Saturday, January 29, 2011

New songs, THE Book and Key information

*MAJOR UPDATE #2 (2018): New songs, posts and other updates are now on this page.

*MAJOR UPDATE #1 (2011): We invite you to use our dedicated domain names -: Readers can now find our site more easily through our two domains. will take you straight to the "crucial" Nagumomu Ganaleni page and will bring you to the home page, that is here. Now, on with the regular transmission.

Vijayadasami 2019: TEN YEARS COMPLETED!! A HUGE Thank You! to all our readers as we start our eleventh year: Details in the last two bullets below. Now, on with the regular transmission, for real.
Here are many factors, features and considerations about this work.
  • Feedback from readers: Due to our approach and extent of treatment, it can take most readers some time to read fully and appreciate each song. A number of our readers are more used to such reflective reading with a book or kindle and the like, than plainly on a site using a blog format. 
  • Traffic: It turns out that most new readers come to this site through searching for individual songs on search engines. Thereafter, when they read more songs, they don't tend to follow the chronological order of the songs like our regular readers seem to do. This somewhat rearranges how themes are developed in this site. If you are curious about what people search for and then find this site, it is Nagumomu Ganaleni by a long margin, and then Jagadanandakaraka. We receive more comments about Nagumomu Ganaleni, Manasa Sancharare and Bantu Reeti Kolu than other songs. As for where the "readers" come from, as opposed to one-time visitors, they are indeed from all over the world, such as Ghana, Finland, Uganda, Israel and Tonga, though the bulk are from India and regions with large Indian expatriate populations, such as the US, UK and Canada. Of the poetic translations on this site, to the extent that I can comment on my own writing, I think the best is Durmarga chara as the English verses capture the mood and meaning perfectly, follow the original text well, and even stand on their own as a poem, independent of the original. 
  • Keeping this site FREE: This is by far the most important consideration. This site provides a lot of original content and in some cases original research in the commentary and lyric validation, not to mention the poetry we write for the verse translations. Yet, this site is free. The intent of keeping this site free despite the extent of original content, is to provide access to the largest number of people possible. Given the feedback and traffic, even in 2011, it appears much more useful to our readers, including students and musicians of all levels, to provide this work as a printed book. After all, this work is a book in three volumes, that is being cast into the blog format in order to disseminate it on the web. (Print being the primary focus is why we never really publicized this site anywhere on the web or in the media and none of the usual attempts to drum up traffic have ever been made. The only ways to find this site are through "blog search" or someone's referral. Like Tyagaraja himself was in his day, this site is intended to be available only for those actively seeking such treatment of these songs, and is by no means an all-purpose almanac for all.) All told, we are working on publishing the work as a whole in print. If and when it is published, we'll post a number of songs here as excerpts from the book. In the meantime we may still post songs off and on here, including songs which will not be included in the books.
  • As always, if you have suggestions about posting or not posting new songs here, while the book is in development, you are welcome to write us a line. As always, songs specifically requested by readers will often be included on the website. Check out this page.
  • What's in the book(s): About 155 songs are elaborately discussed with comparative commentary, as we develop the themes in Tyagaraja's oeuvre and derive his message. The songs are chosen for various merits such as lyricism and for how the message develops as described in the introductory pages here. About 18 songs from other composers are also included. Of course, all songs have lyrical translations. The remaining 500 or so songs are also validated and translated, with brief comments as needed. As they are not part of our sequential treatment of Tyagaraja's themes, these songs are included seriatim, in the second half of the book(s). In one departure from this site, a number of songs include a section called "The Listening Guide", that discusses such things as melodic detail, highlights and oddities of improvisational treatment, definitive performances and performance history. This section shall help the listener to enjoy the nuances better and shall also aid the performer seeking to add to his or her repertoire. Three essays,- on our methods, on criticism and the background for the Tyagaraja corpus make up the prefatory portion. 
  • If you represent a publishing house or other relevant organization: If you would like publish this work, feel free to write us at Being intent on printing the book exactly in the form we designed, (so that our new approach is all the more effective), though we are working with some reputed houses, we haven't committed to one yet and a query from a cooperative and understanding publisher is always welcome. The three things we are particular about are retaining the huge size and scope of the work, as it can't be comprehensible otherwise; printing the lyrics and verse translations in our tricolor format such that the translations are easily read and a commitment to ensure that the final book is affordable so that, in the spirit of Tyagaraja, it can reach more people. Naturally, it takes a really dedicated publisher and for our part, though we have had to stay away from a couple of large houses, we are engaged with other houses. We think it is best to do it right, even if a moment later.
  • How long has this work taken?: The answer to that is two-fold. The Vijayadasami day of 2011, marks the second anniversary of this site. But, the work behind the site, and hence the book, have been going on for many years and reach back into the early nineties. 
  • What are the priorities while developing each song?: The first and foremost task is to validate the lyrics from existing sources, and resolve any ambiguities and multiple versions with historical and musicological references. This ensures authenticity. Then comes the verse translation and the notes necessary to under the literal meaning of the song. Finally, we add the contextual notes such as from history and literature, and then weave it into our unique thematic treatment of Tyagaraja.
  • What's the point of this work?: To summarize the introductory essays, Tyagaraja's music was primarily an honest emotional outpouring with musical detail and innovation being tools to facilitate the capture of his uppermost thoughts, much like with a lyrical poet (although a good number of songs were indeed musical experiments sometimes even with repetitive or derivative lyrical sentiment they are outweighed by the others). Despite Tyagaraja's subjects, we rigorously stay within the confines of exegesis and eschew hermenutics. In this work and site, Tyagaraja is studied and explained, but never reinterpreted, and viewed more often as poet than a composer, for Tyagaraja's poetic style is simple, direct and heartfelt and only rarely lavishly embellished. The message matters most to him, than the words it is said in, or sometimes, even the Raga scheme it is set in. So, the first benefit from our work is that verse translations like ours, convey the true meaning of his songs much quicker and apter than prose. Even today, much of the lyrical, emotional, historical, philosophical and sometimes, even musicological detail in his songs, remains a secret from even many professional performers due to the odd way Carnatic music is traditionally imparted and critically analyzed. These and other factors make the music particularly inaccessible to anyone unfamiliar with the regional culture. So, the second benefit from our work is that the extensive treatment of each song in our new method concurrently aids both these disparate groups of people, and everyone in between, in gaining a complete understanding of these songs, the history, culture, theory and so forth. Now, the performer of any level of attainment can render the song better and the listener of any level of immersement can relish the song better. At another level, understanding Tyagaraja's message in context and the wealth of background detail be it in history, literature or philosophy, is both an education and an experience in itself. 
  • Vijayadasami 2019: Ten full years! This site completes its TENTH Year Today! As ever, our thanks to all our readers round the world! More vidwans and music lovers have now taken to our site. This is our eleventh year in this site, but the work it's based on is, much older. And, the Nagumomu Ganaleni song is still the main draw here...and the total site traffic is high considering it is not advertised or linked to anywhere. Now, after mulling about the 2-3 disparate threads in this site, we finally decided that a revamp of some kind is needed so that new songs can be posted with clarity and the focus is solely Tyagaraja's message. Plan to do that around the end of this year.
  • Why is the flavor of this site so different?: It is indeed very different from any other book or site on Tyagaraja because it is not just a paean to Tyagaraja or a mindless dictionary of all things Tyagaraja. Instead, it blends scientific precision, modern cultural theories and the art of the rigorous historian with the high art of interpreting music as finely layered as Tyagaraja's. All these elements may not be obvious at first sight, but they are all woven in, in proportion, so that the work remains accessible to all kinds of readers. It will be plainer when we get round to adding more details on the musical settings. Everyone knows Tyagaraja sang in praise of Rama. But, what's the complete picture? How does everything come together? What it did mean in his day, and does mean in our day? Such things are what we are trying to deduce.  
  • New songs and Updates, Gandhi Jayanti 2018: A new page with new songs and other updates is now up, in lieu of adding new posts here. Please use this link.