In my day to day existence, if there is one thing that offers support and peace, strength and motivation, and pretty much everything in between, it is music. Music has this tremendous power to move. It also has the power to gently ease you into a long and pleasant sleep.
Growing up, my dad used to play some wonderful music as we drifted off to sleep. It was to the tunes of Rafi and Kishoreda or the gentle violins of T.N.Krishnan and Lalgudi Jayaraman. Often times, it was the sonorous voice of Maharajapuram Santhanam or D.K.Jayaraman. These artists had the ability to move you and give you the feeling of peace and quite, soon to be followed by a gentle nap. Carnatic music, it is said has a tune for everything. And for sleep, there is the gorgeous ragam, Nilambhari. It is the de facto ragam for lullabies, otherwise called “thalaattu” in Tamizh.
In this post, I am doing the simple job of compiling a Nilambari playlist for everyone to enjoy. Spotify offers an incredible Nilambari selection but that is unfortunately behind a specific subscription service. I did not find Youtube suitably equipped to the task and have used MusicIndiaOnline for this collection.
I start off this playlist with the gorgeous strings of T.N.Krishnan, playing the Narayana Theerthar piece, Maadhava Mamava. The lyrics of the song are here. A different version of the song sung by the brilliant M.L.Vasanthakumari and accompanied by a young Sudha Raghunathan is available here. It is almost TNK’s violin and the piece were made for each other.
The second piece is a Oothukadu Venkatasubbaiyer song “Mani nuupura”. Aruna Sairam does a good version of this song here. She gives it her own stamp and makes it a sweet lullaby that almost excites at times than offer the feeling of a “thaalattu”.
The third song I want to offer in this selection is the very soft “Amba Nilambari” by Ponnaiyah Pillai. Smt. R.Vedavalli does a very beautiful version of this song here. This one is a define night time rendition. Very soft and does full justice to the ragam. The talented Sikkil Gurucharan also does a great version of this song here.
Thyagaraja strikes again with a gorgeous piece, “Ennaga Manasuku”. I didnt truly learn to appreciate this song until I read the lyrics translation. And then you realise the true beauty of Thyagaraja’s words. There is a good version here by Bombay Jayashri but its one upped by a devotional rendition by M.S amma. O.S.Arun does a pretty good version here but the most interesting version is a duet by the legend, Semmangudi and M.S. amma.
Some time back, Bombay Jayashri made an album titled “Vatsalyam” featuring carnatic lullabies. I found some songs in that album very interesting and well done. Others were decent. You can hear the whole album here. A couple of other songs I have liked in this ragam are “Mannupugazh Kosalai” – a wonderfully written piece by Kulasekara Azhwar and the Malayalam piece “Omana Thingal” by Iraiyamman Thampi. A shaky camera version of “Mannupugazh” by the maverick geniusT.N. Seshagopalan is here and the one by Bombay Jayashri featured in Vatsalyam is here.
The next song is a personal favorite- “Uyyala Luga” written and composed again by the master himself, Thyagaraja. I was able to find multiple versions of this song- O.S.Arun offers a good version here; Sanjay does good justice to the piece here; a subtle version by the otherwise buoyant Kadri; and then there is this fantastic version by U.Srinivas playing his wonderful mandolin. Again, it is as if the instrument and the raaga were made for each other. One version of this song that took a while to find is also one of the better ones that I probably have listened to in concert more than any other, the one by late Maharajapuram Santhanam. Maharajapuram Santhanam’s concerts were very repetitive and he visited Coimbatore every year, sometimes multiple times. And he always sang either “Uyyala” or the next song featured in this post. And he never failed to enthrall.
The final piece of this collection was one also made very popular by the late Maharajapuram Santhanam – “Thalaattu padum” by Krishnadasan. His voice was well suited for pieces like these and he made you experience the wonderful ragam like none other. I have drifted off so many times on this rendition unlike any other. Maybe it is the singer, maybe it is the fact that the lyrics are simple and easy to grasp or maybe just the magic of the ragam. It just works.
Without any further words, I will let you drift off to the gentle tunes of Nilambari. Good night.