Carnatic Music & Me – Part 1

As I was chatting with my friends over lunch yesterday, the conversation drifted to December Season and before I knew it, I was happily talking non-stop about the Season. None of my friends go for concerts or are interested in Carnatic music much. Despite that, the moment I get started about my passion, there’s no stopping me. 🙂 Talking about how excited I have been for the past two days ever since I saw Sanjay’s December Season schedule and talking about what an aural treat his concerts are going to turn out to be, etc., etc., I started reminiscing about Carnatic music and kutcheris. And born out of that reminiscence is this post – a post that I have wanted to write for a long time now.

Looking back, Carnatic music has always been a part of my life. My first memory of listening to a Carnatic song is probably the songs/lullabies that my Mom used to sing for me and my sister when we were little kids. 🙂 My first memory of listening to Sa Ri Ga Ma Pa and geetams is when I used to go and sit with my cousin in her music class. With everybody at home being ardent music lovers, it was only natural that my sister and I were also made to join music class. I was a little more than 7 years old when I started learning music. Of course, I had no clue about raagams and all that when I started learning.

Though I was learning music and liked it so much, still it was only film songs that I always remember listening to till 1997 or so. I never went to any concerts either. The ones that I had gone to were probably the ones that my parents had taken me along with them when I was a baby. 😛 But, as I said, everyone in my family loved music so much. So, I often kept hearing Carnatic music playing on TV/radio/music system. I used to love listening to the Pancharatna kriti rendition by all the singers at Tyagraja Aradhana broadcast on TV.

Also my father has this huge collection of cassettes. Cassettes of M.S, Balamurali Krishna, Maharajapuram Santanam, D.K.Pattamal, Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, Lalgudi, T.N.Seshagopalan, Bombay Sisters, E.Gayathri, Mandolin Srinivas, etc. to the then upcoming youngsters Unni Krishnan, Sanjay, Bombay Jayshree, Ashok Ramani, Rajkumar Bharati, Nithyasree, S.P.Ramh, Dr.Ganesh, etc. – you name it and it was all there! But then, along with this Carnatic music collection, there was also Ilaiyaraja, Rahman and golden oldies of both Hindi and Tamil and it was only those that I seemed to be interested in!

Before I move on to 1997-1998, I have to tell about the very first time I identified a raagam. I have only a vague memory of it. I was having my dinner in the kitchen when I heard some music playing on TV. I asked if it was Hamsadhwani raagam and bingo! My grandfather confirmed that it was indeed Hamsadhwani! This happened around the time when I had learnt Hamsadhwani varnam, probably some 2 years or so since I started learning music.

By this time, my parents and sister were regularly going for the concerts happening in a nearby temple. But I never went with them most of the time! And even if I went, I didn’t pay much attention to the concert.

Thinking back, I think it was around the time when kaNNODu kANbadellAm from ‘Jeans’ released when I too started listening to the cassettes of Nithyasree’s that were there at home. I really don’t remember if it was before that song released or after it released. Earlier, I listened to Carnatic only when somebody at home was listening. Now, I was doing it since I wanted to. Himagiri tanaye, Sriman Narayana, eppaDi paaDinaaro are some of the songs sung by Nithyasree that I remember getting hooked to initially.

Along with Nithyasree’s, I started listening to other cassettes too – it was mostly Mandolin Srinivas’, Priya Sisters’, Lalgudi’s, E.Gayathri’s. I started having my own list of favourite Carnatic songs. The list was very small though. I used to love ManavyAla and Vandanamu (I was not that crazy about Sahana then!) sung by Bombay Jayshree among other songs.

Meanwhile, I too started going to concerts willingly. A few concerts of T.N.Seshagopalan (including a Veena concert of his!), a couple of concerts of Ashok Ramani, a concert of Lakshmi Rangarajan, even a concert of Sudha Raghunathan, a concert of Nithyasree at Ayodhya Mandapam (She sang nannu vidachi and the song raagatthil sirandha raagam edhu in that concert) and then those concerts that I went to during the December Season – Unnikrishnan at Krishna Gana Sabha, Rajkumar Bharati at Bharat Kalachar (I remember he sang some song in Saranga there – I correctly identified the raagam and varnam was all I knew in Saranga then), Nithyasree at R.R.Sabha and then, the Millennium celebration at Music Academy in December 1999, of which everyone from Semmangudi, DKP to almost all the then upcoming youngsters were a part of, are what comes to my mind when I try to recollect the concerts that I had been to before 2002.

Apart from attending the concerts, I started reading the articles/interviews/concert reviews that used to run for so many pages in ‘The Hindu’’s ‘Friday Review’ and in Tamil magazines ‘Ananda Vikatan’ and ‘Kalki’ during the December Season.

But, I was still not as passionate about Carnatic music as I was about A.R.Rahman’s music! And I used to go for hardly 3-4 concerts in a year. But little did I know that all that was to change after 2002. What caused the change? Stay tuned! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Carnatic Music & Me – Part 1

  1. Sathej

    Oh thats a really nice post:) Waiting for the continuation eagerly..though I have some hunches about what caused the change..And nice to know you went for the Millenium celebrations..would have been really good. And identifying Hamsadhwani, Saranga et al with knowledge of only the Varnams is quite good 🙂 me too tempted now to write one such post. Hopefully shall do so sometime:)

  2. Krishna Kumar.S


    Nice to see that you are interested in carnatic music and concert. I am zero when it comes to Films(let it be any language) and music. I listen to cinema songs rarely. I also liked Kannodu Kanbethellam of Jeans. I feel that Indian traditions, style of living needs to be retained, so I was happy when you talked differently. Though I am only 22, part of the present day younger generation, sometimes I feel I should have born in 1960’s or 1970’s. I suggest that you write more of carnatic/indian music/indian lifestyle/temples to retain Indian culture.

    At my home, we have got music lovers too, but not die-hard fans. My aunts play a lot of instruments. They did kutcheri’s in 1990’s. Your report triggered nostalgic feelings within me.


    Krishna Kumar.S

  3. Raghav

    Hi Aparna,

    I found myself in your post which instigated me to leave a comment. Like yourself, I was born into a family full of music patriots. I grew up hearing Madurai Manis and GNBs. And by god’s grace, I learnt music as well. Your post has brought back fond memories of the kutcheris I d go with my parents and family… Now in college, it seems like a long lost dream… But, the journey with music will continue I reckon…

    Good luck and thanks for the post



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