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Sanjay Subrahmanyan: There's magic in his music!
BANGALORE, October 9: Sometimes you are lucky to encounter a mystical experience. You have to be the right man at the right place to experience it. You cherish the event long after it has passed into the mists of history. I have been lucky a few times.

Of the few that I cherish is one concert of Sanjay Subrahmanyan back in 1995. Or was it in 1996? It does not matter. But what I vividly remember is the morning concert at the Y.G.P Auditorium at Nungambakkam, Chennai.

Sanjay took a pregnant pause that morning after brisk rendition of some kritis. He seemed to be searching for something that would make the audience sit up and take note.

Then he sang the raga Sahana. He was a different Sanjay altogether. I found him to be quite contemplative, fittingly with the raga's mood. There was depth, a new resonance in his voice; a rare poise and dignity! He then sang Papanasam Sivan's composition "Chittam Irangadaden Ayya Senthil Velayya" with a lot of feeling and passion. Soon I could palpably feel the mood created by the singer. Even to this day, I can still picture Sanjay singing the song with great beauty, pleading as it were with the Lord Muruga to bestow His grace on him (the singer).

It was truly a magical experience soaked as it was in beauty and bhava. I muttered to myself "Entaro Mahanubhavulu"!

Sanjay brings flair, a rare panache to carnatic music. He is a thinking musician who not only displays sheer virtuosity but also happily anchors himself to tradition. He surprises often with his wide-spectrum repertoire, extracting from deep within, a unique magical treasure with myriad glittering jewels.

Over the years I have taken a great liking to his vibrant brand of music. He brings to his concerts refreshing liveliness and noticeable nuances that somehow make you sit up and take notice. It is not always that you end up getting a magical experience. But there have been many other memorable moments that I have thoroughly relished.

One such unforgettable moment is when he enunciated raga Abhogi at some length and sang the Dikshitar kriti "Sri Lakshmi Varaham" with great clarity and perfection. So much so, long after you have heard this, the music still lingers with you.

While on Dikshitar compositions I would like to mention some of the jewels I have culled out of Sanjay's albums. He is very fond of kritis extolling the glory of Lord Shiva and to me his singing of raga Shankarabaranam and the composition "Sundereswaraya Namaste" and raga Begada with the composition "Thyagarajaya Namaste", both in different albums, are simply outstanding. There is something so melodious about these two compositions when Sanjay sings them that you automatically start humming the song along with him.

So remarkable were these efforts that I took extra pain to listen to them umpteen times and learn them. I must also add that other than Abogi, Shankarabaranam and Begada compositions of Dikshitar, Sanjay has also sung with great élan "Thyagaraya Palayasumam" in raga Gowlai and "Santhana Gopalakrishnam" in raga Khamas, which are also among my favourites!

His fondness for gana ragas like Kalyani, Thodi, Kambhoji and Shankarabaranam and Bhairavi are well-known. That he is fond of a pleasing raga like Kanada I learnt some years back. In my collection, I have a Music Academy concert sung in 2002. The other is a concert sung also in year 2002 in Pune, a clip of which is available on YouTube. Both show his extraordinary ability to handle the gamaka-rich, cadenceful sawara patterns of the raga in all its evocative brilliance, providing sheer delight to the listener.

I am also terribly impressed by the very creative sangathis which he imparts to the very popular Saveri kriti "Shankari Neeve" of Shyama Shastri. To hear him sing this composition is also to recall and relish the devotion with which Shyama Shastri used to worship and sing in praise of Goddess Kamakshi. The same dedication and faith is also evident in Thyagaraja compositions "Bhvinidasudane" in Sri Ranjani and "Tulasidalamulache santoshamuga" in Mayamalavagowla, and "Amma Ravamma" in Kalyani.

I must also add to this category the rare Thyagaraja kriti "Omkarana chatura pahimam" in Begada which Sanjay sang with usual flair at the Bangalore Gayana Samaj concert in July this year.

But Sanjay is much more of a musician than limiting himself to the compositions of the famed Trinity of carnatic music. He has successfully presented many Tamil composers including those of what one knows as the Tamil Trinity viz. Marimuthu Pillai, Muthu Thandavar and Arunachala Kavirayar.

He generally makes it a point to include in his concerts at least one composition in Tamil from one of these Tamil Trinity or one of the other popular composers like Papnasam Sivan, Neelakanta Sivan, Vedachalam Pillai, Sri Kunnakudi Krishna Iyer and many others incuding Tamil's poet par excellence kavi Subramanya Bahrathi.

Some of the noteworthy Tamil devotionals can be found in the album Kshetra Chidambaram highlighting some of his contributions to the revivalism in Tamil devotionals in carnatic concert circuit. I would also refer to his beautiful rendering of songs in Begada "Marava Varam"; "Eppadi Vizhipom" in Arabi raga and the ever popular "Ini oru ganam unnai maraven" in Sri Ranjani which I have in my collections along with an exquisite rendering of raga "Chakravagam" as a RTP (ragam, tanam and pallavi). The video clips of the 2007 Jaya TV "Marghazhi Mahotsava'available on YouTube are a fine example of the glorious Tamil moovar kritis which Sanjay sings.

In developing raga Chakravaham, Sanjay brings much maturity taking it as a very serious devotional exercise. He does this also in the Music Academy concert of 2002 where he sculpts a brilliant Kanada RTP with a superb rendition of the pallavi "kavava velava murga va then palani muruga va velava" followed by joyous kalpana swarams, first in Kanada and then in a ragamalika that includes ragas Hamsanadam, Bilahari, Varali and Behag.

In another programme relayed by the Amrita Varshini FM channel in Bangalore, Sanjay rendered a riveting Kedaragowla raga with the well-known Ramanatham Srinivasa Iyengar composition "Saraguna palimpa". The kriti as Sanjay sings reminds me in places of the singing of that giant in carnatic music Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar who was instrumental in popularizing it. One rarely listens to this excellent kriti these days in the carnatic music circuit.

The big surprise for me in the Amrita Varshini FM programme was the scintillating rendering of another rare composition of Koteeswara Iyer in raga Jyotiswaroopini, a vivadi and melakarta raga. The song is in praise of Lord Muruga and the kriti "Ganamutha Panam" is indeed a sheer exuberant delight, reviving memories of yet another brilliant singer. Sanjay revived memories of late S.Kalyanaraman, a brilliant disciple of the Great GNB, who brought a touch of elegance and charm to whatever he sang. To Sanjay's credit it must be said that he comes out trumps in this rendering of Jyotiswaroopini.

Speaking about Koteeswara Iyer and vivadi ragas, I have another HMV album which carries one of the most moving renderings of a kriti of this great composer. It is enshrined by Sanjay and according to me is a "MUST" for all those who like to palpably feel the depth of devotion in a song.

Sanjay handles the beautiful composition "Ethayya Gati" in raga Chala Nata projecting utter supplication to Lord Muruga, transmuting to the listener the fact that devotional singing can be an enriching experience even in a Vivadi raga. I had heard the great and late MLV sing this kriti with great style and simplicity. Sanjay according to me scores in transmuting the utter feelings of supplication and devotion at the same time, while entreating with the Lord to bestow His grace on the devotee.

Incredible but true that for the second time in so many years, Sanjay compelled me to listen to his music over and over again with a deep desire to learn this hauntingly moving melody. First I am transfixed with the beauty of the composition, and then I am transported as it were to temple precincts and bowing down in deep devotion along with the singer. Then my eyes become moist at the beauty crafted by this brilliant composer and talented singer for my very own personal delight!

Rasikas I am sure enjoy his music and want to see him march forward carrying the bright torch of carnatic music to distant minds and distant lands. Keep up the good work Sanjay and God bless.
Vijayalakshmi Thyagarajan
Namaste. I have no words to express the joy I have felt while reading the article on the great Carnatic singer Shri Sanjay Subramaninam. I have always felt that the man puts his soul into his singing. That is why we are also able to go with him and enjoy the divinity in his music. Like MS amma, he too renders all the kritis with sincereity and makes the audience so happy.

Sanajay may not accept the comment that he may be visualing the deities Rama, Shiva et al. But I feel that they are brought in front of our eyes. Or, should I say that we feel that we are in the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. I have heard his rendering of the Bharathi's Chinnanchiru kilye, sung complete by him. What a feeling he brought in this song. Nobody can describe. I can go on listing the emotions he evokes in the Tamil songs as well as others. May the Almighty give him a very long and healthy life so that he could give more and we also take more from him - I mean the music.

Sangeetha Shyam
Enjoyed reading this article... The author takes the readers along with him on his aesthetic journey. Well Mr. sanjay's music is definitely divine!