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Jaya TV concert – Harikesanallu Muthiah Bhagavatar

Every year I really look forward to singing in the Margazhi Maha Utsavam organised by Jaya TV & Maximum Media. This is is one concert where I have tried to bring out a number of Tamil compositions that are not very common. There has and continues to be criticism that there are not enough Tamil compositions that are “heavy” or “classical” to be included in mainstream concerts. I use the opportunity given by this concert to specifically focus on composers and compositions which seek to invalidate this criticism.

This year I chose Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar as the composer to focus on. Muthiah Bhagavatar was a versatile composer and a pioneer of several innovative concepts in composing and composition. He is often portrayed as a maverick who composed on odd and rare scales and ragas. It was interesting to study his compostions in detail and when doing so one realised that here is a composer who deserves to be put right up there with the best in the business.

My interest was of course was in his Tamil compositions in the context of the Jaya TV concert and I found that he had composed 27 songs that have been published. It is possible that he may have composed more than that in the Tamil language. Also the compositions were in ragams like Todi, Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Kambhoji, Yadukulakambhoji, Mukhari, Begada etc. Of the tamil compositions the most famous was the song “Andavan darisaname” in Jonpuri that was a classic hit of SG Kittappa in the nineteen twenties. My grandfather, Thyagu, used to sing this song a lot and he told me a story of how his grandmother would make sweet rice pudding (arisi kanji) and keep some for him, but give it to him only after hearing him sing Andavan darisaname. Later in the 80s DK Jayaraman used to sing this often.

Madurai TN Seshagopalan who belongs to the Muthiah bhagavatar sishya parampara has popularised so many rare and uncommon songs both of the classical and quirky variety. Of the tamil songs he used to sing “Aarukkum adangaada neeli” in Begada as well as “Manadirkkisaintha manaalan” in Sankarabharanam quite beautifully. Back in 1995 I gave a concert of 20th century Tamil compositions for the sabha Mudhra when they had their festival in the Rama rao Kalyana Mandapam. It was also the first time that veteran mrudangam artiste and one of my childhood heroes Vellore Ramabhadran played for me. My guru Shri KSK taught me “Moovaasai konda thirumaal” in Karaharapriya by Muthiah bhagavatar and I sang it that day as the main piece. A listener reminded me that day that Shri TNS has given an album of Bhagavatar songs exclusively with that song as the main piece!

Coming back to my concert yesterday, I wanted to sing a few of the songs that may not have seen the light of day. A ragamalika of 9 ragas with the raga names intelligently woven into the sahityam and some sparkling chittaswarams, revealed the classical depth and knowledge of the Bhagavatar and I was determined to learn it up and sing it. As I was going through the process I realised I had a tough task on my hands as the whole song could take almost 25 minutes to render. Thankfully for me Shri Varadarajan, the violinist, also took pains to learn up the song and that really helped yesterday. Special thanks are due to mrudangam artiste Neyveli Venkatesh who played so appropriately to suit the tempo and feel on the concert.

Here is the list of songs rendered yesterday

Thuthikkakkuriya aadhiye – Poornachandrika – M Chapu Aarukkum adangaada neeli – Begada Avan seyal andri – Hamirkalyani Unnai ninanthu – Ragamalika (Sankarabharanam, Mohanam, Vasantha, Sahana, Todi, Nayaki, Kannada, Saranga, Sri) Moovaasai konda thirumaal – Karaharapriya Shanthamaaga kaatchi thanthidum – Yadukulakambhoji Maavoor valam peruga – Sindhu bhairavi Thunga maal vidai – Surati


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