Sa ri, but you asked for it…

Posted on December 16, 2016


Our annual feature, where ‘Metro Plus’ staffers (names changed), all newbies to Carnatic music, raise questions about the Season. Baradwaj Rangan attempts to keep a straight face and provide answers.

An earlier installment can be found here.

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Dear BR: Why are most popular ragam-s named after women? Bhairavi, Arabhi, Kalyani, to name a few… – ‘Man’d Maama

You are mistaken that these are women’s names. Arabhi is a synthesis of the words “Arab” and “Hi” – it’s essentially how you say hello in the Emirates. Most ragam-s, thus, are named after where they’re from. For instance, Kanada was discovered north of the United States.

Dear BR: Are there any singers besides MS Subbulakshmi who were sponsored by Microsoft? – Carnatic Music is Geek and Latin

Unfortunately, no. But there are many that were sponsored by Apple. Like Ariyakudi Ramanuja i-Yengar and Madurai Mani i-Yer.

Dear BR: If the singer is stealing glances at me, am I allowed to flash him a little ‘call me’ sign? After all, not even the most traditional Bhairavi can stop true love. – I Love Car-naughty Music

Of course you can. But you have to follow strict kutcheri protocol. The creators of Carnatic music anticipated this, which is why they devised talam-s (rhythm cycles) in various counts. For instance, aadi talam has eight counts, roopaka talam has six counts. So if your number is 8688xxxxxx, then you look at the singer, hover your hand over your lap, and go aadi-roopaka-aadi-aadi

Dear BR: Why do so many ragam-s have such long and complicated names like Amritavarshini, Simhendramadhyamam and Mayamalavagowla? – Srivenkatachalapathy Anantharamasubramaniam


Dear BR: Does Swiggy deliver to the sabha-s in case the canteen fare is disappointing? – Music is the Love of Food

Maybe not at all venues, but definitely at the Moussaka Academy.

Dear BR: When the singer is allowed to look at an i-Pad or mobile phone and sing, why do they frown on us for texting when the concert is on? – WhatsApp Varadarajan

Because they want to make sure you’re not live-tweeting about their concert. Nobody wants to go home after a hard-sung kutcheri and find comments like “first half marana mokkai.”

Dear BR: Is it okay to go sabha-hopping just to spot “the one girl we’ve always dreamt of”? – Maama-Me ah?

Absolutely – provided the girl of your dreams is 55, loves silks and gossip, and wears diamond nose studs that can illuminate the sabha in the event of a power cut. BTW, what’s “cougar” in Tamil?

Dear BR: Since Margazhi is in the midst of the Christmas season and some singers do take requests, can we ask for hymns set to Carnatic music? – Carol Ondrum Illai

The December season is about music, not about religion. So feel free to ask for a rendition of the famous Yule-time sloka that goes ‘Santa karam’…

Dear BR: How do I overcome hunger pangs during a concert? For instance, every time I hear ‘Pibare Rama rasam,” I start dreaming of south Indian food. – Sambar over the Rainbow

Please consult a psychiatrist. Next you’ll be dreaming of north Indian breads every time you hear ‘Naan oru vilayattu bommaiya.”

Dear BR: I know the singers are expected to wear pattu saris and mallipoo. What about the audience? Will we be looked down upon if we went in a khadi kurta, carrying a jolna pai? – Bon Journo

Not at all. Musicians cannot afford to be particular, any more, about audience attire. After all, they make their living by travelling the world and catering to all kinds of fans. In the US, people land up in shorts. In Greenland, they come in caribou coats. In France’s nude beaches, they come in nothing, prompting our singers to plead with them to wear something at least: Chinnanchiru thuniye…

Dear BR: When is the best time during a concert to get to the rest room without offending the sensibilities of both performer and audience? – Give Pee a Chance

Stop being a baby and wear adult diapers like everyone else in the audience. (How else do you think, at their age, they’re holding in all that filter kaapi?)

Dear BR: Why is it that, at every kutcheri I go to, I find this one person looking smug at having landed the best seat possible? Forget Coldplay: how do I get the best seats in the house for a kutcheri? – Chair Market Investor

Try this web site: Book My So-billu…

Dear BR: Do the sabha canteens serve biriyani? What if I have a sudden craving? – The Bone Identity

Sorry. This art form is about the main piece, not a leg piece.

Dear BR: Every time I find a good seat, the same two maami-s find me and start asking for my horoscope and bio-data details. Is there any way to escape the matchmaking radar? – Rage of Aquarius

You mean they’re stalking you at kutcheri-s? Just tell them you’re not the typical, conservative south Indian boy and that you’re majorly addicted to sax and violins.

Dear BR: Does the word ‘Carnatic’ denote the fact that the music was created by Karna? – Maha Bored Thatha

I’m not sure. But I recently came to know that folk music was created by a man who couldn’t find a spoon.

Dear BR: Why is the shruti box sometimes tuned so loudly that we do not even hear the singer sing? – Loony Tones

Try listening to some of the Skype-trained singers and you may realise that that is exactly the whole point. It’s not just that the music is learnt over a distance. The audience needs distance from the music too.

Dear BR: Should the ragam Sindhu Bhairavi be renamed since Sindh in no longer in India? – Atlas Drugged

How silly. Next you’ll be asking if the ragam Bhavapriya should be retired from concerts since the heroine no longer acts in movies. No wait, that’s Banupriya!

Dear BR: Is it okay if I seek out an interesting-looking man and tap the talam on his lap instead of mine? – Thighs Thighs Baby

As if you have to ask. (PS: I’m the bald guy in the blue shirt.)

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