Pearls of Purandara
Balamuralikrishna & Kalavathy Avadhooth
During the days when Doordarshan ruled the air waves and was the only TV channel available, I was not the only one who felt there ought to be more films on TV. Now, the situation is exactly opposite. There is an excess of not just films but also film-based programmes on the many cable and satellite TV channels. There is so much of it that I hate TV programmes now. Even news and cricket coverage has suffered from excessive commercialisation. Thankfully, I rediscovered Carnatic Music and began to like it.
Even if the songs are in a different language, I like them. I don't even
need a human voice singing songs. Even instrumental music is okay for me. All
India Radio (AIR) has been a patron for Carnatic music for very long. They
now have a dedicated radio channel AIR Ragam for Carnatic music on their DD
Direct Plus DTH service. It is not just their Carnatic music broadcasts, I
started liking even their folk music programmes.
(This is very surprising because I used to dread those நாட்டுபுற கலைகள்
(Naatupura Kalaigal) programmes on DD.)
On Dish TV, you can get Carnatic music
on a dedicated channel named AIR Ragam. I connect the audio output of the
settop box to a set of 2.1 computer speakers and then I do not need the TV
Radio Indigo also plays a great collection of devotional songs between 5 to 7 in the morning. Unfortunately, Indigo FM does not provide any details of the tracks. Some songs sound very awkward, as they are accompanied by Western musical instruments. You might like Uma Mohan's Chandrasekhara Pahimam (Chandrashekara Ashtakam) but other songs may not fare well. At least, Ms. Mohan's songs are all in Sanskrit.
Anyway, when I started living in Bangalore, I did not have a TV. I had a short wave radio that I used to listen to Gyan Vaani education channel. The FM channel (107.2) broadcasts audio lessons for students of the distance education program of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). I liked to listen to the radio lessons, as I learned at least one new thing every day. In the morning, they sometimes play devotional or folk songs. One day, they played recitals of a Purandara kriti by Kalavathy Avadhooth. I was completely taken aback by the quality of the vocals and execution of orchestra.
Initially, I did not know what song was or who was the singer. The song was not played regularly. One day, I recorded the song with my phone and with the help of some of my Kannadiga friends, I identified the song as a Purandara kriti. One day, I caught Gyan Vaani mentioning the singer's name. I then went to several shops and asked for the cassette/CD of the artist. No luck. I got Sri Balamurali Krishna disc instead. (While my mother did not like his voice, I enjoyed it very much. I could not explain to her why it was great. My father was very happy with my complete transition. (Balamuralikrishna is an acquired taste, even for avid Carnatic music lovers.)
Then, I set one of my friends, who is a real Carnatic musician, to do some investigation and find Ms. Kalavathy Avadhooth. Somehow, he found her address, met her, and got me a cassette tape of her album Pearls of Purandara. I have converted the songs to an audio CD and play it on my mp3 player regularly.
UPDATE (23-Feb-2014): For a few years now, several people have asked for the MP3s. I did not want to put the MP3s online without the artist's permission. I came close to contacting her at a concert. However, I made the mistake of squatting on the floor, which was a mistake. By the time it ended, my legs were were in a great deal of pain and I left without speaking to her. Now, it looks like I will not meet her again. So, I am sharing her songs now without her permission. I hope she doesn't mind. The MP3 quality is not that great as the cassette-to-MP3 conversion was done using a Walkman and a simple PC, not a professional rig. Get them from https://db.tt/YejtXzAf. Two years ago, someone in the USA asked me to me send a copy of the CD. We thought of several ways of doing this and finally I settled on uploading it to a Dropbox account. I forgot about it until today, when Dropbox sent an e-mail about an updated TOS. So, now I have shared the MP3s with everyone. Please don't make commercial use of them. Please contact the Ms. Avadhooth directly for further use. Ms. Avadhooth seems to be active in the concert circuit and you can contact her for professional performances.
Pearls of Purandhara - Kalavathi Avadhoot
This album is no longer under production but the artist still has copies.
- Hariyennu in Kharaharapriya
- Aariddarenayya in Desh
- Bevu bella in Behag
- Seraga bido in Dwijavanti
- Hari Hari in Punnagavarali
- Satyavantarigidu in Bhairavi
- Nindakarirabeku in Poorvikalyani
- Yellanu ballenembuviralla in Madhyamavati
- Oora devara in Nadanamakriya
The orchestration was by Anoor Ananthakrishna Sarma.
Here is a review from Sruti.com.
This is a well-executed recording of some of the compositions of Purandaradasa. Kalavathy Avadhooth has a melodious voice which traverses a wide range with facility and clarity. Her diction is clear, making the sahitya easily understandable. The orchestration is non-intrusive. Altogether, a good bit of music.
Purandara - The Legend and His Kritis
Everyone whom I had given the mp3s liked the album. Kannadiga recipients said that if I understood the meanings of the songs, I will like it even more. This seems to be true but I have not much headway in learning Kannada. The gist of Satyavantarigidu (நல்லவர்களுக்கு காலமில்லை) is already a part of popular speech in Tamil and probably other languages as well.
Here is a description of the singer-saint from Wikipedia.
Purandara Dasa (1484 - 1564) is one of the most prominent composers of Carnatic music and is widely regarded as the "father of Carnatic Music". Purandara Dasa addressed social issues in addition to worship in his compositions. Purandara Dasa's Carnatic music compositions are mostly in Kannada; some are in Sanskrit. He signed his compositions with the mudra (pen name), "Purandara Vittala". About 1000 of his songs are extant; Indian History credits him with having composed as many as 475,000.
Purandara Dasa systematized the method of teaching Carnatic music which is followed to the present day. He introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla as the basic scale for music instruction and fashioned series of graded lessons such as swaravalis, janta swaras, alankaras, lakshana geetas, prabandhas, ugabhogas, thattu varase, geetha, sooladis and kritis. Another of his important contributions was the fusion of bhava, raga, and laya in his compositions. Purandara Dasa was the first composer to include comments on ordinary daily life in song compositions. He used elements of colloquial language for his lyrics. He introduced folk ragas into the mainstream, setting his lyrics to tunes/ragas of his day so that even a common man could learn and sing them. He also composed a large number of lakshya and lakshana geetas, many of which are sung to this day. His sooladis are musical masterpieces and are the standard for raga lakshana. Scholars attribute the standardization of varna mettus entirely to Purandara Dasa.
The itinerant dasas who succeeded him are believed to have followed the systems he devised, as well as orally passing down his compositions.
Purandara Dasa was a vaggeyakara, a lakshanakara, and the founder of musical pedagogy. For all these reasons and the enormous influence that he had on Carnatic music, musicologists call him the "Sangeeta Pitamaha" of Carnatic music.
Purandara Dasa had great influence on Hindustani music. The foremost Hindustani musician Tansen's teacher, Swami Haridas was Purandara Dasa's disciple. Purandara Dasa's compositions are equally popular in Hindustani music.
The last part about compositions nearing 5 lakhs may seem too good to be true. My musician friend says that in Purandara's time, life was much more easy-going and a talented person like could have been singing all day. Whatever the case may be, it is quite true that the majority of his compositions are lost to our generations.
Satyavantharigidu Kalavalla (Dasara Padagalu) - M. Balamuralikrishna
- Krishna Yenubaarade
- Anugalavu Chinte
- Yenu Baradeyo
- Ee Pariya
- Aaru Hithavaru
- Hodi Nagari
- Yenu Madidarenu