Sarvalaghu Svara-s

Veena Venkatramani

Kalpana svara-s are such an integral part of our Carnatic music expression; we get to express the rāga bhāva within a set metre. As the artiste delves deeper into the rāga with interesting svara combinations, with the svara-s getting longer than one āvartana, eventually reaching several āvartana-s, the audience wait with baited breath for the kaṇakku̱ that the artiste will showcase for that day. As the svara-s mathematically and aesthetically hit right, there is such satisfaction and wonder; admiration for the artistes intellectual genius while bringing out the beauty of the rāga.

However, there is another type of beauty in svara-s; the sarvalaghu svara-s. Showcasing the rāga bhāva without focussing on many mathematical combinations. In today’s article of Innikku Enna Kekkalaam?, I would like to invite you to listen to the sarvalaghu svara-prastāra-s of 2 yesteryear artistes, in two very popular songs.

Song no. 1 – Sundara tara dēham, sung by Vid. Sri G N Balasubramanian

If you have heard Sundara tara dēham, the odds are that you would’ve heard it sung by GNB (as he continues to be fondly called). In this rendition, while the rāga ālāpana, kṛti and niraval deserve equal mention, the svara-s are what I would like to talk about today. There is roughly a 2 to 3 minutes exchange of svara-s between Śrī GNB and Śrī Lālguḍi G Jayaraman. But in that two minutes, there is absolutely no kaṇakku̱, and there is so much Pantuvarāḷi beauty that is showcased. The landing svara is mēl ṣaḍja, there are around 5-6 turns of svara-s, but in those 5-6 turns, GNB then followed by LGJ end the svara’s at “d”, “n”, “ġ” and even “ṙ”. So much variety all in a span of two minutes. There is one particular exchange that I find so fascinating; GNB ends the svara with “pdnṡṙġ – Sundara”, LGJ responds with a “srgmpdnṡṙġ – Sundara” – and you can hear GNB’s “sabhaash”, which is sure to have been your reaction as well. While the earlier svara-s are only 2-3 āvartana-s each, the last svara is of course a bit longer, but that is also entirely sarvalaghu and ends without any tīrmānam but a simple 7x1. LGJ also plays a beautiful bhāva laden ending svara and thereafter this fascinating rendition comes to an end.

Song no. 2 – Cērarāvadēmirā, sung by Alathur Brothers

This rendition also has a similar 2.5 minutes of sarvalaghu svara-s by the artistes. Rītigauḷa is a rāga that lends itself so beautifully to jhaṇṭa svara-s, and in this svara presentation the jhaṇṭa-s are so beautifully inter-woven into each svara by the brothers as well as the violinist (uncredited). As with the earlier video, most svara-s are 1-2 āvartana-s only, barring the last svara. However, each svara is different from what has been presented earlier, sung in a different part of the scale, and the rāga really shines through. It’s a classic Rītigauḷa as you would expect from such doyens. Here as well, there is no tīrmānam, and all the svara-s end simply. I usually associated Rītigauḷa with more melody and not with much vigour, especially with songs like Janani Ninnuvinā, Dvaitamu Sukhamā, etc. But the speed at which this kṛti was sung and the energy with which the svara-s were rendered were really an eye opener for me when I first heard this rendition.

I often go back and listen to these two renditions if I am going to perform either of these kṛti-s, just because these artistes respectively really owned these kṛti-s and made it theirs, right from the rāga ālāpana till the svara-s.

For any artiste or rasika, these two renditions are really sparkling, invigorating and a must-listen.