Category Archives: Swathi Thirunal

Just Listening 1

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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!

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

Rama Rama Guna Seema

Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! Rama! You are the delight of our hearts! Sita’s Rama! Your face  is like the moon! You are deeply dark ! Your clothes are golden! You are the cessation of enemies!

Happy Ramanavami to all my readers! How did you celebrate this occasion? I am sadly negligent; my festival days go by simply, with just a mental marking, an acknowledgement when I say my prayers. Is that enough? Should that not be enough?

I feel a twinge of guilt. I remember my childhood when my family would wear new clothes, go to the temple and then have a lovely feast to eat. Yet I ask – when we mark a festival with a feast, is it God we please or our own selves ? When we buy and wear new clothes, whom are we trying to please?

I guess you know what I think! Yet, these ways of marking festivals have an important part to play. In my childhood, because my parents bought me new clothes only for festival days, I didn’t even realise one could buy clothes for no reason! In a way, it made each garment I wore a kind of ‘prasAda’, a blessing from above. Now that my clothes are bought whenever I please, they have lost their specialness. Likewise, my mother prepared certain dishes only on certain feast days. The dishes somehow became enhanced by that. They became ‘prasAda’, a gift from God. By marking these feasts, we silently thank God for all that we have.

I have prepared no feast today. Instead, the prasAda that I prepare today is this post. One of my very favourite songs, it is very simply a list of ‘identifiers’ for Lord Rama. Nothing is asked, not even blessings. An acknowledgement, that is all it is. It is written in Sanskrit by Swathi Thirunal and set to raga Simhendra Madhyamam. To know more about this raga, click here.

I am especially fond of Sikkil Gurucharan’s rendition in his CD December Season 2005. It is available in Musicindiaonline; click here for the Alapana and here for the Kriti. In fact, I recommend that you buy this track from whichever online store you use, keep it on your mp3 player and listen very often! In the meanwhile, I found a rendition from this exceptionally talented young man in youtube, which I present to you here. Note the superbly talented S.Varadarajan on the violin; I really admire this young man!

Alapana (starts at 09:01)

Kriti :

Another young artist, Nisha Rajagopal, has also given a find rendition which I enjoyed very much. Listen below, Alapana from 16:25 and Kriti from 23:42.

 


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

Note: This kriti has three charanams but I have heard only the third one sung. Therefore only that charanam is transcribed here.  Also note that the singers usually use the long A at the end of musical phrases. eg. dhAma is often sung as dhAmA. Lyrics are verified aurally, but I cannot guarantee correctness.

राम राम गुण सीमा राम ह्रुदयाभिराम सीता

सोमानन घनश्याम हेमाम्बरारि विराम –पट्टाभि (alt: लोकाभि)

दीनबन्धो मामव दश मुख विदलन विनत कल्पतरो वारिज नाभ
मुनि मानस धामा मृगमद सुललाम अवनिजापाङ्ग सुदाम वैदेहि सकाम

Transliteration

pallavi
rAma rAma guNasImA rAma hrdayAbhirAma sItA

anupallavi
sOmAnana ghanashyAma hEmAmbarAri virAma –paTTAbhi (alt: lOkAbhi)

charaNam
dInabandhO mAmava dasha mukha vidaLana
vinata kalpatarO vArija nAbha
muni mAnasa dhAma mrgamada sulalAma
avanijApAnga sudAma vaidEhi sakAma

Translation

Rama! You are the most virtuous of all! (guNa=virtue, sImA=boundary). Rama! You are the delight (abhirama=delightful) of our hearts (hrdaya)! Sita’s Rama!

Your face (Anana) is like the moon (sOma)! You are deeply (ghana) dark (shyAma) ! Your clothes (ambara) are golden (hEma)! You are the cessation (virAma) of enemies (ari)! O consecrated one (paTTAbhirAma) ! (alt: O the one loved by everyone! (lOkAbhirAma))

O my friend (bandhu) of the wretched (dIna)! You are the destroyer (vidalana=tear asunder) of the humbled (vinata) Ravana (dasha mukha=ten faced)! You are like a wish-fulfilling tree (kalpataru)! You have a lotus-navel (vArija nAbha) (also signature of Swati Thirunal)! You dwell in (dhAma) in the minds (mAnasa) of sages (muni)! You have a kasturi tilaka (su lalAma=beautiful mark on your forehead, mrga mada=deer musk)! Sita (vaidEhi), who is born from the earth (avani ja), looks at you, the one who gives bountifully (sudAma) with sidelong glaces (apAnga) filled with love (sakAma).

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Nisha Rajagopal, Sikkil Gurucharan, Swathi Thirunal

Anandavalli

Oh Ananadavalli! Grant me happiness eternally! Your beautiful smile eradiates the darkness of suffering of poor people like a ray of nectar. The beautiful one who holds a young parrot. Hail!

Swathi ThirunalHaving flown 16,500 kms traversing 10 time zones over 30 odd hours to travel  from one home to another, sleep (or lack thereof) is on my mind. Naturally, I choose to listen today to Raga Nilambari, a soothing and soporific raga most often associated with lullabys in Carnatic music. Today’s song however is not a lullaby; its a prayer song to the Goddess Anandavalli of Padmanabhapuram, Tamil Nadu. Composed by Swathi Thirunal, its slow and soothing sound is a balm to my sleep-disturbed state.

Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma (1813-1846) was the Maharaja of Travancore. A connoisseur of both Carnatic and Hindustani music, he was a prolific composer with some 350+ compositions attributed to him. A linguist, speaking 8 or so languages, with an interest in literature and arts, his court included many expert musicians and dancers. He was a great devotee of Sri Padmanabha, presiding deity of the royals of Travancore. Click here for further information.

The poet begs the beautiful Goddess to grant him eternal happiness. ‘Your smile eradiates the darkness of suffering’ says the poet. For lyrics and translation, see footnote. To know more about the raga Neelambari, click here.

Though lovely, this song is rarely sung in concerts. I have listened only to this one version by Sanjay Subrahmanyan .

Alternate link : Click here (free membership of Sangeethapriya.org required)


Footnote (Lyrics) :

Language : Sanskrit

पल्लवि
आनन्द वल्ली कुरु मुदमविरतं

अनुपल्लवि
दीन जन संताप तिमिराम्रुत किरणायित सुहसे
धृत शुकपोत विलासिनि जय परम

चरणं
जम्भवि मत मुख सेवित पद युगले
गिरिराज सुते (अम्ब)
घनसार लसित विधु खण्ड सदृश निटिले
शंभु वदन सरसीरुह मधुपे
सारसाक्षि हृदि विहर दिवानिशं

Lyrics in English and translation (from Swathi Thirunal site)

Pallavi
Anandavalli kuru mudamaviratam

Anupallavi
dIna jana santApa timirAm.rta kiraNAyita suhase
dh.rta shuka pota vilAsini jaya parama (Anadavalli)

Charanam 1
jambhavi mata mukha sEvita pada yugaLe
giri rAja sutE (amba)
ghanasAra lasita vidhu khaNDa sadrsha niTile
shambhu vadana sarasIruha madhupE
sArasAkShi hrdi vihara divAnisham

Charanam 2

kEsha pAshajita sajala jaladanikarE  pada pankaja sEvaka
kheda jAla shamAnaika parama caturE
nAshitAgha caritE bhuvanatraya
nayike vitarE mE shubhamanupamam

Charanam 3
shAradEndu rucimaNjuLatama vadanE
munih.rdaya nivAsini
cArukuNDala mukuLopavararadanE
cArukuNDala mukulOpama vardanE
pArijAta taru pallava caraNe
padmanAbha sahaje hara me shucam

Translation

Oh Ananadavalli! Grant me happiness eternally!

Your beautiful smile eradiates the darkness of suffering of poor people like a ray of nectar. The beautiful one who holds a young parrot. Hail!

One whose feet are worshipped by Indra, foe of Jambha, daughter of the king of mountains. One who is adorned with camphor on the crescent like forehead. You are like the bee to the lotus face of Shiva. The one with lotus-like eyes. Always dwell in my heart.

Your long tresses surpasses the water bearing collection of clouds. You are the only skillful one in dispelling the misfortunes of those who worship your lotus feet. One who has the glory of removing the afflictions of the three worlds. Please grant me insurmountable prosperity.

One who has the most beautiful face like the charming autumnal moon; resides in the hearts of ascetics. One who has charming teeth like the beautiful jasmine buds; feet like the tender leaf of Parijata. Oh The sister of Lord Padmanabha! Dispel my grief!

 

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Filed under Carnatic Music, Compositions in Sanskrit, Sanjay Subrahmanyan, Swathi Thirunal