Image for post
Image for post

In a few days from now, on 23 February, 2021, I will have the pleasure of speaking with Keshav Desiraju on the music and life MS Subbulakshmi, in the context of his wonderful new biography of her. The online event is being organized by the Bangalore International Centre. You can register for the event here. To mark the event, I am resurrecting a blog post first published in 2013 on the ‘Big 6’ carnatic ragas, and embellishing it with offerings in the voice of MS Subbulakshmi.

When we think of the Big 6 ragas of Carnatic music, invariably the first…


Plus five songs for your listening pleasure

This is the second in a series in which I present the results of basic frequency analyses of the use of ragas by the composer trinity (Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Shastri and Thyagaraja).

As with the previous post on Dikshitar, the basis for this analysis is a list compiled by Todd McComb. It is worth noting that this list has several compositions marked as ‘doubtful’ in authorship, based on the doctoral research of Y. Saradhambal. I have included these ‘doubtful’ compositions in the analysis. It is also worth explicitly noting that we are by definition limited to the analysis of the…


I thought it would be fun to do a basic analysis on the usage of ragas of the Trinity composers (Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Sastri and Thyagaraja). I was not wrong. Here’s the first instalment on Dikshitar. This analysis is based on the list of Dikshitar compositions compiled by Todd McComb. Enjoy!

Image for post
Image for post


On T.N. Krishnan’s passing this month, I felt the urge to write a long tribute. Instead, here is a slightly updated version of a post I wrote in 2008, when I had just heard him live for the second time in my life.

When at eighteen I left for Middlebury College in Vermont, I carried with me about a dozen cassette tapes of Indian classical music. One among these was a tape from my mother’s collection, of T.N. Krishnan’s concert in L.A. in the year of 1989. …


TM Krishna sets four edicts to a Carnatic raga-tala-malika for The Edict Project

We have all heard of Ashoka, the great Mauryan emperor who lived in 3rd century BCE. The first word that comes to mind when one thinks his name is chakra. The second, inevitably, is pillar (especially to those of us familiar with Jayanagar locality in Bangalore and its vicinity), and following in a close third place is edict.

There are differing definitions of the word edict. It is either a proclamation, an order or instruction. What is common across the definitions is that it comes from a person of authority. Perhaps the most succinct definition is that from the Merriam-Webster…


Earlier this year, soon after we went into lock-down, First Edition Arts (FEA) invited me to be part of their ‘Desert Island Series — The Lockdown Sessions’. In a video shared on FEA’s Facebook page, I introduced five renditions of Carnatic compositions, saying a little bit about why each was special to me. That was the final avatar of the exercise. In this post I share an earlier, longer list of 12 renditions, introduced in the written form.

Introduction

I have been very lucky — for as long as I can remember, there has been Carnatic (and Hindustani) music playing at…


I have a long-standing grudge against the raga Pantuvarali (also known as Kamavardani). In too many concerts to count, the third piece, or at latest fourth, would be in the ragas Pantuvarali or Poorvikalyani. This was especially true of concerts of mid-late century stalwarts. And I could not get any good answer from anyone on why these two ragas had such a stranglehold on the 2-down position in the line-up. It reminded me of Tendulkar well past his prime, hanging doggedly on. For me, the tragedy was that I did not particularly enjoy either of the ragas. By the time…


So many words!

Twice or thrice in my career, I have been charged with either re-working or coming up with new competency matrices. I always embarked on such tasks with great gusto, believing that anything and everything can be systematized into a MECE framework. Even people. If we tried hard enough, it was possible to perfectly describe any given employee as the sum of her precisely calibrated attributes. Objectively.

Usually, by the third day slogging on such a task, I have found myself an emotional and physical wreck. In this moment, I question everything about myself, not least my command…


I don’t know which way to go — there is so much to say about Nattai, and so little. I feel like I am writing about a grandparent who has always been there to be counted on. Someone you can say a lot about because of their richly layered individuality. But that is not the reason you went to them or remember them. You went to them first and last for the familiar and unconditional nature of the time you spent together. You remember the smells, tastes, sounds and feels in brilliant detail because in those moments both of you…


A part of the Carnatic music fraternity is very upset. They have taken offense to a passing statement by Kamal Haasan during a video chat with fellow actor Vijay Sethupathi. In discussing his motivations for making movies, and in response to a specific question on commercial vs. art cinema, he says that he has to make a living from movies and therefore has to keep an eye on their commercial viability and box office chances. To contrast his relationship to art-making and earning a living, he says he is not like Thyagaraja, whose art came from less worldly considerations who…

Vishnu Vasudev

I write mainly about my experience as a listener of Carnatic music.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store