Raksha Rao

Musician / Vocalist

Raksha Rao is a Carnatic vocalist who has been learning and performing Carnatic Classical vocal music for the past 15 years. She has given many concerts to large audiences both in India and in the US under the able guidance of her guru Shri Tirumale Srinivas (Chami sir). Raksha has released 4 albums and has lent her voice to several devotional music albums such as "Chants for Children" , "Ide Sumano Vanim", "Anarghya" and many more. Though trained in Carnatic Classical music, she is a keen proponent and ardent lover of Kannada devaranama (or devotional music), and has sung various rare devaranamas, exquisitely set to beautiful ragas by her guru Shri Tirumale Srinivas. She has performed with renowned artists, including the exemplary UK-based violinist Jyotsna Srikanth in the hit TV series "Just Sangeetha". Check out more for clips from her performances. Under the able guidance of her guru, she is now leading a music school Mahati Nada Kendra, with an aim to train and spread Kannada dasa sahitya in Southern California and beyond.

#30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Navarasa Kannada

Navarasa Kannada is a raga that truly demonstrates how much restrictions fuel creativity! It is often commented that Carnatic music is extremely rule-bound and restricts freedom for artists. Read this interview in The Hindu by Shri Sanjay Subramanian to understand his views about how this is a complete myth - http://www.thehindu.com/thread/arts-culture-society/article8000284.ece 

Navarasa Kannada with only 4 swaras in its arohana is a prime example of how rules can inspire creative freedom. A janya raga of the 28th Melakarta Raga Harikambhoji, the raga has Shadja, Antara Gandhara, Shuddha Madhyama, Panchama in the arohana and additional kakali nishadha, chatushruthi dhaivata and chatushruthi rishabha in the avarohana. The flow of the phrase "SGMPS, NDM" is extremely catchy and oft heard of. Other common phrases are "PS SG", "SG PS"etc. 

S G3 M1 P S

S N2 D2 M1 G3 R2 S

Starting with Shri Thyagaraja's immortal composition rendered in the golden voice of Shri Maharajapuram Santhanam:

Following it with a composition of Shri Papanasam sivan's Naan Oru Vilayattu Bommaya, sung here by Shri Sikkil Gurucharan

Presenting another dasa krithi composed by my guru Shri Tirumale Srinivas, composition of Shri Prasanna Venkata Dasaru, rendered by me some years ago in Bangalore

#30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Ranjani

A raga that leaves an imprint, Ranjani. This raga is mellifluousness personified! Transitions in Ranjani are smooth, every note emphasizes a different emotion and every phrase indicates a different connotation. A janya raga of the 59th Melakarta raga, Dharmavati, the main swaras in Ranjani are Shadja, Chatushruthi Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Prati Madhyama, Chatushruthi Dhaivata, and Kakali Nishadha in the avarohana as an additional note. 

(A quick observation - in my past 15 or so days of raga vivarana, this is the first raga which features Prati Madhyama!)

S R2 G2 M2 D2 S
S N3 D2 M2 G2 S R2 G2 S

A few common phrases are - "R, GS", "R, GSNDS", "SRGMGSRGS", "SND,S". The starting phrase of Shri Thyagaraja's Durmagachara has the same "SRG,MGS".  Gamakas and these kinds of phrases play an equally important role in shaping this raga. Landing with a gamaka in the prati madhyama is a usual hallmark of the raga. 

Starting with Durmagachara, rendered by Hyderabad brothers

Ranjani Niranjani, a brilliant composition by Shri G N Balasubramanian, sung by Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj and her daughter Ranjani Nagaraj

Here is a favorite composition of Shri Shripadarajaru - Naaninnollanya Beduvudilla, rendered by me

    #30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Rageshri

    Rageshri - the sole reason I remember this raga is by Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman's exquisite thillana in Rageshri. These lines in the charana - 

    E VeLa Nannu Gaavumu naTana Chathura
    NeevaaDa Mahaadaeva Shiva ShaamBhava
    Neevae gaani Vaeraevaru laedu
    Na jeevaadhara Shankara Gangaadhara

    The bhava in this raga is unbeatable. Indicative of the khamaj thaat from Hindustani, the main swaras in Rageshri are - Shadja, Antara Gandhara, Shuddha Madhyama, Chatushruthi dhaivata, Kakali Nishada, and an additional chatushruthi Rishabha in the avarohana. It is considered to be a janya raga of the 28th Melakarta raga, Harikamboji

    The thillana that defines Rageshri, rendered by Ranjani-Gayatri

    #30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Jonpuri

    Jonpuri - another Hindustani raga that has been well homogenized into Carnatic style. M first tryst with Jonpuri was when I heard Shri P. Unnikrishnan's rendition of Rama Mantrava Japiso

    The moment I listened to it, I was absolutely enamored by this raga! Bhakti and karuna rasa are just easily identifiable in this beautiful raga. This raga is a janya of the 20th Melakarta raga Natabhairavi. Consisting of the swaras Shadja, Chatushruthi Rishabha, Shuddha Madhyama, Panchama, Shuddha Dhaivata, Kaishiki Nishadha, and an additional Sadharana Gandhara in the avarohana, the raga sounds particularly wondrous when sung in high octaves.

    S R2 M1 P D1 N2 S
    S N2 D1 P M1 G2 R2 S

    A landing in Dhaivata or Panchama is quite common for the raga, and the phrase "D, NP" can lend a different dimension to any sanchara

    One amazing composition from Shri Subramanya Bharati - Asai Mugham Marundu Poche, rendered here in a not very traditional, but yet extremely appealing style - Shankar Tucker's music by the sister duo Vidya and Vandana:

    Eppo Varuvaaro, another gem in Jonpuri, composed by Shri Gopalakrishna Bharati, rendered here by Smt. Sudha Raghunathan

    A popular ragamalika devaranama by Shri Kanakadasaru - Baaro Krishnayya, ending with Jonpuri in the last charana - sung by me at a recent concert in ISKCON, LA

      #30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Valaji

      An unusual raga in Carnatic music, but nevertheless when one listens to Valaji, it feels familiar! Maybe it is the flow of notes that are so pleasing to hear, or the similarity with ragas ike Malayamarutha, Valaji doesn't really appear rare. Also known as kalavati (the Hindustani equivalent of Valaji), it is considered to be a janya raga of 16th Melakarta Chakravaka raga,  The main notes in Valaji are Shadja, Antara Gandhara, Shuddha Madhyama, Panchama, Chatushruthi Dhaivata and Kaishiki Nishadha

      S G3 M1 P1 D2 N2 S

      S N2 D2 P M1 G3 S

      Starting off with a varna- Chalamu Seyara by Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman, rendered here in a flute duet

      Koovi Alayithal - a composition of Kavingar Vaali - sung exquisitely by Shri O. S. Arun 

      Shri Mutthayya Bhagavatar's Jalanthara sung by the legendary Shri Madurai Mani Iyer

      Finally, my guru Shri Tirumale Shrinivas' music composition for Neene Parama Pavani, sung here by my guru and his students 

      #30daymarghazhiragachallenge - Madhyamavati

      Madhyamavati - A raga that is often identified by the last song sung during a concert! Madhyamavati is the most chosen raga, and signifies auspiciousness. It closely resembles the Hindustan raga - Brindavana Saranga, but pure Carnatic style Madhyamavati itself if quite enthralling and enticing! A janya raga of 22nd Melakarta raga - Kharaharapriya, i has the following notes - Shadja, Chatushruthi Rishabha, Shuddha Madhyama, Panchama, Kaishiki Nishadha. It differs by the nishadha with Brindavana Saranga, which instead has Kakali Nishadha in the aarohana. It is a spirited raga, and can evoke emotions of collective worship when sung in a bhajan style.

      S R2 M1 P N2 S

      S N2 P M1 R2 S

      My favorite aspect of Madhyamavati is the graha-bheda. From rishabha to rishabha, it leads to Hindola, whereas madhyama to madhyama leads to Shuddha Saveri

      My first pick for Madhyamavati - the timeless classic from Shri Purandaradasaru - Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma. This kriti is ubiquitous, and I must have heard it being sung by different people, with different sangathis, different combinations of charanas, at least a 100 times! I still cannot pick any favorites, one can just enjoy listening and singing this beautiful krithi!

      Here is Shri Muthuswamy Dikshitar's Dharma Samvardhini - rendered by Hyderabad brothers. [Listen from 54:12 onwards]

      Palinchu Kamakshi - a beautiful composition by Shri Shyamashastri, here in the eternal voice of MSS

      Shri Annamacharya's Adivo Alladivo - what Bhagyada Lakshmi Baramma is to kannada, Adivo Alladivo is to Telugu! Rendered here by the defining voice of Smt. Shobha Raju

      Here is another beautiful krithi by Shri Purandaradasaru - Nambide Ninna Padava in Madhyamavati, sung by me during a concert in Chennai.

      #30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Saramati

      Mokshamu Galada, a krithi in Saramati that I learnt as a 5 year old, still remains fresh in my memory. Krithis in saramati are usually slow paced, and it gives the impression that the composers are really attempting to emphasize every syllable - Saramati is just the perfect vehicle to do so! A janya raga of 20th Melakarta, Natabhairavi. the main swaras in this raga are Shadja, Chatushruthi Rishabha, Sadharana Gandhara, Shuddha Madhyama, Panchama, Shuddha Dhaivata, Kaishiki Nishadha. The avarohana is devoid of Panchama and Rishabha. The gandhara is a jeeva swara, and gamakas oscillating in gandhara or nishadha(another jeeva swara), are what that add to the emphatic sense of this raga. Not to forget other swaras like the dhaivata that is also often used in gamaka-oriented phrases

      S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S
      S N2 D1 M1 G2 S

      The defining krithi in Saramati is of course, the afore-mentioned Mokshamu galada. Shri Thyagaraja questions God, about the possibility of achieving salvation, without a sense of liberation, without the knowledge of music. The feeling of bhakti and humility is inescapable for any musician singing the lines - 

      sAkshAtkAra nI sad-bhakti
      sangIta jnAna vihInulaku mOkshamu galada

      Other krithis include Shri Mutthayya Bhagavatar's Sarasadala Nayane.


      #30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Desh

      Desh - another Hindustani raga that has been wonderfully homogenized into the Carnatic system. Desh or Des is quite easily identifiable owing to its double nishadha and of course every Indian will recognize Desh from Vande Mataram! The aarohana contains kakali nishadha whereas the avarohana features kaishiki nishadha. Being a janya raga of 28th Melakarta Harikambhoji, the kakali nishadha can be considered a bhashanga swara (or foreign note). The nishadhas are often used by artists to bring out the beauty of the raga. Phrases demonstrating the two nishadhas, such as "MPN2-DP" - "MPN3S" particularly point to the bhashanga nature. Other common phrases include "RMP", "N2DP", "RMPN3" etc.

      S R2 M1 P N3 S
      S N2 D2 P M1 G3 R2 S


      I haven't come across any composition in the raga Desh by the musical trinity so far, but would be happy to know if anything exists. Other than that, compositions in various South Indian languages in Desh are extremely prevalent. Rama namame in Tamil, composed by Shri Tanjavur Shankar Iyer, the famous Raghupati Raghava Rajaram, Hey Govinda Hey Gopala, in Hindi, composed by Shri Surdas are all in Desh. 

        #30DayMarghazhiRagaChallenge - Kapi

        Kapi raga, is a raga that lends itself to a multitude of avataras. The notes in this raga are so diverse, and so bountiful that any possible permutation just sounds extremely pleasing! The aarohana contains Shadja, Chatushruthi Rishabha, Shuddha Madhyama, Panchama, Kakali Nishadha, while the avarohana features additional notes like Kaishiki Nishadha, Shuddha Dhaivata and Sadharana Gandhara. Being a janya raga of Kharaharapriya, the swaras Kakali Nishadha and Antara Gandhara are considered bhashanga swaras (swaras that are borrowed from a raga other than the janaka or parent raga). A play between the two types of nishadha and gandhara is a particular trait of the raga that is often explored by artists.

         S R2 M1 P N3 S
        S N2 D2 N2 P M1 G2 R2 S

        Kapi is a popular raga, and finds equal admiration in classical and movie songs. Some famous Thyagaraja krithis include Meevalla Gunadoshamemi, Anyayamu Seyakura, Intha Sowkhyamani ne etc. , Papanasam Sivan's Enna Thavam Seydane, Purandara Dasara krithi - Jagadoddharana is an epitome of Kapi for me, and so is Vanamamalla Jeeyar's Janaki Ramana. These are just a few of the extremely popular krithis in this wonderful raga. Kapi can be explored in great breadths and depths, each time would unearth yet another scintillating facet of the raga!