Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Music is in the air!!

When it dawned upon me that I would have to move out of Chennai after my marriage, one of the things which I was sure I would sorely miss was the December music festival and the carnatic music concerts that my hometown is never short of.
But was I mistaken! Bangalore does have its dose of this wonderful art too. The husband and I have almost been on a concert marathon for the past few weeks. Here is a brief review on the best amongst them :

Vishaka Hari’s upanyasam(a style of story telling) on ‘Sriranga Vaibhavam’

This lady is nothing short of a genius. A qualified Chartered Accountant and an accomplished carnatic music vocalist, she later on took to Harikatha. Her inimitable style of narration, liberal peppering of the story with apt musical compositions and food for thought that she draws out of the simplest of instances is simply outstanding. The greatness of our country and the saints who graced it , the gazillion stories from our puranas and scriptures, insightful interpretations, elevating thoughts - I could just go on and on if I were to write about what makes her concerts so special. Every single recital of hers elevates you to a different plane and is so fulfilling to listen to. Her upanyasam certainly has the ability to inspire a common man towards life with more of spiritual awareness.

Under the theme ‘Sriranga Vaibhavam’, she narrated the story of how the Srirangam temple came into existence. The presiding deity( Ranganatha Swamy) is apparently the first idol that was created by Lord Vishnu himself for worship by humans. The creation of this idol marks the beginning of idol worship. She also went on to narrate how the deity became the kula dhana (Family fortune) of the Ikshvaku dynasty(Lord Rama’s lineage)and then later on  took residence at Srirangam.
It was a new experience to listen to Hari Katha in English which she did for the sake of the Bangalore audience. Her English was impeccable and she managed to do the same extempore poetic exclamations that she usually does in Tamil. Though she had mastery over the English language too, I felt a lot was lost in translation. The power of expression and the beauty of the native language could just not be completely brought out in English.
But over all, it was a very elevating experience and each member of the audience who packed the auditorium well beyond its capacity, went back feeling satisfied and spiritually uplifted.

Sri TV Shankarnarayanan – Carnatic vocal music recital

TVS as he is popularly called is one of the stalwarts of the yesteryears. What never fails to amaze me is that he continues to give outstanding performances. His 67 years of age shows no effect whatsoever on his voice. He still enthrals the audience with a melodious voice and demonstrates complete mastery over it. The perfect breath control, sound quality and clear pronunciation that totally support the showcasing of his expertise and creativity is so awe inspiring. His concert was three hours of immersion in the best of what carnatic music has to offer to a rasika. I felt so grateful for getting such a wonderful treat of divine music.

Malladi brothers and Gundecha brothers – Jugalbandhi of the Carnatic and Drupad style of singing

I had my reservations about attending this concert. Insufferable purist that I am, I have always believed that I would never enjoy any other form of music other than the one that I know :)
We landed up in the concert hall one whole hour after it began(thanks to my misgivings) but were almost instantly impressed with what reached our ears as we entered.

I simultaneously had two first time experiences at this concert. I am hearing Malladi brothers for the first time and I felt I had missed something truly great for such a long time. Powerful  voices with an easy reach that filled the air around you, an admirable mastery over the art, good selection of ragas and compositions – what more do you need for enthralling the audience! The other first time experience was the exposure to the Drupad style of singing. The Gundecha brothers again had very good and well trained voices.  They are leading Drupad singers and are recipients of the prestigious Padmashree award.
The juxtaposition of the two styles was a real treat to listen to and was an eye opening experience. The artists took up ragas that exist in both genres and beautifully improvised it for the audience in the form of an alaap, followed by a composition and then swaram singing. The accompanists were equally brilliant. I found the Drupad style to be a very meditative form of music and have really started liking it. This concert expanded my limited vision of music and am so thankful for that!

And the musical journey continues. There are quite a few concerts scheduled for the weeks to come and we all are geared up to attend them and immerse ourselves in the ocean of bliss that music is. Bangalore has sure scored some brownie points in this arena! 

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Travelogue - A trip to Coonoor

Beginning of February saw us pack up for a family holiday at Coonoor – a beautiful hill station close to Ooty. Only, it has the advantage of being far less crowded and more peaceful. My sister zeroed in on this place after wide research to ensure it fit all the requirements  - the maiden journey of her 3 month old baby, the activity appetite of her other 5 year old, the long drive passion of my BIL, enough of excitement for the just wed and enough relaxation for the grandparents lot. Phew! A long list indeed!

We all assembled at Coimbatore and then drove down to Coonoor. Our stay was booked at Bison Country , a pretty little resort which had 4 cottages and 2 rooms, each of them offering a stunning view of the towering lush green hills right opposite to the place. The entire resort was so beautifully landscaped with lawns and a wide variety of flowers. This coupled with the farm animals that freely loitered the place(a couple of ducks, turkey, hens and pretty rabbits) gave us the comforting feeling of sitting right in the lap of mother nature. Just standing in those green surroundings and silence that was disturbed only by the sounds of the wind and birds was such a soothing experience. It proved to be an ideal setting for the family time that we had planned for.

Snapshot view of bison country Resort

The Beautiful hill view from the cottage

After a much needed noon siesta post the road travel, we spent the evening at the resort itself, engaging ourselves with hot tea, snacks and games while my nephew had his fill of fun playing with the animals. As the sun went down and the night set in, it began to get quite cold and we all settled around the camp fire. After a fun session of songs and chit chat, we treated ourselves to the hot and yummy dinner prepared by the caretaker couple. The resort also houses a small library of books and DVDs and the collection was pretty good. They have facilities for a few indoor and outdoor games as well.

Day 2 dawned and we all got ready for some sightseeing. Our first destination was the Raliah dam. After manoeuvring through several hairpin bends and steep slopes as we enjoyed the breathtakingly beautiful hills, we reached a spot high up in the mountains. From there, we had to do a short trek through a thicket of eucalyptus trees to reach the dam. The place was so quiet but for a stray bird chirp and leaves cracking under our feet. It was a little eerie and after climbing through mounds of mud and bushes, we were greeted by ...

Raliah Dam

Placidity at its best! I just couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful sight in front of me. The water was so still that it looked like a huge mirror reflecting the trees and mountains all around it. That coupled with the complete silence just took my breath away. I just drowned and drowned in the peace and quiet and the overpowering beauty of nature that stretched out before me and had to be shaken back to my senses when we got ready to leave the place.

We then had lunch at a French  restaurant which was housed in an old bungalow surrounded by beautiful green hills. By then, the baby and her brother had become restless and the grandparents lot was tired too and so we returned to the resort. Only the husband and I wanted further activity and after some research, we settled for walks around the resort area. And that was a great experience too, for we were surrounded by  beautiful mountains and pretty wild flowers carpeted the road sides wherever we went. I collected some particularly pretty ones and presented them to my nephew who recived it with a cute little smile :)

For day 3, we visited a tea factory, drove and trekked to several other view points, each of them higher and steeper up the hills and each competing with the other for the beautiful sights they offered. Here are a few samples :

This was a trip that completely soaked us in nature, leisure and wonderful family time. So if that’s what you are looking for, pack your bags and set off to this place!!