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Spreading the language of music

"Madana kathanakuthuhaludu rammane, Madana kathana kuthuhaludu rammane, Madana kathankuthuhaludu, Rammane, Birana…biraana…biraa..na raa…ve…"

The chorus of young voices accompanying the main artiste in the racy and lilting 'Kathanakuthuhalam thillana' composed by the musical genius Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna had delighted audiences at Saptaparni Cultural Centre in Hyderabad relive what has come to become an annual 'August experience' in the August company of renowned musician, teacher and musicologist Prince Rama Varma. This was but one of the many beautiful compositions that the eminent Carnatic vocalist performed along with many rare gems from music composers across the spectrum in a concert that was a fitting finale to a two-day workshop held here.

Rama Varma has a golden voice that effortlessly traverses the range of 'swaras' summoning them at will to execute perfect compositions that seamlessly blend prosody (lyric), melody and rhythm creating a unique experience quite beyond the realm of words. Music experienced in its purest form best defined as 'refined' springs forth naturally as he tells us about the composers and compositions, many of them rare and forgotten peppered with anecdotes and a razor-sharp wit that has audiences bursting into laughter. For instance, after rendering a composition in the raga 'Simhendra Madhyamam' he points to his accomplished accompanists Avaneeswaram SR Vinu on the Violin and B Harikumar on the mridangam and says, "See this is Simhendra madhyamam. I am seated in the middle (madhyamam) with two Simhas (lions) on either side." Even as the audience breaks into laughter he adds, "Walt Disney had only one 'Lion King', we have two."

The scion of the Travancore Royal family and inheritor of the musical lineage of his illustrious ancestor Maharaja Swati Thirunal makes it a point to explain the sahitya (lyrics) and never fails to pay glowing tributes to the composer even as he teaches compositions in different languages. Explaining the meaning of the lyrics and pronunciation of each word to perfection is an exercise that requires extreme patience and is physically exhausting, but he does this with extreme dedication and the skill of a master craftsman. Purandara Dasa's 'Dangurava Sarirayya' and T V Gopalakrishnan's 'Sivanai ninaindidu' along with the Murali Thillana meant that students learnt compositions in three languages, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil in a span of two days which they sang with élan along with their guru at the concert. The CD 'The Language of Music' produced by K7 Studios and made available to audiences after the concert is his latest offering reflecting his unsurpassable love for music transcending barriers of language, culture and narrow parochialism.

Every composition in the bouquet of 15 songs presented here has a hue, fragrance and uniqueness of its own bringing forth the lyrical beauty of compositions by composers in seven languages. Many songs are popular Varma numbers that are requested by fans at various concerts across the globe. Beginning with the Western Nottuswaram 'Vara leela gana lola' by Thyagaraja in Sanskrit, there are songs in Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Braj Bhasha and Tamil.

The five Telugu songs presented here reflect the musician's love for this language particularly lyrics attributed to composers like Prayaga Rangadasa, Bhadrachala Ramadasa and Kaiwara Amara Nareyana. The credit for re-introducing and popularising soulful songs by Amaranareyana known for philosophical expositions and devotional fervour goes solely to him and the CD contains verses that were hitherto unsung in his concerts.

Resplendent like the rainbow composed of seven colours the songs featured in the CD reflect the universal appeal of music emerging from the playful interplay of the saptaswaras. The scintillating Western Nottuswarams based on the Western major scale, soft and sweet Rabindra Sangeet and heart-warming Braj Basha composition of Maharaja Swath Thirunal in the Hindustani classical tradition are part of this beautiful offering by Prince Rama Varma. 'The Language of Music' is then a valuable compilation for those who wish to trade the trivialities of the world with the divinity and magic of pure music.

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