Thursday, October 30, 2008

Newspaper Interview with Kudamaloor Janardanan

This is an interview with Janardanan which appeared on the national daily, 'The Hindu', published on Sunday, September 14th, 2008. The interview can be viewed on the online version of the newspaper on

‘Reality shows not to help music’

KOZHIKODE: Kudamaloor Janardhanan, flautist, believes that reality shows on television will not do much good to music.

“Such shows are popular and gives opportunities for new talents, but how many of us can remember the winners of a competition three years ago?” asked Janardhanan, one of Kerala’s finest instrumental musicians, at a meet-the-press programme here on Saturday.

“These shows are liked by people because it features melodious songs from Malayalam films.” Janardhanan, who was in the city to perform at the District Tourism Promotion Council’s Onam Celebrations, said there was a misconception that Carnatic music was just devotional. “Music has no religion,” he said.
He said he had always tried to stick to tradition even while attempting to create something new.

“I have never tried to gain popularity by using gimmicks in my music; that will only harm music,” he said. “And I have never been keen about fusion music.”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Madhava Murali

'Madhava Murali' is Kudamaloor Janardanan's album, comprising compositions on Lord Krishna- Replete with creativity, the album is sheer pleasure to the soul.

The CD consists of six popular numbers:

  • Krishna nee begane baro - Yamunakalyani
  • Alai payuthe - Kanada
  • Karuna cheyvanenthu thamasam -
  • Krupaya palaya - Charukesi
  • Enna thavam cheythane yasodha - Kaapi
  • Raravenu gopabala - Bilahari
A Review that appeared in 'The Hindu' on Mon, March 06, 2006

(The original version is available on

The flute is an integral part of the Krishna myth. This is a collection of compositions that extol the glories of the Lord. Six popular tracks when played on the flute by Kudamaloor Janardanan acquire a different feel. The veena, mridangam, edakka, ghatam, tabla and other percussion effects provide sensitive accompaniment to krithis like `Krishna nee begane baro... ', `Alai payuthe... ,' Karuna cheyvanenthu thamasam... ,' `Krupaya palaya... ,' `Enna thavam cheythane, Yasoda... .,' and `Rara Venugopabala... ,' a popular swarajathi, with Janardanan chipping in with subtle improvisations. The superb recording quality enhances the charm of the music.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ragas in the Air- G. Jayakumar

The following review of a concert performed by Shri. Kudamaloor Janardanan at Vyloppilli Sanskriti Bhavan in Trivandrum appeared on the leading newspaper, 'The Hindu' on Friday, Jan 27, 2006. The original version could be accessed online at the following url:

With flautist Kudamaloor Janardanan it seems to be something of a mission to give the ragas their right place in music concerts.

That was clear as he played such superb ragas as Nattakurinji, Mohanam, Chenchurutti, Sarasangi, and Sankarabharanam.

Kudamaloor Janardanan began his flute concert with the raga Nattakurinji set to Rupaka talam. Without the usual lyrics, Janardanan, after a short alaap, began playing the raga as such with madhyamakala swara sancharam. As it progressed shades of Nilambari could also be felt.
The raga Mohanam wafted in the air carrying the audience to a sublime level. Set to Adi talam, resembling the varnam `Ninnu kori,' the raga was accompanied by laya jathi by Kishore. Laya jathi is the oral recital of the syllables like tha dhim tha ka dhim played on the mridangam. This added colour to the raga.

Janardanan mesmerised the listeners, mostly foreigners, with his rendition of the raga Chenchurutti. The raga, which evolved from folk tradition, was presented in its pristine form. Janardanan played the pleasing raga without any accompaniment. The raga Sarasangi set to Misrachappu talam was followed by some percussion solo on the mridangam by Vypeen Satheesh and on the ghatam by Unnikrishnan, and laya jathi. Quite distinct from the usual thaniavarthanams in Carnatic music, which lasts for less than 25 minutes and is often monotonous, here it was interspersed with the playing of the flute.

Emphasis on Melody

Janardanan started with an alaap and gradually brought forth the softness of the raga, embellishing each swara. The emphasis was on melody.

The concluding raga of the evening was Sankarabharanam based on the very familiar composition of Harikeshanalloor Muthiah Bhagavathar modelled on the Western notes Ga Ma Ga Ri Ga Sa .

True to the flautist's unconventional style, there was a near total absence of kritis, varnams and tillanas in the concert, enabling the listeners to enjoy the ragas in their pure form.

The 90-minute concert was organised by Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum.

Swathi Murali

'Swathi Murali' is Kudamaloor Janardanan's first album for Manorama's 'Heritage Series'. Mellifluous and innovative, this album comprises six compositions of Maharaja Swathi Titunal:

  • Gopalaka pahimam anisham - Revagupthi

  • Parama purusham - Vasantha

  • Jaya jaya padmanabhaanujesha - Manirang

  • Pahi jagath janani - Vachaspathi

  • Tharuni njan enthu cheyvu - Dwijaavanthi

  • Madhava - Jaunpuri

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Exploring the Ragas

This is an exclusive interview with Shri. Kudamaloor Janardan, which appeared on the 'Friday Review' supplement of 'The Hindu' dated Feb 24, 2006. The original version is available online at

Exploring the Ragas
G. Jayakumar

On a moonlit night at Kuthiramalika open-air stage in Thiruvananthapuram, flautist Kudamaloor Janardanan played a lullaby in the raag `Navroj.' The kriti was the evergreen `Omana Thinkal Kidavo.'

For the flautist, it was an unforgettable experience. Not just because of the ambience or the appreciative audience but because he felt he was able to do justice to the charm of the raga by taking it beyond the literary content of the composition.

Says Janardanan, "The scientific base of classical music is ragam, thalam and sruthi. A musician should have the capacity as well as the freedom to use this science to the fullest possible extent to appeal to the listeners."

Spirit of Indian Classical Music

Janardanan considers ragas as "the spirit of Indian classical music." And as an instrumentalist, he strives to bring to the fore the emotive and expressive quality of the raga in his concerts.

"A kriti like `Nagumo' became popular not only because of its poetic quality, but because it is based on the raag `Abheri.' Similarly, `Raghuvamshasudham budhi' became popular because of the unique features of the raag `Kadana Kuthoohalam," he contends.

To make his point clear, Janardanan cites the example of two film songs, `Enale nee oru sundara ragamai' and `Ambalaparambile.'

"Both were composed by Dakshinamoorthy Swami in the raag `Begada' and yet they sound so different! When I say that these songs are outstanding classical pieces, I know that there are music pundits who will disagree. These pundits belong to the school of thought that believes that only if you sit on the floor and perform, it can be called classical music!"

Resisting innovation and change and citing tradition as an excuse, hinders the growth of music resulting in listeners losing interest, feels Janardanan.

"Actually, the earlier generation of acharyas attempted to elaborate the ragas only as a pointer for the future. They never believed that theirs was the last word in music."


"In Carnatic music, kirthans and bhaktigeetams have been given a great deal of prominence. This has resulted in the general impression that classical music means devotional music. Only when it is freed from such notions will classical music be able to spread its wings and be enjoyed by more people," asserts Janardanan.

"If classical music is likened to a tree, devotional music is only a branch. It must be realised that when the blue sky or moonlight is being expressed in a raag, that is also classical music. In `Gita Govindam' where the theme is that of love between Radha and Krishna, it is the `shringara bhava' that should be brought forth by the musician. But many artistes still keep projecting the bhakti bhava."

On the limitations faced by instrumentalists, Janardanan says, "A kriti is usually written with vocal music in mind. The range of the instruments like the veena, violin or the flute is not taken into account. An instrument can go through different sthayis and appropriate sruthis. Most of the kritans end in madhya sthayi.

However, to the panchamam and above the gandharam kritis in this category are rare. Because of this, in veena, violin and flute some sthayis are not played. The instrumentalist can give his best by being fully aware of the possibilities of his instrument."

Janardanan, who holds Ronu Majumudar in high esteem, has brought out two albums recently - Madhava Murali and Swati Murali. The music moves gently through the air ,transporting the listeners to a world of bliss.

His Music

Born into a family with a glorious musical tradition, Janardanan proved a deep- down professional right from his early days, having acquainted with and mastered various genres of music. A wide musical exposure thus helped expand the horizons of his knowledge and he could speak of music in a different voice:

“Now days, there is much hyped talk on the value degradation in Indian classical music. A rebuilding of the so-called shattered musical edifice could be materialized only when the audience is receptive to any creative venture on the artiste’s part and responds with the right feedback. This, in turn is possible when they liberate themselves from the clutches of arbitrary judgments influenced by a dogmatic tradition, and aspire to listen, experience and imbibe what is new and innovative. It is then that there takes birth a creative musical tradition.”

Even while revolutionizing every concert in realizing his concepts, Kudamaloor Janardanan never actually defied tradition. In fact, he redefined it in a very broad and inclusive manner so that music is not arrested within the four walls of ‘tradition’ as is prevalent.

“Music is but a union of bhava, raga and laya and therefore is far beyond geographical, cultural and linguistic boundaries. Whatever be its form, the content in music certainly reflects the entire spectrum of emotions.”

Reversing existing norms for the better, Janardanan upholds that one should accept and respect tradition duly, but not without an uncompromising urge towards improvisation and creativity.

“The creative zeal is never to be checked by rigidity and the many dos and don'ts in the existing tradition.”

Being an instrumentalist makes a musician think in great depth about music in terms of the instrument in question. This is important, especially if the vision is to see music being ‘customized’ in accordance to each instrument, taking into account its scope, possibilities and limitations. Flautists are not numerous who believe that flute, in all its innateness, is a typical folk instrument. Restricting its use to any particular musical tradition, in Janardanan's opinion, would only conceal its true mettle.

"What we need is a style that preserves both the essence of our musical tradition as well as s the charisma of the instrument.”

Janardanan reiterates the fact that the treasure house of ragas and the mesmerising diversity in talas are what makes carnatic music coveted and upholds its identity.

“Spontaneous music is after-all a question infinite possibilities with finite means. One could create countless emotions with seven swaras just as one could paint enormous pictures with the basic seven colors."

Setting a trend to make a difference, in right earnest, Kudamaloor says with great zest:

“I am not one to shy away from creativity, sidelining it by saying that music is as eternal and vast as an ocean. If that is indeed the case, I would rather venture into its unexplored depths, to discover the coffer of pearls and gems. What all has been made so far are sweet indeed. What we hear now may be sweeter; however the sweetest is yet to come. Won't we benefit much if we start thinking in these lines?"

Kudamaloor Janardanan

Kudamaloor Janardanan enjoys a special status among the top-most array of flautists in India. At equal ease with vocal and instrumental styles of music, Janardanan is a self-taught artiste who made it to the centre stage solely by virtue of the amazing ease and dexterity with which he played (with) the melodious bamboo.

Right from his childhood, Janardanan displayed an exceptional talent in music, the basic lessons of which were imparted to him by his father, G.Krishna Iyer. Janardanan’s precocious skills with the seven notes and a never-ending quest for more soon allured him to the magnificent world of instrumental music. Interestingly, Janardanan began his journey of a thousand miles with a humble toy flute, commonly found in traditional festival fairs.

Janardanan was awarded the scholarship for further studies in music by the Department of Culture, Government of India. He went on to obtain a graduation in Violin from the Madras University.

At a time when flautists of repute in the state were less in number, the only possible way Janardanan could master all possible fingering techniques in flute was by imbibing vocal music nuances onto the flute. This actually turned out to be a huge blessing in his professional life- any keen musical ear could almost make out parts of the lyrics of any song he plays on flute, having never heard it before!

Janardanan’s concerts soon became talk of the Carnatic music world, owing to the way by which he transformed his ‘live’ concerts actually ‘alive’ and ‘lively’ by the spontaneity of his creative juices. No note in his entire concert is preset. Once he is on stage and touches his flute, the flute leads its player- the pied piper, along with his followers- the audience to a musical Utopia.

Praises were showered upon him; however deep down, the inquiring mind of a genuine student of music remained ever thirsty for true knowledge. The unexplored facets of music, those unheard melodies- apparently an enigma he knew was within reach to him, yet seemed elusive, refined his incredible sense of creativity and provided food for thought to a beautiful musical mind.

Mastering techniques plays a crucial role as far as an instrumentalist is concerned. "But who is the real master and where is he?" The exploration finally leads to nothing but music itself. Janardanan came to realize that the seven notes of music and the hues of ragas they give rise to through some divine chemistry is the only ultimate truth in music, transcending all barriers imposed by language, culture and nationality. All you need is the passion and dedication towards the noble art. No tutor could be better than the music in you, which is at the same time, a student and a teacher.

Today, an 'A' Grade artiste of the All India Radio and an empanelled musician at the ICCR, Janardanan maintains a distinct and inimitable style. A very popular and much sought-after stage performer, he never fails to leave any musical mind completely enchanted and spellbound by his performance. The adroitness with which he sails over octaves with absolute comfort, while preserving the musical charm has always been one of his signature traits. He enjoys a large number of faithful fans- true music lovers- following him wherever he performs.

He has gifted his enthusiastic fans with what they would cherish the most- his masterpieces in the form of records, which include:
  • Keli: 'The symphony of love' (Invis Multimedia)
  • Viraha: 'The strains of separation' (Invis Multimedia)
  • Kaivalya: 'the chimes of meditation' (Invis Multimedia)
  • Swati Murali (Manorama Music)
  • Madhava Murali (Manorama Music)
  • Mohana Murali -A concert on the sublime raga Mohanam
  • Ganesha Murali - A concert on Lord Ganesha
  • Pranam- A tribute to Ustad Bismillah Khan (Manorama Music)
  • Gokula Murali - Evergreen Krishna songs

Despite having come a long way, Janardanan is well aware of the road ahead and is now mastering new ways of blending technology into a creative environment and is devoted to assigning a distinct identity to flute as a solo instrument.