Raga Malavi – A Misnomer?

PROLOGUE:

The raga Malavi (mALavI) under mElA 28 ( Harikambhoji) as a scale is a creation of Tyagaraja with his well-known kriti ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ serving as his solitary exemplar in the raga. The raga has been inspirational for latter day composers including Patnam Subramanya Iyer & others. The raga today has less than a dozen kritis and two tAna varnas serving as illustration to its total melodic canvas. Given its apparently limited scope, the raga is termed by musicologists as a minor raga. Nevertheless, as we can see in this blog post the raga is definitely a melody of substance comparable to the others of its ilk such as Bahudari or Nagasvaravali. Unfortunately, today we do not encounter raga alapana, neraval or svara kalpana for this raga and performers simply render the ubiquitous ‘nEnarunci nanu’ in a breezy manner. If one were to delve deep into this raga we can conclude that a capable musician can do full justice to the raga in different formats be it alapana, neraval or svaraprastara. And through this blog post on the raga I intend to pay homage to a long-forgotten titan of our music Vidvan Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar ( photo on the left) who was famous for his bhava laden music and his explorations of ragas such as Malavi and Salaga Bhairavi. He was the one who inspired the likes of Vidvans G N Balasubramanian and Madurai Mani Iyer. (see Note 1).

In this blog post we shall exactly look at that and also take up a modern day kriti as an exemplar to understand this raga even while we evaluate the forgotten musical history of the raga’s name, which is a bit of an oddity.

Over to the raga!

THE MELODIC CONTOUR OF MALAVI:

As pointed out earlier, the melody which we call as Malavi under mElA 28 can be understood from the contours of the rAga as found in “nEnarunci nAnu” of Tyagaraja. All modern-day musicologists as well as popular raga compendiums provide the arohana/avrohana kramA under mela 28 as a upanga raga as given below:

Arohana krama :      S R G M P N M D N S

Avarohana krama:   S N D N P M G M R S

This definition of the raga as found in the kriti, needless to say is echoed in the Sangraha Cudamani which, as we have seen in these series of blog posts, is a repository or lexicon of the lakshana of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions.  Additionally, it is worth pointing out that the cittasvara section of ‘nEnarunci nAnu’, which we hear today is a much latter-day creation of Violin Vidvan Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer, tracing back to the last quarter of the 19th century. The cittasvara too validates the svara progression as above.

It may not out of place to mention that if one were to delve deeper and evaluate the musical material on hand, it would clearly indicate that the raga cannot be just understood as a progression of svaras as above but rather as an aggregation of murccanas with the following constructs:

  1. It is sampurna, meaning all the seven notes of the parent mela occur in the raga
  2. PDNS, SNDP and MGRS are not be used while SRGMP would be permitted.
  3. The raga is vakra and is not lineal. In other words, SRGMP, PNMDNS, SNDNP and PMGMRS forms the core building blocks for the purvanga and uttaranag sections
  4. The arohana progression SRGMPMDNS could evoke the raga Sahana and hence must be tactfully sung. SRGMPNMDNS would sound better and distinctive. RGMDN, PNMDN and PMDN could be alternated to distinctly present the raga along with phrases such as NMD.
  5. The avarohana kramas SNDNP is a Devamanohari leitmotif while the PMGMRS is a motif of Purnachandrika. The two in combination on the descent with the Sahana evoking ascent, potentially make the raga a compound raga of sorts.

The raga’s lakshana doesn’t seem to have been discussed by the Experts Committee of the Madras Music Academy, as evidenced by it Journals.

COMPOSITIONS:

Following the footsteps of Tyagaraja who composed nEnarunci nanu’ , many later day composers have added to the corpus of compositions in this raga even while many tunesmiths too have set this raga as the melody for lyrics, such as for example the tarangams of Narayana Teertha. Leaving them aside the chief amongst the composers/compositions in the raga which are encountered in the concert circuit are:

  1. Patnam Subramanya Iyer – ‘Iti Nyayama’
  2. Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar- ‘shrikanta dayite’ & ‘nIlalOhita’
  3. Mysore Maharaja Jayacamaraja Wodeyar – ‘shankari sadananda lahari’
  4. Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramanian – ‘marivere gati nakevaru’ & ‘ninnu vina verevvaru’
  5. Calcutta K S Krishnamurthi – varna beginning ‘ninne koriyunna’ in adi tala
  6. SpencerVenugopal – ‘needasudane gada’, a varna beginning ‘e maye chesithivo’ in adi tala and a tillana

RENDERINGS:

‘nEnarunci nAnu’ of Sri Tyagaraja by Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramanian

For this blog post I first take up Tyagaraja’s solitaire to understand the melody and also underscore the fact that a full suite of the raga i.e alapana, kriti, neraval and svarakalpana is entirely in the realm of possibility for this raga. This kriti has been the perennial staple for instrumentalists and vocalists alike for pepping up a sagging concert, with its fast and lively tempo so much so that modern musicologists have come to term the raga itself as a madhyama kala pradhana raga. It may be noted that elaborate alapana or neraval/svara kalpana is not seen rendered for Malavi for the perceived reason that the raga may tend to get repetitive and such an exercise is likely to lead the performer astray into neighbouring or allied ragas, given the apparently limited melodic scope. The public domain is littered with very many plain vanilla kriti renderings of this composition by performers of varied hues.

For this blog post I choose to present the one by the Prince Charming of Carnatic Music as he was endearingly held, the late Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramanian (GNB). I have chosen this recording for very many reasons not just for the overall duration of the rendering consisting of raga vinyasa, kriti rendering, neraval and svara kalpana, the quality of the accompaniment as well and for the adroitness with which the great master presents the raga with finesse without being repetitive by choosing the right starting/ending notes (such as the dhaivatha and the rishabha) and never once leaving one in doubt as to the raga’s svarupa. The sleeve note to this concert indicates the violinist as Vidvan Lagudi G Jayaraman with the percussion support being provided by Vidvans Murugabhoopathy and Alangudi Ramachandran

Sri GNB’s felicity in rendering ragas such as Suddha Saveri, Malavi, Devamanohari, Andolika and their ilk would buttress his virtuosity in expansively exploring the unfamiliar or the tricky. And his exposition of Malavi is no different and in the same mould. Rasikas from an era, long gone will recall misty eyed, the late Sangita Kalanidhi Subbarama Bhagavathar who was a forerunner and an inspiration to Sri GNB in his raga vinyasa, especially Malavi. See Note 2.

 

In this recording, the master embarks first on a raga alapana. As one can notice, he dwells on the raga’s uttaranga centering his pivot on nishadha and dhaivatha. Mark the way in which he intones the delicate nishada in the ascent coaxing the life of the raga from those phrases. Never in his alapana does he emphasise the purvanga in the madhya sthayi. He focuses on the PNMDNS-SNDNP in the madhya sthayi and SRGMRS in the tAra sthayi and only in the fast akara phrases does he dwell on the SRGMP purvanga. And neither does he venture into the mandhara stayi as well. Overall, he presents the raga with an uttaranga/avarohana pradhana pivot, bounded by the mandara nishadha and the tara pancama. In other words, he capitalises to the hilt the devious/vakra sancaras of the uttaranga and the descent to paint his conception of the raga.

And then he launches his neraval and kalpana svara at the carana beginning ‘kalilO’ showcasing the immense possibilities of the raga and especially the dhaivatha note that he oscillates to spectacular effect at ‘kalilO’ is a revelation. Again attention is invited to the pace of his rendering a steady madhyama kala gait, without the typical breakneck/breathless speed in which this composition is commonly rendered. Neither does the percussionist accelerate the rendering in any way, providing perfect balance overall. For the svarakalpana he showcases the raga svarupa in both the speeds freely using RGMP prayogas in the druta kala phrases lest the color of Sahana stains the melodic canvas that he paints. Sri GNB and his disciples have again made this raga their very own. We do have recordings of Sangita Kalanidhi Smt M L Vasanthakumari rendering ‘nEnarunchi nAnu’ with a kalpana svara rendering at ‘kalilo’ and accounts have it that she has rendered a brief pallavi in the raga, though no recording of the same is available in the public domain.

A more sedate presentation of Tyagaraja’s composition worth hearing is by Vidvan Voleti Venkateswarulu who presents it in a tad slower tempo but yet majestic gait, much as he does many other briskly rendered Tyagaraja compositions such as ‘pattividuvarAdU’ in Manjari.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osYzsWBzAVI (Audio only)

What stands out in this edition is the perfect diction with which he enunciates the lyrics on one hand and the comprehensible madhyamakala cittasvaras which are usually rendered in a rapid-fire manner leaving the artiste breathless and the listener clueless as to the actual notes of the cittasvara section.

And finally, is the popular evergreen version by Sangita Kalanidhi Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, live in video, well past his prime in the company of the maestros Sangita Kalanidhis Trichy Sankaran and T N Krishnan in the portals of the Madras Music Academy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6PR8eyz8M0 (Video)

And despite his innumerable performances, there is a slip up in the cittasvara rendering, following the anupallavi and the titan without much ado promptly stops his disciples midway and restarts the cittasvara rendering all over again.

One other aspect of this composition is that recordings of artistes of varied hues and from different sisya paramparas of Tyagaraja, as available today ( starting with Veena Dhanammal, Veena Vidvan Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer and all others) would show that the mettu / pAtham of the composition is fairly uniform including the sangathis for the lyrics, across all their versions.

‘rAma nI dAsudanE gada’ of Spencer Sri Venugopal:

Rendering by Vidvan Malladi Suri Babu in a class session

In this section I take up this kriti and its exemplar rendering in the video below.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsDcyyjYPtY (Video)

This kriti of the contemporary composer Spencer Venugopal is best illustrated by this passionate rendering by Vidvan Malladi Suribabu in this Youtube video as he teaches it as was perhaps taught by his Guru the late Vidvan Voleti Venkateswarulu in his Radio program ‘sangIta Sikshana’ on AIR Vijayawada.

A number of distinct features stand out in this composition as well this rendering.

  1. The vilamba kala or the slow/sedate tempo of the composition. For me this attribute strikes so much as it negates the entire premise that this raga has to be rendered in madhyama kala only, as evidenced by almost all other compositions.
  2. The meandering melody with its long kaarvais and pregnant pauses as evidenced by this rendering.
  3. The looping sangathis which present the curvaceous contours of the raga starting and ending with the so called jIva svaras of the raga namely Ri, Dha and Ni.
  4. Whereas in nEnarUnci nAnu’, pancama is given a solid pride of place, apparently given the vakra sancaras around the pancama, in ‘nI dAsudanE’ we do not see emphasis on the pancama. Actually the pancama is muted with more emphasis to the dhaivatha, nishadha and rishabha which gives a distinctive color to the raga as implemented in this composition.
  5. The atIta eduppu of the composition which is a trifle rare in the world of kritis. More encountered in javalis, this form of eduppu occurs in Tyagaraja’s ‘nAtimAta marachitivO’ ( Devakriya of Sangraha Cudamani and not of SSP) which can be cited as an example.

Vidvan Malladi Suri Babu and his disciple sons, the Malladi Brothers have time and again presented this composition exquisitely. See Note 3.

Rendering by Vidusi Dr Ritha Rajan:

Presented next is the rendering of the same composition as a complete suite by Dr Ritha Rajan, disciple of the late Ramnad Krishnan and also of Smt T Brinda and others, even as she harnesses her musical acumen to paint a vivid portrait of the raga one winter afternoon decades ago at the portals of the Music Academy. See Note 4 & 5.

Hark at her raga vinyasa first as she takes off on the dhaivatha at the very start. For all practical purposes the dhaivatha of the raga is one of its life giving notes . And later as she embarks on a neraval at ‘sharadindu samashObita’ followed by an elegant svara sally with the violinist providing the perfect foil for her, she keeps her date always with the dhaivatha, nishadha and rishabha time and again . An observation as to her presentation of the raga in this recital/recording, is warranted here. As already pointed out, in this composition pancama is ‘not’ a pivot and is a muted or understated note. In line with that, the Vidushi has presented her alapana, neraval and svaraprastara emphasizing MDNS in the arohana krama and using pancama as a passing/transiting note and never for once using it as graha or nyasa. So much so apparently after the concert Vidvan S Kalyanaraman walked up to her and made a specific mention of the same opining that pancama had to be emphasised in the raga in line with the conception of Tyagaraja. See Note 6.

To reiterate, the complete full suite rendering of ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ by Sangita Kalanidhi G N Balasubramanian and ‘rAma nI dAsudanE’ by Vidusi Dr Ritha Rajan proves the point that the raga is not a minor one and full justice can be made to it imaginatively within the confines of the modern concert template.

Rendering by the vaggeyakara himself:

And rarely do we get to hear a composer’s own visualization or articulation of his own creation. It was entirely fortuitous that I happened to stumble upon a rendering of the ‘rAma nIdasudanE’ by Spencer Sri Venugopal himself which encompasses a raga alapana and the kriti rendering together with the cittasvara section. See Note 7.

First is the kriti text together with the cittasvara section.

pallavi:

rAma || nI dasudane gada nannu|rakshimpa rAdA ||

Anupallavi:

tAma ||rasa nayana nIkU pAma |rUdaina natO vAdA (rAma) ||

Carana:

vara | dA srI raghunAyakA bhakta|pAlA phaladAyakA |

shara|dhindU sama shObhitA sarva|sAdhU jana sEvitAh (rAma)||

cittasvara:

GM|N,PMGMRSRNR | S,RGMR,ndnSRGM |

DMGMNNPNM,NDsN|DNPMGM,rpmgmrsND |

NPMGMRSndnmdnSRG|M,NDNM,NDNsrgm |

        r,sNDNP,NDNP, |MGMRSRGMR,nSRGM || (nIdAsudanE)

(Note: mandhara stayi svaras are lower case, madhya stayi in upper case and tara stayi in lower case italics)

 

As one can notice the rendering of Vidvan Malladi Suri Babu is slower and he invests a number of additional/different sangathis ( much like in nEnarunci nAnu’ ) for the anupallavi and carana lines in comparison to the versions of Dr Ritha Rajan and that of Spencer Sri Venugopal.

In so far as the other compositions in the raga goes Vidvans S Kalyanaraman and Trichur Ramachandran have rendered the two compositions of Sri GNB while Vidvan Sanjay Subramanian has rendered the varnam of his Guru in this raga which is available in the public domain.

SOME HISTORY:

As pointed out many a time in these blog posts before, Tyagaraja never revealed the names of the nouveau ragas that he came to compose in, during his lifetime. The names of the ragas which we today know as Nalinakanthi, Ravichandrika, Bahudari, Nagasvaravali et al including Malavi came to be assigned to these melodies much later, either by the sisya parampara of Tyagaraja or by publishers of his compositions, much after the death of the composer. This fact has been attested to by several musicologists and musicians in the past. In the instant case as well, the raga name Malavi for the melody using the notes of Harikambhoji mElA (28th) is a later day assignment. We know for sure that in the first half of the 18th Century even before the birth of the Trinity, a raga by name Malavi existed. Tulaja II the musicologist King of Tanjore in his ‘Saramruta’ catalogues, circa 1732 AD, a raga by name Malavi under the modern day 15th Mela, Malavagaula, which shares no melodic affinity to the modern Malavi of the 28th mElA.

Neither is there a raga documented by Tulaja in the ‘Saramrutha’ that even faintly resembles the modern Malavi under the 28th mela. Or for that matter neither does Muddu Venkatamakhin’s raga compendium nor Subbarama Dikshitar’s Sangita Samapradaya Pradarshini talk of this melody. As pointed out earlier the first musical compendium where this scale under mela 28 makes its first appearance is the Sangraha Cudamani, the lexicon of the ragas of Tyagaraja’s compositions of 19th century vintage.

Thus, it can be safely surmised that this melody under 28th mela Harikambhoji is a later day creation of Tyagaraja i.e later in time to Saramrutha and the name Malavi came to be assigned to it post 1850, with the name belonging to a long dead raga (Malavi of the 15th Mela) which had fallen into disuse being repurposed to name this raga (under mela 28). Suffice to say that the Malavi of Tulaja (under Malavagaula) has no melodic affinity whatsoever to the modern Malavi, which is a creation of Tyagaraja with the documented lakshana as given in the Sangraha Cudamani. See Note 8

But one non-obvious aspect of this raga as conceptualized by Tyagaraja is that it is in conformance to the 18th century raga architecture, the principles of which we saw in earlier posts. The raga is completely vakra/devious and in fact employing the 18th century vernacular of describing ragas we can restate the raga’s lakshana as under:

  1. The raga is sampurna – i.e all 7 notes occur taking both arohana and avarohana together.
  2. SRGM is permitted while PDNS, SNDP and MGRS are to be eschewed.
  3. Dhaivata and gandhara are vakra in the avarohana krama whereas pancama is vakra in the arohana
  4. GMDNS, PMDNS and PNMDNS are alternate arohana progressions while SNDNP and PMGMR are leitmotifs occurring in the avarohana krama which go along in imparting rakti to the raga.

The individual notes, as one can see doesn’t make this raga. The raga’s life blood lies in its three motifs PNMDN, NDNP and PMGMR which are to be sung with the rishabha, dhaivatha and nishadha being the starting/ending notes as appropriate lend a unique melodic identity to the raga. The cittasvara for ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ appended by Vidvan Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer encapsulates all the salient murccanas of the raga.

From a composition rendering perspective it must be said that rendering of Tyagaraja’s compositions has been much accelerated, sacrificing the lyrics, melody and clarity of rendering at the altar of speed. See Note 9 & 10. And ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ has been no exception. The exemplar rendering of Vidvan Voleti Venkateswarulu of ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ and that of Vidvan Suri Babu of ‘rAma nIdAsudanE’ shows that the raga as well the compositions can blossom forth if it is rendered at perfect/appropriate gait and with passion and verve, holding an invaluable lesson for performers and connoisseurs/listeners of chaste music.

CONCLUSION:

Legend has it that Tyagaraja got inspired to create the raga Nalinakanti when he was hearing the musical score for a Marathi drama. In the case of Malavi or the composition ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ we do not know when/where/how he got inspired to create this melody or this composition. It is an unassailable fact that the raga evokes rakti and his conception of the same is yet another demonstration of his incomparable musical creativity and his innate artistry in chiselling out very many ragas from out of the body of svaras/murccanas. One hopes that modern day musicians emulate the likes of Vidvans Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar and G N Balasubramaniam in rediscovering and imaginatively exploring the Malavi that Tyagaraja has bequeathed to us, on the concert platform.

REFERENCES:

  1. Dr Hema Ramanathan (2004) – ‘Ragalakshana Sangraha’- Collection of Raga Descriptions pp 828-829
  2. Dr V Raghavan-Journal of the Music Academy XIV (1943)- Proceedings of the 1942 Music Conference with Vidvan Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar as the President of the Conference.
  3. Dr V Raghavan-Journal of the Music Academy XLIII (1972) – “Mazhavai Subbarama Iyer’s Note Book” by Dr P C Seetharaman, pp 100-107 and the Transcript of the proceedings of 28th Dec 1971 on pp 32-33
  4. Prof S. R. Janakiraman & T V Subba Rao (1993)- ‘Ragas of the Sangita Saramrutha’ – Published by the Music Academy, Chennai, page 73

FOOTNOTES:

  1. I am indebted in no small measure to Dr Ritha Rajan for sparing her time and effort and providing me with several valuable inputs and anecdotes that I have documented in this blog post.
  2. Vidvans Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer (maternal uncle of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer) and Mazhavaranendal Subbarama Bhagavathar (grandson of Mazhavai Cidambara Bharati, a Tamil composer of repute) are titans from an age long bygone. Legend has it that both of them were extraordinarily adept in rendering Malavi. And perhaps they had become so enamoured of the raga that they both went on individually to invest a cittasavara section for ‘nEnarunci nAnu’. While Krishna Iyer’s cittasvaram survives till date, Subbarama Bhagavathar’s (later to Krishna Iyer) cittasvaram survives in his books which was presented to the Music Academy on which a lecture demonstration was done in the year 1971. Subbarama Bhagavathar (born 1888) was anointed as Sangita Kalanidhi by the Madras Music Academy in the year 1942. His biography reveals that he revelled in rendering ragas like Janaranjani, Salagabhairavi, Sarasvati Manohari, Pratapavarali and Malavi with extraordinary felicity. Subbarama Bhagavathar’s Malavi rendering apparently inspired Sri GNB who went on to inherit the mantle of expounding some of these rakthi ragas. Though Subbarama Bhagavathar’s voice was slightly gruff yet by his prolific musical ideation and impeccable svara gnana he carved a niche for himself. And yet another gem (‘mani”) Sangita Kalanidhi Madurai Mani Iyer held him in awe as his manasIka guru for svara kalpana rendering. Its worth mentioning that the biographies of Smt M S Subbulakshmi records that she learnt the art of rendering complex pallavis from him. Subbarama Bhagavathar has also let behind his notebooks, immaculately notating several compositions including rare varnas. Similarly, musical raconteurs would recall Vidvan Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, nephew of Tirukodikaval krishna Iyer revelling in Malavi, exploring it impromptu, late at night much after a concert when his musical mind was still awake and in full flow- https://www.frontline.in/other/moving-the-heart/article6808048.ece . It is sad that no recording of Vidvan Subbarama Bhagavathar’s survives today despite the fact that he lived till 1950. Nevertheless it has to be said that whenever we hear Sri GNB rendering Malavi, Chenchukambhoji, Devamanohari or Andholika or Madurai Mani Iyer rendering a svara kalpana for Malavi or Kapinarayani, we should pause & remember for a minute that inspirational spirit for both of them, the long forgotten Sangita Kalanidhi Subbarama Bhagavatar !
  3. In the recent past Vidvan Malladi Suri Babu had presented the composition during the 2012 December Music Season ( photo from the Concert above, courtesy ‘The Hindu‘) a recording of which is available in the public domain. The concert recording of Vidvan Sri Voleti Venkateswarulu, his guru singing this composition is available on the Net. However as far as I know no recording of Sri Voleti teaching the same which was broadcast by AIR Vijayawada, is available. Should there be one, I would be grateful to have a copy of the same so that it can be made part of this blog post.
  4. This rendering of Malavi spanning 21 mins is from Vidushi Dr Ritha Rajan’s Music Academy after concert recital of 28-12-1984, a full 34 years ago with Vidushis Narmadha Gopalakrishnan, Sumati and Vid Dandamudi Rammohan Rao as accompanists. The concert features the Kanada Adi tala varna of Tiruvottiyur Tyagayyar, Sobhillu Saptasvara in Jaganmohini, Jambupate mampahi in Yamunakalyani, Palincu Kamakshi in Madhyamavati and a pallavi in Latangi amongst others, apart from this 20 min long Malavi essay. For those of us who aren’t aware, she is an acknowledged authority on the patantharas of Tyagaraja’s compositions and of the tradition and repertoire of Smt Veena Dhanammal and her family. In this Youtube video she talks about the musical legacy of Vidushi Veena Dhanammal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvRXFQIeW8I
  5. Thanks are due to Dr Ritha Rajan for sparing her time and effort to unearth this old recording of this concert and for providing me the permission to share the same on this blog post.
  6. With the greatest of respect for the view expressed by the great Vidvan, I wish to disagree in the instant case. As pointed out earlier in the narrative, the melodic canvas of Malavi in this kriti ‘nIdasudanE gadA’ is engineered with the pancama being relegated as a minor note. The key notes are the nishadha, dhaivatha and rishabha and naturally in line with the same the Vidushi has dealt with the raga in her raga vinyasa, neraval & svaraprastara accordingly. Even from a musicological point of view the structuring of Malavi deemphasizing the pancama note adds its own beauty to the raga and is well within the vaggeyakara’s creative right. It does not detract or take-way the beauty of the raga in any way.
  7. I am indebted to Spencer Sri R Venugopal for helping me understand the melodic and lyrical aspect of this composition ‘rama nI dAsudanE gadA’ and also learn this composition and its nuances, first hand. During his interaction, he alluded to the 78-rpm recording of the Tyagaraja kriti ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ rendered by the legendary Veena Dhanammal and confessed that his belief in the enormous potential of the raga much beyond the contours of this kriti was reinforced by her playing an extended vinyasa of the raga at the fag end of the said recording. I thank him for permitting me to use the recording of his rendering for this blog post.
  8. As a caveat it must also be said that much like how the origin of certain ragas are traced back to geographical region or tribes, for instance as in the case of ragas such as Kambhoji or Gurjari or Devagandhara or Nishadha etc, no such reference exists for ascribing Malavi to a region. An enterprising musicologist or historian may seek to represent the origins of this raga to the region of Malwa for example but one may be rest assured that no proof of such nexus exists in our musicological history.
  9. In their interview to ‘Sruti’ (Issue 405 June 2018) the Malladi Brothers lament why the composition ‘nEnarunci nAnu’ given the plaintive appeal of Tyagaraja and the soulful lyrics therein, was being rendered always in a breakneck speed doing irreparable damage to the lyrical & emotional content of the composition not to mention the incalculable harm to the musical fabric.
  10. The Smule phenomenon (https://www.smule.com/) pervading the social media/internet today has provided a new genre of rendering Tyagaraja’s compositions including ‘nEnarunci nAnu’. Two such amateur performers get together to present their interpretation of this composition – https://youtu.be/Eyik5D-rjMI

2 thoughts on “Raga Malavi – A Misnomer?

  1. Dear Sir,

    There is also a kriti ‘Vallari Samane’ composed by Oothukadu Venkatakavi in this raga. Since the composer belongs to a period just before the Trinity, and circa near the period of publication of the Sangita Saramrutha, how does that fit in with the above analysis? Or can it be surmised that Venkatakavi composed in the raga later named ‘Malavi’?

  2. Thanks for the information. Without in any way sounding controversial let me say this. The timeline of Venkatakavi, the ragas of his compositions and their lakshanas as applicable, the assignment of them to the kritis and also the provenance of both the kritis and notation thereof deserves to be researched in-depth to make a final and conclusive determination as to all these aspects, for a number of reasons. And I am not alone in holding this view. And therefore without prejudice, I have consciously in these blog posts avoided relying on kritis attributed to Venkatakavi, to make surmises or draw conclusions as to ragas or lakshanas or cite his kritis as authority for a raga or its lakshana.

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