Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Ritha Rajan on Brinda’s rendition of Dikshitar kritis

By Siddhartha Jagannath
The Music Academy
23 December 2012

In her lec-dem, Prof. Ritha Rajan said that Veena Dhanammal’s family had not only preserved Dikshitar’s songs , but also those of Syama Sastri and of course, of Kshetrayya. She went on to say that Dikshitar kritis formed a large part of T Brinda’s family repertoire. Her family belonged to the direct sishya parampara of Muthuswami Dikshitar. Veena Dhanammal was a disciple of Satanur Panchanata Iyer, who in turn was a direct disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar. This tradition, however, was purely oral. Dr. V. Raghavan once said that before some interest was taken in Dikshitar’s kritis, Veena Dhanammal’s school had already preserved many valuable compositions. 

The discussion then moved to the Sangeeta Sampradaya Pradarsini by Subbarama Dikshitar, a grandson of Dikshitar’s brother.  The SSP which gives the notation of many of Dikshitar’s kritis with gamaka signs, was written in Telugu.  It also reveals many unknown kritis of Dikshitar. Many Dikshitar kritis were also learnt from Ambi Dikshitar, the son of Subbarama Dikshitar by doyens like D.K. Pattammal and T.L. Venkatrama Iyer. Also, Kallidaikurichi Ananthakrishna Iyer and Sundaram Iyer copied down notes of Dikshitar kritis from the manuscripts of Ambi Dikshitar. The oldest generation of direct sishyas of Dikshitar was that of the Tiruvarur nagaswara vidwans, again part of the oral tradition.

Thirty-one kirtanas were handed down to Brinda through Veena Dhanammal. Out of these songs, Dhanammal learnt Akshayalinga vibho from Keezhkarai Muthu Iyer. The song Tyagarajaya namaste was taught to Brindamma by Kanchipuram Naina Pillai, who had learnt it from Ettayapuram Ramachandra Bhagavatar. Brindamma acquired Hasti vadanayya in Navaroj from Tirupampuram Swaminatha Pillai. Other than these three, all the kritis belonged to the Satanur Panchanata Iyer’s patanthara. 

Some interesting points of note were that only one of the nine Kamalamba navavarna kritis is given. For Sri Mahaganapatim in Goula the tala was given as triputa. Some rare kritis like Brhannayaki in Andali and Veena pustaka dharini in Vegavahini were included in Brinda’s repertoire. The family also also sang rupaka thala as tisra ekam. Also Brindamma rendered Divakara tanujam in Eka talam and not in Adi talam as it is popularly sung today.

Rithaji said that when songs were sung according to the SSP, they sounded almost outdated. When compared with the SSP, some of Brindamma’s renderings were different. For instance, the SSP gives the raga Andali (the kriti, Brhannayaki) under the 28th raganga Harikedaragoula with antara gandhara while Brinda’s Andali comes under Sri with sadharana gandhara. However 24 of Brindamma’s Dikshitar kritis are in accordance with the SSP. Speaking extensively of Angarakam asrayami, she said that in Veena Dhanammal’s school it was sung like a padam. Rithaji also sang the song. 

Next she spoke a bit on the repetition of dhatus in Chetasree, Sri Venugopala and Arunachalanatham. She sang a bit of the anupallavi to demonstrate this. Also in Chetasree, the word amritam is added after Giridhara’ in the anupallavi in the Brinda style. Lastly, Rithaji dwelt on the nuances found in the renditions. She talked about the plain notes found in Tyagarajaya namaste, and demonstrated many phrases from different songs that displayed nokku very beautifully. The jaru or slide was also mentioned. Finally she talked about kantipu, a type of gamakam found predominantly in the raga Sankarabharanam. Dr Pappu Venugopal Rao praised this lecture for its in-depth research. 

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