Tag Archives: instrumental music

Swamusings ~ On A Different Note!

17 Nov

Swamusings ~ On A Different Note!

Most music aficionados stick to known types of music. Their daily commute, long drives out of town and private listening hours (if any) pretty much overflow with the same kind of music, if not the same performers too.

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Some are open to listening to different kinds of music. They explore and discover the odd gems, but still predominantly listen to the familiar ones.
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Few actually explore various genres of music and expand their sound scape, continuously…

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As a typical born-and-brought-up Madrasi (all South Indian people – from 4 vastly different states and a UT – are madrasis to the rest of India 🤣, all of which the madrasis simply refer to as North India, irrespective of whether it’s located in the east, north or west 🙄), Swamy’s terra firma in music is carnatic, naturally – both vocal & instrumental. But because of his slightly pronounced inclination towards instrumental music (thanks to legends such as Kunnakkudi, Kadri, Umayalpuram, etc.) 🎺🎻, simply due to his lack of multilingual skills (to comprehend the meaning of hymns, songs, bhajans) he also warmed up easily to western (yep, the videshi west) instrumental music as well (Kenny G, Yanni, Miles Davis, Joshua Bell, the Orchestras, Lindsey Sterling, etc.). 🎼🎹🎧
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Surprisingly, despite choosing to remain in his motherland after spending only a few years outside (unlike many of his pals who chose to settle down on the supposedly ‘developed’ side of the world 🤦‍♀️), his exposure to Hindustani music remained limited to the occasional sitar, santoor or flute album, mostly accompanied by Zakhir Hussein on the Tabla 😂. And then there’s Hariharan’s ghazals, of course (Hariharan is not only well known in the southern movie industry, but he himself happens to be a Madrasi, just like Shankar Mahadevan).

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All that changed, with his exploration – albeit a cautious one – into the hi-res audio space. While looking for hi-res / lossless audio to test his audio gadgets, Swamy ended up discovering quite a lot of musicians, from both sides of the world.

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Swamusings ~ Treading (with caution) into audiophile territory!

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Here are a few (ex)samples…
Swamy has never heard about Lorde, until listening to and getting instantly enchanted by her voice, on a song included in an audiophile music playlist, on YouTube (of all places)! She’s like Adele, yet different.
Madrasana was familiar territory but with a twist – a performer on his/her own, sans accompaniments, in a well organised setup. And this channel creator / patron is a former hotshot executive in the IT services industry, where Swamy too spent his entire career span.
And then there’s Darbar, which is the perfect gateway for someone like Swamy to explore the vast (and obviously enchanting) Hindustani music terrain. Filled with fantastic single tracks by a plethora of astoundingly talented performers (many of whom Swamy hasn’t even heard of until now), it’s a channel worth a watch, ummm… Listen (both, actually)!

NhAdha Brahmam ~ a tribute to Shri Kadri Gopalnath, the incomparable Saxophone Maestro

12 Oct

NhAdha Brahmam

~ a tribute to Shri Kadri Gopalnath, the incomparable Saxophone Maestro

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Over a decade ago, I’ve left Jr in a tournament hall (he’s a professional Chess player at international level) somewhere in Mangaluru and walked a few kilometres in blazing sun, with the help of the directions on the phone (it’s probably a Nokia – well before it’s android days) to reach an ancient ShivA temple, that’s located on a rocky hillside. The darshan was wonderful and I’ve returned in time for lunch with Jr (sensibly took an autorickshaw this time). The place I’ve visited is Kadri, which has been made world famous by a son of the soil, who gave the darshan of NhAdha Brahmam to even untrained musical lovers such as this writer, whenever he played a classical song on the western wind instrument known as Saxophone. Instrumental music is naturally formed a significant portion of Swamy’s music collection, in cassettes (do ya know what they are Gen X/Y/Zers) and CDs (used to spend a fortune at the annual music sale at Shankara Hall once upon a time, just like the hundreds of books purchased during the annual Chennai Book Fair, year after year), which now await digitization, quietly lying down under the bed (oh don’t worry, they’re pretty safe), though even that effort seems pointless in this digital age, when there are apps aplenty to play any kind of music anyone fancies, in the phone itself!
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The bassy nhAdham emanating out of the instrument was simply out of the world and can easily bring tears of joy flowing from the rasikA’s eyes. Just like RAjarathinam PiLLai, SrinivA, MAli, BAlachander, Kunnakkudi, UmayALpuram & Valayappatti are simply known by the name of the respective instruments they played with absolute mastery, the name Gopalnath is synonymous with Saxophone. The identity of Master (Maestro!) musicians like him is inseparable from the instrument they play. In other words, they’ve attained union with not the instrument, but the music that flows through it / them.

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Their worship of NhAdha Brahmam, i.e. the Divine in the form of sound, is the music we are blessed to listen to. If done with awareness, perhaps the rasikAs too will be blessed with the darshan of the divine, in the formless form of NhAdha Brahmam. And thanks to my maternal grandfather Shri Rengasami Iyer, I was fortunate to listen to Shri Kadri Gopalnath live once, at the NhAradha GAna SabhA, at a much younger age – accompanying him, which will remain etched in the memory (along with the vocal music performance by another legend, Shri KJ Yesudas), forever.

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Legends aren’t born as legends. But they certainly become aware of their real talent (an inherent gift, unlike skill that’s learnt, which comes into play in a given lifetime, based on one’s prArabdha karmA), work diligently to hone it and attain mastery over it, over a period of time. Whether they know it or not, playing music is their sadhana (spiritual practice) and daily offering to the divine. RasikAs – knowledgeable or otherwise – become a part of that offering, by simply being present, with nary a distraction (kinda hard in the present days with the constant notification wink of the omnipresent smartphone), during such performances. In an(y) unexpected moment, the darshan of the Creator can happen, even if it’s just a glimpse, like a momentary lifting of the veil, making that time worthwhile, eventful, purposeful and joyful. And true legends such as Shri Kadri Gopalnath are the chosen instruments of the divine, to offer the rest of us a glimpse of the boundless Grace! Shambho.

~Swamy | @PrakashSwamy

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