1. sAmajavara – hindOLam – Adi
This is one of the most popular and well known of Tyagaraja compositions. Many of the great masters have handled this. The best known have been those of GNB and Madurai Mani Iyer. My own earliest recollection of this song is a lilting MDR version. Later when I came across the GNB version I was keen to learn that. Of course my own rendition ultimately undergoes changes over the years but as a senior rasika pointed out to me in an email, it is the GNB version that comes through. After the release of the Telegu film Sankarabharanam and the “aamani koyilaa” variation, the song definitely suffered and became increasingly avoided in concerts. My own decision to begin this concert with sAmajavara was probably motivated by a story related by my guru Calcutta KS Krishnamurthi. GNB was singing in Tiruvaiyaru with the violin accompaniment of Mysore T Chowdiah. He began the programme with sAmajavara and Chowdiah exclaimed “brahmArpaNam!!”
2. paralOka – mandAri – Adi
This song I learnt a long time back on the violin from my first guru V Lakshminarayana. mandAri is an interesting rAgam and is so similar to the more well known pantuvarALi except for the absence of the dhaivatam. Back in the early eighties, my brother who learnt vocal used to sing this song with my violin accompaniment at home. Unfortunately they were not recorded!
3. sAmiki sari – bEgaDa
There is one version of this song that begins in the lower octave. On the other hand the version that I have sung is more or less faithful to the Dr M Balamuralikrishna rendition. I came across this rendition and immediately checked with musicologist Dr N Ramanathan about this song beginning in the upper shaDjam. He immediately clarified that this was an older version that could be found in a Telegu book of Tyagaraja compositions dating back to the early forties. He added that you can trust Dr MBK to generally to come up with a traditional version for most compositions of Tyagaraja.
4. shri ramya – jayamanOhari – Adi
This is actually a sentimental favorite of mine. Musical learning normally follows a strict procedure wherein you learn the varisais first, then geetams, varnams and finally kritis. My guru V Lakshminarayana always taught this as the first kriti after the customary 4 or 5 varnams. For a long time I hardly sang this song. A few years back I rediscovered this song in my old violin notebook with the notations written out to me by my guru! V Lakshminarayana always insisted on us singing the songs after we learnt it on the violin. I never thought this was the foundation for a future career as a singer back then!
5. amma rAvamma – kalyANi – k cApu
A song that I used to sing a lot in the early nineties. The k cApu has such a beautiful rhythmic structure and I loved the Ramnad Krishnan version so much. Not to forget the electrifying live renditions of TN Seshagopalan with classy melodic mathematic blitzy kalpana swarams.
6. nI dayacE – yadukulakAmbhOji – Adi
A beautiful song that I first came across in a recording of Ramnad Krishnan. Later I pestered my guru KSK to teach me this song and he promptly obliged as he always did.
7. nI vanTi daivamu – bhairavi – Adi
This was a favorite of my grand aunt and guru Rukmini Rajagopalan. She had learnt it directly from GNB and sang it often especially in her radio programmes.
8. vinave O manasA – vivardhani – roopakam
Another from my KSK stock of songs. My guru had such a huge repertoire that I just had to mention a song and he would teach it to me pronto.
9. eTula brOtuvo – cakravAkam – m cApu
One of the many Alathur classics! My grand aunt had learnt it from Mrathuvakkudi Rajagopala Iyer, who belonged to the Umayalpuram sishya parampara of Tyagaraja and was a storehouse of the bard’s compositions. This song always brings me memories of being quizzed by T.M.Thiagarajan about singing kalpana swarams, especially his rules for finishing with an arOhaNam phrase specifically. In concerts today cakravAkam is a fairly common and well known rAgam. However, imagine more than a hundred years back mahA vaidyanAtha sivan won a music competiion by singing this rAgam. His opponents had never heard this before and just conceded defeat!
10. evvarE rAmayyA – gAngEyabhooshaNi – Adi
I heard nAdaswara vidwAn Injikkudi Subramaniam play this beautifully in Brahma Gana Sabha a few years back and immediately wanted to learn it. Thankfully for the internet and websites like http://www.sangeethapriya.org I got a wonderful Dr BMK version to use as my inspiration.
11. sAgarunDu – yamunAkalyANi – roopakam
One of my guru KSK’s trademark pieces. I did hear a slightly different version of the song sung by Geeta Bennet, the daughter of Dr S Ramanathan some years back.
12. uyyAla looga – neelAmbari – k cApu
My grand aunt’s version, one of the first songs I learnt from her probably sometime in 1985!
13. rAmacandra nee – surAti – Adi
A lovely piece from my guru KSK’s suraTi arsenal, which I invariably end up singing in most of my ‘Tyagaraja only’ concerts.
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