The Sanjay Subrahmanyan Phenomenon – A concert review

What a treat for the Bay Area music community to witness such an able team of musicians! The ever so energetic Sangeetha Kalanidhi Sanjay Subrahmanyan along with Shri Varadarajan Santhanam on the violin and Shri Neyveli Venkatesh on the mridangam left me in a musical hangover post-concert.

Let me paint you a little picture. To begin with, Sanjay Sir beautifully red-carpeted the concert with the Nattai Varnam – Ye Naadhamu. The second piece was a Tyagaraja composition Paripalayasumam in Goula. The Arabhi alapanai that ensued left me spellbound. Personally, it was the most expressive alapanai I have ever come across.  Sanjay Sir emoted through his alapani, what seemed to me, like a conversation between a mischievous kutty Krishna chided by his mother for stealing vennai. This enchanting piece evolved into another Tyagaraja Kriti – O Rajeevarakshaka . Ka Va Va  – an invocation of Lord Muruga set in the ragam Varali followed, and if you don’t  see the pattern yet, Vidwan Sanjay had launched his entrancing concert with a GhanaPanchaka theme or the 5 Ghana ragas. Undoubtedly, Shri ragam capped the Pancharatna raga thread with Karuna Jooda Ninnu.

His not-so-conventional Shankarabharanam was rendered so cleverly. Just as the audience ooh-ed and aah-ed at the classic phrases, Sanjay Sir wittily ended this main piece with a few English notes – G-MG-RGP-R-G-S (Kaadu Thirandhe ringing a bell? 😉 ) Shri Varadarajan Santhanam on the violin enriched the ragam with sophistication and sublimity.  A 4 – hour concert leaves me perplexed about what to write and what not to! Do I speak about the Abheri RTP with a very pliable  ‘Eppadi Paadinaro’  (unintended pun!) deferring to Sangeetha Kalanidhi’s Nattai Kurinji, Saramathi, Sahana, Garudadhvani, and Shubha Panthuvarali or do I express my excitement for the Bharathi Dasan piece Noolai Padi in Behag that left the audience in giggles over the entertaining lyrics? Shri Neyveli Venkatesh clearly thrilled the rasikas with a Ghumki style thani which is a unique form of playing the mridangam with a single hand.

This is not even the entire set list since I had to intermittently stop the note-taking to just experience this banter with swaras.

The ever-so-calming Dwijawanthi entered as a Thillana – Om Enum Pranava with a bittersweet indication of the show coming to an end. Needless to say, Sanjay Sir surprised us with Dhikku Theriyadha Kaatil, a Ragamalika, followed by a Tamil-heavy section of thukdas. The trio concluded with a Mangalam in Sowrashtram. 

What a time to be alive!! So blessed to have witnessed this ensemble! Music for the soul indeed!


  1. Nicely written article. I felt like reading Subbudu mama / Gowri Ramnarayan’s column. I can imagine how Sanjay would have enthralled the audience. Great Work!


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