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         Latangi is the sixth in Charsur's ragam-tanam-pallavi series









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A raga in full splendour

Charsur Digital, Chennai
Rs 50

This is a complex exposition of raga Latangi, which combines the scales of Kalyani and Karaharapriya

Latangi is the 63rd melakarta raga. It uses the first half of raga Kalyani raga and the second half of raga Karaharapriya. Latangi is the focus of this well-recorded album.

A ragam tanam pallavi (RTP, as people shorten it these days) is the most abstract form in Karnatak music. The ragam refers to the alapana, the tanam is the rhythmic alapana, and the pallavi, with a bare skeleton of words, is rendered in various speeds and with various rhythmic stresses. And then come the neraval (elaboration) and the kalpana swaras (flights of improvised solfas). All of which may make it sound esoteric and unenjoyable.

Charsur Digital Workstation has been producing a series on RTP, featuring such artistes as Bombay Jayashri (lately into film music, thanks to Harris Jeyaraj and compositions like Vaseegara) and T N Seshagopalan.

Latangi is the sixth in this series and the pallavi on this album is structured on a long 72-count cycle, khanda jati triputa in 8 kalais. With a single count on each finger this would mean 9 counts for the 1 kalai variation, but each finger has to keep 8 sub counts which gives a 8 kalai variation. This is elaborated in four speeds with a tisra jati nadai thrown in.

There is a lot of arithmetic on this album, but Ravikiran's holistic sense of music makes the complex ideas here almost accessible to non-specialists. Over the years, Ravikiran has worked on the tone of the instrument and the timbre, always rich, now seems to have a rounded feel, and the resonance is fuller.

The alapana of Latangi is concise; through the pallavi there is more unfolding. The tanam starts in Latangi and goes into ragas Chalanata, Gowri, Shuddha Saveri, Vijayashri and Manirangu instead of the usual Nattai, Gowlai, Arabhi, Varali, Madhyamavati. This part of the tanam can sound frilly and frivolous with lesser artistes.

The pallavi itself begins like a great expedition into deep waters. The chitravina's measured playing of "Latangi, lalitangi, maragadangi meenakshi brovamu" is majestic. In the neraval or the lyrical interpretation, Ravikiran takes up each word of the pallavi as a point to land on and depart from, making it perhaps the only pallavi recording in recent years to be worked out in all its possible splendour. Even vocalists who can keep count on their fingers as they sing don't attempt such an involved RTP these days.

Mysore Nagaraj, who shows the influence of M S Gopalakrishnan, plays the violin in modest accompaniment. Vizianagaram Satish Kumar plays the mrudangam and V Nagarajan the kanjira. The percussionists don't replicate the sequence in which Ravikiran unravels the pallavi. Instead they just take up the single kalai interpretation and do a miniature reflection of the earlier grand interpretation by the main performer.

The Music Magazine asked Chitravina Ravikiran if he needed to rehearse with his accompanists. He said they only needed to be explained the tala and pallavi layout and the recording went off smoothly.

Indian classical music, with its stress on improvisation, trains its musicians to play to any complicated tala and any pallavi composition without much notice. The metronome is used on this recording but it can just keep time, it cannot tell you on which part of the 72 count tala you are at any given moment. The musicians have to keep track of that on their own even as they accomplish an aesthetic exploration and juggling of the raga. Above all that the ease with which this is gracefully interpreted is the sign of a very evolved musical mind at work.

S Suchitra Lata

Published on 24 Aug 2001

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