December Season 2001 Vol 2

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

About this album

Kutcheri is the word itself of North Indian origin. A dictionary of Hindustani terms describes it as a court of law, a place of decision making and also a congregation of people. In early times, justice was meted out by a collective vote and so the various meanings loosely stand for a collection of people who pass judgment. Firstly kutchcheri is a trail of skills for any artiste. Secondly the audience does pass judgment on the performer depending on how well he presents his art. Thirdly, a large part of the concert is a musical argument, an exchange of notes, between the main performer and his accompanists. The audience judges them on these arguments. Lastly, most concerts in days gone by used to take place in the presence of the local chieftain who also held the responsibility of law and rough justice. So the term Kutcheri came to describe a concert also.

The kutcheri as we know it has undergone many mutations. In the early days, it was more raga oriented. In fact a single raga oriented. Musicians would begin with a varnam and then proceed to the main raga which would be elaborately dealt with. Legend has it that such raga expansions could last for many days. Later, with time becoming a crucial factor as also audience tastes that demanded variety, the format changed.

Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, a doyen in the Carnatic world, is credited with the current format. This starts with a varnam, followed by a piece of Ganesha. Then there are short raga alapanas, followed by kritis, some of which are rendered with neraval (imaginative declamations of a single line in the same raga) and swaras. This is then followed by a raga dealt with expansively succeeded by tanam (rendering the raga in medium tempo, with the syllables anantam) and pallavi. The pallavi is a single line set to a tala, which is rendered in various ways without crossing the boundaries of the raga. THe pallavi is followed by a few short pieces in light ragas and the mangalam (invocation of all that is auspicious) is rendered. This ends a kutcheri.

But long after it is over, it lingers in the minds of the audience, which ruminates and reflects over it and passes judgment on it. This judgment is often held up as a standard in comparing other performances of the same musician or of other musicians. The analogy with courts and law continues...


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