Aruna Sairam: A Miracle beyond words!!!

This is the 10th time I am replaying the Kalinga Nartana Thillana composed by Sri OOthukudi Venkatasubbiyer and sung by Aruna Sairam. To say that she is splendid would be downplaying her performance, to say she is divine, may sound hackneyed! To say that she is a match unto herself, would also not put into words my feelings.. so what can one do?! But remain silent and enjoy the bliss of pure singing! The irony is that, it is hard to remain silent too!! The heart is upbeat, floating in clouds! The feet are tapping. The whatever little bit of classical dance I had learnt is playing havoc on my senses.. they are invariably tapping to the tunes set by her, and the head sways! The lips curve involuntarily in a smile even as she goes on.. “taga jaga taga jaga diRg jaga nandam… …. …. nanda sukumaara navaneeta dadhi chora…… jaya vijayeebhava nanda kumaara.. braja jana paramaananda kishora.. ” Dear Dudaas and Dudees… for heaven’s sakes.. do not miss out on this rendition! You will never realize what you have missed out on in your life all the while!
You can listen to the song here. It is the last song in the list. But obviously, you can listen to the others too! But It would be a crime to miss out on this particular rendition. Ok, let’s settle down.
So who is Aruna Sairam! Daughter of the famous Karnatik vocalist Rajalakshmi Sethuraman. She learnt Classical music under many note worthy gurus primarily, Sangita Kalanidhi Smt. T. Brinda, Veena Dhanammal, and her own mother. What really distinguishes her from many other artists is her clear diction and command over the raagas and swaras. The Alapana, the saahitya and bhaava are impeccable! The way her voice modulates as she passes through the various nuances is just mesmerizing!
Especially in this particular rendition, observe her unfaltering voice..even as she goes on a high pitch.. “taam dheem taranna taam..”, the way her voice dips even as she passes from a mode of sangeeta to saahitya.. or prose.. “nir taka nir taka taam”.. and then again.. very smoothly picks up and gains the stability, immediately picking pace on “alaka sindhoora alaka shringaara.. vadana gambheera”.. and then again slows down, “jaya vijayeebhava nanda kumaara”… and all this inspite of the immensely complex words, and with perfect diction!! Whew!! The voice dips and ups as if she is swimming deftly like a fish, diving into the water, and popping up again, in a rhythmic style of (vocal) motion, especially when she comes to the point of “mandassssssssssmitakara.. ” the momentary pause she gives is so tactical.. in the entire rendition that would have flown continuously till then.
Some of the other beautiful songs sung by her include “pillangoviya chelva krishnana”, “Anandaamruthaakarshini” by Muttuswamy Dikshitar, “venkataramanane baaro” by Purandara daasa (in this she tragically pronounces “kOmalaaMga” as “kOmaLaaMga”!!wonder why its so tough for artists to maintain their diction in other languages! Waaaaaah! I am disappointed), “Kanakashaila vihaarini” by Shyaama Shaasti (she is an exponent of the composition of Sri Dikshit, and Shri Shyama Shastri), “Himagiri tanaye hemalathe” by Muttaiah Bhagavathar, and “Enagu aane ranga” by Purandara daasa. On the flip side, if she is able to maintain her diction even in other language songs, she shall be unparallelled. One of the newspapers, I guess it was the Hindu/Indian Express, had put her status on par with Smt. M S Subbulakshmi. With all due respects, I beg to differ! Aruna Sairam is a magnificient singer, but no one can ever equal M S Subbulakshmi.
Days may seem insufficient when one is constantly lost in the waves of music, flowing so affluently from such talented artists. What say you?


    • anukta on January 21, 2006 at 12:54 PM
    • Reply

    Spellbinding! I’ve never listened to a tillana like this before.
    As far as the last line is concerned, I agree.

    • Ajit Rajwade on December 24, 2007 at 7:43 PM
    • Reply

    I read your blog during a random internet search. A nice writeup on Aruna Sairam.

    One more thing about Aruna Sairam that stands out is the purity of her diction while singing Marathi abhangs written by the saint poets such as Tukaram, Namdev, Janabai etc. Although not a native Marathi speaker, she is at perfect ease with the language and also seems to have mastered the style of singing abhangs. Some of her renditions in this genre are available on youtube and They are simply addicting.

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