Rare kritis of Saint Tyagaraja
Rare in every sense of the word
Sangeeta Kala Acharya Vidushi Neela Ramgopal
Venue: Sobha Lake View Club
When (or perhaps if) you hear someone mention ragas like Kanthamani, Jhankaradhwani or Kaikavasi, the first word that comes to mind is “rare”. The prolific composer that he was, Saint Tyagaraja has also used these ragas in some of his kritis, which are seldom heard nowadays since there are few musicians or music Gurus whose repertoire includes these compositions. So, when a renowned Guru like Sangeetha Kala Acharya Vidushi Neela Ramgopal comes forward to teach you these and other lesser-known kritis, right in your own neighbourhood, the only word to describe a learning opportunity like this is “rare”.
During August 29-31, 2013, Ranjani Fine Arts had the privilege of hosting a 3-day workshop conducted by Vidushi Neela Ramgopal on “Rare Kritis of Saint Tyagaraja”. 50-odd participants had signed up, ranging in age from 9 to 83, including a significant number of children in the 9-15 age group. There was also quite a spread in their backgrounds – the group included performing musicians, researchers, music Gurus, knowledgeable rasikas and students in various stages of learning, as well as uninitiated-but-very-interested rasikas. The first kriti that Vidushi Neela took up was Palintuvo Palimpavo in the 61st Melakarta raga Kanthamani. Explaining how it resembled its not-too-distant Melakarta neighbour Kalyani in the lower half of the octave, she demonstrated the arohanam-avarohanam of the raga as well as several typical swara phrases, as the participants followed suit, warming up to the raga. She then took up the composition line-by-line, demonstrating the nuances in each sangati, till the group was able to render the entire kriti. Her sharp ears were quick to pick out any errors by the participants, which she patiently corrected. She followed the same approach with two more kritis on Day 1 - Rara Seetha (Hindolavasantham) and Panipathi Shayee (Jhankaradhwani). The zigzag patterns of the vakra swaras in Hindolavasantham were a challenge for the participants, but Vidushi Neela’s patient corrections again helped them out.
On Day 2, considerable time was devoted to Vachama Gocharame in the raga Kaikavasi – again, a fairly tough kriti with many sangatis and nuances. Ennadu Jutuno was the next kriti– a beautiful composition in Kalavati. On the final day of the workshop, two nice Utsava Sampradaya kritis – Jojo Rama(Ritigowla) and Poola Panpu(Ahiri) were covered. It was delightful and quite an eye-opener to hear the fast paced Ahiri, set in Adi Talam tisra nadai¸ which was very different from the usual, slow Ahiri heard in, say, Mayamma or Tasallare. A tough Saveri followed, with the kriti Karmame Balavanta, and last came the kriti Gandhamu puyyaruga in Punnagavarali.
The workshop proved to be a tremendous learning experience for all participants and afterwards, many found themselves humming these kritis and ragas which they had not heard or even heard of earlier. The fact that so many children sat through over 10 hours of the workshop during these 3 days speaks volumes for Vidushi Neela’s teaching, as well as the magic inherent in Tyagaraja’s kritis. It is fair to say that there was another, not-so-rare Tyagaraja kriti which Vidushi Neela didn’t quite cover during the workshop, but whose gist was effectively conveyed through her teaching – Guruleka Etuvanti Guniki Teliyaka Bodu (No one, however virtuous, can attain knowledge without a Guru).
- P. Venkataraghavan