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This year MGL Unplugged had the privilege of covering the memorable concerts that took place during the 34th Year Arts Festival organized by Kartik Fine Arts; not just as sponsors of the event, but more so as fans of a beloved traditional art form. We have tried to capture the essence of these concerts, as well as the spirit of artists who have so diligently kept us entertained for over a month.

It has been our intention to capture the spirit of Carnatic music through MGL Unplugged and we hope that our recollection of Chennai’s musical journey in December has attenuated your senses both visually and expressively. Since most of the concerts were scintillating with rich performances by a diverse crop of musicians, we have no doubt that this experience will stay embedded in our memory.

As we have been saying so, music is an expression of society’s culture and we consider our patronization of this illustrious art form to be more than just corporate social responsibility. We almost felt obliged to lend our support to Kartik Fine Arts in hope that it’s spirit will resonate melodies in MGL’s corporate world!

We also would like to remind our dear readers about the associated musician’s portal – hellomusician.com that lets musicians utilize this free space for showcasing their profiles in a digital repository to the entire virtual audience. As a technology solutions provider, MGL proudly supports each and every one of these musicians with zeal to hopefully cultivate their legacies. Whether it would be through websites, portals, CBT, WBT, e-learning, digital media repositories or eCommerce, we certainly hold the credibility to integrate a technology backbone into musicians’ creative logs!

We do request all the Carnatic musicians in Chennai to approach us for further information on how we can team up to spread the mystique and beauty of Carnatic music.

A legendary poet once said that music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent. At MGL Unplugged, we try to find a balance between the two…for the sake of Chennai’s ever-growing Carnatic fanbase and more importantly, for music itself.

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2007011900960301Hyderabad Brothers – Vocal

S. Varadarajan – Violin

Karaikudi R. Mani – Mridangam

V. Suresh – Kanjira

The evening began with the crowd eagerly anticipating the day’s performance. With the critically-acclaimed Hyderabad Brothers behind the screen and their co-artists on the stage getting ready with their instruments, the hall was buzzing with excitement.

Niravathi Sukadha – Ravichandrika – Adi was the first piece to be performed. Chitta Swaram was rendered in a more traditional fashion as the accompaniments tried to gloss over the rhythms with dynamic strokes.

Their version of ‘Teliyaleru Rama’, Dhenuka (Adi) literally moved the audience and tugged at our heartstrings as the Raga along with the verses of Thyagaraja created a unique feeling of stepping towards the almighty ones. It basically showcased the devotional aspects of the Carnatic music. It was in full Bhava when Hyderabad Brothers gave finishing touches of the Raga as Karaikudi R Mani carried the piece with his unique stokes.

Lathangi was really modernized and I need to mention that it was another unique facet of today’s concert. Never-before heard sangathis were spotted by Hyderabad Brothers and interpreted beautifully. Varadarajan added his flavor with his strings, as he was able to strike perfect rhythm. ‘Aparadha Moolan’ fulfilled the desires of the audience, as did Swaram while rendering a faster pace for the item. Korvai was drenched in reverbs with rhythmic passion. KRM, as usual, added more creativity to the item with due support from Suresh.

Rithi Gowlai, Nannuvidachi and Gaanamoorthe were a few amongst the most familiar pieces, which the audience could recognize and enjoy to the fullest. Seshachari even rendered the fabulous Harikambhoji with more unique touches in Raga. The Raga by itself is an embodiment of divine Carnatic music and is also the primary concern in ‘Tamil Pann’.

So melodious and enjoying it was that when Seshachari even showed varieties of it and indicated the flexibility of the Raga. The Hyderabad Brothers possess a very versatile style of singing even though their appearance is simple and traditional. The famous ‘Dhinamani Vamsa’ was the hit of the day. They modulated the song to let the audience feel the essence of music. Had the stage ever been prone for experiments, this time they tested more of their knowledge in mathematics and it is sad to notice that they were unsuccessful.

karaikudirmaniTrying Misra Koraipu led them into trouble even with KRM helped them with his favourite snippets. KRM has worked more on the Koraipu and his repertoire of various Koraipu (Misra Koraipu, Thisra Koraipu etc) is admirable and fairly sufficient for any artist to think rationally and explore the beauty of this wonderful art. So was his Thani when he attempted to play more unique and elegant rhythmic pieces and let Suresh to turn back to the audience. Suresh was in a spirit of entertaining as he played more calculations to integrate with KRM. It was almost a mess when KRM attempted to showcase a different Mohara Korvai, but that was compensated with his spirit to perform more on stage. Ethanai Sonnalum, Saveri was next and finally Alasaara Parithapam was the concluding piece of the day.

As one knows, music can be endless like the ocean. I personally think that musicians should try to capture as many seashells as they can! It’s their confidence level and continued effort that gains them the edge they need as performers and understanding their own capability and fluency for the moment is the key aspect of any performance art. Cultural organizations should take care to engage the right kind of artists to entertain their audience. In general, the quality of performance is directly proportional to the density of the crowd!

Artist-Rasika Twine: It’s the duty of every musician to entertain every audience at all levels. On the other hand, the Rasikas should also raise themselves to understand the music, enjoy and appreciate the artist for their right versions. Of course they form the primary feedback for the artists’ growth. If one knows how to achieve their adoration, he/she will stay ever in the minds of the rasikas like our yesteryears’ stalwart Madurai Mani Iyer whose music was enjoyed and appreciated even by music teetotalers!

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2007011900030302Gayathri Girish – Vocal

V. Sanjeev – Violin

K Sivakumar – Mridangam

Sri Sundar Kumar – Kanjira

The evening started with a CD release of ‘Raga Manjari’ by vocalist Gayathri Girish. Sri Ragunathan, who orchestrated the album, received the first copy and spoke a few words highlighting Gayathri’s past performances and her abilities to present unique musical themes.

The concert began with a Panthuvarali Varnam (Saami Ninee), which was followed by Seethapathey Namanasuna as Gayathri was looking to settle down with her melodious reverbs for the rest of the evening. It was Virutham in Madhyamavathi that grabbed the attention of the audience, as they were vocally impressed by the song – Aaadhathu Asangaathu. Some of them even started humming the tune! When the masterpiece ‘Oothukadu Venkatasubaiyer’ began, I recalled ‘Pithukuli Murugadas’ who once popularized this. Gayathri herself was proficient in rendering Saahithya with Bhava – the exquisite ingredients of Carnatic music. I guess music is a devotional language, which can communicate beyond limits to reflect one’s inner self.

Mesmerizing melodies in Sahaana were clear evidence that Gayathri put forth her efforts to impress the Rasikas with the magnitude of her voice. It was a good attempt and well supported by Sanjeev on violin. He sounded so melodious, which elevated the performance. Also his bowing style gave us the feel of a heavenly sonata. A good teamwork always pays for its success. Giripai, the Krithi was in its full shape when Gayathri sang to brighten up the beauty of Saahithya. Sivakumar and Sundar Kumar were so enthusiastic and resumed with key rhythmic phrases to brace the presentation.

Gayathri then rendered Chintaye Mahalinga Moorthim – a fast paced Krithi to show up her acumen in music pedagogy. She has inherited this talent from her guru Sri T N Seshagopalan, who is versatile in music.

Kalyani – the queen of the day’s concert paved more scope for Gayathri to captivate the audience. She emphasized more on Raga lakshana spindled with melodies utilizing the jeeva swaras Dha, Nee. The alapana associated by flashes of familiar Sangathis was also interesting to hear and I must say, Sanjeev followed her perfectly. His musical strings tied the audience together in silence and enjoyment. Modulations were perfect as he captured the glimpses from her rendition and then improvised. Just goes to show you that a violin requires more continuous notes to be played in order to remain harmonious.

“Raave Parvatha Raja Kumari” in Misra Jampai was rendered in a more traditional fashion. Saahithyam was very clearly pronounced. She sang Neraval at a first pace and rapidly took over to the second and further rendered Swaram and a smart korvai. Sivakumar was precision in his version of Misra Jampai (10 Aksharas). He cleared his rounds with cleanly swept Korvais. Sundarkumar carried the same pace and then showed more varieties with furns and Korvai. Thisra nadai was interesting, to say the least. Finally both of them harmonized to play Mohara and Korvai and that were really awesome.

On a digressive note, Kartik Fine Arts is serving the community of music lovers and musicians with the spirit to develop the sacred arts of our Indian culture. Of course it’s a great endeavor to satisfy every element of this magnitude. In bygone eras, this could have been a mammoth task, as it demands more financial support to run these events. But now, it’s an era of corporate culture aligning with organizations like Kartik Fine Arts and support such events in order to bring in a rich cultural experience into the companies, especially to its employees and their near and dear.

Next in the show was a Ragamaalika ‘Needhaan Thunai’ composing of Ragas Neelambari, Vasantha Bhairavi, Gowri Manohari, Saraswathy, Sriranjani, Mohana Kalyani, Durga, Jyothiswaroopini. Gayathri sang the stanzas, which carried out the names of the respective Ragas. It is quite easy for anyone to know the raga by carefully listening to the piece. She handled the swara in an ascending and descending fashion of the different ragas (Starting from Neelambari – Jythiswaroopini – Neelambari). She was able to establish the charisma of the Ragamalika.

Later she sang ‘Irakam Varamal Ponathenna’ in Behag and concluded her session with Thillana in Sindhubhairavi. It was a thoroughly satisfying concert as each one of us left the hall with a smile on our faces and a tune in our hearts.

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hellomusician

In our continued sponsorship of 34th Year Art Festival 2008 organized by Kartik Fine Arts, MGL has developed a web portal called www.hellomusician.com to promote Indian classical music and also to showcase artists’ profiles and events.

MGL has primarily designed and developed the portal to act as a community for Carnatic Musicians / Artists and for those interested in getting in touch with them. Hello Musician enables both aspiring and established musicians to post their profile, portfolio and dates and to also share their experiences with the entire community and the rest of the world!

Even thought this would be the first time that such a digital launchpad has been created for promoting local musicians in Chennai, Hello Musician is still a free source that acts as a digital repository for the public to know more about Indian Carnatic musicians and other related information.

For a few years, soothsayers everywhere have predicted a dwindling in crowds for Carnatic music concerts. A few have them have even more drastic predictions for this classical genre of Indian art. Our recent visits to the Narada Gana Sabha Hall and Bharathiya Vidya Bhavan Hall have given us enough evidence to disbelieve any such negative insinuations!

The crowd has been electric, the organizers efficient and the musicians always in an inspired state to create beautiful music. And with the launch of Hello Musician, we hope…or rather believe that this would lend a hand in uniting these talented musicians and eventually the Carnatic music communities.

It is with great pleasure that MGL and Kartik Fine Arts invite all the musicians to take part in this social network and contribute their biographies to make it livelier.

For further queries, contact Krishnan Chandrasekhar at c.krishnan@mgl.com

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17122008-1

S. Mahathi – Vocals

Melakaveri Thyagarajan – Violin

Sankaranarayanan – Mridangam

Anirudh Athreya – Kanjira

When I entered the hall, I could hear the sounds of ‘Valachi’ Raga Alapana going on. Mahathi, a charming young artist, was on stage adorned with the righteous spirit of presenting pure Carnatic ensembles. The crowd had almost filled up the hall and I could even see a few Rasikas were desperately looking for seats. However the organizers were nice enough to accommodate their demands with few extra seats. ‘Jaalanthara Supida’ was one of the highlights of the day as the rendering of the swara was both spicy and redolent. Mahathi thrived with the Krithi while she pronounced the verses with clarity. Melakaveri Thyagarajan supported her commendably on strings.

She then carried out with Mukhari (Endraiku Siva Kripai varumo). The expressions were both authentic and made a great visual too!

The next item Naasigabhooshini (Maaravairai Ramani), a Vivaadhi type (Seventieth Melakartha raga) that commemorated with her bold attempts was made livelier. Mahathi could have been a bit short on rendering the raga (as commented by one of the audience next to me). But she showed more innovative modulations that keyed up the audience and got them in a frenzied state! I think it’s a healthy trend to be more liberal in experimenting and I am glad that the current generation does it on the stage with no hassles. She also sounds bold and melodious and when it comes to sheer entertainment value, I must say that in that regard she never fails to please the audience. And her stage manners were surely encouraging to the co-artists too.

‘Nee Dhan Mechikolla Vendum’, Sriranjani came out with elegance. Sriranjani, which is said to be the raga that suits all moments looked even brighter with her mellifluous Sangathis. Thyagarajan blended with her sangathis while Sankar and Anirudh were resounded the rhythm to much enjoyment. In a nutshell, it was a stirring performance from the crew.

There comes the main highlight of the day and that was Kambhodi (O Rangasai). She handled the raga with a delicate gentleness. Kambhodi, a Gana Raga, always attempts to inscribe good vibrations in the mind and spirit. Adhering to that was her understanding of the raga. During Raga Vinyasam, she eclipsed each level to eventually reach Adhara Swaras with remarkable dynamism. Thyagarajan bowed his best to help her sustain on Mel Sadhjamam and further. More expressions poured out as she began to enjoy and sing in unison with the strings. Thyagarajan presented the Raga with more sangathis and modulation to match her euphoric performance.

Krithi was in its full swing as she explored more rounds of Sangathis with short phrases while landing directly at the Swara. Even without the Neraval, she gained more confidence to showcase her talent in Laya. She sang a few rounds of Thisram patterns. The final lap was the Kanda Koraipu and Thisra Korvai. She quickly cleared her rounds and handed over the stage to Sankar.

Shankar took over Thani in Thisram showing varieties of his brilliance. Mathematically, he sounded perfect. Anirudh played his part handling the one-handed instrument with more dynamics than one would think is possible. He even revealed the inheritance of such talents – his Grandfather, Sri Nagarajan, Kanjira! And finally, they honoured the stage with ‘Thisra Mohara’ and Chathusra Korvai.

Showcasing brilliance in presentation is more pleasing than just arriving at iterative mathematics in Carnatic music. If one wants to be more successful amidst the competitive scale of the music circle, it’s highly important to be more careful on stage with presentation skills that the audience demands rather than showing more calculated effort, which the audience may not recognize. Especially for percussionists, it is their perfect rhythm and distinct vibrations that only can gain audience response. Presentation skill with subtle mathematics gains more response and that’s a fact!

Back to the show, Mahathi concluded the session with a piece ‘Isai Amudhile’ in Desh Raga followed by a noticeable Thillana piece composed by Dr. Rukmini Ramani in Raga Suriya. If I had to summarize the day’s performance, I would say that the fruits of Mahathi’s labour and creativity yielded excellent rewards for all the Carnatic music fans in the audience. My heart well-wishes to the crew.

Artist-Critic twine: Exactly a year ago (December 18, 2007), one of our beloved colleagues at Mascon Global Limited – Kapil Elango – passed away in a fatal car accident. We would like to dedicate this review in memory of our Kapil who brought more smiles to us than we could possibly imagine.

You will live through each and every one of our memories, dear friend.

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abhishek-raghuramThe day’s performances were courtesy of Abhishek Raghuram, Akkarai Subbulakshmi, Trichy Sankaran and Vaikom Gopalakrishnan. I got goosebumps the moment I stepped inside the Bhavan Hall after a short break; the program had already started, and a brilliant piece – Naatai (Swaminatha Paripalaya) – was harmoniously in progress.

It soon gave way to ‘Ksheenamai’, Mukari – in which Abhishek was enthusiastic to showcase the masterpieces of yesteryear stalwarts, especially Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The Swara rendering was elite, as Sankaran guided him while keeping a decent pace. Abhishek was on a fiery form as he delivered richly layered, intense music to the audience. Akarai Subbulakshmi supported him with diligence and a solid spectrum of Sangathis. Remarkably, Mukari was in its original form even when Abhishek tried to improvise.

During ‘Neekela De Daya’, Nilambari, Misra Chapu was a bit underwhelming as Abhishek went on and on with diluted Sangathis; the “cat on the wall” syndrome! I must say, Abhishek possesses a good voice and he channels a lot of creativity in his performances. Perhaps, the only noticeable hindrance was the shaky ‘Brukas’, which may not appeal well at all times and certainly not for all the Ragas (maybe because of his ‘Bruka Saareeram’). I really hope he could really overcome this by singing plain notes with more Gamakhas. Another minor squabble is that he also could have been clearer on Sahithyam.

‘Sarasa Saamadhana’ – Kaapi Narayani – Aadhi was the next catchy number, as Abishek spilled out intricate Sangathis that were both sober and mesmerizing; a fitting tribute to the day. His vinyasam of Raga was exciting as it gave us the mind space to realize the grandeur of Carnatic music in its full form. The Thala pace was in top-gear. Sankaran gave his melodious touches with a perfect blend of Gumkhis (his favourite) and mellifluous Mel Kalam. On personal note, his richness is unmatched! It’s nice to see a man of such high caliber encouraging young musicians with a heartfelt performance.

The spotlight of the day was definitely ‘Thodi’ (Koluva Maragadha). It was performance steeped in brilliance and delivered with a sort of finesse that tugged at the audience’s heartstrings. Abishek decorated the Thodi with Alaapana and the superfluous Sangathis in Aadhara Swaras such as ‘Sa’ and ‘Dha’. His stage manners are perfect and blessed with diverse vocals (‘Bruka Saareram’), he rendered to captivate everyone present at the hall. Certain ‘Nadaswara Pidis’ were also present in his Vinyasa. A great effort from Abhishek, I must say. On a side note, we always recall the ‘Rajarathnam Pillai’ whenever we hear Thodi! As Abhishek passed over the Krithi with numerous Sangathis and Neraval Swaram, it was almost 9 pm and still the audience was nonetheless excited! Just goes to show that music is beyond time and limits!

Akarai took over on Raga Vinyasa as the audience saw blessed signs of more good music to come. Her melodious strings revealed her talent and confidence to play on the big stage. The piece crescendos to Swaram and Korvai with niche expressions of Thodi with more key modulations.

Driving the Thani, Sankaran took a quick turn of Korvais that were appealing while Gopalakrishnan followed him. Sankaran’s Kanda Nadai was the cream of the Thani as he came out with more permutations and simple mathematics that were nice to hear when applied in music. He landed at the Mohara Korvai through Misra Koraipu and balanced the concert with a resounding rhythm.

The day’s performances was a breathtaking reminder to Carnatic music aficionados about that buzz which one feels long after the curtains are drawn on the concert. And along with the audience, I definitely had a memorable evening with Abhishek. I wish him the best of luck for his future endeavors.

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04122008

Vasudha Keshav – Vocal

B AnathaKrishnan – Violin

B Sivaraman – Mridangam

The Jootha Murare, Aarabhi signaled a good start to the show, followed by a Virutham in Hindolam. Virutham is an old tradition as artist of yesteryears were renowned for handling it perfectly especially when the occasion demanded it! For instance, during the Navarathri Festival, they sing exclusively on the Goddesses ‘Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathy’. Back to the show, Vasudha Keshav gave us a glimpse of the verses from ‘Yadehi Sarvabootheshu’ and Chintayamai Jagadamba in Rupakam (a composition of Jaya Chama Rajendra Udayaar). She was eloquent in handling the Raga and Swaram and more careful on rendering the Saahithyam since it is rarely sung.

Paahimam Sri Rajarajeswari – Janaranjani – was the next one and Paradevathe Un Paadam, Mani Rangu, Adi – surpassed the audience’s expectations as she came out with huge varieties of Sangathis and a very precise Neraval Swarams that enthralled the audience. Anathu’s strings glittered with melodies; his bowing had a mesmerizing effect, as he gave nuggets of the Raga’s beauty. Sivaraman provided ample support to the song as he improvised on the Neraval with more rhythmic phrases, and by being more supportive to Vasudha. She seemed to be really impressed by his virtuosity and well…who wouldn’t be!

Kartik fine Arts made this season more interesting by including a more diverse collection of musicians. Maybe it’s their unique approach to be the first to commence the season and bring in a host of talents that are rarely ever heard elsewhere. Next piece ‘Thellisi rama’, though not cohesive with the list, nevertheless was nice to hear.

Kalyani (Thalli Ninne) – always the center of attraction – and a more eminent Raga was ‘the highlight of the day’s events. Vasudha hailed initially from Smt. Mahalakshmi and she is now learning from Sri. PS Narayanaswamy’s gurukulam. She is very much blessed with the attitude of self-appraisal, the one that needs to be present in any talented musician. Kalyani on the other hand is a Raga suiting all occasions and demands more self-realization from the artist, as it can skate with more colors!

Bizarrely I could also hear cracking and chewing noises from behind the auditorium. Well, those were an obtrusive few who seemed to be both busy with their snacks and appreciative of the piece (but not peace). But I would imagine that it was a real distraction to the artists as well as the others. This is quite a commonality in small auditoriums like the Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall. A small message from me to those who are intent on disturbing the spirit of music…please take care not to distract the artist and always remember that there is a food court outside the hall. And ‘mobiles on silent mode’ are a boon to the ears!

The most challenging moment of the day’s show was the Swaram and Korvai to both Ananthu and Siva. Vasudha missed two rounds of Korvai but she arrived correctly on the third. Thalas are always bound to pose challenges involving the accompanying artists’ pursuits.

Anathu was perfect at carrying the Raga to its spirit, as further possibilities of Kalyani were heard from him while he captivated the audience with more ‘Raga Lakshanas’. Siva had his brilliant Thani with many short ‘idea-phrases’ (Abhipraayam) and popular Korvais of his guru’s and also cleared many rounds, eventually landing at the 4-spot (‘Arai Edam’) in Misrachapu. Although he too suffered a brief hindrance in his Mohara-Korvai but he managed to pull it off.

The most absorbing part for me was the epilogue – ‘Innu Dhaya Bharathe’ by Kalyana Vasandham and Kanda Chapu. She sang it as well as she ever has and rightfully so to keep to herself on the path destiny – to create great music.

Good Luck to Vasudha, Anathakrishnan and Sivaraman!

Artist-Critic twine: It’s a sin to pound on others with brutally coined sentences. Of course many of us know that critics make more comments than any one else. But one must understand that critics are there to help the artists to grow in a more professional way by expressing positively the negatives of the artists’ and critics must also understand that each concert is an experiment for any artist to be on stage with their talents. Destiny decides the day and profound knowledge and self-realization will only make the artists better on stage.

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