Posts Tagged ‘musicians’

The itinerant religious singer, Bhutanahalli, 170619

June 18, 2019

I clicked this photo of an itinerant religious singer, with my young friend Prem, while we were watching the Baya Weavers at Bhutanahalli koLA (pond):


Since he was singing about the maleficient god Shaniswara (the planet Saturn), I clicked him in front of the shrine:


I also saw Krishnaveni’s husband and her son Punith (they run Ravisutha Hotel, where we generally have chai and brefus when we are birding in the area) give alms to the singer:

I posted on FB and asked if such a singer would have a specific name, and got a very detailed reply from Rajpal Navalkar:

“This one is Kamsale. Most of them can be found in North Karnataka. In Maharashtra, too, we have these semi classical and even classical Buas (called Bauls in Bengal) who go around singing Bhajans and Bhavageet.”

He went on to add, in detail:

Religious singers are of five groups: (1) Kamsale (2) Neelagaru (3) Chowdike
(4) Gorava (5) Gane.

Professional religious singers sing only those songs which concern their chosen gods, pilgrim centres and temples. Their main purpose is to propagate the supremacy and philosophy of their particular religion to inculcate values and norms in the community. Professional singers are characterised by traditional colourful costumes and conspicuous musical instruments. They command great respect and take active participation in all the religious celebrations of their community.

(1) Kamsale

Kamsale: ‘Kamsale’, popularly known as ‘Devadraguddas’ are the disciples of Lord Madayya. ‘Kamsale Mela’ is a popular folk song which deals with the history of ‘Mahadeshwara’ (the presiding deity of Malai Mahadeshwara or MM Hills, a renowned pilgrim centre, situated in Mysore district).

The name ‘Kamsale’ is derived from the traditional musical instrument. It is a unique musical instrument consisting of two bronze plates. The bronze cymbal is in the form of a cup with a broad base. The other plate is a flat structure with a tassel tied in the centre. The cup is held in the left hand and with the help of the tassel the flat plate is held in the right hand and the singer clashes both of them rhythmically during the performances.

‘Kamsale’ singers sing either individually or in a group. when in group, this form becomes a mela and consists of three members. The main performer plays the ‘Kamsale’ instrument, supported by two artistes in the background playing an instrument-the ‘Dammadi’ and the ‘Yekatari’-single-stringed musical instrument. The performance consists of narration by the chief singer, who pauses in between to interpret the story. The Kamsale artists do not wear any traditional costumes.

Their dressing is simple, they wear ‘Rudraksha’ beads, which is their religious emblem, and carry a satchel. They are illiterates and have no printed literature. They learn those songs orally. They participate in fairs, which are held in Mahadeshwara hills during ‘Diwali’, ‘Shivaratri’ and ‘Ugadi’ festivals and are found extensively in Mysore, Mandya and Bangalore districts of the state.

Thank you for all the information, Rajpal. Just a few minutes of that song had so much of a story behind it! Here’s some more of the KamsALe, with more of dance:

Two very different destinations

October 12, 2014

We pay a lot of homage
To success.
I’ve been watching a music video.
I see the packed halls;
I see the roaring cheers.
It makes me think about the road to this place, Success…
The gigs in small towns, the half-empty places,
The wondering if, after all,
One has the staying power
That, allied (or not) to talent
Could reach that elusive goal….Success.
The road that leads to Success
Can often curve, imperceptibly,
Into the blind alleys of Failure, too.
Success and Failure are like the two faces
Of Janus; one looking forward into the light,
The other, fading into the dimness, the darkness,
Of oblivion, sinking away into the numbers
That are described, in racing parlance,
As “also-rans”.
The efforts that lead to Failure
Are no less than those that fetch up at Success.
I feel for those who end up at the wrong destination….

The music video that brought this on:

L Shankar, and his double violin

October 2, 2014

L. Shankar

is one of a family of musicians, of which

L. Subramaniam

is the best-known.

However, I was privileged to listen, when I was young to a 78 rpm record (yes, called “vinyl” these days) of an album of his, called “Who’s To Know”, where he played on his own invention, the double violion

The Wiki entry says, “During the 1980s, Shankar recorded periodically as a leader, doing both jazz-based material and Indian classical music. His 1980 release of the album Who’s To Know on ECM introduced the unique sound of his own invention, the ten-string, stereophonic double violin. This instrument, designed by Shankar and built by noted guitar maker Ken Parker, covers the entire orchestral range, including double bass, cello, viola and violin. He has recently developed a newer version of his instrument which is much lighter than the original.”

Here’s a video that shows him playing this wondrous invention of his:

However, this seems to be more of virtuoso playing, with a lot of riffs and gymnastics. It does not bring out the extraordinary range of the instrument, its honeyed tones, or the skill of the mastery of the player, with melody being the go-by for the mathematical swara-prasthArA.

Here’s an interview of him on Sun TV (quite recent, 17th Feb 2014.)

He talks about himself and his experience. A hackneyed interview format, but still, very informative.

My favourites are the album, “Who’s To Know”, from which you can hear an excerpt


(rAgam: hEmavathi.)

And this piece where the rAgA AbhEri is taken up for a rAgam thAnam pallavi (er, it’s nearly one hour long!)

However, the second piece is finished rather abruptly at the rAga AlApanA stage.

The visuals, too, were very interesting for me to see, being clips from all over India.

Such wonderful creativity…I salute this great musician.

June 30, 2014

It was a wonderful experience to go to Gamla Linkoping (the old town of Linkoping), where heritage buildings have been brought in and re-built with every possible care. There are several museums, housed in these old buildings, that visitors can walk into. In the whole area, many people who are in period costumes walk about; and today, when the local newspaper was pushed into the mail slot, I found out a bit more about two musicians whom I met there.

Here’s Jacek Malisz, with his accordion:


And here’s Lasse Strom (er, that “o” should have an umlaut), with his “Strohfiol”, which is a violin with an amplifier:


And here they are, playing together.


Jacek’s accordion, he told me, was over a hundred years old. Lasse was very much more witty; he had a “spiel” of dialogue ready for the tourist that I was. He told me how the basic element of the violin had been integrated with this amplifier (it was made of aluminium) for the better carrying of the sound, in the days before microphones and loudspeakers (and, indeed, electricity) were in place.

“Do your children also play this?” I asked him. “No!” he said emphatically. “When a child learns an instrument, it’s cruel for everyone else around to hear it!” “But your parents somehow put up with the noise of *your* learning,” I laughed; and he laughed with me. “Regarding music…one of my daughters has a ear,” he said, and I nodded sagely, understanding about having a ear for music. Then, of course, he added, “The other one has TWO ears!” and laughed happily at having cracked a good joke!It was my turn to laugh with him!

I am trying to get the link to the newspaper article about them (it appears in the “Summer” supplement to the June 25/26 issue of “Linkopings Posten”). , if you could help me, I’d be very grateful, I’ve not been successful yet!

With the help of Google Translate, I’ve learnt that the two musicians have been playing at Gamla Linkoping for the past 32 years, but this is going to be stopped soon…sorry, I couldn’t wade through the entire article, typing it out on Google Translate!

The genius of Lalgudi Jayaraman

August 14, 2013

Lalgudi Jayaraman was truly a musical genius, one of the top-class violinists I’ve known… and a very creative musician. He was a close family friend was a long time, and I was privileged to hear him practising when he came and stayed with us, and often saw the process of his creating some of his thillanas.

I’m choosing one very tiny fraction of his creativity here, where he makes the “sAhityam” of Subramanya Bharati’s poem about Krishna’s mischievious deeds come alive with his mastery over his instrument.

I’ve included the translation, to help you appreciate how he elicits the meaning of the words…

The lyrics are transliterated


But I want to take it a little at a time. The song, “ThIrAtdha viLayAttu piLLai”, starts at 13’43”.

theeraadha vilaiyaattup pillai – kannan
theruvilae pengalukkoayaadha thollai

Kannan (Krishna) is an unceasingly playful boy. He is an unremitting nuisance to the girls on the street.


thinnap pazham kondu varuvaan – paadhi
thinginra poadhilae thattip parippaan

He’ll give (me) fruit to eat…and as it is half-eaten, he’ll snatch it.

(Listen to Lalgudi playing this can *hear* the fruit being snatched, lightly, the first time, and sharply, the second.

15’23”, 15’33”)

ennappan ennaiyaan enraal – adhanai
echchir paduththik kadiththuk koduppaan

When I beg him, he bites it with his mouth, making it “ecchal”,and then give it back. Here, Bharatiyar’s words themselves give the effect of biting off, and Lalgudi follows the words (“sAhitya bANi”


azhagulla malar kondu vandhae – ennai
azha ahach cheydhapin kannai moodik kol
kuzhalilae soottuvaen enbaan – ennaik
kurudaakki malarinai thoazhikku vaippaan

He’ll get me a beautiful flower, and after
teasing me to tears, he’ll say, close your eyes,
I’ll set it in your hair…he’ll
make me blind, and set the flower in my friend’s hair instead


pinnalaip pinninrizhuppaan – thalai

(Listen to this part. You can hear the in-and-out “plaiting” of the hair!

17’32”, 17’38”, 17’48”)

pinnae thirumbumun naer senru maraivaan
vannap puduch chaelai thanilae – puzhudi
vaarich chorindhae varuththik kulaippaan

Before I can turn my head back, he’ll vanish
He’ll cover my new, colourful saree
With dust and trouble me to death


pullaanguzhal kondu varuvaan – amudhu

He’ll bring his flute…
(now…hear Lalgudi’s violin become a flute!
18’32”, 18’46”, 18’56”)

pongith thadhumbu nal geedham padaippaan

He’ll create music that overflows with nectar

kallaal mayanguvadhu poalae – adhainaik

(As if we are drunk on liquor…listen to the slightly tipsy effect:

19’26”, 19’30”)

kanmoodi vaaythirandhae kaettiruppoam

We’ll listen to it with closed eyes and open mouths


This is from one of the LP records produced by HMV; there was also “nAjIvAdhAra” in Bilahari on that record, and the Thilang thillana.

Accompanying him on the violin in this rendition is his sister Srimathi Brahmanandam, who is, in my opinion, an even more talented violinist than he was, but whose talent was overshadowed in those days of male chauvinism…Gopala Iyer’s son was favoured over his daughter. (I saw it happen, I am not reporting hearsay.)

When melody is lost…

July 25, 2013

Sanjay Subramaniam is one of the Carnatic vocalists I normally like to listen to, very much.

Why “normally”?

Because of the video above. This, to my mind, is a prime example of what can happen when melody and “nidAnam” depart from our music. The song is “unnaiyallAl vErE gathi illai ammA” in the rAgam kalyANi.

Up to past 9 minutes , everything is smooth sailing, the melodious notes flow well, and the mood of the phrase that he has taken up for neraval, the “title” line, which means, “I have no saviour other than you, Mother” is enunciated.

But then, at 10.00, melody and the sweetness is sacrificed for rhythm and “adukku”, and the whole mood of the song, to me at least, is lost.

This is why I listen much more to north Indian music, these days, in preference to Carnatic music. This rattling of the rhythm and need for speed leaves a contemplative mood far behind, and is jarring to my ears.

The burden of this song is beseeching; “I have been acting long enough on the stage of this world, grant me a boon, and let me stop!” Surely, these lyrics set a mood very different from the cacaphonic crash of jathi and tALam, and should not be treated thus.

This is not aimed at one artiste; most singers seem to forget about bhakti, or the majesty that comes with a particular song, and indulge in calisthenics that spoil that mood.And…it’s not just now; I’ve seen such butchering happening amongst singers of the 60’s, 70’s.. since I started listening to Carnatic music, in fact. Sanskrit, Telugu and other language lyrics broken into meaningless phrases…(eg. “kAma krOdhudu”, in “manasu nilpa shaktilEka” by Thyagaraja, truncated to “kAma krO” for kalpanAswaram!)

North Indian music also does have speed and virtuoso displays, but the melody does not seem sacrificed to speed and gymnastics.

The American-Indian flautist, Cahokia Mounds, 140713

July 15, 2013

I went to Cahokia Mounds yesterday, with my friend, Ruth Hartsell, who is very kind-hearted and takes me to all sorts of interesting places! In so many years of visiting St.Louis, I’d never been to this World Heritage Site. It was well worth the visit, but I’m writing about an exhibition of native American (Indian is politically incorrect word now?) art and craft there, and I talked to this musician, who had several flutes for sale, made from Cedar and other woods…


Here’s a short video; he played the flute at my request:

And just to delight you…here are his children, who are obviously four feet tall and having a lot of fun!


Names that go together…

July 3, 2013

Some names from the past that just go together…Hall and Stevens (geometry), Wren and Martin (English grammar), Swan and Edgar (shopping in London), Lakshmikant and Pyarelal, Shankar and Jaikishen (Hindi film music) Viswanathan and Ramamurthy (Tamizh film music), Simon and Garfunkel (pop music)….

I read a P G Wodehouse piece where he said that in an attempt to make the most unlikely people the murderers in a mystery book, the author would say the murder was committed by two people who appeared on the first page…Hodder and Stoughton! :)))) Inspired by a friend’s post. Thank you, Vandana Murthy!

For no particular reason, I am posting this picture of bright colours, and this one of black and white, together…just for the contrast!


University City Children’s Center, 010713


Random sighting on a footpath, St.Louis, 010713.

Cough Syrup

January 10, 2013

Things haven’t been going well for me, and not only on LJ. Well, I suppose it’s really my fault. But that doesn’t make it easier to bear, and today, I felt pressurized and sick…and suicidal. But I posted a message on FB, and immediately, friends reached out, with messages and emails….and my friend Arun sent me this link:

What a lovely song! Anyone else out there, with the megrims….do listen, and cheer up!

A song from the heyday of Tamizh film music…

January 11, 2012

\Here’s a video of a lovely song, from the movie

Server Sundaram

a melodramatic tear-jerker from 1964.

It shows the prolific and prodigiously talented music director,

M S Viswanathan

(click on the wiki link to see what kind of adversity he has battled in life…it’s amazing!)

…why he is wearing a suit in the hot and humid Chennai weather is a mystery!

actually conducting the orchestra, and the equally prolific singer,

T M Soundararajan (TMS) ,

The translation of the lyrics in this video are hilarious… so are the antics of the hero and heroine….but the song illustrates the great talent in those days of Tamizh cinema, and the innovative use of western instruments.

Both Hindi and Tamil film music from this era are superb.