Jul 16, 2019

"Sound Check"!!

Dear friends,

Have been wanting to write about this for a long time now!

Carnatic Music Concerts have moved from Single mic Concerts to Analog mixers to Digital mixers within a span of a few decades. Though we are not qualified sound engineers, years of using mics/ sound gadgets, and years of working with reputed sound engineers have blessed us with quite a lot of insight regarding the art of sound management for a live Carnatic Vocal Concert. 

Lets take our own Concert as an example here. Typically there are 5 of us on the stage. Two Singers, Mridangam, Violin and Ghatam/ Khanjira. We normally dont mic the Tampura, but this could be done too. 

By professional standards, one needs to allot at least 30 mins (this is the barest minimum) per artiste, which itself comes to 2 and a half hours!!!! Now, this is practically impossible, unless we have the hall from the morning, or we do the sound check the previous evening. Whenever this option is available, we do it without fail, as we hate to keep the audience waiting!! 

However, in most of the venues that hosts concerts in India and abroad, either the hall is rented only for a few hours, or there are concerts before the main concert for the evening. The Sabhas have to resort to this for multiple reasons, and they cannot be blamed for this. So, practically, the whole team is given 15 to 30 mins for sound check. This is like asking the cook to prepare Paaladapradhaman (Kerala delicacy that demands a lot of time and attention to detail) in 15 mins!!! 

The whole exercise becomes even more difficult when its a duo, with similar Voice texture! Without getting too much into the details, it would suffice to say that to equalize the Voices, and make sure that both are heard distinctly yet without one not sounding louder than the other, is not an easy job :-) 

Also, we cannot have a pre-set soundscape, as each hall is different. Certain halls are acoustically treated, whereas others are not. The capacity of each hall is different, while some can hold thousands, others will fill up with a few hundreds. It could be either open air or indoor. All these play a huge role in adjusting the volume levels and other parameters (hundreds of them, by the way). 

As most of you are aware, we have the PA system and the feedback monitors. For those who are not familiar with these terms, PA refers to the speakers the audience listen from. Monitors are the black boxes you find on the stage,  used by the artistes to hear themselves. The sound check has to be done separately for the PA and the monitors. The sound mix could be different. Professionally speaking, each artiste must have one monitor for himself. That’s however not practical every time, so once again a lot of compromise happens in this front. Nor is it possible to go with in ears for a Classical Concert, as its an art form that thrives on improvisation and interaction among the artistes. It doesn't work for many artistes, certainly doesn't work for us in a Carnatic Concert. 

One more aspect that merits mention here is that, there are different mics for the different elements in a Carnatic Concert. For example, Shure SM 50s are our preferred mics for vocals, if we are not using a condenser. The Mridangam needs a sharper mic for the right and one with more bass for the left. The Ghatam needs a sharp mic whereas a Khanjira needs a bass one. Imagine the plight of artistes, when we find that the whole set of mics on the stage are completely mis placed, say just half an hour before the concert. Of course, that happens very rarely nowadays, with Sabhas investing in proper sound equipment and engineers.

We can go on and on about the various technicalities involved. If we can talk so much, imagine what a sound engineer will have to say about this. 

One of the reasons we wanted to write this post is that, we have had feedback from our well wishers and rasikas, and critics (both constructive and destructive :_)), that we tend to take a lot of time for our sound check :-)))
First of all, we want to make it absolutely clear that , we hate to keep the audience waiting! Nothing could be more unprofessional. At the same time, we are very keen that we give our best for the sound check, in the half hour that we get. As we said, this is just 1/5th of the time, that it normally takes to adjust the sound.

Also, as we mentioned in the beginning, whenever we have the choice, we take the trouble to come early and finish the sound check, but due to practical constraints for the Sabhas, this option is not always available. 
We also feel that, we would rather spend this quality time in the beginning, rather than fiddling with the system time and again during the concert, which, we suppose, is a bigger disturbance for the audience. 
In fact, most of the time, we go without the monitors as this would take another half hour, minimum! We cannot thank the accompanying artistes enough,  for cooperating with us in this respect. Its very difficult especially for the Mridangam to play without the monitors, but given the circumstances, our dad has never complained about this! Nor have the Violinists or Ghatam/ Khanjir Vidwans who normally accompany us! Thanks!!

Why is this half hour of sound check very crucial? 

Numero uno- this is very important to safe guard the Voice. A poorly adjusted sound system can lead to Vocal abuse and land the Singer in trouble sooner or later. This is our life and profession and we better be careful.

2.) In a Carnatic Concert, the whole concert revolves around the Shruthi! If you cant hear the Tampura, and still perform,  that is gross injustice to this artform. Only a well managed sound system will allow the artistes to clearly hear the Tampura and enjoy themselves and share that Divine experience with the listeners. 

3.) A Carnatic Concert is well experienced, when all the elements have the right tone and volume! If the Ghatam sounds louder than the Mridangam we have a problem. If the Violin sounds feeble as compared to the Vocals we have a problem. If one of us sounds louder than the other, thats not fair!!:-) if the overall volume is less, we have an issue (though we have to resort to this in halls that are not acoustically treated), if the volume is loud, then its not Carnatic Music!!!

This is just a brief write up. We have just touched the tip of the iceberg! There is so much more of science and technicality and talent involved! Sound engineering is not meant for the feeble hearted! You need brave-hearts to handle this :-) It requires years of training and experience. Its like a cricket match, each pitch is different, and we have to play accordingly. So with the sound too! Each venue is different.

We hope this article will help put aside a lot of wrong notions about “Sound Check” .
We would like to request all you wonderful rasikas out there to be patient when the artistes do the sound check. They are equally or more eager to commence the concert. 
So the next time you walk into our concert or any other concert, and are treated to some  “Sound check” , we request you to enjoy the whole process and not complain, for there is more to it than meets the “ears”, in this case :-)

Musically Yours, 
Trichur Brothers

Dec 2, 2014

December Season 2014/ 2015

Shri Rama Jayam

Dec 5th: Margazhi Mahothsavam, Youth Hostel (Adyar), @ 5.00 PM

Dec 6th: Karthik Fine Arts, Narada Gana Sabha Main Hall, @ 10.00 AM

Dec 10th: RR Sabha, Dakshinamoorthy Auditorium, Mylapore @ 7.00 PM

Dec 15th: Narada Gana Sabha, Narada Gana Sabha Main Hall @ 7.00 PM

Dec 19th: Charsur, Narada Gana Sabha Mini Hall, @ 4.30 PM

Dec 20th: Chennaiyil Thiruvayyaru, Kararajar Arangam, @ 10.00 AM

Dec 21st: Mylapore Fine Arts, MFAC Hall, @ 4.30 PM

Dec 22nd: Brahma Gana Sabha, Sivagami Petachi Hall @ 4.00 PM

Dec 23rd: ISKCON and Carnatica Global Music Festival, ISKCON Thiruvanmiyur @ 5.00 PM

Dec 24th: Hamsavinodhini, Kashi Vishweswarar Temple, West Mambalam @ 7.00 PM

Dec 25th: Shri Maha Periyava Padhuka Temple, Mylapore, @ 7.00 PM

Dec 26th: Rasika Fine Arts, JayaGopal Garodia School @ 7.00 PM

Dec 27th: Nungambakkam Cultural Academy @ 7.00 PM

Dec 28th: Shri Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Vidya Bharathi, Bheemasena Garden, Mylapre @ 4.00 PM

Dec 29th: Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha, Vani Mahal @ 6.30 PM

Dec 31st: Bharath Kalachar, PSBB School, @ 4.30 PM

Jan 1st: Vadakkunnathar Temple, Trichur

Jan 3rd: Chrompet Sabha  @ 6.30 PM

Jan 9th: Nada Sudha, Ganapathi Sachidananda Swamiji Ashram, Velacheri, @ 6.30 PM

Jan 10th: Asthika Samajam, Venus Colony @ 7.00 PM

Shri Rama Jayam

Jul 24, 2014

North America Tour 2014, Part 1

Shri Rama Jayam

We left India on the 10th of April. In fact we had just returned from attending our Family Shri Ramar Temple Navami Celebrations and also just back from an Anubhuthi Fusion Concert at Hyderabad.
Raghu ji , Violin Vidhwan, arrived on the day of travel, and we were all assembled to leave at around 9PM. I think Amma had made Panneer and Fried Rice on the day we left. There were 8 big baggages in all, that included two custom made Mridangam boxes. For the very first time we were going to fly by Cathay Pacific, and the flight was via Hong Kong. I would say that the check in process was pretty hassle free (compared to the last year, when all our baggage was opened up for further inspection). Once we boarded the flight, the first thing we checked were the movie collections the flight offered. The movies selection was pretty disappointing, compared to Air India. There were just a couple of Malayalam Movies. Anyways, personally I had decided that I will not get my eyes red (from watching movies that is), like the last time.  The crew was indeed mostly Chinese, as expected. The Food provided was good. It really helped that I drank quite a lot of water and when we deplaned I did not have a red eye!!! Flying Cathay was definitely a nice experience.
First stop in the Tour was Hong Kong, and I sort of liked the landing scene. We had to spend a few hours there, and whilst we were there, Raghu and I decided to just check out the airport. I remember taking a flight of stairs which brought us in front of a wide array of shops that mostly sold Food and cosmetics among other things. We had this interesting conversation, and Raghu informed me that even though Hong Kong is not actually China, the place was itself controlled by China. He works in the HR management for his company and had some insight on all these details. Anyways, there was no Food we could buy, as they were all Mix (Veg and Non Veg) outlets, and we were also not really hungry.

The Tour was two months long and we were covering 25 cities in all. Over two months, we would have walked quite a few miles across airports, I am sure. Escalators and walkalators were adorable. We got so used to them that during rare circumstances when we did not have these facilities in some airport, we would miss them so badly.

The two black custom made Mridangam boxes was a master stroke. Only a Mridangist could tell you how concerned they would be about the instrument.  Just two Mridangams for 24 Concerts, within two months, in different weather conditions is a huge ask.  Approximately 5o times the Instrument would be loaded and unloaded by the baggage crew. For them, this is a daily task and God knows what the Instrument endured when it was handled so many times by different pairs of hands. I can now tell you that the box did hold up and the Instrument was very gracious and stayed fit for all the Concerts throughout the Tour. The very first indication of any wear and tear to the box was when we landed at Columbus, towards the latter part of the tour. One of the wheels had come off, but it did not compromise on the greater purpose for which the box was made, that is, to protect the Instrument. So, good job by the Calcutta Manufacturer and good decision to get the boxes.

So, here we are , flying from Hong Kong to Los Angeles. Flight was very comfortable and most importantly, travelling through Cathay to the West Coast, saved a lot of time. And landing at LA, as opposed to Chicago (if you travel by Air India), also saved a lot of time with all the formalities we go through when one lands in the US with a Visa. One of the things to remember when one travels is that Ignorance is Bliss, but not when you are unaware of the contents of a baggage you are carrying to the US!!!

With all the immigration (or emigration or whatever) formalities out of the way, we were looking forward to San Diego, one of our favorite destinations in the United States. The fact that our Cousin lives there (of course the family has relocated now to Atlanta) made it all the more interesting. Lakshman is my dad’s cousin sister’s son and also the grandson of the one and only Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. A laugh riot is guaranteed whenever we meet up with the family. The entire family is huge fans (like so many others in world) of my dad’s amazing sense of humor. I can never say enough, about how he manages to get people into splits of laughter. It is also true that the same joke will have only half the impact when somebody else recounts. Humor comes so easily to him (like , sort of a birth right), which is the only explanation I can think of.
With Laskhman Anna before the Concert

Lakshman Anna, Uma Manni and Maya are the great hosts with whom we actually stayed for the third time. This was our third Concert at San Diego, and we had stayed with them on earlier occasions too. Lakshman Anna was already there at the airport when we arrived, and he announced his presence by shouting “Koshava!!!!!” which is by far the most affectionate term he uses. After exchanging pleasantries (more words like Koshava , that is), we were on our way home. Had the first experience of loading so many baggages into the rear of the car. Big cars in America is the norm rather than the exception and the four of us squeezed in (major part of the car was occupied by the baggage) with Lakshman taking the wheel.
The San Diego Festival conducted by Indian Fine Arts, who were also sponsoring our Tour along with the Aradhana Committee of Cleveland, had already begun. One of the best Music Festivals in the United States that celebrates Indian Classical Music, the entire Event is so well organized. San Diego itself is such a gifted place, blessed with very pleasant weather round the year. The city is also home to many Indians and the Festival has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years. We were slated to Sing the next day, and as I had foreseen, the jet lag worked to our advantage. By around 9.30 PM, Western Time, sleep announced itself rather forcibly.

Concert Day! The Ragam Thanam Pallavi was in Ragam Bhageshri. The last two times in San Diego, the Ragas were Jog and Brindavana Saranga. I also remember  that we started the tour with a composition of Dr BalaMuraliKrishna, a Padha Varnam in Shanmukhapriya (Omkaara).

The feature of any North American Tour is generally that the weekends are filled with Concerts and one may take the weekdays to recover from all the loss of sleep that comes from hectic travelling during the weekend. This sort of works, mostly because things are so well organized. Roads are good and the airports have very good facilities. Most of the airports provide us with curbside check in facility, which was, God sent for us. With all the huge bags, this really came in handy. The vehicle could be parked just alongside the curb, and we merely had to quickly shift the baggage from the car to the check in point, generally manned by a couple of friendly persons. For the kind of baggage we were carrying 10-15 USD was reasonable tips, and we could just walk in to the flight. The key is not to worry about the point of time when we have to get down from the flight, claim our baggage, load them into the car, and unload them at the host’s place, not to forget that the next morning we are very likely (actually assured) of going through the same routine all over again. Having said that, travelling as a team is fun, and one hardly notices all this. There is so much of chit chat and wise cracks. Above all, the Musical Discussions and Insights that would happen in between all this is truly a great feeling.

The next destination was San Jose!

May 17, 2012

Listening to Carnatic Music:

Some people are born lucky with an ear for Carnatic Music. Some others acquire the gift. Some are unfortunately not even aware of this form of Music, and the rest of them simply refuse to listen!!! That is why, I believe that, end of the day, one must be destined to listen to Carnatic Music.
 Having been brought up in a family, where Carnatic Music is played almost every part of the day, it might be difficult for you to believe that I started developing the taste probably in my early teens. Thanks to our parents, the routine was not compromised. Seldom was film music played in the house. But listening in the formative years leaves a huge impression.  Years later, a Shankarbharanam phrase flashes and you recollect that you have listened to this, even without your knowledge, when you were playing around as a kid.
As I have mentioned, the first category are just lucky. The second category always wonder, why this did not happen earlier, but thank God, better late than never!!! The third category is either not exposed to Carnatic music, or are misinformed or have strongly pre conceived notions about attending a Carnatic concert.
One of the frequent comments I have heard is this, “Oh, Carnatic Music, I am not even sure about Sa Re Ga Ma, and I cannot identify the Ragas. So what is the point?” Well, do you need to know the recipe of Pizza before you eat one? It is there for you to enjoy and why worry about the intricacies. It is a different thing, if you get interested and become passionate about the Ragas, and then learning becomes a natural process.  Going one step further, I would say, “Ignorance is Bliss”. When you come for a concert and listen with your heart, it works the best.  Therefore don’t entertain this idea that one can appreciate Carnatic Music, only if knowledgeable.
There are some, whose primary idea to attend a concert is to find mistakes. “The Saranga slightly inched into Hameer Kalyani”…or “Ragam lacked Azhutham”….or “Kalapramanam is too fast”…..etc etc.  Constructive criticisms definitely help, but when the sole idea is to find fault with the artiste on stage, it neither helps the listener nor the artiste. So please for heaven’s sake don’t come into a concert hall with such motives.
In one of our recent lecture demonstrations at IIT (Chennai), one student raised this query, “I love listening to Carnatic Music, but get a little tensed when people relate it to Spirituality”. The question did catch me off guard. I was thinking, “Of course, it is Spiritual”.  However, I expressed my view which seemed to satisfy him. I told him, that if one has a glass of water when he is thirsty , it will automatically quench his thirst, whether or not he wants to call it “Water” or H2O” or any other name he wants. Similarly with our Music, it touches the heart and does quench the thirst of the inner being. I call it Spirituality. You may call it whatever you want, but the effect is the same, you walk out of a Music session as a calmer and better human being. This is definitely experienced by millions of people across the globe.
One other comment that is fortunately getting totally obliterated is about the majority of senior citizens in a Carnatic Concert. Well, the scene has totally changed for sure. Today, you find a lot of youngsters attending concerts, and most of them are pretty knowledgeable too. There is definitely an increased awareness of our Art Form, and it is no longer restricted to India and the USA. Concerts happen all across the globe and Carnatic Music is definitely moving towards a wider International audience base.
Put in a nutshell, it’s a very simple exercise. All one has to do is to go to the concert hall, sit down, listen and enjoy. Well, if it is that simple then why is it that one has to be made aware of this art of listening. Like any other fine arts, most of them need to develop a taste before they become ardent fans. The first time I watched Cricket, I hardly understood anything. The more I watched I started getting familiar with terms like,” out swinger, Yorker, bodyline, LBW, Caught behind, mid off, mid on, outside the line etc etc”. Even watching a game requires a little effort from our end, then talk about Carnatic Music, which evolved from the Sama Vedas. See, this Music does put you in a meditative frame of mind, whether you like it or not, and therefore the mind revolts in the beginning. To sit through a half an hour exposition of the best Shankarabharanam is possible only for a seasoned listener, unless one belongs to the first category of being lucky to have this ear for Carnatic music. Therefore in my opinion, give yourself some time. At least ten concerts, before you decide (God forbid) and make that statement, “Sorry mate, Carnatic Music is not for me”. You don’t know what you are missing.
As I said earlier, come in with the pure intention of listening to good Music. Don’t worry about the Raga and Thala. Don’t worry if you don’t get interested in identifying a Raga, doesn’t mean you don’t belong, really does not matter as long as you are enjoying. The interest will naturally come through, the Music will gradually grip you and you are hooked to IT FOREVER!
Musically Yours,
Trichur Brothers.

Feb 9, 2012

Sahithya and Sangeetha

Jai SitaRama

Before we start discussing this topic, let us understand that Carnatic music has primarily evolved as an art form that sprang from the spiritual outbursts of Saints like Shri Purandara Dasar, the Thrimoorthigal and various other Mahathmas. Indeed each Raga is presided over by the Raga Devatha and obviously is charged with innate Divinity. Every Musician would have experienced the fact that the Raga controls his/her music and it is not the other way round. It is exactly when this happens that one could say he/she is immersed in the Raga. Therefore it is a given fact that the Raga by itself is Divine.
I think a comparison to the Vedas is warranted here to explain the thoughts. The Vedas are chanted with Swaras. Udhatham, Anudhatham and Swaritham, as they are classified. It is declared that the Vedas has to be chanted with the prescribed Swaras. If the Swaras go wrong, it would have a negative impact even though the Sahithya (using this term for the sake of convenience)is correct, and vice versa. Now both the components have to be addressed properly for it to be complete. Similarly with Carnatic music. Of course, there is a lot more of freedom to add one’s own Sangathis* within a given space. But the Sahithya is of paramount importance and adds to the ambience and majesty of the rendition. However scholarly you might be in your chosen language, can you ever replace “Entharo Mahanubhavulu“ , with any other Sahithya. Never!!!!!! Would it create the same impact? Never!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Numerous examples can be quoted which goes on to establish that Sahithya and Sangeetha are like two sides of the same coin. Take the example of Chakkani Raja Margamu, where Thyagaraja Swami explains, “why think about other narrow paths, when the path of Shri Rama Bhakthi, is there in front of you”. The Path is broad and royal. The number of Sangathis that adorn this Pallavi line are plenty, whereas there is just one Sangathi for the next line, “Santhula Dooranela”( which means, narrow paths ,that are longer). Obviously the Saint wanted to stress on the Royal Path. Again in the same line, the pause at Raja Margamu is noticeably long denoting the Royal Path, whereas at Santhula it is really short, and again “Doora” is long signifying distance. This is just one example. Our Music is so beautifully blended with Sahithya Rasa and it is indeed an inseparable aspect of our Music.
There is an incident reported by a person who had Darshan of Shri Ramana Maharshi, and asked the Maharshi, “Is it not true that Thyagaraja Swami, Deekshithar etc attained God by singing? Can I not do the same?” The Saint replied, “ What they attained came out as Krithis or Songs!!!!”. What a profound meaning this brings about. Our Music is supremely different in this respect, that it is definitely Spiritually oriented. The Saint composers, did not sit down with a notepad, think about the nuances of each Raga, and then come up with a composition. They were all Spiritually inspired, and the Music was an expression of their “Anubhoothi”. We are all aware of the Cause and Effect relationship. If a particular sound brings about a particular effect, then it is only fair to assume that as a corollary a specific effect will result in a specific sound. So with the Krithis, these Krithis have come out as an expression of “God Realization”, and we can have a glimpse of that experience, if we sing it in the right manner , with the right Bhavam and Bhakthi. Thus, it is definitely not advisable to take the Sahithya lightly.
Would just like to add, that, today with the amount of material that is available in books and the Internet, we must definitely make it a point to learn the Sahithya properly, and understand the meaning of each Krithi.

*Sahithya- Lyrics of the song
* Sangeetha-Tune of the song
*Sangathi-Embellishments on a particular line of the song.

May 23, 2011

The Jakarta Episode

Hi Guys. 
Just wanted to share our experience performing at Jakarta. The concert was organized by the South Indian Association as part of the Sastha Preethi celebrations. Apart from the three of us, violinist Sherthalai SivaKumar accompanied us from Chennai.

Our flight from Chennai took us to Singapore, and then we had to wait there overnight to catch our flight to Jakarta in the morning. Passing time at Singapore airport is quite easy as the airport is very impressive in size and facilities. You can spot people from every corner of the world waiting for some connection flight. No wonder, their government spent so much on the airport. I am sure everyone would share a word or two about this airport once they reach their destination. Anyways, if I remember well, our flight was at early morning we had only our check in baggage to be bothered about. We took a train that took us to the other end of the airport, where our gate was. We presented our ticket at the gate, and were in for a surprise, as the attendant informed us that the gate was changed for this flight. We probably missed the announcement, but none of us could remember hearing any. We now had to go to some other end of the airport, and we could do this only by train. But the system is so organized, we were able to locate our train in no time, and quickly we took off to the other gate and were permitted entry, with raised eyebrows, annoyed at our late arrival. Guess we just about made it. Aboard the Garuda Airways, we were seated at the back. The moment we entered the flight we were aware of some nauseating smell, which got worse as we neared our seat. Well, guess these guys cook something which smells like that. Fortunately it was a short flight to Jakarta, and the airport was quite plain compared to Singapore. The visa was on arrival, and it was taken care by our host, Ramaswamy Mama. The security guys wanted to know what was inside the Mridangam bag (Mridangam of course), and dad had to explain the instrument. They did a scan and after some deliberation, dad agreed to play a mini thani for them in the airport and they were mighty thrilled.

We then drove to Ramaswamy Mama’s house, it was a pleasant drive of more than half an hour. We saw the famous Gita Upadesa depiction on the way. The Ramayana and MahaBharata are supposed to be pretty famous in this part of the world as in India. We were welcomed at the door by Mrs RS with a broad motherly smile, and none of us could contain our joy at the delicious aroma of home made Vethakozhambu. The family was so hospitable from the word go, and Mami wasted no time in getting us seated for what followed to be a most satisfying dinner. We took some group snaps, and were ready to retire, when somebody reminded us that Indonesia is very prone to earth quakes. He got no better time to make this comment!!! However, RS Mama, brushed aside the concern, and informed us that it only occurs at certain locations and there is nothing to worry.

RS Mama’s house is very beautiful. Very spacious, it had a swimming pool too. We gladly accepted his invitation for a swim, but preferred to do it after the concert. Mami, made sure the pool would be cleaned by then. Another point that stuck us was that, in Indonesia, there could be as many as five servants in a house. These people were a content lot, and Mami was explaining that they very much adhered to our “ Madi Acharam” and took bath nearly five times a day!!
The next morning, we had Darshan at the Ayyappa temple. A very beautiful temple, and every ritual was carried on as done in India. That evening we performed, and we rendered quite a few Tamil compositions, as there were predominantly Tamil speaking people among the audience. I think I saw some local Indonesians too in the audience. I remember we sang Kaa va va, as the main. Later, they wanted a sloka from Narayaneeyam, and we sang a Virutham for the slokam, “Yogeendranam…” It is indeed a great feeling to see our people in these far away places still sticking to our culture. They also appreciate it much better, for we in India take it for granted as we get it so easily.
After the concert it was nice meeting lot of people, and we had many invitations, all of which we could not honor for want of time. However, we had two more days left, and it was decided that we will go for a Safari tour the next day.

Mr Chandrashekharan  alias “Uncle”, as they call him, is part of the organizing team, and it was he who took us for the safari trip. We were surprised to see lot of vegetables, especially carrots, inside the van. Uncle informed us that these were to feed the animals. We still had no idea of how wonderful the trip would turn out to be. We drove away from Jakarta, into the forest, and we were let in after we purchased the tickets. We were warned to keep the windows closed.

The safari was like any typical safari. We would drive on the road, and on both sides there were animals moving about. The wild among them, like the lion or tiger, would be within an enclosure, so they don’t come out and hurt. But what really amused us were the monkeys. Here, uncle asked us to throw bananas at them, and some of them threw back the banana skin after eating the fruit. That was really funny. We were also shaken, when a particular kind of bird (forget its name), which was tall, up to our van’s window, suddenly started tapping violently on the windows with its beak. By no means was this cute, but rather menacing with its wide eyes and weird hair style (it did have some hair). However, Uncle told us that it is harmless and we entered the most interesting part of the safari.

There was this Oranguttan, and we could take snaps with it. One by one we posed with the monkey, and it held to us as a small child would. That over, we were in for one more photo shoot, but this time with a Cheetah. We were assured that it was domesticated, but dad would have nothing to do with it. Uncle convinced the rest of us, and yes we did get the snaps. However, Uncle refused no for an answer, and dad had to bow down to his relentless entreaties and finally obliged for a snap. The cheetah sat on his lap, and for some reason, it stood up just when the camera was above to be clicked. I am sure Dad did not expect this and he had to go through this again. The snaps were taken and then we roamed about the civilized jungle, and heard all sorts of sounds made by these animals. We distinctly remember seeing this monkey swinging from branch to branch, gleefully screaming, and it was freedom at its best. Thanks to Uncle, this safari trip we will never forget.

The next day we stayed with our cousin Radhika and her husband Harish. On the way something interesting happened. Apparently we broke a traffic rule, and this police guy stopped us. Before opening the window, Harish explained that in Jakarta, the police guys were very gentle, and accepted bribes gracefully by explaining how much more we will have to pay otherwise, quoting from their traffic rules book. The door opened and the police man, ever so gently, requested for a bribe or penalty of some 20000 rupees (don’t remember the amount exactly, but sounded like a staggering sum for sure). We were stunned as Harish started counting the notes. We soon realized that Indonesian Rupee is not as valuable as the Indian Rupee and 20000 Rupees is not a big amount for them.

RS Mama and Uncle dropped us at the airport next day and we were back to Chennai within 24 hours, taking the same route. We did meet Ramaswamy mama, Uncle and many friends we made at Jakarta during the marriage of RS mama’s son that happened in Chennai. It is an unforgettable trip, and the fact that I write about this after nearly 5 years, without forgetting much of the details, stands testimony to it.

Musically Yours,
Trichur Brothers

Jan 25, 2011

SathGuru Thayagaraja Swami


Jai Shri SathGuru Thyagaraja Swami. Jai Sitaram.

I just wrote on Facebook about the great Thyagaraja Aradhana Celebrations that are being conducted all over. As a child, I remember listening to Swamigal's compositions rendered by different Artistes. And everytime, I knew, it was a Thyagaraja Swami Krithi, without being told. I am sure many of us have experienced this. There is something extremely divine and comforting about His compositions. And all His krithis touch a nerve, deep within, and has that unmistakable touch of the Saint communicating His Ananda and Rama Bhakthi. Our family deity is Shri Rama and Thyagaraja Krithis were hummed by everybody in the family in between their daily chores. I still remember our Chithappa in the next house use to play "Kshirasagara", almost everyday in full volume. And we as kids use to wait for that line, "Tharaka Nama, Thyagarajarchitha", and our day was made. I always beleive that if you can impress kids with your creativity or talent, then there is Divinity there. Kids seldom analyse, they take into heart whatever they are fed with. And lucky are those kids who are fed with Thyagaraja Krithis, because, they are then being initiated into the Highest Truth through the easiest path. Blessed are all of us who can sing and hear and enjoy His Krithis.
The fact that He has touched our hearts with His simplicity and Music that sprang from HIS Anubhuthi is clearly displayed at the Love and Energy with which His Aradhana celebrations are celebrated all over the country and even abroad. His Krithis are the easiest Marga for Mukthi and the easiest way to be in touch with our rich culture. Let us all pray that He blesses us with Rama Bhakthi and Sangeetha Jnanam.

Jai Sitaram.