, India, back to Australia, the Lombardy region of Italy, Copenhagen, the Greek isles, Umbria and Le Marche in Italy. I am off in two weeks to Krakow, then to Australia. From there to India and then back to Australia before I return to Switzerland in January! I blog about my travels when I can. But music is a primary food for my soul and I do enjoy blogging about it; I don’t want to give it up. A post which includes translation takes at least four or five hours so I am inhibited even before I start! So I thought, why not just post music that I have enjoyed listening without delving too deeply into meaning, associations and such? So here I am with the first of such posts. My idea is just to give you some interesting additions for your playlist for this week. I will, of course, continue my old style of posts and translations as time permits.

On one of my walks recently, I was listening to this RTP by U.Srinivas in the Raga Vakulabharanam. Those who have heard this Raga before will know how very Arabic/Middle-Eastern the sounds are. It struck me that the Mandolin is an excellent instrument for this Raga, enhancing its Arabic feel to new heights.

RTP in Vakulabharanam – U.Srinivas (Mandolin), P.Sunderajan (Violin), K.V.Prasad (Mridangam) – The Magical Fingers of U.Srinivas by Oriental Records.

This reminded me of a video I had seen on youtube by Prince Rama Varma. I went in search of it and here it is. Saadhu Tada is by Swati Thirunal. I believe this has been set to music by Prince Rama Varma himself (unsure of this).

Enjoyable, isn’t it!

I wondered if it exists in Hindustani music and found a good article on the subject. Basant Mukhari is described as the closest equivalent.  I found a good recording of Ali Akhbar Khan’s rendition of Basant Mukhari but somehow it didn’t give me the level of Middle-Eastern feel that Vakulabharanam does. What do you think?

Remembering how very Middle-Eastern sounding Dua Kar Gham-e-Dil from Anarkali was, especially the start, I went to listen to that again.

It is not Basant Mukhari but Bhairav, the equivalent of which is Mayamalavagowla in Carnatic Music. Lata does give it a lovely quavering Middle-Eastern touch doesn’t she!

Some browsing gave me the info that Hijaz is the Maqam (definition: a set of notes with traditions that define relationships between them, habitual patterns, and their melodic development. Wonder if it’s the equivalent of the word Raga?) which is closest to Vakulabharanam. I found this site in which samples are available and yes, it does sound remarkably alike! Try for yourself; select the ‘oud in A’ . Try some of the recording samples too, they sound so good!

Having started my journey with the Mandolin, I was interested in listening to a rendition on the Oud. I found this site with some rare recordings and was pleased to find a lovely rendition of Hijaz. Click here to listen.

Looking for some vocals, I found a very enjoyable version which had me swaying happily in no time! Hope you find it as appealing. The title says ‘turk’ so I assume it is from Turkey. Excellent music!

And so I whiled away an afternoon, following a link from Vakulabharanam to Turkish music. Hope you enjoyed the journey too!


Filed under Carnatic Music, Just Listening, Rama Varma, Swathi Thirunal, U.Srinivas, Uncategorized

Unnai Allal

I have no recourse but you, O Mother who has created the whole world! You have made me dance  on this stage of the drama of the world, where one ports different guises. I can dance no more!  For your divine heart to find the compassion to think ‘enough dancing’ and let me have a rest, what recourse do I have but you?

If  I had been born with the gift for words, this is the poetry I would have written. If I had been born with a Voice, this is the song I would have sung. Lacking both, I listen again and again to this beautiful composition by Papanasam Sivan (1890-1973) and lose myself in this most comforting of ragas, Kalyani.

Kalyani (Sanskrit) means auspicious, bringing good-fortune, beautiful. An important part of Carnatic music, this raga has Middle-Eastern origins. There are hundreds of compositions in this raga which are often sung as elaborate numbers in concerts. So of course I have heard it many times from childhood and find great comfort in its familiarity. Yet with certain compositions, there is something special. A matter of resonance I think – like a tuning fork, Unnai Allal makes me resonate in exactly the same frequency. To know more about this raga, click here.

This is a very cleverly written piece of poetry. The words are simple (see footnote) but it manages to encompasses many of basic Hindu beliefs – Maya and rebirth (the drama/theatre of the world where one ports many guises), Bhakti, surrender (no recourse except you), monotheistic-polymorphic God (many named and all pervading), Jeevatma-Paramatma link (resides in one’s heart/soul),  Mukti (allow to stop dancing). An excellent prayer song. See footnote for lyrics.

To present this song, I urge you to watch this video (from 0:31) of a very young Sanjay Subrahmanyan. How brilliant is he!! This is a video which I always watch with a great deal of pleasure and with sadness because I long to be there, at that temple, listening to Kalyani in those ancient corridors. Is Kalyani sanctified by the earth on which it is sung? Or is the earth sanctified by the sound of Kalyani? Both…both..My Tamil blood craves the feel of those temple grounds.

And if you fall in love with the song, like I did, listen below to a more elaborate and simply superb rendition by Aruna Sairam. It is from her excellent album Unnai Allal which I am happy to recommend to you.

Alternate link : This is available on online music sites such as Spotify and

Footnote (Lyrics):

Language : Tamil

உன்னை அல்லால் வேறே கதி இல்லை அம்மா
உலகெல்லாம் ஈன்ற அன்னை (உன்னை அல்லால்)

என்னை ஒர் வேடமிட்டுலக நாடக அரங்கில் ஆட விட்டாய் ( வைத்தாய்?)
என்னால் இனி ஆட முடியாது
திருவுள்ளம் இறங்கி ஆடினது போதுமென்று ஓய்வளிக்க (உன்னை அல்லால்)

நீயே மீனாக்ஷி காமாக்ஷி நீலாயதாக்ஷி
என பல பெயருடன் எங்கும் நிறைந்தவள்
என் மனக் கோவிலிலும்  எழுந்தருளிய தாயே
திருமயிலை வளரும் (உன்னை அல்லால்)


unnai allAl vErE gati illai ammA
ulagellAm InDRa annai

ennai Or vEDamiTTulaga nAdaga arangil ADa  viTTAi (/vaiththai)
ennAl ini ADa muDiyAdu
tiruvuLLam irangi ADinadu pOdum enDRu OyvaLikka (unnai allAl)

nIyE mInAkshii kAmAkshi nIlAyatAkshi
ena pala peyaruDan engum niraindavaL
en manak kOvililum ezhundaruLiya tAyE
tirumayilai vaLarum (unnai allAl)


I have no (illai) recourse (vErE gati) but you (unnai allAl), O Mother (annai) who has created (InDRa) the whole world (ulagellAm)!

You have made (viTTai) me (ennai) dance (ADa) on this stage (arangil) of the drama (nAdaga) of the world (ulaga) where one ports (iTTu) different guises (veDam). I can (ennAl) dance (ADa) no more (ini muDiyAdu)!  For your divine heart (tiru uLLam) to find the compassion (irangi) to think ‘enough dancing’ (ADinadu pOdum ena) and let me have a rest (Oyvu aLikka), what recourse do I have but you?

You are indeed (nI dAn) present everywhere (engum niraidavaL) with many names (pala peyaruDan) such as (ena) Meenakshi, Kamakshi and Neelayadakshi. O Mother (tAyE) who has blessed me by residing (ezhudu aruLiya) even in the temple (kOvilum) of my heart (en mana)! O Mother who is in holy Mayilai (tiru mayilai), what recourse do I have but you?



Filed under Aruna Sairam, Carnatic Music, Compositions in Tamil, Papanasam Sivan, Rama Varma, Sanjay Subrahmanyan