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Carnatic Music at NCMA Art In Bloom​

March 17, 2023

Presented by: 

Smitha Prasad (vocalist)

Prabhavathi Vijayaraghavan (Veena)

Sudhindra Rao (Mridungam)

Smitha K. Prasad is a US based Carnatic classical vocalist. A senior disciple of renowned musicians from India, Smitha regularly performs in concerts in the US and in India. She has been named a 2013 Regional Artist by the United Arts Council in North Carolina- the first Carnatic musician to have achieved this distinction. Apart from Carnatic concerts, Smitha has presented lecture demonstrations on various aspects of Carnatic music and also collaborates and performs concerts with classical musicians from other musical genres. She provides vocal support for dance concerts and has composed music for several dance productions. Smitha has authored a series of articles on Carnatic music for a leading South Asian publication and does freelance writing on subjects related to classical arts. She also serves as the current chairperson of the Leela Foundation, a non -profit organization dedicated to promoting the arts. 


What is Carnatic Music?

Carnatic music is a style of Indian classical music originating from South India. With its origins set in the ancient Indian texts called the Vedas, Carnatic music is a complex performance art with intricacies in both melodic components and rhythmic framework. The hallmark of Carnatic music is the scope it offers for spontaneous improvisations within the predefined framework.

What you see being presented today is a traditional vocal concert with thematic compositions and melodies heralding the arrival of spring, rain showers and beautiful flowers.

Today's concert presentation will include the following compositions:


1.        Melukovaiyya

A composition that is traditionally used to wake up a sleeping deity, Smitha uses this meditative composition to paint the picture of nature coming to life after a cold winter. The once-bare trees slowly show signs of a new awakening as small buds and young leaves appear heralding the arrival of spring.

2.        Ramachandram Bhavayami

This is a lively composition set in ragam (melody) Vasantha, which means springtime, and is associated with hope and positivity. The preset composition is enhanced by a stream of spontaneous swarams (musical notes) showcasing the beauty of this bright ragam.

3.        Bhavayami Raghuramam

A soul-stirring composition in the language Sanskrit, "Bhavayami" encapsulates the entire Indian epic tale of the Ramayana. The Ramayana narrates the life of Rama, a legendary prince who is exiled to the forest by his father. Smitha presents this composition which is replete with multiple references to nature, including various animals, to highlight the role of Mother Nature in all our lives.

4.        Anandamritakarshini

Composed by one of the Trinity composers of Carnatic music, Dikshitar, this composition has an interesting anecdote associated with it. Dikshitar is said to have visited a village which was struck by famine, and moved by the plight of the villagers, he composed this song in the ragam (melody) Amritavarshini. It is said that the village was blessed with showering rains thereafter. What better way to showcase the old adage of "April showers bring May flowers"!

5.        Ongi Ulagalanda

This beautiful composition is penned by Andal,  one of the earliest female composers in Indian history (7th century). She writes about having plentiful rains that allow crops to flourish, making the paddy fields lively with fish jumping around and honey bees gently sleeping in the beautiful flowers-- a beautiful picture of natural beauty!

6.        Amba Vani

The main presentation this evening is a composition in praise of Sarasvati, or the Hindu Goddess of learning, The composer praises her as a transcendental Goddess, capable of showering knowledge and proficiency in music. Commonly known as the Harmonic minor scale in Western music, the melody for this composition is in the ragam (melody) Kiravani, which evokes emotions of peace and happiness. The  presentation includes spontaneous improvisations in melody and musical notes, and is followed by a percussion solo.

7.        Hannu Bandide

This composition centers around a beautiful metaphor that likens devotion and peace of mind to "fruits" that cannot be bought; instead, they must be earned through good deeds.

8.        Chaliye Kunjanmo

This piece is a beautiful song which says:  "Come, let us go to the Garden, where the flowers bloom and jasmine adorns the place. Come, let us share our happiness by being together. Look at the beautiful river Jamuna that flows beautifully quenching the thirst of the earth. Come, Hari, let us play in the water!"

9.        Kalinga narthana thillana

A unique rhythmic composition, this thillana describes the young Lord Krishna dancing on the head of a serpent, named Kalinga. The lyrics of this composition describe the sight of the dance itself, and even includes details such as the composer including a specific word to resemble the hissing sound made by the serpent!

10.      Bhaja Govindam

This meditative piece is presented as the concluding composition of today's concert. Bhaja Govindam is a devotional composition in Sanskrit, and describes the path to true happiness. True happiness lies not in youthful beauty or wealth, but rather in spending time in the company of good-hearted people and distributing wealth via charity to the needy.