On Dec 21, 2013, I presented a thematic concert titled "Traditional Tukkadas" under the auspices of Carnatica and Madhuradhwani at the Arkay Convention Hall in Mylapore, Chennai. I have been toying with this idea for a few years now, and when an opportunity for a thematic program came this season, I decided to do this. Although it was billed a concert, I felt that many aspects needed elucidation and therefore decided to add that element as well. It turned out to be the right decision, going by the excellent response I got for the program.
When I started working on this presentation, I realized that there was much to learn and ponder over. One of the first things I noticed was the paradox in the title of the theme, which I had actually come up with quite
casually. The dictionary gives many meanings for the word 'tradition'. It essentially refers to customs, practices and beliefs that are handed down from generation to generation. We also often create new traditions in our lives, and they become special to us.
The word 'tukkada' seems to be a relatively recent addition to the Carnatic music jargon, probably as recent as twenty years, although the practice of singing some compositions after the main piece itself isn't new. 'Tukkada' means 'piece' in Hindi and in the context of food, it apparently refers to a fried snack! Many passionate music aficionados find it trivial and derogatory to apply this term to the compositions presented in this section of this concert, which are often of very serious musical value and merit detailed treatment anywhere in a concert. I have however now come to believe that they're sung in this section primarily because of the shift in our concert structure after the Trinity's period. Clearly, we have gone from having a manodharma-centric (improvisation) concert structure to a composition-improvisation structure, in an almost 50-50 ratio. The importance placed on the works of the Trinity and othervaggeyakaras as well as the creative aspects has, in many cases, resulted in some of the other compositions and musical forms getting pushed to the latter part of the concert. The freer exchange of knowledge from different parts of South India has also created a bigger pool of available compositions today, and some of them get featured after the main piece, based on their raga, structure, suitability or form. All these do not mean that the post-main section of a concert is or should be trivial. An artist can infuse as much seriousness into any item of the performance as he wants. Anyway, for all practical purposes and especially given that our society has become so multi-lingual, the word 'tukkada' has gotten established for the time being!
My aim in this concert was to bring to the table as many authentic varieties of compositions of South Indian origin, which can potentially be presented in the 'tukkada' section. I found at least 20 possible varieties of compositions such as Padam, Javali, Tiruppugazh, Tiruppavai/Pasurams, Tevaram, Devarnama/Dasarapada, Slokam, Viruttam, Ugabhoga, Vachana, Tillana, Ragamalika, Tarangam, certain types of Kritis and Keertanas, Kavadi Chindu, Magudi,
Sampradaya bhajans, poems in various South Indian languages, patriotic songs, Oozhikoottu and other folk forms. The inclusion of each makes for its own fascinating story! Some like the Tevaram, Tiruppavai, Tiruppugazh etc., have been chosen to be presented by musicians in concerts in their original or new tunes, even though they are primarily part of the temple traditions. Yet some others are sung in new tunes today as we've lost the original tunes, eg., Devaranama, Keertanas of Annamayya etc. However the idea behind presenting them in concerts seems to be the fact that they contain some key elements of our holistic culture (devotion, philosophy and spirituality), possess excellent lyrical and musical value, and in many cases, great structural potential.
Given that the time was very limited, I was happy that I could present quite a few of the above types of compositions. I don't remember the exact order in which I presented them as I played it by the ear, but here are the compositions:
1. Tiruppavai (Male manivanna) - Kuntalavarali - Adi - Andal (Tuned by Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar) 2. Ragamalika & Kriti (Bhavayami raghuramam) - Rupaka - Swati Tirunal (Retuned into a Ragamalika by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer) 3. Tevaram (Vediya veda geeta) - Anandabhairavi - Adi - Appar (Supposed to be in its original tune) 4. Padam (Tamarasaksha) - Yadukulakambhoji - Tishra Triputa - Muvvanallur Sabhapati Shivan 5. Javali (Neematale mayanura) - Purvikalyani - Adi - Pattabhiramayya 6. Kavadi Chindu (Kannan varuginra neram) - Folk tune - Tishra Gati - Oottukkadu Venkata Kavi 7. Vachana (Chilimili endoduva) - Hameerkalyani - Adi, Tishra Gati - Akka Mahadevi (Modern Tune) 8. Keertana (Muddugare yashoda) - Kurinji - Adi - Annamayya (Tuned by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy) 9. Slokam (Kasturi tilakam) - Ragamalika (Shanmukhapriya, Bahudari and Darbarikanada) 10. Tarangam (Govardhana giridhara) - Darbarikanada - Adi - Narayana Teertha (Retuned by Ramnad Krishnan) 11. Tillana (Tomtom tatara) - Poornachandrika - Adi - Ramnad Srinivasa Iyengar 12. Devarnama (Makutake mangalam) - Madhyamavati - Adi - Purandaradasa
I made introductory remarks before every item and also used a PowerPoint to supplement the information I wanted to provide. My accompanists - Anuradha Sridhar (violin), Sai Giridhar (mridangam) and Akshay Anantapadmanabhan (kanjira) - provided cheerful and robust support, considering that the concert didn't make any room for solo opportunities for any of them. Just about recovering from the sore throat that I had picked up from my Mysore trip, I was a bit of a cautious performer that day. But all is well that ends well! I received some wonderful compliments on my effort, and I look forward to working more on such ideas and learning a lot more in the process.