Unstifled by Tyagaraja in Oklahoma

Imagine Bach and Mozart rolled into one -- in other words, a single composer who does both grandeur and melody -- and you'll get an idea of how important Tyagaraja is to Carnatic music. He was extremely prolific -- more than 400 of his compositions still exist -- and the repertoire is hugely varied, so it can get a little stifling to go to Carnatic music concerts and find that 80% of the program was composed by Tyagaraja alone.

Every year, in a small temple town near Thanjavur (he was a musician in the court of that kingdom), everyone who's anyone in Carnatic music comes to a music festival held outdoors along the banks of the Kaveri river. My dad taught in an area college one year and so I got to experience it first-hand and it still ranks as one of my favorite musical experiences ever. Oklahoma City's Tyagaraja festival is never going to compare to that, but it was still good to get the handful of people interested in Carnatic music under one roof.

It was also wonderful to see four separate groups of kids sing. They were all from either Stillwater or Norman -- what is about college towns that prompts parents to try to raise their kids knowing their cultural heritage? S1, who's been learning for a few months now, sang two songs with the other kids in his "class". The first song (Padumanabha: YouTube video) is quite typical of Carnatic music songs, but the second song (Vande Meenakshi) is more upbeat and probably much more accessible. So, I'll embed that one here:

The funny thing is that neither of the songs is by Tyagaraja. Vande Meenakshi is by his contemporary Muthuswamy Dikshitar and Padumanabha is by Purandara Dasa.

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