Monday, July 20, 2009

Two Dikshitar Stalwarts Pass Away

I was saddened to note Sangitha Kalanidhi D. K. Pattammal passed away. As well, I came to know almost a month late that Sangitha Kalanidhi B. Rajam Iyer also passed away. Both were very distingushed in rendering the krithis of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar with the authentic grandeur, and a great loss for the Carnatic music community.

When I was in undergraduate college in Chennai, I had the opportunity to attend a live concert of Sri Rajam Iyer. He was rendering the concert in front of the Kanchi Swamigal Jayendra Sarawati, who had come to the college for the campus inauguration function. He rendered many krithis, including Dikshitar's Siddhi Vinayakam in Shanmugapriya, as well his own Sanskrit composition in raga Bhairavi. Obviously he knew Sanskrit very well, and had fully understood the Dishitar krithis he sang so well. I have noticed him mention Bhairavi raga's uniqueness and speciality in Carnatic music in other interviews in the news - it should have been his most favorite. The concert was a royal treat to my ears, and the depth in grammar, style and voice - the mastery and years of education and experience was evident all over. Though I had not heard much of him before, I then held him in high esteem, along with the types of Semmangudi or Maharajapuram. Also evident was his classical and majestic appearance with a broad forehead striped with vibuthi, large kadukkans in the ears, and panchakacham, that makes you quickly respect and wonder who this person might be. In front of the swamigal, he was so respectfully pre-announcing each krithi to him with folded hands, and sang through the concert without his shirt in the presence of the swamigal. Such humility with so much talent completely puzzled and amazed me - I learnt something important observing him. I still listen to his Jambupathe, Dikshitar's panchalinga krithi, and Navagraha krithis. I also had the opportunity to hear him sing Chinthayamam, during his concert on TV once.

I have also heard Chinthayamam sung by Smt. D.K. Pattammal, when my room mate was playing the Panchalinga Krithis cassette. I had not known much about D. K. Pattammal at that time, but listening to her the first time sing this Bhairavi song completely captivated me. There is simply no parallel. Again, the grammar, the style, the low voice, and managing the tempo and gamakas of Dikshitar's composition in an authentic way was bliss. I still listen to her Chinthayamam today - the format has changed from cassette to CD to MP3, but the voice and melody lives on. We are blessed that someone in her family spotted her talent and forced her dad to bring her to limelight - that wasn't as easy in those days for women, especially from brahmin orthodox families. We must appreciate and thank her husband Sri Easwaran's generous heart and broad mind in sharing with us her divine voice.

These two distinguished musicians have contributed immensely and for long time, to keep and pass on the everglowing divine compositions of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar. My respectful homage to these great souls.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book review - Evolution related

Mapping Human History by Steve Olson: This book is an interesting read on evolution, with a boat load of facts, and tries to establish that race is a superficial difference and we are all not too different as a species. I knew about the Mitochondrial Eve, the woman in Africa from whom all of us come from, but I learned there is also an Adam, the dad from whom all of us imen inherit the Y-chromosome. However, the book says Adam & Eve lived at different times, and some 80,000 people are the ancestors for all the human population today. It also talks about Neandertals (old men who lived in the Neuman or New man valley!) who eventually became extinct. As well it covers widely across the world, talking about even a small Israeli community that has married within for centuries, where Aunt & Niece look identical! The author keeps our attention with catchy write-up (he says both media and evolution scientists are interested in finding about sex, violence that happened!), but perhaps, there is a way to cover the facts in a more concise way.

Complete World of Human Evolution by Chris Stringer & Peter Andrews. The authors are distinguished in the field of evolution, and bring to bear their over 30 years of experience to teach all the new learnings that have happened in the recent times. It has an academic rigor, but is full of good pictures, so it is easy to visualize and understand the science. Something that interested me was that it was 70,000 years ago that humans first entered north-west part of India, and maybe 35,000 years ago started pushing into other parts of India. I think some bit of evolution must be taught in schools, given we have come far along. It will go a long way to deal with conflicts among human beings - there has to be some goodness when we learn we are descendants of one ancestor.

Book Review - The Adsense Code - A Strategy

The Adsense Code - A Strategy by Joel Comm: This book caught my eye in the library and I thought I should read it to get some ideas on improving my own blog. It does have a lot of meaningful tips for someone who is very active on blogging, that are worth trying out. It talks at length about the different choices in terms of blog layout, ad types, size, and seemless positioning or integration with content etc. Statistical data based on the author's own exerience, and case studies provided to backup the arguments, so it isn't just throwing some ideas. As well, it talks about what is allowed under Google terms and conditions and what is not allowed. Another tip was a mention about John Reese, an Internet guru, whose seminars go up to $5000, which is apparently a bargain. Check out to learn more. I personally may not have time to give these a shot, but if you are an active blogger wanting to inprove your adsense score, it could be worth a try.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review - The Art of War

The Art of War - Sun Tzu: This is an ancient Chinese book, translated into English and with foreword by James Clavell in 1981. It is interesting to note Sun Tzu has thought out many strategic and tactical elements of war 2500 years back, such as knowing one's own and the enemy's strengths beforehand, knowing when and how to attack, the costs and financing of wars, and to think about preparing for peace during war and vice versa. In the foreword, James Clavell indicates he would like to make this obligatory reading for all serving military officers, Presidents etc, and if he had the authority, he would mandate all generals to read it and take oral and written examinations on the chapters. That kind of comment set high expectations in my mind, but after reading through, I beleive military officers and generals would have come a long way without this book as well. It is a good book indeed, but I didn't get the feeling that eulogizing it to that degree was warranted. I was hoping to pick some quick tidbits on strategic thinking ideas for business, but I have to relate and apply the learning myself to draw parallels of war and business. Maybe some day I will get to it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Kalathat case - India Currents' expert article

I wrote a couple of months back about the murder-suicide of Kalathat in Santa Clara. The hope was to make aware of the need to watch out for good mental health. Here is a good article from Kaplana Asok, a practicing psychotherapist in bay area, on the same topic. It was a published in India Currents June 2009 edition. An expert opinion should be more valuable and better help.