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Malladi Suribabu's Lecdem
08 February, 2020

Malladi Suribabu - Compositions in Telugu

Paalam in continuing its educative work for the cause of music had thought it fit to hold the series, Sangeetha Sahithya Anubhavam, where compositions in Telugu, Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi and Hindi were presented. The whole set came under the banner “demo-concerts” and the Vidwans/Vidushis who delighted us were Sri Malladi Suribabu, Smt. Seetha Rajan, Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan and Dr.Sriram Parasuram, in that order, at Dr. Annie Besant Centenary Hall, YMIA, Mylapore. The events were held between 8th and 11th February, 2020.

Malladi Suribabu hails from Vishakapatnam with nearly four decades of experience at All India Radio, Vijayawada, naturally chose Telugu Compositions and covered a whole gamut of these lyrics with compact notes, often prefacing and sometimes following each song. This singer said that he was  sharing certain legacy bestowed on him by his ancestors as well as the benefits of “shravanam” (the joy and benefits of listening) while in-service at All India Radio as well as his learning from his Parama Guru SriPada Pinakapani, Guru Sri Voleti Venkateswaralu as well as Sri Nedunuri Krishnamurthy garu.

Suribabu began the session with the Thyagaraja Krithi, Sangeetha Sastra Gnanamu in Mukhari and gave kalpana swaras briefly for the pallavi. Thereafter, stating his experience he told us that every sangeetha sahithya of ours is bhava-laden and every single raga is a medicine, a mantra and has healing power. In music, he observed “What is sung is not being written, what is written is not being sung. There lies the secret of music or otherwise known as manodharma.” He said among others he would cover the lyrics of Harikatha Pitamaha Adipatla Narayana Das of Vijayanagaram, Kshetragnya who hailed from the village, Muvva, Narayana Tirtha, some Javalis of Narayanasami, and compositions of Dasu Sriramu - all composers who belonged to the Telugu-land.

The happiness that the vaggeyakaras experiences in composing kirthanas can’t be explained in words. (He kind of substantiated this by giving the example of Intha Sowkhayamani of Thyagaraja in Kapi). Some kirthanas have become famous because of ragas; some ragas have attained popularity on account of musicians like MS, NC Vasanthakokilam, Mahavaidhyanatha Iyer, TNR, GNB, SSI, Palladam Sanjeevi Rao, who have rendered it, to name a few. Suribabu rendered the song Pattividuvaradhu (Thyagaraja in Manjari) which he had learnt from Voletigaru, his guru. For great musicians sahithya and raga served as a conveyor belt to the Supreme. Most notable among them was Mangalampalli Balamuralikrishna who gave prime importance giving expression to correct pronunciation of the words, Telugu being his mother tongue. Star as he was, he was ready and did in fact even sacrifice gamakas for the sake of intonation. (Other singers put to use these gamakas rather freely). Here he gave us an interesting anecdote where once in AIR, Vijayawada,  Balamurali had sung compositions in rare ragas, SooryaKantham, Manjari, Swaravali and his manner of  presentation gave maximum effect to his performance.

He also pointed out that the very pallavi in Thyagaraja krithis had captured the life of the song. (Aadamodi, Bandureethi, Pattividuvaradhu, Evareni, Evarikai - He sang the pallavi alone in each one of these to bring home this point). The words used were of the commonest in nature, everyday words, and hence could be easily understood.  At the same time Thyagaraja’s choice of the raga Kapi to depict his sad predicament in “ Anyayamu Seyakura”  in order to convey the meaning “Don’t deceive me! Please!”- left Suribabu with a queer inexplicable feeling. This song is said to have been prompted by Thyagaraja’s brother deceiving him on account of a dispute over some piece of property.

Talking of Badhrachala Ramadasu Kirthanalu, he said that the Ragam travelled closely but only “behind” the lyrics. Here is a case of a composer who “instead of weeping for bail when jailed” sang in praise of Rama. It was believed that Ramadasu had a melodious voice (as told to Suribabu by Nedunuri garu) and was the inspiration for Thyagaraja. Ramadasu is said to have given life to the ragas, Nadhanamakriya and Anandhabhairavi. Suribabu himself had set to tune a song in Kannada (Raghu  Rama  Idhemira  Rajasama) which he sang for the rasikas’ approval and thereafter went on to sing Ramajogi Mandhu Konnare (Semmangudi’s favourite) and Thakkuvemi Manaku Ramudu.  Bhadrachala Ramadasu Jayanthi is being conducted at Bhadrachalam for the past 12 years where nearly 400 musicians take part.

Suribabu also sang Govinda Sorrara Mohana in Dwijavavanthi tuned by Voletigaru - that inimitable freelance tuner/composer, rendered in AIR Vijayawada’s Bhakthi Ranjani programme. Of the composers Narayana Thirtha, Annamayya never took to notating songs and it was only the trinity that introduced this practice. Talking of other composers Suribabu said that Puliyur Duraisami Iyengar was another composer who had made compositions especially on Lord Siva in Telugu (He sang a few lines Adenamma in Vasantha).  In the same manner Adipatla Narayana Das had done songs in Telugu and the famous Markandeya Charitram and Janaki Sabatham (Harikathas) in Sanskrit. Suribabu sang the sensuous Ekkadi Nesthamu, a Kshetragna’s padam in Saranga, two Javalis one in Kedaragowlai and another, Kopavedula of Pattabiramayaa that he had learnt from Panigaru (Pinakapnii). Here he recalled the words of Panigaru: “One should always try to elevate the level of the lyrics to that of the music contained in the song.” In a manner of speaking, in padams and javalis the essence of the raga could be grasped fully, as this aspect is given prominence over all else.

Suribabu concluded his lec-dem highlighting the value of Thyagaraja’s Divya Nama krithis and Utsava Sampradaya krithis.Thyagaraja is said to have composed  200 Divya Nama Kirtanas through 120 pairs of sishyas. If present day students are trained in singing these and perform these to perfection on stage, a major portion of learning music could be said to have been achieved. The sadguru had not composed a single song in a lighter vein. If Rama was the embodiment of Nadha and that being his ishta-deiva  (இஷ்ட-தெய்வம்) how this thought could come to us at all, Suribabu wondered. Similarly it is wrong to classify Annamayya’s compositions in the same manner. A man (Annamayya) who is believed to have written a treatise on music, Sangita Lakshana Sara Brndam could not ever think of “lesser” compositions in the wildest of his dreams. Just to re-emphasize this Suribabu sang Dharmathmannnipudu in Kedaragowlai at this point.

M A Sundareswaran and Manoj Siva provided accompaniments and were able to enjoy the concert fully as much as the rasikas. Suribabu was given vocal support (பின்பாட்டு) by K Ramesh (Bangalore).

In a word, it was an evening that was as enriching as it was fulfilling!


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