We, the Carnatica Brothers K.N.Shashikiran & P.Ganesh, are South Indian Classical duo singers. We live in Chennai, but hop around the world for most part of the year, performing concerts, lecture demonstrations, conducting workshops and camps and teaching our students around the world! If you'd like to contact us for performances or if you'd just like to say hi, feel free to mail us at carnaticabrothersatgmaildotcom! :)
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The concert tradition

Sitting in a restaurant yesterday, enjoying a buffet with tempting starters, an array of delectable main courses and mouthwatering desserts, it suddenly struck me that the Carnatic concert format can be compared to a buffet! The musical feast, beginning with a varnam (the soup) or a invocatory piece on Lord Ganesha, then moving on to a few brisk numbers (the starters), the sub-main piece (the tandoori roti/naan), the ragam-tanam-pallavi or a major kriti (the rice, with piping hot rasam and sambhar), and finally a few tukkadas (the dessert and the payasam) and the mangalam (the beeda), satiates all appetites, from the connoisseur to the layman! Besides, the fare varies from artiste to artiste, much like the restaurants! But catering to the tastes of varying audiences, in terms of elements like devotion, various emotions, innovation, choice of ragas, varieties in talas and tempo, composers, languages, rare and familiar songs, is no easy task.

A musician treats a concert like a painter his canvas. Creativity (‘manodharma’ in Carnatic parlance) and “re-creativity” (interpretation of the works of various composers) are his paintbrushes.

Maestro Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar is credited with conceiving the concert format. This format has stayed on for almost seven decades. In pre-Ariyakudi times, it is said that every concert had only three or four songs which were elaborated in great detail.

A concert normally begins with a varnam. This not only warms-up the voice but also lends a brisk pace to the concert. Since, varnams have a pre-set tune and are generally not embellished with creative elements like sangatis, starting with a known varnam helps the accompanists and the main performers strike a good rapport.

Following the varnam is a Ganesha kriti and/or a few brisk numbers, with variety in raga, tala, composer and tempo. This builds the momentum of the concert and helps the performers connect to the listeners. A ragam-tanam-pallavi or a major kriti is sung elaborately and this forms the ‘main piece’. Post main piece, padams, javalis, a few tamil numbers, Purandaradasa devarnamas, tiruppavais, bhajans, viruttams, tiruppugazhs, tillanas, etc are sung. Most of these pieces are set to captivating tunes, hold great aesthetic appeal and offer quite a contrast from the main piece. Some musicians sing songs that the audience requests – a musical à la carte for the rasikas! Most thematic concerts also follow the same pattern. Instrumentalists, on the other hand, prefer familiar pieces so that audience follows the tune and appreciates the music better.

The concert format showcases in full glory, the wide variety of musical forms that exist in Carnatic music. “Singing all musical forms, in different tempos, languages, ragas and talas and by different composers ensures that you connect with each member of the audience at some point of time in the concert. In the format that we follow today, all key ingredients are in adequate proportions,” says Sangita Kalanidhi Madurai T.N.Seshagopalan. “But it is not necessary to stick to this format. Innovate if you want to, but pull it off with panache!”

The basic concert framework has remained the same since Ariyakudi’s times, but musicians have experimented within its boundaries. Maestro G.N.Balasubramaniam, for instance, was known for developing his alapanas in stages. “I’ve sung geethams in my concerts!” says maestro Seshagopalan. “But, the 2-hour concert format does not always permit the artiste to relax enough, though it is interesting and engaging for the audience,” feels musician Sriram Parasuram.

Does the audience accept changes in the concert format easily? For upcoming musicians, not always! It would be ideal for them to stick to the usual format, with an occasional touch of innovation. But with established musicians, rasikas look forward to innovation! It’s no wonder then that heavy pieces like O Rangasayee, O Jagadamba and Chakkani Raja or even a viruttham have been used as concert starters, varnams – sung as the main piece and abhangs – have become popular numbers! All said and done, a concert spread has to be a good balance of tradition and innovation. And surely, the sky is the limit!



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Read our views on various music-related issues, get updates on our concert schedule and see our latest photos. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to our music. Comment on the blog posts and keep in touch with us through our blog!

Concert Schedule

  • July 29th - Aug 26th (Mon-Fri) - Carnatic Summer Course (Middlesex Community College)
  • Aug 14th - Aug 16th - Chicago (Workshop for Akshaya)
  • Aug 27th - Sept 11th - Carnatic Summer Camp (Novi, Michigan)
  • Sept 12th - World Peace Concert (Detroit)
  • Sept 18th - Oct 13th - Europe tour (Details will be put up soon!)

Tracks from our albums

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Shashikiran's solo renditions & his musical score for the dance-drama 'Silappadikaram'

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Concert Recordings

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