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Vedavalli with Lalgudi Jayaraman


What does niraval mean?

R Vedavalli, the highly regarded classical vocalist, demonstrates the principles of improvisation on this useful album

Manodharma Sangeetham
Niraval - R Vedavalli

HMV (Rs 50)
STHVS 857177 

What is the origin of the word 'niraval'? Which ragas are suitable for singing niraval? And which talas? How should percussionists perform while the main artiste is singing or playing 'niraval'?

The answers to these and many more questions on this aspect of Karnatak music are found in this cassette, which contains a lecture demonstration by R Vedavalli.

Vedavalli is a senior vocalist known for her profound scholarship and her ability to translate her knowledge into practice and teaching.

This album is part of Vedavalli's  Manodharma Sangeetham (improvisation music) series. The series also includes Kalpana Swaram, Raga Alapana and Vruttam, Tanam and Pallavi.

Niraval is a word of Tamil origin, and means "to fill". It was not part of old music. Ghana ragas and rakthi ragas are ideal for singing niraval while vakra sanchara ragas like Kathanakuthuhalam and Nalinakanthi are more difficult to handle. Rupaka tala in two kalams and Mischrachapu tala are best suited for niraval singing. As for the percussion, it should be mellow and restrained for slow niraval and brisk and lively for fast niraval.

This album answers the question whether Karnatak music can be learnt through cassettes. Some of it can, if the lessons are handled by someone who is able to explain complex issues with absolute clarity. The second challenge comes in matching the text to the music samples. Great care has been taken in this regard, with the English commentary being followed by apt illustrative examples from the music of well known artistes.

And like a lesson for a student sitting before a teacher, the commentary gets shorter as the cassette progresses and the examples get longer!

The album comes to an auspicious end with a longish "niraval" by Vedavalli herself on the line "Mangalakara Mandahasa Vadana" from her favourite Chintayama in raga Bhairavi.            

Ambujam Anantharaman

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