Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 31, 2014 - Sangeeta Ganamrutam

With the emergence of several music streaming services, I decided to start the day by browsing some of the more well known services like spotify, rdio and saavn, to compare which service seems to have the best interface and library. While on saavn, I did the obligatory search for my own name (I'm only human), and found an album that I have sung on, which I have never even heard before!

Rewind to late 2013 when I ran into Neyveli Santhanagopalan Mama somewhere outside Chennai while we were both on concert related travel. Our concert trips had overlapped so I got to spend half a day with him having some wonderful discussions about music and musicians of the past. Three days later I got a call from Mama asking if I would be able to sing on an album of compositions of Veenai Sri Varadayya. He informed me that I would have to sing just a portion of them, while the others would be sung by Smt. Aruna Sairam, and the remainder by his daughter Sriranjani Santhanagopalan.

This seemed like a simple request at first, except there was a slight catch. I'd have to learn five songs (including an ata tala varnam) I'd never heard before, and record them in the studio in just three days! At first I told him I wasn't sure I would do justice to them in such a short time, but he was very confident that I could. Within a few minutes of our phone call, I had several emails with the notations for the songs along with a note saying that I could call or Skype Mama any time to go over the songs if I had any doubts. For 2.5 days, I went over the notation (for me, this starts with re-writing the entire krithi in a different form that makes it easier for me to read and sing while practicing). On top of learning these rare songs, one song was in a new ragam I'd never even heard of, 'nutana gowla.'

I had one Skype session with Santhanagopalan Mama and he gave me the approval for the first three songs to record the next day. I remember after going into the studio, one song just didn't come out very nicely. There was suddenly a lot of hesitation in my singing and doubt in the sangathis. Mama told me to leave that song and finish the other two that day. Later that night, Mama called me and asked me to come on Skype to go over that song as well as the remaining two. With his help, I was able to finish all the remaining three songs the following evening. I should mention that Mama was in the studio both days to oversee the recording, and whenever I had any doubts, he would stand in front of me and put talam while I recorded the song, giving encouraging gestures to boost my confidence.

I went back to my usual routine of travel and concerts and forgot about the album altogether. A few months later, Giri Trading invited me to the release function of the album in Mylapore, but I was not in town at the time. Suddenly today I found this album, Sangeeta Ganamrutam on and listened for the first time to the songs I had sung, as well as the ones sung by Smt. Aruna Sairam and Sriranjani.

I'm not qualified to comment on the compositions themselves, but I will definitely say they were challenging and something worth adding to any musician's or music student's repertoire. Mostly, I'm still shocked but grateful that Santhanagopalan Mama had the confidence that I could learn these songs and made sure I recorded them within just a few days.

To Stream: Saavn -
To Purchase: Giri Trading -

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