After having covered the various aspects of manodharma sangeetham, lets now try to familiarize ourselves with the items presented in a regular carnatic music concert. The present day kutcheri structure, followed by most musicians, is a format given by the legendary carnatic music vocalist, Shri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar.
A carnatic music concert usually can last for a duration of anywhere between 1 to 4 hours. However, a normal kutcheri usually lasts for a period of around 2 to 2.5 hours. The choice of the kritis, the length and complexity of the manodharmam components presented, are all dependent on the duration of the concert. The items presented in a typical carnatic concert can be listed as follows:
- Varnam - This is the opening item of a concert. Varnams are compositions in different ragas which include both lyrics (sahithyam) and swaras. Varnam may be rendered in first and second speeds or in a medium pace (known as madhyama kala). From the artiste's point of view, rendering of varnam in the beginning of a concert, is like a warm up exercise for the throat. It is also possible that an artiste omits the varnam and straight away opens the concert with some keerthana.
- Kritis - After the varnam, the artiste goes on to render one or two brisk kritis with or without any manodharmam components. Many artistes prefer to start with either a kriti on Lord Vinayaka or with compositions in ragas best suited for opening a concert, like nattai, mayamalava gowlai, hamsadwani, kedaram etc. It is possible that the artiste sings a brief alapana and few rounds of kalpana swaras also.
- Sub-main item - The artiste usually renders a short alapana in the raga of the kriti and then moves on to sing the composition. The rendering of neraval/kaplanaswara is entirely the artiste's decision.
- Chauka kala kriti - A slow rendition of some majestic and monumental compositions of famous composers with or without raga alapana. Eg., Dikshithar's kamalamba nava varnam and navagraha kirtanas, Shyama Sastri's compositions like Mayamma, O Jagadamba
- Main item - The main item comprises a lengthy alapana of the raga, followed by rendition of the kriti, neraval followed by swarakalpana. Some artistes may render RTP as the main item in which case the sub-main item is taken up for a longer duration. Before concluding the main piece, the artiste gives an opportunity for the percussionists to showcase their talent, in perfect adherence to the tala and this is referred to as the 'thani aavarthanam'
- Thukkada - The songs sung after the main item are all commonly referred to as 'thukkadas' meaning 'tidbits'. This segment consists of songs in lighter ragas (behag, maund, desh, kaapi, yamuna kalyani, sindhu bhairavi, bageshri, revathi etc) and have a very popular appeal among all types of rasikas. These days, abhangs have become a very popular number in the thukkada segment. Ragamalika compositions, bhajans, Bharathiyar songs, padams, javalis, and thillanas are some of items that can come under this category.
- Mangalam - The concert is concluded with 'mangalam', an item which symbolizes auspiciousness and well being of all. Mangalam is mostly sung in ragas like madhyamavathi, saurashtram or suruti
Hope the above discussion helps towards a better understanding and appreciation of a carnatic music concert. Will move on to other interesting dimensions of carnatic music…
Till then, happy reading and listening!