Saturday, October 1, 2011
ISKCON Janmashtami concert 2011
Music is the perfect harmony of mind, heart and soul.. Music conveys every emotion, every feeling and the higher most perfection of music or its very purpose is becoming one with the supersoul, Antaratma or the divine. I consider myself extremely blessed in this aspect as Lord Krishna gives me an opportunity to please him and sing for his pleasure on his birthday, Janmashtami every year for the past two years. Without this concert, my musical journey for a particular year is never complete. Last year's concert was a selection of beautiful Bhajans of Meera bai, Annamacharya, Saint Purandaradasa. This year, when i went to discuss a theme for my concert with the head of ISKCON chennai, i was waiting outside his office. The KRISHNA VOICE monthly published by ISKCON kept on the table,caught my attention. The pages flicked by themselves due to the fan air and stopped at a particular page containing highlights of Oothukadu Venkatakavi festival that happened at Bangaore ISKCON recently. after reading that i had a desire within myself to present an OOthukadu Venkatakavi Thematic concert that year for Janmashtami.
Oothukadu Venkatakavi is a 17th century Tamil poet who was born in the village of Oothukadu.Kalinga Nardhana thillana is a master piece by the 17th century composer Sri Oothukadu Venkata subbier. His compositions are a blend of a high degree of Bhakthi towards Lord Krishna combined with highest lyrical, rhythmic and melodic sense that seems to associate itself automatically to his love for Krishna. It is said that he received his initiation in composing songs at the Kalinga Narthana temple in Oothukadu. He did not find a suitable Guru to initiate and grow his initial spark to compose. He was distraught and he pleaded and prayed to Lord Krishna himself, the master of all arts to help him. Lord krishna showered his grace upon oothukadu Venkatakavi by becoming his Guru and initiating him into music. Probably because the lord himself became Oothukadu's guru, Oothukadu's compositions can never be split into music, technique , expertise of structure and soul. It is all blended into one and the amount of bliss that the performer or the listener receives and the measure of ecstasy felt when these compositions are sung or listened to is unimaginable.. It is purely transcendental and belongs in the Vaikuntha plane.All oothukadu's compositions are written in coloquial tamil that is very simple and easy to understand and sway to even by the lay listener. It is even said that Lord Krishna himself was so drawn by Oothukadus love that he came as a little boy and sat on his lap whenever he sang Krishna's praise, pastimes and beauty. The message brought forth by his work is very simple and the absolute truth, Bhakthi and love towards Krishna.. Love for Krishna. It is pure and unadulterated by any other extravagance or pronounced purposeful technicality but at the same time, the inherent woven intricacies can be a big puzzle even to a most knowledgable musician.
I have had the good fortune of learning and singing his compositions like alaipayuthe kanna, Pal vadiyum mugam ( Natakurinji), Enna punniyam seidheno ( ritigowla), Maninupura Dhari ( Neelambari), kuzhaloothi manamellam ( Kamboji) right from a very young age and have won prizes in Oothukadu venkatakavi compositions from various sabhas for many consecutive years when i was 8, 9 , 10 , 11 years old!. I have always felt like these compositions attract me in some way, i have always connected with the soul of these compositions in the right way, they have always seemed to flow through me. Everytime i sing them, its like im only an instrument. An interior force sings them through me. I think it is the Bhakthi that runs through them that does the magic each time.
Coming back to my concert, Prabhuji surprised me.. I was Stunned when he suggested that i could do an Oothukadu Thematic concert for Krishna Jayanthi. I was very happy and surprised as i had gone in to meet him with the very same idea in my head! It was probably what Lord Krishna wanted and willed.
The concert happened at Hare Krishna tenple lawns on Krishna Jayanthi. The atmosphere was blissful, ecstatic and brimmed with love for Krishna. I could see pure devotees sitting everywhere around me. The pandhal was jam packed. Right in front of me were The heroes of the evening, Krishna and his brother Lord Balaram dressed so handsome and looking so beautiful in an apt copper sulphate blue sequined outfits that matched. Our lord had his peacock feather, flute in place. I could see baby krishna in front of me as the idol. The causes of all causes, the ocean of mercy.. the all compassionate lord who had descended on earth only to protect his true devotees and righteous souls from the hands of asura Kamsa and who finished the purpose of his avatara by taking sides with pandavas and vanquishing the evil kauravas at Kurukshetra, who blessed mankind by speaking the Bhagvad gita, the ultimate essence of all vedas, all shastras was born that day. It was special . It was beautiful. I started the evening with Krishnashtakam sloka and sang many beautiful songs of Oothukadu venkatakavi. The highlight of the evening was kalinga Nardhana Thillana.This Kalinga Narthana thillana describes the cosmic dance of the original master of all fine arts, Lord krishna atop the thousand headed deadly serpent Kaliya in River Yamuna. It is evident that the composer has envisioned this dance in a high state of bliss. It is simply awe inspiring with its complex jathi patterns and dramatic pauses. Every listener is sure to be transported to the very banks of River Yamuna where Krishna controlled the serpent Kaliya from polluting the river and at the same time gave pleasure to his devotees by exhibiting this heavenly dance.
I could feel the oneness of energy of everyone single person in the audience, we could all feel and see the dance right in front of us. Many of them cried. I was feeling blessed because Krishna gave them and me transendental ecstasy by transporting us all to vrindavan and showing us his dance. This moment was extraordinary.
The Kalinga Nardhana thillana and other slokas on Lord Krishna with contenporary back ups will soon feature in My upcoming album.