Here is the fourth one in this series (click here for the third one). It is a rare alapana for a raga that is not that common, although not certainly rare. The raga certainly figures frequently in online forums in topics revolving around classical ragas etc.

Can you guess the raga and the singer?

(Audio Courtesy: sangeethapriya)

(Answer below)

Select the text below to reveal the answer and some comments:

Artist: Chittoor Subramania Pillai, the guru of Madurai Somu.
Raga: nArAyaNagauLa, and the alapana is rendered as a prelude to the tyAgarAja composition kadalE vADu. The raga is a classical one, and supposedly had much better days in the past. This rendition is special just because alapanas in nArAyaNagauLa seem rare to me. Besides this one, the only other one I have heard is by Smt. Sowmya at a live concert in Chicago a few years ago – I think she is one of the few artists who delves into this raga in detail.

As you perhaps could tell from the alapana, nArAyaNagauLa is closely allied with kEdAragauLa to a large extent, and suraTi to a smaller extent – as they all share almost identical underlying structure but differ in the intonation/gamakas of the swaras, as well the relative importance of the constituent swaras. The raga nArAyaNagauLa probably has been eclipsed a lot by its famous cousin kEdAragauLa. This is probably the reason why you rarely hear it today. Besides, some would say that even kEdAragauLa is getting rare(r)! There is a wonderful and entertaining video on YouTube at by Prof. S.R. Janakiraman that talks about nArAyaNagauLa (and its varnam), particularly how it differs from kEdAragauLa – fascinating stuff and a must watch!

The above rendition also has kalpanaswaras. Kalpanaswaras for nArAyaNagauLa, although really not that common are perhaps not as rare as alapana – e.g. TMK has rendered them for SrI rAmam (dIkshitar) in a commercial CD. I think SSI has also done it.