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A Tiger varnam in Kapi

Today is the birthday of Tiger Varadachariar. If I was give a chance to go back in time my first choice will be to meet the great Tiger and interact with him – too many fascinating stories, legendary musical ability just listening to watered down snippets from his students and associates and his brilliant varnams available in printed form. My Guru Shri Calcutta KS Krishnamurthi had learnt from Tiger Varadachariyar at the Annamalai University in the 1940s. It was around the early nineties that one of the first varnams I learnt from my Guru was Tiger’s Karunai kadale in the ragam Kalyani. My Guru explained about how beautifully Tiger had brought in the entire essence of the famous Pallavi Gopalayyar Kalyani Ata tala varnam Vanajakshi into the concise adi talam format. It was a bit of a struggle for me to memorise that varnam as the patterns were very new and difficult to master. Over the years I have learnt many other varnams of Tiger and have felt him to be one of the great varnam composers of all time. This particular varnam in Kapi is another one of his masterpieces and brings a totally different dimension to the ragam Tiger used to say “Varnam varanummaa!” as narrated by MDR in a lec dem. He meant that a varnam should flow naturally like kalpana swarams to the composer. My Guru said that when Tiger composed a varnam he would say “Dei pasangalaa, oru varnam varuthudaa, ezhudikkonga!” I still remember the time when I learnt up Sariyo nee in Begada and made a mistake everytime I sang it in a concert, converting a composed chittaswaram in to a kalpana swaram. It is the result of a combination of the complexity of the composition mixed with my laziness to not sing it enough times at home!


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