2009 Madras Music Season: Parassala Ponnammal


Each time you enter the Madras Music Academy you suspect if it defies the law of mass conservation – there are more cars outside than people inside the concert hall. You dunk your iddly vadais at the canteen with the usual apprehension that the single most ethereal melody would have been delivered by the artist in your absence. From experience you know your concern is applicable for certain musicans. If not ethereal, at least their better effort begins and ends within a quarter hour. For Parassala Ponnammal, fostering such thoughts in your mind is a sin.

You know from your listening experience her singing portrays a laid-back bygone generation that we will forever loose in our Carnatic-for-ring-tone times. You are delighted she – a direct disciple of Harikesanallur Muthiah Baghavathar – was invited again by the Music Academy this season.

The first thing you notice with such vintage musicians is the effortless ease music pours with uncompromising classicism. Next you realize her grip on rAgAs – be it a sAvEri or a shankarAbharanam or a chAmaram, justice is done for all. Next comes the immaculate repertoire – rarities equally from all major composers, be it muthuswami dikshitar or swathi thirunal, punctuated with an on-the-spot decided (karpagamE pAdalamOnO?) Tamil karpagamE (karunai) kan pArAi in fair pace.

Amidst that tranquil deliverance you realize there is always enough breath to complete that pallavi in one full sweep, enough sincerity to sing three or four rAga alapanais (expositions), neravals, swarams in several talams, enough time to sing the promised list and more. And enough vacant chairs to invite one more enthusiast who is idling in the verandah enamoured by the electronic tinsel shop.

The concert had sAvEri as one of the rAgas taken for exposition, followed with the kirthana durusugA composed by syAmA sAstri. The swara prastharas – creative expositions of the notes of the raga – were good. Following are two short clips of the exposition.

Video Link 1

Video Link 2

The shankarAbharanam alApanai she did revealed the soothing parts of the ragA with minimum fuss. The kithanai that followed, enthuku pEdalA, reassured you of the uncompromising classicism sans exhibitionism of shankarAbharanam. You could only yearn enthuku pEthalavalE pudhIyavu, as the lyrics of tyAgarAja do, why haven't you been provided with such discerning comprehension to understand and appreciate such immaculate sophistications and associated feelings bordering bliss, in our classical music.

Later in the concert, there was a chatur rAgamAlikA nugget, sAnandam by swAti tirunAl, set in four ragams: kamalA manOhari, hamsadhwani, rEvagupthi and tharangini. The entire song list is provided below.

In passing you notice the good support of the violin, mridangam and ghatam and wonder why these artists – who always play with a certain sahithya sensitivity and mutual generosity – aren't seen in prominence. You assure yourself it is only because they aren't based in Chennai. You amble out to your car parked on the road outside the academy with hope.

That such music will live forever, if not another year.

Concert Song List (with usual Carnatic/dEvanAgiri-English nomenclature)

2009 Dec 20 Music Academy

Vocal – Parassala B. Ponnammal
Violin – S. R. Mahadeva Sarma
Mridangam – C. Chaluvaraju
Ghatam – Ernakulam S. Ramakrishnan

  1. sAmi nIpai – varnam – Anandhabhairavi – kanda ata – vInai kuppaiyar
  2. mUlAdhAra shetra – mAyAmAlavagowlai – rUpakam – E. S. sankaranArAyana iyer
  3. narasiMhA mAmava – Arabi – kanda chApu – swAti tirunAl
  4. durusugA – sAvEri – rUpakam – syAmA sAstri
  5. mahAsuram – chAmaram – rUpakam – muthuswAmi dIkshitar
  6. enthuku pEdalA – sankarAbharanam – Adi – tyAgarAjA
  7. enna solli – kAnadA – Adi – ambujam krishnA
  8. mOhanamayi – yadukula kAmbOji – misra chApu – swAti tirunAl
  9. sAnandam – chatur rAgamAlikA – Adi – swAti tirunAl
  10. ilanthalir sayanE – puNAgavarAli – misra chApu – swAti tirunAl
  11. pullikalAbamayil – kAvadichindu – Adi – annAmalai reddiar
  12. karpagamE – madhyamAvathi – Adi –