Reviews from the press and the web
Awesome T.N. Seshagopalan Harikatha on Sri Thyagaraja (11th Feb 2007)
very few people who can don multiple hats and yet manage to enviably excel
in each of the roles they play. One such great person is Sri T.N.
Seshagopalan (TNS) - vocalist, vainika, keyboard/harmonium artist, teacher,
harikatha exponent, composer .... you could just go on and on. The rasikas
assembled at Amarabharati, West Tank St., Tiruvanmiyur, Chennai yesterday
got to witness the "Harikatha Exponent" in the multi-faceted TNS. A very
impressive performance it was that left me with this feeling of having
witnessed something great, of having learnt a lot and of wanting to learn a
lot more about this boundless ocean that Carnatic Music is.
Report in The Hindu on the award of sangitha kalanidhi
CHENNAI: Renowned Carnatic vocalist Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan was given the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi title by The Music Academy on Monday.
Mr. Seshagopalan, who also presided over the Academy's 80th annual conference, was given the award during the Sadas, the academy's annual convocation. The Sadas also marked the end of the conference and the Academy's 18-day music festival, which had featured 80 concerts and 300 artistes.
Mr. Seshagopalan was given the award for his "versatile and creative" music and for being a "multifaceted personality" and "a respected guru with many disciples," the citation said.
"Musician of profound wisdom"
Conferring the award on him, which also included an insignia, vocalist Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, himself a Sangita Kalanidhi, said Mr. Seshagopalan was a musician of profound wisdom. The Music Academy was a unique institution rendering a yeoman service to classical music. It was necessary that senior artistes should be allowed to give concerts for a minimum of three hours to showcase their repertoire. The Academy should also consider holding music appreciation classes to widen the reach of classical music, Mr. Krishnamurthy said.
Mr. Krishnamurthy conferred the `Sangita Kala Acharya' awards on Bharatanatyam guru C.V. Chandrasekhar and music teacher Seetha Rajan, the TTK Awards on violinist A. Kanyakumari and vainika Padmavathy Ananthagopalan and the Vaggeyakara Award on composer Suguna Purushothaman.
Earlier, in his welcome address, N. Murali, president, The Music Academy, commended Mr. Seshagopalan's brilliant contributions to the annual conference. The music season had been a resounding success, as there had been huge turnouts for both vintage classical music concerts and those by young, contemporary musicians.
TVS Motors' contribution
In his acceptance speech, Mr. Seshagopalan said the award had been made possible through the grace of his gurus and the patronage of his rasikas.
Vidwan Thirupambaram S. Shanmugasundaram felicitated Mr. Seshagopalan, while vocalist R. Vedavalli felicitated the other awardees.
Lecture demonstration on Mutthiah Bhagavathar by TNSeshagopalan -The Hindu dated 4-1-2007
If the raga Karnaranjani, a creation of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar (1877-1945) has gained popularity among musicians today, the credit goes to Madurai T.N.Seshagopalan, who made a practice of singing that raga as a prelude to the kriti "Vanchatonu" with a chittaswaram composed by him. Totally dedicated to Bhagavathar, who was his guru, Seshagopalan made a remarkable presentation of his life and contribution to Carnatic music.
He commenced the lec-dem saying Muthiah Bhagavathar was a `Mahan' and that it was virtually impossible to condense his work into a short presentation. Muthiah's grandfather was Muthu Subbaier, a Sanskrit scholar and an authority on Veda who did pravachanam on the Ramayana and his father was Lingam Iyer. Muthiah Bhagavathar worshipped Patnam Subramania Iyer.
Thanjavur fostered the art of Harikatha and Lakshmana Suri, father of Justice T.L.Venkatarama Iyer, and he gave material for Harikatha to Muthiah Bhagavathar, who initially composed simple kritis. His mudra was `Harikesa.' He was famous for his `Tanam' singing.
Bhagavathar introduced musical compositions like Kavadi Chindu, Nondi Chindu and Themmangu in his Harikatha and took ample material from Tamil literature. He was noted for his punning on words. The `note' that was sung and made famous by Madurai Mani Iyer was composed by Muthiah Bhagavathar.
He interacted with Abraham Pandithar who was a musicologist of repute and he composed kritis in the line of Tyagaraja, Dikshitar and Syama Sastri.
Tradition in innovation
Seshagopalan took up the musical forms propagated by Muthiah Bhagavathar for enunciation. Tradition in innovation and vice versa is found in the kritis of Muthiah Bhagavathar. A kriti in Kadanakudukalam starting with "Giripriyam Gangadharam" was taken up for demonstration. Bhagavathar has done a chittaswaram and has given a different start for this kriti in the tara Shadjam.
Chittaswarams did not follow the pattern found in those days and thus he became a Deergadarsi.
Bhagavathar composed many varnams with swaraksharams shining like jewels. "Mana Mohana" was composed for the occasion of the arangetram of Ramanathapuram Sri C.S.Sankarasivam, the foremost disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar. This kriti is in praise of Muthuramalinga Sethupathy.
Muthiah Bhagavathar's Daru varnam, "Maathe" in Khamas is a model composition. The mukthai swarams after the anupallavi has swarams, solkattu and sahityam. The fourth chittaswaram of the Daru varnam is embellished with swaraksharam and rhetorical beauties such as Ni Maha Mata, Ni Sama Nigamasani, ManidaGanidariGadarini, Nidamaga. The same phenomenon is seen in the third chittaswaram of the Ata Tala varnam in Mohanam reading as "Dada Sagasa Dada, Padagada, Saga, garida, Parida, Dapadaparigari.
PHOTO K. N. MURALIDHARAN
Seshagopalan observed the appropriateness of the Daru varnam in the raga khamas (Khamasu khamasu), which has the effect of Vikatakavithvam.
Muthiah Bhagavathar moved to Mysore where he was looked after very well by the Maharaja, a musician himself, who brought to light the composing talent of Bhagavathar. Seshagopalan sang "Manamu Kavalanu Talli," in raga Sahana. A chittaswaram was rendered for this piece, which has a personal link. When Bhagavathar sang the song for the first time, in front of the Maharaja, he was indisposed and hence the recital was not one of his best. He became very upset and sang this kriti in front of Devi Chamundeshwari. The Maharaja happened to hear him sing and immediately made him the Asthana Vidwan. A good collection was composed after Bahgavathar became the Asthana Vidwan.
Seshagopalan underlined the imagination of Muthiah Bhagavathar, who, he said, had mastered the old order so well that he composed new compositions with great ease. Seshagopalan's guru wanted him to do chittaswaram especially for the kritis in the ragas created by him (Muthiah Bhagavathar) and the sishya has happily obliged.
Seshagopalan demonstrated the different ways of rendering music. Bhagavathar had a flair for composing kritis in Thisra Nadai, one of which, `Gham Ganapathe,' was rendered by Seshagopalan. Muthiah Bhagavathar collected about 400 kritis of Swati Tirunal from many households in Trivandrum. Deep in sorrow over the death of his daughter, Bhagavathar moved to Kasi, where he happened to hear `Sohini,' which reminded him of Hamsanandi. Seshagoplan sang the kriti "Neethu Mahima Pokata Na Tharama" in Hamsanandi, which starts from Nishadam.
The "Ganakramam," the unwritten law was taken into account, that is, starting from Thara shadjamam that was in use then. This pattern is adopted in Sivan's "Srinivasa Thiruvengada" and "Pahi Jagatjanani" of Swati Tirunal in Hamsanandi.
Karnaranjani, Pasupathipriya, and Vijayasaraswathi raga kritis were sung with chittaswarams. T.N.Seshagopalan observed the raga created by Muthiah Bhagavathar as Budha Manohari. This raga has been the result of the Gruhabeda, taking the Madhyamam Moorchanai of Kuntalavarali. Seshagopalan sang "Igane Tala" in Guha Ranjani raga. The Kapi raga kriti, "Raga Brahmamaanar," was sung. This kriti was composed when Seshagopalan performed a Harikatha on the life of Muthiah Bhagavathar as Gayakamani Charithram in which he had included all the ragas created and popularised by the guru.
"Oshtai" means joining of the lips. In raga Niroshta, the notes ma and pa are avoided and thus the lips do not join. The important feature being even in the sahithyam the lips do not join. Seshagopalan demonstrated this aspect through the song, "Rajaraja Aradhithe, Nadhanithe Sharade."
A tillana in Niroshta composed by Seshagopalan with the ankitha "Harikesa Dasa" was sung. It was a new experience to hear the tillana starting in the higher octave, swaras, solkattu, and sahityam adhered to the raga Niroshta.
The kriti, "Shantamaga Katchi Tandidum" in Yadhukula Khambodi is on Lord Narasimha and this kriti followed the spoken Tamil dialect of Tirunelveli. It was from the Harikatha tradition that ragas such as Jonpuri, Sindhu Bhairavi, and Kapi got popularised, Seshagopalan said. He rounded off the lec-dem with "Maamoor Valamperuga Vanda Kali" in Sindhu Bhairavi.
Apart from creating new ragas, Muthiah Bhagavathar had explored all the possibilities of the ragas, which were handled by the Trinity, and gave a new dimension with a fresh approach.
Excerpts from the review in rasikas.org
Music academy concert on 25-12-2006
1.The alapana of the four ragas was outstanding & the way
he changed the ragas was something out of the world. The voice also had settled
down by them. Chandrasekar who was like a pillar supporting the concert in the
ealier stages simply let loose at this stage. It was an amazing alapana clearly
proving why TNS is far ahead of others. The tanam was magnificent & TNS was so
involved by then, MC who never passes up a chance to play, said ' neengale
padidungo'. The pallavi was a bit short by TNS standard but again brilliant with
typical TNS kannakus & raga changes.
Then came the viruttam. As if to make up TNS sang brilliantly, i just lost count of the ragas he sang' each for 1 line & each stamped with TNS trade mark. TNS concluded with a detailed mangalam a good 20 mins past the regular concert time.
His alApanai was brilliant with him going in just one
breath transforming from shankarabharanam to tOdi to kalyAni to darbAr,
perfectly orchestrating like the 4 *100 metre relay team that passes the baton .A
perfect example of what human voice is capable of ? His brilliance in
the rAga continued but was little repetitive towards the end, more felt because
of a shorter pallavi .TAnam was sung well in all four rAgas and was very
good.The pallavi was too short (R T P ratio should not be 2 : 1 :1 , should be
atleast 2: 1 :2 or 3), I felt he could have done more justice to pallavi (Vijay
he had time for sure?). I am hearing this RTP for the first time in a live
The sanskrit slokham (not viruttam) was sAyankAle which he sang even during last year's Academy was excellent.That slokham reaches an outstanding musical joy when shri TNS just takes one phrase navarasa bharitha?? .I could spot only 2/3 rd of the rAgas .They were mOhanam, khamAs, atAnA, shyamA, subhapantuvarALi, kuntalavarALi, nIlAmbari, kApi, surutti, bowli and sindhubhairavi . A truly inspirational musician who was Simply Brilliant and beyond words.
concert @BGS1) bhajana sEyavE - kalyANi - rUpakam - thyAgarAja (OS)
2) satguru swAmiki - rItigowLa - Adi - rAmanAtapuram srInivAsa iyengAr
3) Ananda naTamADuvAr - pUrvikalyANi - rUpakam - nIlakanTa sivan (AS)
4) ambA nIlAyadAkshi - nIlAmbari - Adi - muthuswAmi dIkshitar
5) tappulaniyu - bowLi - rUpakam - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
6) sonnAl ozhiya - kannaDa - Adi - UthukkADu venkaTasubbaiyer
7) vAnchatOnu nA - karnaranjani - Adi - (tisra gati) - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
8 ) dAsharatE - tODi - Adi - thyAgarAja (ANST)
9) kalau kalmasha (viruttam) - ??
hariguNa gAvat - ?? - Adi - mIrAbAi
10) dIm tadara tAni (tillAnA) - bilahari - Adi - ariyakkuDi rAmAnuja iyengAr
11) vachana miga (tiruppugazh) - suruTTi - chatusra jampa - aruNagirinAthar
12) pavamAna (mangaLam) - sowrAshTram - Adi - thyAgarAja
13) sriya kAntAya (slOkam) - srI
(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)
1.This concert was supposed to have happened earlier towards the initial stages of Brahma Gana Sabha's festival but had got postponed as Sri TNS had been indisposed then. Some of my friends who went to the concert then to see the TNS+UKS combination were very frustrated over its cancellation. Since I was not there in Chennai at that time, I was keenly looking forward to Brahma Gana Sabha holding it in the latter half of their festival.
Sri TNS warmed up with "bhajana sEyavE" in kalyANi. Kalpana swarams were put at "vAda tarka mEla" in the charaNam. A relatively short but delightful pUrvikalyANi alapana, a slow and moving rendition of "ambA nIlAyadAkshi" and a few Sri Muthiah Bhagavathar compositions set the stage for the main composition of the day - "dAsharatE" in tODi.
The tODi alapana was an elaborate affair. It lasted for about 18 minutes and reminded me of a much longer tODi I had heard him sing in Bangalore a few months back (the Bangalore one is probably the best tODi I have heard till now) . Sri TNS did graha bhedam with rishabam as the base to sing mOhanakalyANi and with dhaivatam as base to sing kEdAram. Sri M. Chandrasekaran during his turn in the alapana also did graha bhedam with madhyamam as the base to play Anandabhairavi in kavaDi chindu style. The neraval and kalpana swarams sung for the kriti were fantastic as well. After the last kalpana swaram by Sri TNS ended, Sri UKS requested Sri MC to play kalpana swaram on the violin before the taniavartanam began. Sri MC initially would play a few phrases and allow Sri UKS to play his replies on the mridangam. After hearing him exactly translate whatever he played on the violin on the mridangam with some very good use of gumukis, Sri Chandrasekaran said "aaha ... enakku idha kettunde irukkalaam pola irukku (aaha .... I just feel like simply listening to your mridangam)" to which Sri TNS jokingly remarked "naa rendu per odadhaiyum kettindirukken (and I am listening to you both)".
The taniavartanam which Sri UKS and Sri Sundar Kumar played was also awesome. Sri UKS showed some very good use of gumukis again to create so many different pleasing sounds during the initial phase. Sri Sundar Kumar, who is no stranger to playing with Sri UKS, played brilliantly whenever his turn came.
TNS wound up the concert with a mangalam and with the slOkam "sriya kAntAya". The really delightful part of this slOkam rendition was when Sri TNS held his breath and elaborated the raga srI just using the word "srI" from the beginning of the song. A wonderful concert from Sri TNS once again.
2.. As UKS said after the concert--"his was truly a great concert of the season--TNS absolutely sparkling." Could not agree more with the mridangam legend! After all in his brilliant career he has been witness to some awesome concerts.
concert at nanganallurT N Seshagopalan - T N S
Krishna - V V Ravi - T K Murthy - Venkatesh (kanjira)
1. intha chaala - Begada
2. meru samana - M M Gowlai - T
3. soundarrajam - brindavana saranga - MD ( R, N S)
4. na nine dhayana - kanada - Purandaradasar
5. raju vedala - todi - T
6. ranganayakam - nayaki - MD
7. vinaradana - devaghandhari - T
8. o rangasayee - kambodhi - T ( R , N, S , T)
9. Bhajan - ?? - Kabirdas
10.Thillana - ??
11.kanden kanden kanden seethaiyai - vasantha - Arunachala kavi
what happens when performer / entertainer decides to sing for himself and for Him. What happens when a musician decides to put music before every thing else. What will it be like when some like TNS decides to become a nadhayogi. I found to my delight that it could be a heavenly experience .What better day (being vaikunta ekadasi) and what better venue could be there for TNS to do that.
TNS had no worries about his voice , which was in a fine fettle.The concert started with a regulation varnam and TNS followed up with a melodius meru samana with a small round swara to round up. Then came brindavana saranga. The detailed (almost 15 mins) alapana was a treat to listen. TNS built up the raga step by step. There were no hurried phrases. Sowkyam & raga bhavam were watch words. The kriti was sung in manner befiitng the mood in a lovely slow tempo. The flambouyant muscian in TNS did surface briefly in swara but for very short period & TNS returned to soulful mood quickly.
Next came a quick succession of 4 songs & what a choice of songs. TNS seemed to have no pre plan on the songs & was choosing songs as the mood developed . The kriti of purandara dasar in kanada was followed by raju vedala ,the Srirangam panchratnam in todi. No alapana, neraval or swarms but just the way Thyagaraja would have rendered on that day at Sriranaga seeing the procession of the Lord. Then came the majestic ranganayakkam. Again no frills just the beauty of the raga & song simply ported one to the that majestic temple on this holy day.
Next was vinaradana another Srirangam pancharatna. TNS was so deeply engrossed that even in devagandhari he didin't attempt any acrobatics , even with his voice at its best , but allowing the soulful music to continue.
I could almost sense the kambodhi & O rangasayee waiting in wings and when it came it was a alapana par excellence. TNS sang in such a slow pace, exploring every nook and corner of the raga, brining out the full grandeour of the raga. It was like kambodhi mocking at me for my post on too much of kambodhi, asking me who are you to comment that you have listned too much to understand me. Through TNS the raga showed me the hiherto unexplored facets. the mood continued with the slow rendering of the kriti,the neravals & swaras. TKM & Venkatesh played a rasping thani.
After a bhajan of Kabir & a thillana (again on Sri Ranganathar) TNS decided to sing the Vasantha (or is it lailtha) song showing a photo of Anajaneya presented to him & gesturing that he wanted to sing that song.
V V Ravi decided to take a back seat & his alapanas in brindavana saranga & kambodhi were brief. May be it was a blessing in disguise, since a MSG or MC would have replied in a way that would have pulled out TNS in to the performing mode.
It was sight to watch TNS enjoying himself. There was so much joy in his face & that rubbed on to everyone on tha stage. Infact TNS Krishna stopped singing & became the rasika enjoying the pure music that flowed.
Veteran TKM & Venkatesh played brilliantly duringnthe krirtis without affecting the mood of the singer.
TNS has reached a stage where there is nothing left to conquer , nothing left to prove in the performing arena
concert of TNSKrishna
Take Sri T.N.Seshagopalan (TNS) in full splendour. Add a
youthful voice. Shake well, stir and serve as it is. That is what is Sri
T.N.S.Krishna (TNSK) for you. The heirr apparent to Sri TNS musical legacy gave
a splendid performance today.
The first alapana of the concert was that of raga darbAr which was very skillfully executed by both TNSK and Sri Mysore Srikanth. Then followed the latAngi alapana in which I was given an awesome guided tour. aparAdamula was sung at a fast pace. When the mudhra "venkaTEsha" came in the charanam, TNSK jovially pointed towards the mridangam vidwan Sri (Neyveli) Venkatesh. The song ended with racy kalpana swarams involving good kanakkus at the end.
The next raga alapana was that of mohanam. It was 18 minutes filled with pure ecstasy. I do not have words to describe the beauty of the alapana. Graha bhedam was done with gAndhAram as the base to give hindOLam. Not to be left behind, Sri Mysore V. Srikanth also gave a very beautiful delineation of the raga. What a beautiful rendition of the kriti it was by TNSK !! For sometime, I just felt like Sri TNS himself was sitting there on stage and singing it.
Sri Neyveli Venkatesh played very softly and aptly for all the songs.
I had this feeling of immense satisfaction after listening to the concert. Certainly one of the best concerts I have attended in the past few days. TNSK surely deserves an evening slot in the next season.
Venue: R.K.Swamy Auditorium, Near Rasika Ranjani Sabha,
Date: 16 Nov 2006
Organizer: Oothukkadu Venkatakavi Academy Trust (Oothukkadu Venkatakavi Jayanthi Concerts - 2006)
Vocal: Sri Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan (TNS)
Vocal Support: Sri T.N.S. Krishna
Violin: Sri V.L. Kumar
Mridangam: Sri Trichur Narendran
List of songs:
1) azhum torum azhaikkum annai (viruttam) - shankarAbharaNam
shollinilE varum sukhamE - shankarAbharaNam - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
2) krishnA krishnA (viruttam) - mOhanam
swAgatam krishnA - mOhanam - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
3 ) adaram maduram (viruttam) - aTANA
madura madura - aTANA - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer (A)
4 ) padmAvatI ramaNam - misra chApu - pUrvikalyANi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer (S)
5) krishnAya vAsudEvAya (viruttam) - sahAnA
vAsudEvAya namO namastE - sahAnA - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
6) asaindADum - simhEndramadyamam - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
7 ) sonnAl ozhiya - kannaDa - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
8 ) naTavara taruNi saha - kannaDagOwLa - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer (O)
9) ponninboLi (viruttam) - hamsanAdam
kalyANa rAmA - hamsanAdam - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
10) konjum mazhalai - kAmbOji - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer (ANST)
11) ethanai kEttAlum - bhairavi - tisra tripuTa - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
12) vandu kEtpArillayO - rAgamAlikA - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
13) muddu krishnA - chenchuruTTi - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer
14) nAdru dIm tadana (thillAnA) - sindhubhairavi - Adi - UthukkADu venkata subbaiyer (A)
15) vijayagOpAlatE - suruTTi - Adi - nArAyaNa tIrtar
(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)
It feels like heaven - two awesome concerts of TNS in two days. Awesome. Simply awesome !!!!!! Just what hardcore TNS fans like me would ask for !!
The concert started with a beautiful viruttam in shankarabharaNam. padmAvati ramaNam brought back memories of TNS singing the same song in his youth. I have a very old audio cassette back home which has the song beautifully rendered by TNS. sahAnA viruttam that followed it was simply awesome. kalyANa rAmA, one of my favorite songs, was also rendered very beautifully. A classic kAmbOji raga alapana followed that. Sri V.L. Kumar on the violin played a short, crisp and beautiful kambOji alapana in response. I think this performance is one of Sri Kumar's best I have heard in recent times. One of the many good things that Sri Kumar did in this song was to play a small kanakku in the kalpana swarams in response to a plain piece sung by TNS. That set off TNS into kanakku mood for some time resulting in mathematically brilliant, yet melodious kalpana swarams for some time. These of course were somewhat troublesome for Sri Kumar to follow beyond a certain point but he played his replies well. Sri Trichur Narendran played non-intrusively for the songs and his style seemed to match that of Sri Palghat Raghu at many places. He played a short taniavartanam that had just the chatusra naDai.
There was an exclusive Oothukkadu Venkatakavi compositions concert presented by TNS just a few days back at the Narada Gana Sabha which was also good. The concert yesterday overshadowed that may be because yesterday's venue was a much smaller hall with good acoustics and may be also because of the choice of songs.
The good news for TNS fans is that he seems to be in great form. I think we can certainly look forward to some great concerts in the season.
Re: TN Seshagopalan @ R.K.Swamy Auditorium, Chennai (16 Nov 2006)
1) manamOhanA (tAna varnam) - mOhanam - kanDa aTa - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (O)
2) srI mahA gaNapatE - malahari - rUpakam - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (AS)
3) mAtE malayadvaja (daru varnam) - kamAs - Adi - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
4) teliyaka nE - husEni - rUpakam - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (A)
5) amba alankAri - bEgaDa - misra jampa - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
6) kripAnidhE - hamsanAdam - misra chApu - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (A)
7) mAnamu kAvalanu - sahAnA - rUpakam - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (S)
8 ) sharaNam vijayasaraswati - vijayasaraswati - Adi - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (A)
9) ikanE tALa jAlanurA - guharanjani - Adi - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
10) srI rAmA kOdanDarAmA - bhairavi - kanDa tripuTa - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar (ANST)
11) mAvUr vaLam - sindhubhairavi - Adi - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
12) dhIm tArE nArE nArE (thillAnA) - hamsAnandi - Adi - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
13) jaya mangaLam nitya - vasantA - Adi - harikEsanallUr muthiAh bhAgavatar
(Key: O=raga outline, A=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=kalpana swaram, T=taniavartanam)
What a beautiful concert it was !!! TNS was in great flow almost throughout. After a slightly off color start with a not-up-to-TNS-standards rendition of the mOhanam aTa tala varnam manamOhanA, TNS did a beautiful malahari raga alapana. mAtE malayadvaja was rendered with a lot of involvement. I could enjoy it and appreciate the composition more after attending his lecture on Sri Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar in Bangalore sometime back. The husEnI alapana was also a detailed one with both TNS and Sri Chandrasekaran excelling in their versions of the same. TNS sang hamsanAdam as it was supposed to have been sung in the olden days i.e., as a janya of the raga neetimati with the ArOhaNam-avarOhaNam S R M P D N S - S N D N P M R S. Again, it was a gem of an alapana.
The concert started more than 30 min behind schedule again due to a felicitation ceremony and as a result TNS had to rush a bit through the main composition for the day, the bhairavi kriti. It would have been better had the concert started at say 6:30PM and went on for 3-4 hours. This would have given TNS time to pack in a few more rare compositions into the concert.
The percussion support was provided by seasoned vidwans Sri Dorai and Sri Vasan. The taniavartanam they played in kanDa jAti tripuTa tALam was a crisp one. It was so much on the mark that it looked like a well prepared one and didn’t seem at all like they were improvising there. Sri M. Chandrasekaran on the violin, as usual, was in fine form and was very appreciative of all the artistes on stage throughout the concert.
Just as Thanjavur gave Thirumarugal Natesa Pillai, Mannargudi Chinna Pakkirri, Thiruvavadudurai Rajarathinam and Subramaniya Pillai for Carnatic music, Madurai gave Pushpavanam Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer and Madurai Krishnan. Another gifted vidwan who has brought credit to Madurai is Madurai T N Seshagopalan (TNS).
Seshagopalan, inspired by his mother's music, started his musical career in 1955. He is a disciple of Ramanathapuram C S Sankarasivan. TNS holds a degree in science from Madras University and a degree in music from Madurai University where he also served as professor of music.
Several titles have been conferred on him: 'Tiruppukazh Mani' conferred by Justice Krishnaswami Iyer of Travancore in 1964, 'Gaana Boopathi', bestowed by the Tamil Sangam of Olavakod in 1967, 'Kalai Maamani', bestowed by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1985, 'Isai Selvam', conferred by the then chief minister M Karunanidhi, 'Sangeetha Kala Saagaram', bestowed by Kanchi Kamakoti Sankaracharya, Sri Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal, 'Gayaka Shikamani' and 'Sangeetha Kala Sarathy', conferred by the Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha in December 1997, 'Sangeetha Choodamani', conferred by Krishna Gana Sabha in 1983, 'Sangeetha Kalasagaram', conferred by Sri Jayendra in 1995, 'Sangeetha Rathnakara', conferred by the 21st Cleveland Aradhana Committee, 1998.
he title of Sangeetha Kala Nipuna of the Mylapore Fine Arts Club was conferred on him on December 13 this year. Seshagopalan was also made the 'Asthana Vidwan' of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt by the Paramacharya along with a title of 'Sangeetha Sudhakara'.
He had also acted in a Tamil feature film, 'Thodi Ragam', in which he sang a number of songs. TNS has also acted as Lord Vishnu in a teleserial produced by R S Manoharan, titled 'Narakasuran'.
More than 50 music companies have released Seshagopalan's performances. HMS produced 'Kaakkai Chiraginile', featuring his vocal performance. The master of swaras - a series of three CDs - was released by Sangeetha. Recordings of his live concerts in Music Academy during the Chennai music festivals in 1992, 1993, 1995, 1998 and 1999 were released by AVM and HMV.
TNS is also good at playing the veena and keyboard
In an interview with Revathi R. of KutcheriBuzz, Seshagopalan talked passionately about his continuous efforts in archiving the music of 'Divya Prabandham'.
CHENNAI, December 6: Veteran vocalist T.N. Seshagopalan has added one more feather to his cap with the Sriranjani Sabha conferring him the title ``Sangeetha Kalasagara’.
He was conferred the title by Mr. Justice M. Karpagavinayagam of the Madras High Court while inaugurating the ninth annual music festival of the Sabha here on December 5, 2005.
Accepting the award, Mr. Seshagopalan dedicated this one to his guru. The vocalist felt that music was an easy route to reach salvation. The award carries a citation and a cash prize of Rs.5,000.
One more title for T.N. Seshagopalan
By Sudha JagannathanInterview on being conferred the title ofSangeetha kala nipuna By The MylaporeFine Arts
Disciple of Ramanathapuram C. S. Sankarasivam, Kalaimamani T. N. Seshagopalan began his musical career at the age of seven. He has travelled extensively, presenting vocal and veena concerts and has been the recipient of many titles and awards, recent ones being the Laya Kala Nipuna in May 2003 by the Percussion Arts Centre, Bangalore and the honour from Lalitha Kala Vedika on August 24th. Seshagopalan will be the recipient of this year's Sangeetha Kala Nipuna title given by the Mylapore Fine Arts Club, where he has been singing for more than 30 years. In an exclusive interview with V. Padmasini, TNS talks, among other things, about his life, music and acting.
Your reaction to being chosen Sangeetha Kala Nipuna by the Mylapore Fine Arts Club?
I was not ecstatic. No great thrills. If it is given to people who have achieved a lot, then you can feel proud. All those who are in the limelight are getting it. But I am happy for the recognition. MFAC is a time honoured sabha and lots of rasikas gather there. That I am being honoured by such a sabha is my guru's blessing.
You are proficient as a vainika too. Why did you choose to be more of a vocalist than a vainika?
I can play the veena only if they ask me to! I worked on both but vocal music became more popular.
Any particular reasons?
The Veena is not featured as much as violin solos in the concerts. If someone plays Jalatarangam or keyboard he is featured. Mridangam and Drums feature as entertainment but not veena! They call it a Divine instrument, time-honoured and pradarshini but in an entire series one veena kutcheri itself is too much for many people. They will give you a thousand reasons. However the real reason is that there is no artiste who can play with a tempo that retains the attention of the audience for 3 hours. Music depends on the presentation and pandithyam. If artistes of this calibre come, it maybe possible. It is tough to play this vadya well and make the audience sit through. In my veena kutcheris, people say that the same tempo of a vocal concert is present. My problem is that my image as a vocalist has been established. It has been stamped to the extent that there is no series without my vocal kutcheri. How will they give the same artist a chance to play and sing? Whenever they ask me "will you play the veena?", I say I will play as well as sing.
The sabhas feel that a veena concert will not draw crowds?
It is difficult for crowds to come, no doubt. They think, "Usually this person sings and gets a crowd so why feature the veena?" I have played one round in all the sabhas. Top mridangists like Murugabhoopathy, Vellore Ramabhadran, Murthy and Dorai have played for me. My situation maybe better than that of professional Veena players. Due to my popular image as a vocalist, my veena skills are squashed!
People say that one can sing along when playing the veena and some artists are also doing it. What is your opinion?
It might have been done in olden times to make the sahitya known. Even while playing the violin they used to sing a few lines. Ganesh-Kumaresh follow that style. They keep the violin down and sing! Previously the purpose was to help people identify a song. In a keerthanam, a special line or lines may be sung or if it is rare. So it is a healthy tendency to sing along with the veena, almost intertwined. If the veena playing is like the vocal style or vice versa it is good. This time at the Krishna Gana Sabha, I kept the Veena down in the charanam part of the song 'Ranganayakam' and sang four lines. I myself do not know when I will do it.
Do you adopt the same style on the veena?
The same gayaki style, what I sing with difficulty, intricate, complex, tough or brain-teasing by those who do not like it (laughs)! Even as far as laya goes, the mridangists have the same work here as in a vocal concert. They cannot take it easy because it is a Veena concert. I have played that style everywhere and many artistrs have agreed it is successful.
Your voice tends to be on the soft side...
Voice maybe soft but there is depth... It is a male voice, a bass voice which can sing in three octaves. I am one of the artistes who can touch the mandra sthayi shadjam easily.
How do you explain your ability to draw crowds?
In olden times personality was important. In modern times it is quite true that a person who was once drawing a crowd of 500 people draws 2000 people after singing in two movies! I have acted in movies, R. S. Manohar's TV serial Narakasuran which was telecast for 25 weeks, done playback for the film Atma and also a Malayalam film along with K. J. Yesudas. But even if I have sung for movies, nobody has given a chit in a kutcheri saying "please sing what you have sung for cinema"! My kutcheri crowd is only those who come to listen to this style, this music, this food, and not for sightseeing. Serious listeners ,the same 200 to 300 people - singers, teachers, percussionists, rasikas and inquisitive people who want to know if I sing any new song or pallavi.
Do you prepare in advance for your kutcheris?
What comes when I sit there that is all! My mind is always alert preparing something. I don't sit and prepare thinking, I must sing this in this kutcheri, this in that kutcheri... it gets prepared in the mind as soon as I sit there.
Does a voice get affected due to playback singing?
There is a chance. It is important to see what type of music they sing. When a popular playback singer sings it is to be seen what sruti he/she sings and for which actor. It might be over in a single take, sometimes it may need twenty takes. So the voice may get strained. When they sing from 8 am to 3 pm, till it gets okayed there is frustration and mental tiredness. It is only applied music for some other purpose - either to highlight the scene with a song or to highlight the song with a scene. So according to the scene, one has to laugh, scream or sing. If the mind is affected, the body which is under the command of the mind is also affected. If 75% of one's singing is done for cinema and 25% on the classical side, then the effect is visible. In playback singing, the objective is to make the audience spellbound. Thus, they scream in unwanted places and soften their voice in unnecessary places. That technique seeps in here. Those who like it will clap their hands! When it becomes a business, quality sometimes takes a backseat.
You acted in the film Thodi because you like acting?
They asked me to sing for the film originally. Later they offered the role. At that period it was music, music and only music. I used to get up at 5.30, bathe, do sandhyavandanam, visit the temple and then my guru's house. I did not even have the idea of going to the movies. No recreations, only music, spiritual discourses, temple, books and literature. That was the prevailing situation. Always bhajans, namasankeerthanams, Kamban vizha, sloka competitions, etc. If you turned to one side, there was Anantharama Dikshitar's house and on the other Variyar's... There used to be political conferences and I have attended the speeches of Anna and EVR to see how they talk. If we used to hear the news it was to know about the cricket scores. We would buy Sportstar and Illustrated Weekly to know how Barrington played and how wickets were kept. Radio was switched on only for commentary. I never thought about watching a movie or nurtured a desire to act. Pesum Padam was the only one for us to watch and rarely, pictures like Tiruvilayadal and Navarathri and mega pictures like Nadodimannan, Vanchikotai Vaaliban. We could not see a picture just because it was released. Sunday evenings, film dialogues would be relayed on radio. There was no time even for that. The radio was turned on only for news and kutcheri. The cinema had the name of the raga. So I thought that this would boost my career. I had acted in school plays but that was not sufficient. I asked them with what idea were they featuring me? They said, "You have the facial expressions, and we will take the work from you. When you are speaking there is voice modulation and bhava expressions thus bringing a natural effect". I asked my guru about it. He said very beautifully, "everyone has acted, but do not do it for prestige". My wife also had no objections. I requested them to take even the love scenes symbolically but later on I was forced to act some intimate scenes. I wrote in the magazines at that time that I did not do them well as I felt very embarrassed. I knew it would not do well. It neither brought dignity nor was it a box-office hit. It was just a compromise between time and things.
You did not get any more offers...?
I did, but all
were obscene themes, comedy and not connected with music. I did not want
that money and fame. Even last year a film Thyagayya, a story on a
minister came up. The theme was nice and I agreed but it did not
materialize. If I act, it has to be different. It must carry a message to
the world. A heavy character role, which will imprint in the mind. They
should approach me with the feeling that only I can do it, then I will
No. That year he was awarded the title of Tamil Isai Vendar by Tamil Isai Sangam. He came for my kutcheri and sat through it. Everyone said, "he never sits through fully for a carnatic music concert but it is surprising that he sat through yours". He must have studied me. In drama, noise and acting are important and tight close-ups cannot be seen. Only impressions. That is why in olden days everyone donned the role of women and got away with it! (laughs). Manohar told me, "If I telecast Narakasuran on TV you have to play the role of Mahavishnu". I told him about the failure of Thodi. "They did not use you properly. Your face could have been made more beautiful. This is Perumal role where you will smile and bless. Respect for you will increase". The man who donned that role in the drama came and helped. Only problem was that they used blue make up for my body and it took 1-1/2 hours to put it on and 1-1/2 hours to remove it!
Did you sing, and how did you combine it with your kutcheri schedules?
I did not sing. Even when the terms were spoken I made it clear that if there was a kutcheri on a particular date, I would give it preference. My call sheet was to be fixed only with my consent.
Do you think your good looks have drawn crowds? How important is personality for a kutcheri artist?
In my younger days, yes! How can I have that attraction now? But according to the gayaka gunas, stage appearance really matters. Even if all the characteristics according to saumudrika lakshana are not present, a pleasant face will definitely make a concert more beautiful. Another thing is mannerisms. If the mannerisms match with the singing it will be excellent. The face should not be made crooked. Now the boys play on the stage. We were taught how not to overdo actions onstage as apart of our practice. If the action comes beautifully and slowly it will be good and natural. But even while starting to sing if you bring the hand up, it looks as if the hand is going to sing. Now nobody seems to bother about it. Also, it should vibe with the age. If the music is extraordinary, then it will take prominence.
Your favourite ragam?
All ghana ragas. Truly I like Bhairavi very much.
If on a particular day you are out of mood, will you sing this raga to enliven yourself?
I have never been a moody person. If due to some other reason, like over-amplification or sweating or noise I feel disturbed, I just stop singing with the idea I can sing when it is over. Once you sit down to sing it is only happiness. Can I sing an extraordinary Shankarabaranam as I have won 2 crores in a lottery and am happy? Once the sruthi box is tuned and equilibrium set, what God gives that day it will come.
Is carnatic music fading?
It cannot. I do not know with what idea they are saying "It should be like this or like that". According to the times it will wear a different dress. Now everyone has an opportunity to learn music, no dearth of talents, sponsorship and patronage. When we were young we used to wonder if we could take it up as a profession. You cannot come and sit on stage just like that. Now how many boys and girls? Maybe the influence of the media. They think, "If we know the cinema song we will know the raga". It is an illusion. Can that cinema music be the real Kalyani and Kambhoji? Recordings maybe great but only its influence will be there, not that of music. What is heard through the ear remains intact. I always say nowadays, Guru Brahma Guru Vishnu Guru Tapo Namah (laughs).
In a short kutcheri, artists try to sing a pallavi... what do you feel? Are they forced to do it?
In this world they will say one thing and do another thing. They will scream "4 kalai pallavi is gone, without singing elaborately they are grazing". If we sing elaborately then the comment is "too much... took all the time". If it is sung short and crisp it can be sung in a 2 ½ hour concert. I was given a pallavi programme on TV. The lines were "naatai kurinji enbaar engal nattai kurinji enbaar". For this I sang ragam, tanam, in Nattai, Kurinji and Nattakkurinji, with separate chance for violin, pallavi with the 3 ragas, neraval, swaram, kuraippu, trikalam, tani avarthanam - all in 29 minutes! But if you see padhavinyasam it needs 1 ½ hours (laughs ) or at least 45 min. A concert without a pallavi loses its majesticity. For a 2-hour kutcheri they ask the performer to include a pallavi. They sing a ragam, neraval for name sake and ragamalika swaram. It becomes a pallavi ritual.
Do you always sing a pallavi?
If in a mood.
Do you practice daily?
No. It is not that I should sing for an hour in the morning, play Veena in the afternoon. Whenever I can. I only feel for the fact that I am not able to wholly give myself to music without other commitments.
What are your other interests?
Very interested in sports. I like cricket, tennis I love football. In school I used to play pole vault. Nobody will believe it (Laughs). I have a natural inclination for drawing, being a Botany graduate. Even now I have the habit of drawing while speaking on the phone.
What do you do when you are not singing?
Travelling, reading books , literature, thinking of music. I don't need company.
Concert of T.N.Seshagopalan for Sree Ramakrishna Bhajana Sabham Odakathur Hall, Bangalore on February 27, 2005.
Violin: Chandasekar; Mridangam Sirmushanam Raja Rao, Ghatam: Srishaila.
The begada composition of Saint Thyagaraja "Nadopasana" marked a brisk opening of Sangeetha Bhushanam vidwan T.N.Seshagopalan's concert for the Sree Ramarkishna Bhajana Sabha Trust at the Odkathur Mutt Hall in Bangalore on Feburary 27.
Seshagopalan who inaugurated the music festival of the Sabha heralding the commencement of the Mahashivarathri festival here continued with a racy Bahudari composition in Tamil called "Sada Nanda Tandavam" with both the raga and kriti having its moments of grace and beauty.
It was an unusual elaboration of raga Kamavardhini that the artist took up to depict. There was spatial dimension and unheard of sancharas which marked the raga and gave it some grandeur no doubt. But he also tended to go for effect and applause with sancharas in the higher reaches and unbridled brigahas and that spoiled the melodic mood somewhat.
But the Thyagaraja composition "Sambho Mahadeva" was etched with a fine feel for the different sangathis as well as lyrical content, especially the niraval of the phrase "parama dayakara mrigadara vara gangadara" and the many-splendoured, elaborate swara patterns that he weaved to paint an intricate and finely chiselled picture of the Shiva sthuthi.
Then he took up to explore briefly the myriad tonal beauty of Kedara raga and the Muthuswamy Dikshitar composition "Ananda natana prakasam Sree Sabesam" but the kalpana swara phase was marred with electrifying speed . Then came a Panasam Sivan kriti "Paramugamennaiyyah" in raga Karaharapriya enjoyble because it was relatively smooth and sober.
Seshagopalan gave a brilliant exposition of Sankarabharanam bringing out the full grandeur and harmonic beauty of the raga and taking up the delectable Diskhitar composition "Akshaya Linga Vibho" for detailed presentation.
He showed his technical skill while making a modal shift to raga Thodi while singing the main raga and excellent voice control, beautiful sangathis and fine shruti sense during the delineation of the composition and the kalpana swaras.
All in all it was an enjoyable concert .
By T.N. Anantharaman
A victory of mind over sound
Madurai T.N.Seshagopalan (Vocal) R.R.Sabha Madurai
T.N.S.Krishna (Vocal support) Accompanists
Trichur C. Narendran (Mridangam)
For me, it was the concert of the music season of Madras 2003. T.N.Seshagopalan proved his caliber by giving a scintillating performance at the R.R. Sabha, Mylapore, on the evening of the final day of the year 2003. It was in sharp contrast to the eminently forgettable one that he had given at the same venue in 2002.
He began with the Sankarabaranam varnam ``Sami Ninne Kori’’ and as he battled with an intractable voice, I thought the evening was going to be another disaster.
But as he etched out a lovely emotive Annanda Bhairavi piece, Seshagopalan showed he is made of sterner stuff. He battled hard with his voice and brought it under his control, a victory of mind over sound, if you may say. The resonance in the `Manthara Sthayi’ sancharas was perfect and the super fast taans, gliding from the upper octave down to the lower shadjam, were effective.
Seshagopalan sang a superb `Amrutha Varshini’ raga and he gave the Dikshitar composition ``Ananda Amritha Varshini’’ his full devotion. The kalpana swaras were breathtaking in their sweep and rich imagination.
By this time, he had gotten over most of the irritations in his voice, which glowed into new power and beauty. An Andal Thirupavai set the tone of grandeur in raga Durbar.
TNS then sprang a delightful surprise on the audience by taking up the beautiful raga ``Marga Hindolam’’ for some detailed delineation. Kudos to him for showing a lot of innovation in singing this raga (not many handle this raga) with aplomb. The Thyagaraja kriti ``Marukelara O Raghava’’ was sung with lot of emotion, the sangathis bringing out the intense devotion of TNS to the music.
The piece-de-resistance of the evening was `Thodi’ raga taken up by TNS for elaboration. The style and manner in which he gave expression to the raga showed that TNS is a musician par excellence in understanding the innate beauty and structure of the raga. ``Thodi,’’ described as ``the king among the rags,’’ was grand, eloquent and regal in its sheer depth and sweep and shape given to it by TMS. In decades I have not heard such an all-encompassing ``Thodi’’ as etched out by TNS. He deserves an applause and the RR Sabha audience gave him a deserving standing ovation at the end of the raga and the Papanasam Sivan composition ``Karthikeya.’’ The kalpana swaras came with a cascade of swara patterns, each pattern in a new raga, a turbulent swirl of many ragas including Kedaram, Nattai, arabhi, Begada, Anandabhairavi, Atana, Ritigowla, Ahiri, Hamsanadam, Kanada, Desh, Hamsanandhi, Kundalavarali, Kathanakuthoohalam and Behag.
A Harikesanallur Muthiah Baghavathar composition ``Vanchathonuna’’ in raga ``Karna Ranjani,’’ a Marathi abang and a tillana in raga ``Sindubharavi’’ as a finale added to the listeners’ pleasure.
S.D. Sridhar on the violin battled gamely to cope with the torrent of ideas exhibited by TNS in his singing. Trichur C. Narendran on the mridangam and N. Guruprasad on ghatam gave good percussion support. In the end, I say, ``TNS, I salute you for making my last evening of the year 2003 memorable.’’
By T.N. Anantharaman
concert on 22-11-2005 at Naradaganasabha - Carnatica Series
Concert on a
MUSIC Tradition and creativity
came together at T.N.
Seshagopalan's vocal recital
(COURTESY- The Hindu - Friday supplement dt.2-12-2005)
Though charisma was the predominant feature of T. N. Seshagopalan's technique, his performance for the carnatica series was an impressive revelation of his aim to rediscover the past with as much emphasis on tradition as on exploring new vistas of creativity. His singing style proclaimed his provocative approach to interpretation of ragas and songs.
Dwijavanti with many seductive shades was in Ustad mode followed by a chaste carnatic Bhairavi providing the high watermark of his recital. Both alapanas were a wide- ranging and all-embracing overview of their grandeur. His rendering of ' cheta-sri' (Dwijavanti) and 'Balagopala'(Bhairavi) gave an inkling of his art in making the ordinary extraordinary. His exposition was reflective of the robustness of his manodharma.
Surprisingly his Todi essay was very brief and was followed by the song ''Brindavanalola.' Earlier ' Sarasaksha-Paripalaya' (Pantuvarali) with an alapana put the concert on a fast track. Violinist M.Chandrasekhar was very enthusiastic in meeting vocal depth with bowing pressure.
Umayalpuram Sivaraman's mridangam accompaniment was a matching answer through pharans flying like sparks from a forge. His taniavarthanam with T.V.Vasan (ghatam) was an exciting display of percussive fire. He transferred Seshagopalan's bursts of vocal force to mridangam's strokes-a clear understanding of the proper role of an accompanist- meeting sensitivity withsensitivity and the spectacular with the spectacular.
What the rasikas say about TNS
Nowadays the audiences in India consist mostly of senior citizens; the youngsters are all aspiring musicians themselves. I wish to go back to the earlier list and dwell on Seshagopalan, who is to be ranked amongst the greatest ever, but is sadly left out of reckoning even by serious rasika-s. The existence of a grudge if not a conspiracy against him baffles me.
An objective listener, who is also a serious student of music, told me, "Our people are happy with above average vocalists, and do not have an ear for exceptionally good ones. "Ithu pothume, idarkku mel edarkku?"
Subbudu's suggestion to Seshu (Sruti Box 239) to issue a statement that his concerts needn't be covered (by reviewers) is really superb.
S. Sivaramakrishnan. A master of grand ragas
M. SURYA PRASAD
T.N. Seshagopalan is not just technically proficient, but is also graceful in his presentation.
BRILLIANT T.N. Seshagopalan's rendition is marked by a deep scholarship Photo: K. BHAGYA PRAKASH
It was an unforgettable feat indeed! In a vocal concert, a few years ago, held at Sri Ramaseva Mandali, Govt. Fort High School during the Sri Ramanavami concert series, Raga Kharaharapriya was elaborated in all its glory and subtlety. The kriti "Pakkala Nilabadi" with an abundance of sangathis followed the feat in question. Raga after raga flowed in the ragamalika swaraprastara. Out of curiosity, I started counting the number of ragas. The chain
of ragas ended with twenty-four. It was unique and enjoyable.
Such a feat is possible only by a competent artiste endowed with an unfathomable manodharma, a deep scholarship and the ability to probe. The artiste who demonstrated all this and other qualities was none other than Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan, the versatile Carnatic musician, who is at the helm of affairs in the present day Carnatic music scenario. He, like Madurai Pushpavanam Iyer, Madurai Mani Iyer and Madurai Krishnan has done Madurai proud.
A musical genius, Seshagopalan has been endowed with an enchanting and vibrant voice and multi-sthayi reach and range. One of the specialties of his cutcheri craft is rendering of intricate ragas with grace and gaiety, subtlety and ease. Indigenous, innovative and artistic sangathis and brikhas spice up his performance. His uniqueness lies in his breathtaking sweeps in the various manodharmic aspects of Carnatic music such as alapanas, neraval, kalpana swaraprastharas, raga, tana, pallavis, keerthanas, Thirupugazhs, Thukkadas and ragamalika virutams. The most demanding aspect of music, the graha bedha is child's play for him.
His good hold over North Indian ragas has seen him in several jugalbandis with Ustad Rashid Khan.
The gifted Seshagopalan is inspired by his mother's music. His musical journey began in 1955. A firm foundation was laid by Ramanathapuram C.S. Sankarasivan (a great disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar the great musician and composer). As his gurus were great exponents of laya, it was easy for him to imbibe the same from them. Thus TNS' vistara krama, both in raga and laya has accounted for a new style and summary of traditional Carnatic music.
A multi-faceted artiste, TNS holds a degree in science from Madras University and a degree in music from Madurai University where he also served as the professor of music.
He began playing on the harmonium and in course of time has mastered the veena. He eventually settled down to vocal music. Just to prove that even the subtle gamakas, which are the soul of Carnatic music, could be produced on a keyboard, TNS had a successful stint with that too. Seshagoplan seems to have a penchant for presenting surprises not only in his routine music concerts but also in his dispositions. His avatar as a Harikatha Bhagavatar has also been rewarding. His oratory, vast knowledge of music, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu along with his skills of presentation is remarkable.( More than a musician this is what attracts me to him
Several titles have been conferred on him. He has been the Asthana Vidwan of Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt by the Paramacharya along with the title Sangeetha Sudhakara. He has acted in a Tamil feature film, Thodi Ragam, in which he sang a number of songs.
TNS has also acted as Lord Vishnu in a tele-serial produced by R.S. Manoharan, titled Narakasuran
The circumstance under which TNS became a vainika
It was in the early seventies that there was a vacancy of a lecturer post in the College of Music, Madurai. Ramanathapuram C.S. Sankarasiva Bhagavathar wanted his special disciple TNS to secure that job. Bhagavathar was one of the committee members and when the topic came up for discussion certain key members did not want the post to be given to TNS as they felt that he was already becoming very popular . They argued that with the tight concert schedules TNS might not have the time to teach the students and finish the syllabus on time. After prolonged arguments finally they said that there was no vocal lecturer post vacant and they had only a veena lecturer post. Almost instantly Bhagavathar told them that TNS can play the veena and teach too. Young TNS was speechless.When he asked his guru how could this be possible?, he answered" Thambi moonu masam irukku illa? Adhukkulla enna nnu paathudunga" He also procured a veena from the Ramanathapuram Palace and gave it to TNS. After the stipulated time TNs became a veena lecturer at the College of Music,Madurai.The rest was history.Today, he is one of the foremost veena players who follows the gayaki tradition of veena playing.
SO sweet as music
Now in an attempt to promote the art, he has started a forum Guru Krupa Trust.
THODI RAGAM and T.N.Seshagopalan! Any Carnatic music lover, even those less familiar with the art, could make this out.
Thodi ragam, which is his hallmark, will definitely find a place in all his concerts. He has so far presented close to 5000 concerts, local, international and in different media and released over 50 CDs and similar number in cassettes. He has also converted the verses of Kamba Ramayanam and Nalayira Divya Prabantham into song forms and recites the songs in almost every concert.
"Actually, my music career started when I was seven-year-old. My initial driving force was the headmaster of Sambandamoorthy Elementary School, Madurai, where I studied", says Mr. Seshagopalan, who was in the city recently to celebrate his guru C.S. Sankarasiva's centenary.
But, he says, "officially, my arangetram (maiden concert), was at the celebration of Arunagirinathar Jayanthi at Ramanathapuram in 1966. It was a divine command from my guru, Ramanathapuram C.S. Sankarasiva Bhagavathar, to present a concert on the occasion."
"Though, people identify me with Thodi ragam, for which I also have a liking, there a few others such as Bhairavi and Reethi Gowla, which I enjoy singing", he points out.
He has received over 50 titles, which includes the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2000 and Kalaimamani in 1982. But, he considers the titles given by the Kanchi Seer Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Swamigal, Andavan Swamigal and Mukoor Jeeyar as among the best received by him.
A memorable title, according to him, was the one given by the Nagaswaram-Tavil Vidwans Association of Sri Lanka in 1994. The title was Sruti Laya Bhava Gnana, Gana Kala Varidhi.
"I still continue to sing in Brahmahotsavam, Tirupathi, and Thiagaraja Aradhana, Thiruvaiyaru. Similarly, I experience a sense of contentment when I sing inside the sanctum sanctorum of the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, before Paramacharial and the Mukoor Jeeyar".
The noted singer, who completed his graduation in zoology from the Madura College, here, has also been a badminton player during his school days. He was also interested in pole vault and other fields such as drama, mona acting, etc.
For a brief while, he worked as a music teacher in the music college of the Madurai Kamaraj University.
Many of his disciples have achieved good position in the field and among them are Neyveli Santanagopalan, Gayatri Girish, etc. Now as part of his efforts to promote the art, he started a forum Guru Krupa Trust, a few years ago, in which around 60 students are undergoing training. "We have plans to grant scholarships to meritorious and the poor through our trust. There are also plans to organise interactive sessions on Carnatic music in every institution in the State", he opines.
He regrets, "the last generation failed to pass on its knowledge they had on music.
To preserve this art, we should project its special qualities and its importance, as it is part of our tradition, at least now, so that it may be revived by the next generation". Stressing that some corrective measures should be taken to promote the art, he says, "the Guru Krupa Trust, was formed for this purpose. There are also plans to organise interactive sessions on Carnatic music in every institution in the State", he opines.
some corrective measures should be taken to promote the art, he says, "the Guru Krupa Trust, was formed for this purpose and is progressing fast towards that goal".
R eviews of overseas concerts
1. Subbarayan Pasupathy
Aug 21 1996, 12:00 pm
T.N.Seshagopalan, accompanied by Sri M.V.N.Murthi(Violin) and
Sri Harikumar(Mridangam), gave a professional, polished vocal concert with
a focus on laya, at Toronto on 17th August, 96 under the auspices of
Bharathi Kala Manram. The audience relished the 4 hour concert and gave
several approving claps during the duration of the concert. Here is a brief
report ( R=raga alapana, N=neraval, S=swaras):
1.saamee nee-panthuvarali(varnam)-veena kuppier (S)
2.maha gaNapathE-janaranjani-Muthiah Bhagavathar
3.Slokam+meenaakshi me mudham-purvi kalyani-muthuswamy dikshitar (RNS)
4.dhana vaari-begada-thygaraja (S)
5.neerajakshi-hindholam-muthuswamy dikshitar (R)
He did not sing the chittaswaram
6.giripriyam-kadhana kudhoohalam-muthiah bhagavathar
7.guruvaayoor appane-reethigowla-ambujam krishna (Ragam)
Tuned by TNSeshagopalan
8.RTP-kalyani-kaNda jathi thriputa, 2 kaLai
"raadhalOlaa chinnikrishna gOpaala baalaa, aanandha lOla "
raga maalika swaras in sahana,kalyana vasantham, revathi, surutti
Aside 1: The last time I heard this 'pallavi' was in a Bhajan by
Pithukuli Murugadas many years ago; never thought at that
time that it can be used as a Pallavi so effectively!
Aside 2: The audience gave a resounding round of claps when TNS wove
Vedic-chant-type swaras amidst the Revathi portion of the
Aside 3: During the alapana of kalyani, TNS did a modal shift to
9. Mridangam solo
An enthusiastic effort from Harikumar who, in fact, was enthusiastically
responding to all the "laya-oriented sEshtai-s" of TNS thruout the concert!
10.paasuram (shanmukhapriya, hamsanandhi,hameer kalyani, behag) followed by
gaana mazhai pozhigindraan -ambujam krishna ( behag, bowli,maNi rangu)
Aside 4: TNS is one of the few musicians who render even requests -
usually sung colourlessly and as a chore to be got over by many
others - with as much fervour and bhava as he can muster.
In particular, his innovative interpretation of the
words " gOvindhan kuzhal oodhi" in bowli was very pleasing
and was as much a tribute to TNS as to Sri V.V.Sadagopan
who ( to the best of my knowledge) was responsible for this
tune. ( I could not, but help, think about Sadagopan , a great
musician, his sad mysterious disappearance , how there are
no LP's or cassettes containing the music of this vidwan etc...)
12.chOdu dhiya -kabirdas (bhajan)- vaasanthi
A hauntingly melodious tune which I was humming thruout my car trip
home from the concert.
13. alli vizhiyaalum -aruNagirinaathar(thiruppugazh)-khamaas
* Suffice it to say that a TNS concert here - in the more than 10 years
he has been coming here - has never been a "flop" and he continues to
give us novel, innovative nuances and new songs all the time. His
professional approach to give us the best of himself even when he is
tired and perhaps has a strained voice is to be appreciated.
The second day of Thyagaraja Festival (5 April, 98 and Rama navami)
at Toronto featured the 4-hour
vocal concert by Sri T.N.Seshagopalan to the accompaniment of Sri A.
Ananthakrishnan on the Violin and Professor Trichy Sankaran on the
Mridangam. Being the professional that he is, TNS did not let a 'small'
thing like three days of tiring Air Travel ( having been bumped off
a flight at Chennai ) stand in his way of giving his fans what they
looked for. The first 2.5 hours featuring seven Thyagaraja songs and
an excellent Solo by Sri Sankaran was a mini-concert all by itself.
A few songs, like "nee bajana"(Nayaki) and "seethavara"(Devagandhari)
have not been heard in these parts recently.
The highlights of the concert were:(R=raga alapana, N=neraval,
Many in the audience who normally associate this song with the movie
"SankarabaraNam" were perhaps astonished to hear how the same song
can be handled in such a different and of course, typical TNS-way!
The raga alapana had the majesty of "saamaja"(elephant); the neraval
of the line "sapthaswara naadha achala dheepa" ( the one who lighted
up the hill of naadha containing the seven notes ) was at once a
tribute to Rama as well as to Thyagaraja himself;
and the swaras mimicked the playful, rhythmic steps of
a dancing "saamaja" ( aided and abetted gleefully by the
"naadha thanum ..sankaram" on the mridangam.) The laya-lion that
TNS is, I sometimes wonder if his name is Gopa-lan or Gopa-la(ya)n!!
* endhuku dhaya-thodi-thyagaraja(RNS)
A flash of mohana-kalyani in the alapana through modal-shift .
* saravaNa bhavaa-pasupathipriya-muthiah bhagavathar(R)
Perhaps a tribute by TNS to his musical lineage..
his guru Sri Ramanathapuram Sankarasivam (the brother of the
veteran mridangist Sri C.S.Murugabhoopathi) was a disciple of
Sri Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar(HMB).
The raga is creation of the gifted composer and has a story
behind its creation. When HMB went to Karur (in Tamilnadu) , his
patron, Sri Peddhaachi Chettiyaar ( Zamindhaar of AaNdippatti)
bemoaned the fact that HMB has not still composed any song in praise
of any of the gods at Karur temple. The Siva in Karur temple is called
Pasupatheeswara. HMB satisfied his patron the next day itself ,
by composing "saravaNa bhava" in a new Raga named after the
presiding deity. The patron only wanted a song, HMB gave a Raga too!
* Ragam, Thanam and Pallavi-thilang-kanda jaathi thriputa (2 kaLai)
"dheera veera maaruthi gambeera maaruthi
lankaa bayankara "
There is always a "S(p)esha(l)" (special) in every TNS concert ...
at least in Toronto! RTP in Thilang, generally considered as a
pleasing raga with limited scope for elaboration, was the "(vi)Sesha"
in this concert! Note the insertion of the raga-name
in the pallavi.[ The only other clever insertion of the raga name in
a Thilang-composition that comes to my mind is Sri Lagudi Jayaraman's
Thillana, (in Tamil), containing the words "... puLLi
kalabath thilangu kumaraa..." ( O Kumaraa(Murugaa), sitting on top
of the dotted-peacock)].
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