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Born in a family of seven brothers and sisters, Venkatamakhin
or Venkateswara Dikshitar was the son of the great scholar, administrator and
musicologist, Govinda Dikshitar, who was also a Minister in the kingdom of Tanjavur. He
had his training in music under his elder brother, Yagnanarayana Dikshitar and later under
Danappachariar, alias Venkata Sarma, in praise of whom he composed the Gita Gandharva
Janata (Arabhi). Vijayaraghava Bhoopala was the ruler who encouraged
Venkatamakhin in his pursuits in musicology. Venkatamakhin also composed twenty four
Ashtapadis on Lord Tyagaraja, the presiding deity of Tiruvarur. Apart from this, very
little is known about the life of this great musicologist.
There are basically four sampradayas or traditions of Vina
playing - Tanjavur, Andhra, Mysore and Kerala, which is clearly a regional classification.
Each style has its own fingering technique, especially in the way gamakas or
ornamentations are played. There have been great proponents of each style and some have
been able tocreate their own banis (individualistic style). Prominent among them are the
Karaikkudi brothers who created a unique style for themselves. Although they belonged to
the Tanjavur tradition, the Karaikkudi bani has now become a separate style. Similarly,
there were other stalwarts like Vina Dhanammal and S Balachander who are known for their
Manji seems to have been a very prominent raga earlier, with
the difference between Manji and Bhairavi being more obvious. The popular contention is
that Manji originated from the folk tribes. However, there are certain scholars who
believe that Manji was just a folk version of Bhairavi. It is rather difficult to come to
a conclusion based on these beliefs.
In ancient Tamil literature we find that while singing
alapana (which was known as Alatti), syllables like Te-na or ten-na were used.
This was known as Tenakam. However, slowly this has evolved into Ta-da-ri-na, Ta-da-na,
ta-na-na and so on. These syllables have no particular meaning. Nevertheless, the ideal
way to sing alapana would be to use Akara. But since Akara doesn't always allow the
comfortable use of stress, phrases that need stress are usually differentiated with
ta-da-na and so on. There are times when Um-kara is also used for effect, particularly to
dramatise. However, we find today that alapana is sometimes used with a minimum of akara
and more of these mannerisms, which is not advisable. They should be used sparingly, only
after one has attained perfection in akara.
The Panchalinga-kshetra kritis of Dikshitar are a special set of kritis on Lord Siva, who assumes the form of the five natural elements of the Universe, namely, water, air, fire, earth and ether (space). These kritis were composed in 5 different holy places or sthalas and are:
Madhuvanti is essentially the Hindustani counterpart of
Dharmavati. The scale is: S G2 M2 P N3 S - S N3 D2 P M2 G2 R2 S. This raga uses Kakali
Nishada. In the case of raga Madhukauns, the scale in the Arohana is the same as above
except that it uses Kaisika Nishada instead of Kakali Nishada. The Avarohana however has
the same notes as the Arohana unlike Madhuvanti, which has all the notes. Thus we get the
scale: S G2 M2 P N2 S - S N2 P M2 G2 S for Madhukauns.
Kathakalakshepam is indeed the right word for this art form, as it is a more general term. Katha means story and Kalakshepam means spending time. Hence, the word Kathakalakshepam means spending time listening to stories. However, the origin of this art can be traced to the Marathi saints in Maharashtra like Tukaram, Jnaneswar and others who used to perform this art with the stories of Lord Vishnu as the base. This art has its base in the Pandarpur area and singing and extolling the virtues of Hari was the main theme. It is also called Hari Keertan. When this was later adopted in South India, it was still called Harikatha or Hari Kathakalakshepam, though other stories were also taken as the theme. The name Harikatha is more popular and so adhered to.
Neither Carnatic nor Western music has 3 1/2-kattai or
E-sharp. This can be easily explained. Since the Western music system has the major
diatonic scale as its base, the notes occurring in this scale have the notes: C, D, E, F,
G, A and B. One may notice here that all the notes here except E represent flat values. E
already represents the sharp (extreme high) value of that note, so cannot have a sharper
value, since that would take us to the next note, which happens to be F.
Raga Vasanti has a basic scale of S R2 G3 P D1 S S D1
P G3 R2 S. It can be a janya of either the 25th melakarta, Mararanjani or the 26th,
Charukesi or the 27th mela, Sarasangi. It seems to be a raga of recent origin so there
aren't any traditional compositions in this raga. It hasn't found a place in most of the
old treatises either, although the permutation and combination should have existed. The
raga could even have been listed under some other name. This needs further exploration.
There are two ways of finding out when a Tani Avartanam is
coming to an end. The first is a non-technical method, which even a lay rasika can easily
identify. This was jocularly put forth by a great musician who said, "Observe the
violinist! The moment he picks up his bow again and gets ready to play, we can more or
less find out that the Tani Avartana is coming to an end!" However, the above is
possible only in concerts where there is a violinist!
Yeah, why not? It is left to the discretion of the main artiste. In olden days, when concerts were of longer duration, it was customary to have two tani avartanams - the first one short, and the second, longer. However, as the duration shrunk, due to lack of time, we now have just one Tani avartanam, mostly as an improvisation of the main piece of the concert. There are, however, some exceptions where we find that the Tani Avartanam is played for a kriti rather than the Ragam Tanam Pallavi in a concert. There are also instances where we have two tani-avartanams in a concert.
Neraval is another aspect of manodharma (creativity) which is, no doubt, another means of bringing out the beauty of a raga. According to scholars and great musicians, the acid test for a musician's creativity is choosing the apt line for neraval in a given song, since the line has to provide scope for improvisation aesthetically, and also be meaningful lyrically. The unique feature of neraval is that it the only aspect of creative music where melody, rhythm and lyrics meet. It gives ample room for creativity while at the same time demands some discipline, since the artiste has to come back to the original tune after his forays into the raga. However, the artiste has to ensure that the different facets of creativity are properly balanced in a concert. Neraval is definitely a very distinctive feature of Carnatic music, very different from raga singing.
Yes, there certainly is a list of Ragas with just one kriti in them (Ekaika ragas). Infact, there is a cassette of Sri S R Janakiraman, released by the Music Academy, Chennai, which contains such ragas. Carnatica shall soon make such a list available for music lovers.