Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pancharatna Krithis - Sri Balamurali Krishna

Pancharatna kritis (Sanskrit pancha, five + ratna, gem) are a set of five kritis (songs) in Carnatic music, composed by Tyagaraja.

Saint Tyagaraja is probably the most well known of the composers in Carnatic music which is the classical music of South India. He lived in the late 18th century and early 19th century in Tiruvayyaru in Tanjore district in modern day Tamil Nadu. He is listed along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Sastri as the 'Musical Trinity' of Carnatic Music. His compositions are well known and sung today in classical music concerts. Around 750 of his compositions survive today. A key feature of his compositions is that very serious philosophical and even general themes relating to the human condition are set in a religious context accompanied by musicality of a very high order and all this in very simple colloquial Telugu which is easily understood by the common person.

The Pancharatna kritis of Tyagaraja are in praise of his beloved deity, Lord Ramachandra and are long and extremely skilful musical compositions. They are actually set in the style of a Ragam Tanam Pallavi (RTP) with the charanas (stanzas) substituting for the kalpana swaras (improvisatory passages) in the pallavi section of the RTP.

The Pancharatna Kritis of Thyagaraja consist of the following:

Jagadananda Karaka - Raga Nata
Dudukugala - Raga Gaula
Sadhinchene - Raga Arabhi
Kanakana Ruchira - Raga Varali
Endaro Mahanubhavulu - Raga Sri

The ragas or melodic forms of these compositions (Nata, Gaula, Arabhi, Varali, Sri) are the five Ghana ragas of Carnatic music also called the ghanapanchaka. They are so called because they are suited to playing tanam on the veena. Nata and Varali are the most ancient of the Carnatic ragas and date back 1000 years.

A particularly difficult musical challenge has been taken up successfully by Tyagaraja in three of these compositions. The raga Nata has a particularly distinctive use of the 'dhaivatam' note or swara. Tyagaraja has avoided the 'dhaivatam' completely in the first pancharatna kriti without losing the swarupa of Nata ragam. Similarly 'gandharam' is an accidental note of some beauty in Gaula. Tyagaraja avoids this too (except in one instance) without losing the character of the raga. Finally, he avoids the accidental 'dhaivatam' in Sri ragam, again a note that is present in some very characteristic sancharas of this raga. It requires musicality of a very high order to do something like this not once but three times in very common and much loved ragas like these.

Balamurali Krishna

Dr. Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna is one of southern India's most influential vocalists and composers. Known for the optimism and clarity of his three-octave vocals, Balamuralikrishna has consistently displayed a mastery of classical musical traditions of India and has composed more than four hundred pieces. In addition to performing more than 18,000 concerts throughout the world, Balamuralikrishna has released more than 250 cassettes in his native country. According to Swarmi Chimayanda, when you listen to Balamuralikrishna's music, "you can realize what the crazy gropies felt in their ectasy of divine love". A native of Sankaraguptan, a small village in Rojolu Taluk in the East Godvari District of Andhra Prodesh, Balamuralikrishna inherited his musical skills from his parents. His father, Pattabiramayya, played flute, violin and veena, and, his mother, Suryakantamma, played veena.