Kalinga Narthana Thillana

Recently came across this performance by Aruna Sairam, of what I felt to be a strange and yet amazing composition…

Its called Kalinga Narthana Thillana… For those who are unaware, Thillanas are usually upbeat energetic compositions that are usually performed towards to the end of a carnatic concert… These are designed to be rhythmic and uses the rhythmic phrases (jatis) along with lyrics and they are usually joyful to listen to…

This particular one called Kalinga Narthana Thillana in the raagam called Gambheera Nattai, is a composition by Oothukadu Venkata Subba Iyer who lived in the 18th century, in the district of Thanjavur (Tanjore), Tamil Nadu… He was a devotee of Lord Krishna and this composition of his is based on the dance done by Lord Krishna as a boy on the serpant Kaliya (Kalinga) to stop him from poisoning the river Yamuna, and hence the name “Kalinga Narthana”…

Whats different about this composition when you compare others is that usually a thillana composition uses only jatis in the pallavi(opening section) and anupallavi(the second section) and the lyrics come only at the charanam(rest of the song after the second section) and this Kaling Narthana Thillana is different from it as it has a mix of both throughout… The lyrics of this composition basically describes the sight of the dance itself and even includes details where at one instance he has used a word to resemble and signify the hissing sound made by the serpant and the composition is such that we see that a lot of dynamics has been incorporated into the varying rhythm (which is very rare among classical compositions) which when you listen to it closely will really make you feel each and every move of the dance…

Now, I couldn’t help but wonder one thing… When I listen to some of the parts especially towards the middle, I couldn’t help but wonder – doesn’t this have an uncanny resemblance to the western rap music and in some places, even hip-hop? So, I must ask, is this the carnatic equivalent of the same? or was those genres formed as a result of inspiration from this style of carnatic music? Check it out 🙂

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