Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Alai Payuthey Kanna - From Priya Ramankutty

Priya and I were neighbours in Tamil Nadu, a quarter of a century ago! Thanks to her persistance she found me on Face Book despite very heavy duty security and camouflage that I took refuge in...I would ask her to chaperone me on long walks when I young and my heart was aflutter and sang songs like this one!!

Sudha Raghunathan

KS Chitra

K Jesudas

Lyrics: Oothukkadu Venkatasubbier
Raagam: Kaanada
Taalam: Adi
Janya: 22 Kharaharipriya
Aarohanam: S R2 G2 M1 D N2 S
Avarohanam: S N2 P M1 G2 M1 R2 S

alaipaayudhae kaNNaa en manam alaipaayudhae
aanandha moagana vaeNu gaanamadhil
alaipaayudhae kaNNaa en manam alaipaayudhae
un aanandha moagana vaeNu gaanamadhil
alaipaayudhae kaNNaa aaaa

nilaipeyaRaadhu silaipoalavae ninRu (2)
naeramaavadhaRiyaamalae miga vinoadhamaana muraLeedharaa en manam
alaipaayudhae kaNNaa aaaa

theLindha nilavu pattappagal poal eriyudhae (2)
dhikkai noakki en puruvam neRiyudhae
kanindha un vaeNugaanam kaatRil varugudhae (2)
kaNgal sorugi oru vidhamaay varugudhae (2)

Madhyama Kaalam
kadhiththa manaththil oruththi padhaththai enakku aLiththu magizhththavaa (2)
oru thaniththa manaththil aNaiththu enakku uNarchchi koduththu mugizhththavaa
thaniththa manaththil aNaiththu enakku uNarchchi koduththu mugizhththavaa
aNai kadal alaiyinil kadhiravan oLiyena iNaiyiru kazhalena kaLiththavaa
kadhaRi manamurugi naan azhaikkavoa idhara maadharudan nee kaLikkavoa (2)
idhu thagumoa idhu muRaiyoa idhu dharmam thaanoa (2)
kuzhaloodhidum pozhudhu aadigum kuzhaigaL poalavae manadhu vaedhanai migavodu
alaipaayudhae kaNNaa en manam alaipaayudhae
un aanandha moagana vaeNu gaanamadhil
alaipaayudhae kaNNaa aaaa


My mind is all aflutter, Oh Krishna, listening to the joyous,
enchanting music of your flute, My mind is all aflutter!


Transfixed, I stood there like a statue, oblivious of even the passage
of time, hey, mysterious flautist!

In this clear moonlight (that makes a day of the night), I strain my
eyebrows hard and look in your direction, the mellow tunes of your
flute come floating in the breeze... my eyes feel drowsy and a new
feeling sweeps my being

Come! Mould my tender heart, make it full and fill me with joy! Come!
take me to a lonely grove and fill me with the emotions of ecstatic

You are the one who danced and made merry on the sun-bathed waves of
the ocean! Am I to go on pleading for you with melting heart, While
you are enjoying yourself with other women? Is it right? Is it proper?
Is it what dharma is? My heart dances like your eardrops do when
you blissfully play the flute! (My sad heart is all aflutter)

Ootthukkadu Venkata Kavi (Telugu: ఊట్టుక్కాడు వెంకట కవి,Tamil: ஊத்துக்காடு வேங்கட கவி, Sanskrit: वूत्तुकाडु वेंकट कवि) (c.1700 - 1765 CE) was a composer of Carnatic music. He lived in South India in the present-day state of Tamil Nadu. Also known by the name Oothukkadu Venkatasubba Iyer, he is attributed to over 400 compositions. These were handed down from generation to generation by the descendants of the composer's brother's family. Venkata Kavi's compositions reveal that he was a complete master of the science and art of music in all senses of the term – melody, rhythm or lyrics and was eloquent in Sanskrit and Tamil. He was proficient in a variety of musical forms such as the kriti, tillana and kavadichindu. He used talas and themes that not many other Carnatic composers have preferred to handle. His compositions are a blend of tremendous scholarship on a variety of subjects and inspired expression. Several pieces also reveal his humility, reverence for the great personalities before his times and the high state of bliss that he probably experienced almost ceaselessly. His works scarcely contain autobiographical notes and show that he had reached tremendous spiritual and philosophical heights. His works also reveal the proximity he felt towards God and show his deep devotion.

Venkata Kavi, named as Venkata Subramanian, was born to a Tamil couple, Kamalanarayani and Ramachandra Vathoola, in the South Indian temple town of Mannargudi (about 200 miles from Chennai) but spent a considerable part of his life in the nearby village of Oottukkadu, a small village near Kumbakonam. In his later years Venkata Kavi claimed that he received his musical insights from the god Krishna himself, in the Kalinga Nartana Temple in Ootthukkadu. In one of his Tamil compositions, Guru paadaravindam komalamu - in the raga Abhogi, he declares: "I have never studied the scriptures or yoga nor pretended to have done so. I received my whole fortune in the benevolent glance of my guru." Venkata Kavi composed at least 14 songs only on the greatness of his Guru Krishna. A few of them suggest that he may also have had another human guru.

The greatest evidence of his musical pedigree is his compositions. There are several references to good musical approach, practices and even technical terms of ornamentation like aahatam and pratyaagatam. Venkata Kavi believed that music had to be blended with religious devotion (bhakti) in order to shine. His philosophy, bhakti yoga sangeeta margame paramapavana mahume ("Devotion though music is the path to salvation") is similar to the great composer Tyagaraja’s sangeeta gnanamu bhakti vina sanmargamu galade.

Venkata Kavi had a vast knowledge of music and musical nuances. He used a wide variety of ragas ranging from the well known such as Todi, Kalyani, Kharaharapriya, Sahana, through minor ones like Kannadagowla, Jayantashri, Malavi, Umabharanam and also a few that are seldom used today like Balahamsa and Rasamanjari. In some instances, his works are the first or only ones to be available in a given raga such as Sri Shivanayike in Lalitagandharvam and Padasevanam in Deeparam.

His vision of the raga and melody as a whole is considerable and can be seen in the number of different styles in which he composed various krtis in the same raga. For instance, his krtis in Madhyamavathi – Shankari Sri Rajarajeshwari, Sundara nandakumara and Aadadu ashangadu vaa Kanna - bring out different facets of this beautiful raga. He also employed attractive swaraksharas – a technique where the lyrics match the solfa notes of the tune. He has also incorporated raga mudra (mentioning the names of ragas of the composition) in several krtis. Examples: Shuddha Saveri, Navarasakannada. Several other compositions contain names of many other ragas mentioned in some other contexts.

Venkata Kavi also had great command over rhythm. He made complex eduppus (starting or landing points of various sections of a composition) seem like child’s play and used them naturally, without ever affecting the flow of the music or the lyrics. Venkata Kavi had deep scholarship in Sanskrit and Tamil. His vocabulary and the use of words and phrases are unique in Carnatic literature.

Venkata Kavi's vivid imagination and picturisation can be seen in Taye yashoda in raga Todi, where the gopikas are complaining to Yashoda about her son Lord Krishna. This song has eight charanams (stanzas) and each one describes the pranks of Krishna very humorously. Not so well known is the reply by Krishna to every one of these charges in another piece, Illai illai in Mohanam, also with eight charanams.

Sangatis are pre-composed variations in a composition and rendered in a disciplined manner (as opposed to variations born from free improvisation). Usually, variations are melodic in nature while the lyrics remain constant. Several of Venkata Kavi’s pieces have such sangatis but he has also shown the concept of lyrical variations. For instance, in the pallavi of his Abhogi piece, Mahashaya hrdaya, he has composed three variations in the madhyamakala passage as given below:

madhukara champaka vana vihara manamohana Madhusoodana navabhooshana
madhukara champaka vana vihara nava pallava padakara madana gambheera
madhukara champaka vana vihara govardhana dhara bhujaga nartana charana
Venkata Kavi also used his innovative skills in the structures of his compositions. In some songs Venkata Kavi has varied the ratios or inserted madhyamakalams between slower passages within a given section as seen in the pallavi of Padmini vallabha in raga Dhanyasi.

Venkata Kavi was a master of finishes. In several songs, his endings are in interesting rhythmic patterns. For example, Bhuvanamoha in Dhanyasi, where he has capped off the charanam with a pattern of 6 repeated 11 times, which is a wonderful way to get to half a beat landing (which is the commencing point of the pallavi) from the beat after 2 cycles of Adi tala. The words are superbly woven in lilting Sanskrit:

atinootana kusumakara vrjamohana saraseeruha dalalochana mamamanasa patuchorasu- swarageetasu- muraleedhara suramodita bhavamochana
There are many other instances of similar endings in krtis like Alavadennalo in Paras (5th charanam) and Mummada vezhamugattu Vinayakan in Nattai.

Venkata Kavi has composed on a wide range of themes. The most popular of his songs are on Lord Krishna but he has composed on a number of other deities as well, such as Vinayaka, Tyagaraja of Tiruvarur, Kamakshi, Rama, Kartikeya, Narasimha, Anjaneya, Ranganatha, and also on Surya, Radha and other mythological characters. He has composed on great sages such as Shuka Brahma Rishi, Jayadeva and Valmiki. Besides, he has composed several songs on the greatness of Guru, and general philosophy and approach to God. His works contain references to Azhwars, Nayanmars, Ramanuja, Tulasidas and many other revealing his knowledge of their works and contributions and his reverence towards them.

That Venkata Kavi composed an entire opera narrating Krishna’s birth and childhood, beginning from Devaki-Vasudeva’s wedding and Kamsa’s curse. There are also group songs describing Krishna’s wedding with Rukmini and another group covering his marriage with Radha.

There is also a set of songs narrating the story on Lord Rama’s childhood starting from Dasharatha’s Putrakameshti yagna to Rama’s trip with Vishwamitra. It is not known whether this work was completed by the author but there is a lovely single ragamalika piece Sri Rama jayame jayam which covers the entire story of Ramayana.

Compositions on Daksha Yaga, Prahlada and Mahabharata have also been found.

Venkata Kavi has also composed several group krtis like Saptaratnas, Kamakshi Navavaranam and Anjaneya Pancharatnas. He has also composed several shlokas like Madhava panchakam, Nrsimha panchakam, Ranganatha Panchakam and so on.

His Saptaratnas (seven gems = seven songs) are similar in style to Tyagaraja’s pancharatnas (five gems) in their musical structure. The saptaratnas are:

Bhajanamrta – Nattai
Aganitamahima – Gowla
Madhava hrdi khelini' – Kalyani
Balasarasa murali – Keeravani
Jatadara – Todi
Alavandaro – Paras
Sundara Nandakumara – Madhyamavathi

Venkata Kavi also composed Navavarnams (nine varnams) on the goddess Srividya to be sung during Dasara. Apart from the main nine songs for the nine nights, he has also composed Vinayaka stuti, Dhyana stuti and a Phala stuti. There are several similarities (and differences) between his Navavaranams and that of Muthuswami Dikshitar but both reveal the composers’ scholarship in the various aspects of Devi worship. These are:

Sri Ganeshwara – Shanmukhapriya – Adi – Vinayaka stuti
Vanchayati yadi kushalam – Kalyani – Adi – Dhyana stuti
Santatam aham seve – Deshakshi – Adi - (1st avaranam)
Bhajaswa shree – Nadanamakriya – Adi - (2nd avaranam)
Sarvajeeva dayapari – Shuddha Saveri – Mishra Chapu - (3rd avaranam)
Yoga yogeshwari – Anandabhairavi – Khanda Triputa (2 kalais) - (4th avaranam)
Neelalohita ramani – Balahamsa – Khanda Dhruvam (2 kalais) - (5th avaranam)
Sadanandamayi – Hindolam – Sankeerna Matyam - (6th avaranam)
Sakalaloka nayika – Arabhi – Adi - (7th avaranam)
Shankari Shri Rajarajeshwari – Madhyamavathi – Adi - (8th avaranam)
Natajana kalpavalli – Punnagavarali – Adi - (9th avaranam)
Haladharanujam praptum - Manirangu - Adi - Phala stuti

1 comment:

  1. Dear Kavita,
    Thanx for the sweet note in there for me, really touched to read it:-) This is one of my favourite songs because the "Kanna" metaphor is a dual one not just symbolizing the intensity of devotion but also the madness of love. Even though u have posted 3 versions by different artists My fav among these is the one sung by KS Chitra as her melodious female voice lends it the authentic Gopika's yearning touch:-)

    Keep them coming, Priya