A lot of popular ragas and compositions which feature regularly in carnatic music concerts. It is not uncommon to run into elaborate renditions of ragas like tODi, bhairavi, SankarabharaNam, kalyANi, kAmbhOji, kharaharapriya (“the big six”), as well as pantuvarali, pUrvikalyANi, mOhanam, madhyamAvati and many many others of similar stature. Even though some complain about the seeming monotony or repetition of the ragas, most Carnatic music aficionados never tire listening to the ragas and the compositions they are intimately familiar with and love!

However, there is also a special charm when musicians present new concepts. Many musicians of the current as well as previous generations have sought to go against the usual theme, and present rare ragas. For example, you find musicians like T.S. Kalyanaraman handle rare vivAdhi mELas with ease (as well as invent new ragas). In the recent generations, handling of rare ragas are much more common.  Although, there are  certainly exceptions to this, a big majority of these fall into ragas which are usually completely new to us in the sense we may not have heard renditions of them at all.  It does make them special.

However, even more special to me  are the times when a musician does something unique/different/new in a raga that is not exactly of the “completely new and rare” kind. It is most special to me when the raga is something that I like, and I want to hear artists try something elaborative in it, a want that is usually not satisfied. I have a few examples of these in my collection, and I thought I would share them here.

Here is the first one.  Try to guess the raga and the artist. Let me know what you think of this piece.

(Download here)

(Answer below)

Select the text below to reveal the answer (I hope this technique works for all of you!):

Artist(s): Alathur Brothers – I think this is Alathur Srinivasa Iyer rather than Alathur Sivasubramania Iyer. Am I right?

Raga:  SAlagabhairavi – as a prelude for the reasonably well known composition padavi ni sadbhaktiyu by Thyagaraja).

SAlagabhairavi belongs to the 22 melakarta kharaharapriya, and is reasonably close to that raga. Its arohana/avarohana is S R2 M1 P D2 S / S N2 D P M1 G2 R2 S.