Five Songs for the Week — 7

T Viswanathan, Kalamandalam Vishnu + Kalamandalam Krishnakumar, Tanjore S Kalyanaraman, RK Shriramkumar + Amritha Murali, TM Krishna

Vishnu Vasudev
6 min readAug 27, 2023

One: T Viswanathan — Ini Enna Pechu Irrukudu? (Raga Sahana, Subbarama Iyer)

I’ve written before of the formative role my time at Middlebury College played in my Carnatic music journey and specifically, the Nonesuch-label LPs of Ramnad Krishnan and KV Narayanaswami, and their explanatory liner notes. I discovered much later that these notes were written by great musicians themselves — T Viswanathan and Jon Higgins. All four were associated with Wesleyan University and its ethnomusicology department.

One of the pieces that made a big impact was the padam Ini Enna Pechu irukkudu? which was part of an album by Ramnad Krishnan. The liner notes explained the context and lyrics of piece lucidly, which made the hurt inherent in every last ‘pull’ of note or gamaka in Krishnan’s rendition all the more poignant. It was my first exposure to the genre of padams and javalis, which is focused on the romantic, lovers’ relationship, usually from the perspective of the nayaki, addressed to a male god. I was surprised that Carnatic music could deal with such themes. In this particular padam, in the raga Sahana, the nayaki is essentially telling Murugan, her lover, to get lost. She asks rhetorically “what is there to talk about?” (after his previous remonstrable behaviour). What is his offence? He had apparently met her for a private tryst (giving her hope), and then seems to have ghosted her! Now everyone is laughing at her, and she feels humiliated. He has turned up now, presumably after a long time, but the nayaki is in no mood to reciprocate — the humiliation is still fresh. Here are the lyrics and meaning source from this blog.


ini enna pEccirukkidu pOm pOm ellOrkkum nagaippAccudu


taniyE vandingE vArAdirundadOr tappidam pOdAdO muttayya vElarE


manadiR kisainda paDiyAccE maTTumIRip pOccE

kusuma kundaLa vaLLi maNALarE subbarAman tamizhk kisainda vElarE


Pallavi: Please go away. There is nothing between us to talk about anymore. It has become a laughing matter for everyone.

Anupallavi: Oh lord, you came here to me without anybody’s knowledge but now you have decided to stay away. Isn’t that one mistake enough?

CaraNam: It suited you alright. It has also exceeded the norms. You are the consort of VaLLi who has fragrant locks of hair. You like Subbaraman’s Thamizh

The charanam is a classic of the genre. Accusatory (“you did exactly as you pleased when it suited you”, presumably referring to the previous private tryst), needling (the reminder that he is already committed to Valli and is two-timing with our protagonist) and yet complimentary (“you are as beautiful as Subbaraman’s Tamil”) all at once.

This recording is from a concert at T Brinda’s home (T. Brinda was a cousin of T Viswanathan, both grand children of Veena Dhannammal). The atmosphere is informal despite the stage and flash photography. Viswanathan at one point forgets the lyrics of the second charanam and is prompted by his cousin T Muktha.

Ini Enna Pechu Irrukudu? T Viswanathan (vocal and flute). Umayalpuram Mali (mridangam). V Thyagarajan (violin).

Two: Kalamandalam Vishnu + Kalamandalam Krishnakumar — Kalyanasouganthikam, Scene 1 (Ragamalika)

This is the first scene of a Kathakali play performed by the famous Kalamandalam troupe at the Bangalore International Centre. The event was curated by First Edition Arts. The video is stunningly produced — both audio and video. Most impressive is the close caption feature (choose the Malayalam option, not the auto-generated English option), which provides ongoing English-language translations of the music as well as explanations of the ongoing scene.

The play is about Bheema’s encounter with Hanuman when exiled in the forest. The first scene is with Bheema and Draupadi before he sets off to source the sougandhika flower for her. The performance is superb, especially the subtle expressions of Kalamandalam Praveen as Draupadi. The whole play is about two hours long, with the first scene about 25 minutes. The music rendered by the narrators are lovely raga capsules without fuss, but with emotive substance. It is not really a ragamlika, but at different times during the scene they cycle through the ragas Kedaragowla, Bilahari, Mukhari and Dhanyasi.

Kalyanasounganthikam. Kathakali play by Kalamandalam.

Three: Tanjore S Kalyanaraman — Mokshamu Galada (Raga Saramathi)

Both Kalyanaraman and the raga Saramathi are acquired tastes for me and I still sometimes have to be in a bit of an open-minded mood to listen to either. Kalyanaraman was a leading disciple of GN Balasubramaniam. He was known to have an inquisitive mind, which resulted in quite a bit of experimentation — for instance, he has given whistling concerts and also broken the Carnatic taboo of having both Ma notes in the same raga and created a set of 36 ragas that replaced the Pa of the Melakartha scales with a second Ma. He was also known for his deep interest in vivaadi ragas (briefly, ragas with two notes occupying adjacent positions in the 12-note positions in a scale). As there is a notion that vivaadi ragas are ‘inauspicious’ or in some way or the other not-quite-right, his deep interest in these ragas were frowned upon by some. In some ways his maverick interests overshadowed his legitimate conventional musical genius (or used by his detractors to conveniently ignore it).

He was also a master of laya (loosely, time-keeping, rhythm). I remember reading an analysis of a passage of swara-kalpana of his, in which Kalyanaraman had shifted the nadai (number of time intervals per beat) from the standard 4 per beat to 5, then 6 and then 7, displaying and seemingly super-human level of precision in swara singing (verified by the writer who had slowed down the recording to precisely measure the intervals between the notes). Unfortunately I cannot find that blogpost online now.

I really enjoyed listening to my piece despite my usual indifference to Saramathi. Throughout this concert, Kalyanaraman gives the violinist TN Krishnan a lot of time and space to display his own skill, in an endearingly democratic manner.

Mokshamu Galada (begins at 01:33:28). Tanjore S Kalyanaraman (vocal). TN Krishnan (violin). Vellore Ramabhadran (mridangam)

Four: RK Shriramkumar + Amritha Murali — Pavanatmaja Agacha (Raga Nattai, Muthuswami Dikshitar)

This is an excerpt from a recent ‘lecture-demonstration’ delivered by RK Shriramkumar. His lecture-demonstrations are almost always worth listening to because his knowledge base is so deep that he will draw on it willy nilly to make one tangential point or the other. So while this lec-dem was on Dikshitar, he illustrates some of his observations using creations of other composers as well.

Pavanatmaja Agacha is a song on Hanuman. RK Shriramkumar points out that the very unusual conception of the raga Nattai (or strictly speaking, Chalanattai) in this song seems to have been deliberate from Dikshitar in keeping with the nature of its protagonist — leaping from higher notes into steep descents, swinging this way and that. Even if you don’t understand Tamil, his awe is palpable. He particularly points out the unusual phraseology of the opening notes — Pa-Ma-Ma — P-Sa-Ma-Ri-Sa. Followed by the swarakshara (where the lyrics and notes are vocalised the same) of Pa-Ri in ‘paripoorna’, beginning with Pa in the lower octave. The swarakshara is repeated in the charanam, but this time at an octave higher at ‘ kapi yUtha paripOsha kamanIya bhAsha’, with notes Pa-Ri corresponding to pariposha and the notes Ma-Ni in kamaniya.

This lec-dem has ruined the song for me. I looked for other renditions of the song, and could not find any that were true to the beautiful original conception (as illustrated by Shiramkumar, and presumably sourced from the Sangita Sampradaya Pradarshini of Subbarama Dikshitar). Most renditions, even by yesteryear stalwarts known for their classicism elide the dramatic jumps between the notes, instead smoothening it out to match the conventional / Thyagaraja school conception of Nattai.

Here is the rendition:

Pavanatmaja Agacha (Discussion starts at 00:30:41; song begins at 00:33:20). RK Shiramkumar and Amritha Murali (vocal). Arun Prakash (mridangam). Shreya Devnath (violin).

Five: TM Krishna — Pahi Tarakshu Puralaya (Raga Anandabhairavi; Swati Tirunal)

This piece is from an August concert somewhere in Kerala, likely Thiruvananthapuram. The rendition is a lovely 16-minute capsule of the raga Anandabhairavi. Beginning with a short by comprehsive alapana (with a nice back and forth with the violinist where they build rather than repeat), there is a touch of tanam before he begins the piece by Swati Tirunal. The best part though are the smooth-flowing swaras at the end that are unhurried and energetic.

The song begins at 00:30:11. Akkarai Subbulakshmi is on the violin. The percussionists look familiar, but I am unable to confirm their identities. The audio cuts in and out at times, but piece is still worth listening to.



Vishnu Vasudev

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