In this article Vignesh Iyer captures the essence of the Kutcheri Season which we just enjoyed in Chennai. What we loved in this article was quick explanation on what happens in a kutcheri. A perfect introduction to anyone who wants to explore the joys of kutcheris. Read excerpt below or read full article.

“A classic Carnatic concert consists of a varnam, kritis, ragam-thanam-pallavi (RTP), tillanas and thukkadas. The varnam is the invocatory item, which acts as the opening piece. It is composed with an emphasis on the swaras of the raga, but will also have lyrics. It is lively and fast to catch the audience’s attention . Next, the artist performs kritis. After singing the opening kriti, usually, the performer sings the kalpanaswaram of the raga to the beat. The performer must improvise a string of swaras in any octave according to the rules of the raga and return to beginning of the cycle of beats smoothly, joining the swaras with a phrase selected from the kriti. The violin performs these alternately with the main performer. Performers then begin the main compositions, or the ragam-thanam-pallavis (RTPs) with a section called raga alapana exploring the raga. In this, they use the sounds aa, ri, na, ta, etc. instead of swaras to slowly elaborate the notes and flow of the raga. This begins slowly and builds to a crescendo, and finally establishes a complicated exposition of the raga that shows the performer’s skill.

All of this is done without any rhythmic accompaniment, or beat. Then the melodic accompaniment (violin or veena), expounds the raga. With the raga thus established, the song begins, usually with lyrics. In this, the accompaniment (usually violin, sometimes veena) performs along with the main performer and the percussion (such as a mridangam). In the next stage of the song, they may sing niraval or kalpanaswaram again. In most concerts, the main item will at least have a section at the end of the item, for the percussion to perform solo (called the tani avartanam). The percussion artists perform complex patterns of rhythm and display their skill. If multiple percussion instruments are employed, they engage in a rhythmic dialogue until the main performer picks up the melody once again.”