Water Lily Acoustics Series Volume 5 L. Subramaniam

Dr. L. Subramaniam is India’s violin icon. He has recorded, played and composed a substantial variety of music including Karnatic (south Indian), Western classical, jazz, world fusion and world music. Dr. L. Subramaniam has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Yehudi Menuhin, Stephane Grappelli, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell and Ravi Coltrane.

Lakshminarayan Subramaniam was born July 23, 1947 in Madras, India. His career as a childhood prodigy brought him into contact with the greatest musicians and he soon imposed himself as a master of the violin. At a very young age, he was honored with the title Violin Chakravarthy (emperor of the violin). Very few musicians can boast of such diverse repertoire and collaborations, or even such mind-boggling techniques. Till date, Dr. Subramaniam has produced, performed, collaborated, conducted and released over 150 recordings.

Dr. L. Subramaniam is the only musician who has performed/recorded Karnatic Classical Music, Western Classical Music, both orchestral and non-orchestral, and also composed for and conducted major orchestras, collaborated with a wide range of some of the greatest musicians, from different genres of music including jazz, occidental, jugalbandis with North Indian musicians, world music and global fusion. He has established himself as a force that is strongly Indian, but universal in nature and approach. (read more)

Friends of this blog will not need to be reminded how much I love carnatic violin playing. And that there is probably none better at it than Dr. Subramaniam.

So nothing more to add here. Another utterly scintillating hour or so of music here. Enjoy!


Way Down South: Carnatic Music Mixtape

Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

My earliest idea of India was south India. At the time I was born in Madurai, a historic and spiritual city near the tip of the sub-continent, my family lived in a small provincial town in the northern part of Karnataka State. In my first 6 years the family moved between Gadag (Karnataka) and Madras (Chennai). Summer holidays were spent in the Palani Hills town of Kodaikanal where my older siblings attended an American boarding school.

My taste in curries ran toward sambar and rasam. Snacks were dosa and idli. Thick milky sweet coffee was more common than tea. Christmas holidays were spent on the beaches of Karwar or Mahabalipuram or Pondicherry. I learned Kannada along with English.

When I was 7 my father was transferred by his employers to North India. To the equally holy and historic city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Though I was too young to form any opinion about what this meant I do recall considerable anxiety within the family, especially my two older brothers who protested loudly. No one wanted to leave our familiar surroundings in the South and head more than 1500 kms north to what sounded like a completely different country. We’d have to forget Kannada and Tamil and pick up Hindi. The food was different. The mountains were steeper and more dangerous. And we would have to say good bye to all our friends.

As it turned out I loved the north. I learned Hindi (and later Urdu) and fell hard for the popular culture of Hindi films, north Indian sports like gulli danda and kabaddi and spent what seemed like years trekking around the Garhwal Himalayas. I spent my entire primary and secondary school years in Allahabad/Mussoorie and finally moved to the States to attend University in 1975.

Though North India was the part of India I became most familiar with, I never lost my South Indian roots. I always loved the food and visited friends and familiar places as often as I could. In 1977 I spent a year back in Madras with my parents who had been re-transferred back once more. Though I loved many things about the south I have absolutely no memories of south Indian music. To the extent that I had any awareness of Indian music as a lad it was Ravi Shankar and Bhimsen Joshi or Lata and Hemant Kumar.

When I started listening seriously to Indian music as an adult I found my ear was very much tuned to Hindustani (northern) music rather than Carnatic (southern). It has been a slow process to understand and appreciate the quite different sonic world of Carnatic music. And by no means do I fully ‘get’ it yet. Thankfully, I still have a few years left (hopefully) to grown my appreciation but there have been some learnings thus far.

First, I absolutely love the way south Indians play the violin. There are so many incredible violin players (some of which I’ve included in this collection) who can make the instrument sound so soulful and so at home in a variety of settings (jazz, classical, folk). Second, the south Indians are tireless explorers. They collaborate and adopt anything that comes their way. They’ve pioneered the carnaticisation not just of the violin but of the clarinet, saxophone and mandolin as well. In the diaspora south Indians like the pianist Vijay Iyer and saxman Rudresh Mahantappa are at the forefront of contemporary jazz. Third, in their classical singing there is a deep but different (from khyal) beauty. Something altogether unique and original. I don’t have the words yet to describe it.

I’ve put together this collection of several tracks I’ve enjoyed over the years. There is plenty more which may come one day in a second volume but I hope you enjoy this. It has classical flute, violin and singing. It has fusion. It has jazz/rock. It has qawwali (in Tamil). It has sublime depths. It is wonderful music.


Masterwork: M.L. Vasanthkumari

M.L. Vasantkumari

Madras Lalitangi Vasanthakumari (popularly referred to as MLV) (3 July 1928 – 31 October 1990) was a Carnatic musician and playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. [Full biography here]


Track Listing:

01 Raga Bhairavi (Viriboni)

02 Raga Hamsadhwani (Gam Ganapathey)

03 Raga Suddha Saveri (Daarini Telusukonti)

04 Raga Saveri (Ragam Tanam Pallavi)

05 Raga Chenchurati (Sundara Mooruthi Mukhya Praana)

06 Raga Lalit (Stanzas From The Ashtalakshmi Stotra)

07 Raga Shivaranjani (Ugabhoga & Emanelli Kaananendhu Kela Beda)

08 Ragamalika (Paayum Oli Nee Enakku)

09 Ragamalika In Tamil (Oru Tharam Sharavanabhavaa Enru)

MLVasanthakumari NCPA

Masterwork: M.S. Subbalakhsmi

M.S. Subbalakhsmi

There is no more beloved or well regarded Carnatic singer than M.S. Subbalakhsmi.

Born in the temple town of Madurai on the 16th of September in 1916, M.S. Subbulakshmi was introduced to music at a young age by her mother. Her mother Shanmukavadiver Ammal, who belonged to the Devadasi community, used to play Veena and was a regular stage performer. This exposed M.S. Subbulakshmi to a lot of music concerts and artistes – the likes of Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer, Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar and Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar who deeply inspired her young mind.

Subbulakshmi mastered the nuances of Carnatic music under the tutelage of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. At the same time, she also learned Hindustani music under the famous vocalist Pandit Narayanrao Vyas. 

The young prodigy gave her first public performance, at the age of eleven, in 1927, in the Rockfort Temple, Tiruchirappalli along with legendary accompanying artists Mysore Chowdiah on the violin and Dakshinamurthy Pillai on the mridangam. At the young age of 13, in 1929, she also gave her first performance at the prestigious Madras Music Academy, Chennai. This was a breakthrough performance that won her many accolades and praises. [Full biography]

Another interesting article on how a young Subbalakhsmi broke convention and refused to marry the man her parents had selected for her, in preference to following her muse.

Track Listing:

01 Raga Hamsadhwani – Guruvandanam, Vathapi Ganapathim

02 Raga Hamsanadam – Bantureethi

03 Raga Suddha Saveri – Siraiyaarum Madakkiliye

04 Raga Keeravani – Sri Chandrashekharam Aashraye

05 Raga Varali – Marakathamani Varna

06 Raga Kapi – Pillangoviya Cheluva Krishnana

07 Raga Kurinji – Aliveni [Padam]

08 Raga Mishra Jogiya – Ghadi Ek Nahi – Bhajan

Disc 2

01 Raga Bhairavi – Kamakshi [Swarajathi]

02 Raga Suddha Saveri – Paripaalinchumani

03 Raga Dwijavanthi – Chetah Sri Balakrishnam Bhajan

04 Raga Kalyani – Nidhi Chala Sukhama

05 Raga Manirangu – Jaya Jaya Padmanabha

06 Raga Huseni – Iyal Isai

07 Raga Jaunpuri – Puchhat Shyam Kaun Tu Gori

08 Raga Kanada – Adhirum Kazhal Panindhu


Masterwork: M.S. Balamuralikrishnan

M.S. Balamuralikrishnan

Balamuralikrishna was born on 6th October 1930 at Sankaraguptam, located in present day Andhra Pradesh. He was named Murali Krishnan by his father. The prefix Bala was given by a Hari Katha performer Musunuri Satyanarayana Murty Bhagavatar and thereafter he came to be known as Balamuralikrishna. Since his father, Mangalampalli Pattabhiramayya, was a famous musician himself and his mother a well-known Veena player, music was always part of his childhood.

Balamuralikrishna was a child prodigy. At the age of five, he had started to give musical concerts. When he was just eight years old, he gave a mesmerizing concert at the famous Thyagaraja Aradhana in Vijayawada. His brilliant voice gained him instant fame and recognition. When he was barely fifteen, he had perfected all the 72 melakartha ragas (basic scales of Carnatic music). He had also composed krithis, a feat usually accomplished by experienced Carnatic musicians. Balamuralikrishna had also perfected instruments like Violin, Viola, Khanjira, Veena and Mrudangam. [Full biography]

Track Listing:

01. Raga Natta (Varnam)

02 Raga Ananda Bhairavi (Nee Balama)

03 Raga Chandrajyoti

04 Raga Shree (Shri Abhayamba Ninnu)

05 Raga Deshkashi

06. Raga Hindol (Hari Rasamaa Vihari)

07 Raga Chenchuruti

08 Raga Punnagavarali

09 Raga Kunthalavarti

10 Raga Madhyamavati