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karnATik kaDis - a "kaDi" in Tamil is a really bad joke (literally it means bite, as in you have to really bite the bullet when you're forced to listen to, or in this case, read, it). So for those of you who have time to kill, or wish you did, we hope these will curl your hair instead of making you pull it out. Some may be language specific, and not all are just about Carnatic, so if you don't get it, ask a friend or ask us, if you dare. Please don't take offense - it's all in fun! If you've got a really good one (or a really bad one), send it in.

What follows is a sampling of really paNN-ey jokes! New jokes are usually added at the top. For more jokes, go here or the joke board.


  • Overheard at the Narada Gana Sabha canteen:
    Mama: Did you hear the waiter sing Swami Haridasgiri's bhajanai along with the tape as he served us keerai vadai? The waiter at the next table was humming a good Kalyani.
    Mami: (sniffing) So, now you want me to sing in the kitchen?
    Mama: Ennamma, you have been doing it every morning for thirty years now! Namavali for the milkman, alapanai for the maid, tanam for daughters-in-law, swaraprastara for sons, tukkadas for grandchildren... I get the best, tani avartanam crackling into Tadhinginatom! Tadhinginatom!! TADHINGINATOM!
    Anonymous contribution

  • Overheard in the very last Vertigo Row at the Music Academy balcony:
    Mama: Can't see a thing from here. I want to watch the artistes as they perform. Why can't the sabha arrange larger-than-life camera projection of the concert on the back curtain?
    Mami: Do you imagine Jyotika and Rambha are performing on stage? It is only Rajam Iyer and Nedunuri Krishnamurthy. Want them in close-ups?
    Anonymous contribution

  • Q: How do you know when a violinist is at your door?
    A: He forces his way in too early.
    This and the next five jokes from http://www.maui.net/~pbm/jokes.shtml (no longer available).

  • Girl: My music teacher is really religious. Every time I sing, she closes her eyes, puts her hands together, and says, "Oh god!".

  • Q: How can you tell if a violin is out of tune?
    A: The bow is moving!

  • Q: How do you tell if a musician is out of tune?
    A: He shakes his head while singing!

  • Q: Why are a violinist fingers like lightning?
    A: They rarely strike the same spot twice!

  • Q: Why is a nadaswaram a divine instrument?
    A: Because a man blows into it, but god only knows what comes out!

  • A flutist was very thirsty, so he wandered until he found a music store. SThe flutist stood outside the store and played with his flute the swaras pa and ni. The storekeeper was cleaning his violin, who in response played ... sa and ri! (paa-ni = water, sa-ri = ok).

  • Yehudi Menuhin, on T. Chowdiah's seven-stringed violin: "I find it so difficult to play the violin with just four strings. I wonder how he manages seven of them."

  • Swara: What the audience tries not to do when listening to bad music.

  • Varnam: The musician asking more people to attend the concert.

  • Thani: 1) When the percussionist plays alone. 2) When the musicians and audience leave. 3) When the mridangist plays according to the beat.

  • Flute: A sophisticated pea shooter with a range of up to 500 yards, blown transversely to confuse the enemy. This and the following jokes from here.

  • Duration: Can be used to describe how long a music teacher can exercise self-control.

  • music: a complex organizations of sounds that is set down by the composer, incorrectly interpreted by vocalist, who is ignored by the accompanists, the result of which is ignored by the audience.

  • virtuoso: a musician with very high morals.

  • beat: what music students do to each other with their instruments.

  • ``A critic is like a eunuch: he knows exactly how it ought to be done.''

  • There were two people walking down the street. One was a musician. The other didn't have any money either.

  • Q: How many vidwans does it take to change a lightbulb?
    A: Just one. He holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

  • Q: What's the difference between a vocalist and a terrorist?
    A: You could negotiate with a terrorist.

  • Q: What do you call someone who hangs out with musicians?
    A: A percussionist.

  • Q: How do you take revenge on an enemy?
    A: Buy his children each a drum.

  • Q: How do you know when a mridangist is knocking at your door?
    A: The knocking always speeds up.

  • Q: What do you call a Singer who feels compelled to get inebriated prior to a concert?
    A: SUI Bhagavathar (pronounced like sooyee bhagavathar)
    (SUI stands for Singer Under the Influence)
    Contributed by Ram Seshan

  • M.S. Gopalakrishnan, violinist, was accompanying Viswanatha Iyer (or perhaps Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar). As MSG usually does he went to the upper octave and even higher, the vocalist remarked "pAtthu Gopala, romba mela pohAda. Bridge irukku, kezha vizhunduda pora" (Careful, Gopala, don't go too high. There's the bridge - on the violin - you might fall off!).
    Anonymous contribution

  • Q: What raaga did the musician sing, when they spotted Shankar trying on his wife's jewels?
    A: Shankarabharana
    Contributed by Ambika Jois

  • Once Karaikuruchi Arunachalam was playing his nadaswaram in a wedding concert. He played a good Thodi and the concert was over. The father of the bride asked Arunachalam that he could have played a song in thodi. Suddenly Arunachalam scolded his assistant, Etha na thadave soldradu antha todi vasikara naiyanathe konduvadanu. Adukaga ennenga adutha thadavekonduvantha pochu, the assistant replied. (Arunachalam said to his assistant, "How many times do I have to tell you to bring that musician who plays tODi?" The assistant replied, "No problem, sir, we can bring him next time!")
    Contributed by Prahlad

  • This really happened at one of my violin concerts at Noorni ( Palghat ) . My sister ( Ranjani ) & myself ( Radhika) both from Bombay , were given a local mridangist to accompany us for our concert. The percussion was atrociously loud and the mridangist seemed to be oblivois that he was actually not providing an accompaniment. After the concert he asked my father ' Yeppadi vaasichen ? ; in great anticipation , and my father replied " Nanna Kottinai " !!!
    Contributed by Vishwa Sundaram

  • Q: What did the musician sing after he went to the dentist?
    A: Raagam, taanam, pal-valee (tooth-ache)!

  • M.S. Gopalakrishnan was accompanying Ariyakkudi. The master musician was apparently annoyed by the violinist's taking too many liberties, so he said : "Nee paaTTukku vAsichindrukkaye, konjum en paaTTukkum vaasI pA!!" (you're playing for the song, but play a little for MY song!)
    Anonymous reader contribution

  • Ariyakkudi wasn't too great a fan of Muthiah Bhagavathar's kritis. He was in his usual durbar ( a host of friends and music lovers at his house) when someone showed him the newly released book containing the Bhagavathar's kritis. "Ivar paaTTellAm keertanam illai, pOkeertanam!" was Ariyakkudi's retort (of course this was unfairly harsh on Bhagavathar). (his songs are not keertanam, they are pOkeertanam, or mischief)
    Anonymous reader contribution

  • Q: What raaga do you sing the same song over and over in?
    A: kaapi (copy)

  • In a Trichur. V. Ramachandran concert, there was this guy on the thamburaa... he seemed to be moving away from the vocalist for some wierd reason and V.R. was patiently asking him to come forward so he could listen to the thambura sruthi better... this was going on for almost more than an hour... then an impatient V.R. sang "sonnadhei seidhidaDa"

  • At a Pandit Jasraj concert. As is usual in such concerts, there is a lot of pomp and occasion, as the audience and singer try to recreate some grand court ambience. Several ladies dressed gaudily and with full war-paint (makeup) make it a point to go to the powder-room and return with a lot of flourish. Jasraj seemed to actually relish this and not mind it even if it happened right in front of him, right during his renditions. The organisers didn't control it either. As usual, Jasraj was treated like a rock star and there were several, raucous calls from the cheap seats for him to sing his pet piece 'Mataa Kali Ka' in Adaana, (an upper octave darbaari kaanaDa of sorts ). With a mischievous smile at the attention-hungry ladies flitting in front of him, he said "Ab kya gaaunga Mata Kali Ka?" Mata Kaliyaan sab jaa rahE hain!" (What Mata Kali Ka am I going to sing now? All the Mata Kalis are leaving!")

  • After a wedding reception performance by the late Shri. Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, the groom's father told the music legend: Your recital now is much superior to what you sang last year. Ariyakudi replied " Ivvidam paaTTu appiDiye dhaan irukku. AvviDam dhaan gnaanam konjam vandhirukku. Adhanaal dhaan appiDi theriyaradhu"

  • Q: what do you think of the new age carnatic singers?
    Subbudu: ippollaam neraya pEr paaDa vanthuTTaa. gayatri, sudha, sowmya, semiya, uppumaa ippadi..

  • In one of Maharajapuram Vishwanata Iyer's concerts, after the actual concert is over, MVI was chatting with the Sabha people and there were a lot of public nearby. Semmangudi, who is MVI's disciple had come just then to the sabha. He prostrated in front of his guru. Immediately MVI said loudly, "Ellaarum nee Sevikkaradhai Parthaachu Podhum Ezhundukko!"

  • It seems once Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer was supposed to give a concert in a wedding ceremony at Tanjore. The bride's father requested that his son (bride's brother) play the Mridangam for MV Iyer. He also added that his son is a budding artist. MV Iyer agreed on the matter. After the concert wa s over, the following happened.
    Bride's Father (BF): en Son eppaDi vaasicaan?
    MVI: avan enga en paaTukku vasicaan. "avan paaTTukku" vasicinDirundaan.
    BF musters some courage and questions MVI.
    BF: enna aanalum neenga avanukku tani aavartana koDutirukkanum!
    MVI: Oh! atha kEkkarElaa !! KutchEry poora avan thaniaa thaanE vaasicinDirundaan. atanaalathan...

  • Ravi Shankar and Allah Rakha would just finish tuning their instruments and the audience would give them a standing ovation thinking that they had completed the first piece!!!!

  • Rasikar: unga tODi tODu maatiri azhakaagavum alangaaramaagavum irukku.
    Ariyakkudi: kaadula pOTTunDaa sari.

  • Anecdotes of P.V. Subramaniam (Subbudu):

    The tall, slim, erect figure on the stage bent down slightly to accept the bouquet. "I am more accustomed to kicks, why this bouquet?" it wondered and added, "Ooru pokkai vaiku, bouquet ennathukku?" The audience burst into laughter and applauded.

    Asked why he did not use spectacles at his ripe, old age, he snapped, "Why should I need spectacles? I am a spectacle myself!"

    Chembai Vaidyahatha Bhagavadhar was another artiste with a keen sense of humour. He appeared on the stage normally dressed in veshti, banian, jibba, angavastram. During one particular music festival, he progressively discarded the banian, angavastram and jibba. Wrote Subbudu, "At this rate, I would hesitate to attend Chembai's next concert because I won't know how he will turn up." The great singer had a big laugh over the write up! From Rediff (article no longer available).

  • A vidwan began a concert and before long most of the people trickled out. He kept going but the exodus did not stop. Finally after a few hours there was only one bloke left. To this guy, the vidwan felt, he owed the fruits of his art and manodharma. After some more ragas, even the Vidwan began to tire. Ultimately he called off the concert.

    But he was very curious about his solitary rasika. He went up to to the chap and began to thank him for his patience, patronage and music appreciation.

    For which the chap replied "It is my carpet you were sitting on. I was simply waiting for you to finish before reclaiming it!!"

  • Once (1960s) in a town near Kanchipuram, Salem Chellam Iyengar was singing in a temple concert. There was a decent crowd and SCI was impressed. There was an elderly man sitting int he front row staring at Sri SCI. The vidhwan, to impress this rasika flashed several "birkas" but the rasika would not respond positively. In between krithis, he spoke to the violinist about this and the conversation went like this (you need to know tamil)

    SCI to Violinist : "enna ivvalavu birkaa paadinalum avar thalaiye aatta maatengaraaru?" Violinist after speking to the organizer, who referred to some temple people and comes back. Violinist : "Avar innaiku illai inimel ennaikum thalai aata maattaru" and said that it was a dead body waiting to be carried to the cementry. (People in a caste called Kammaala bury the dead in seating posture - preferably in a chair).

    The Vidhwan lost his sruti and did not recover for the rest of the concert.

  • Q: What raaga do you need to sing a really, really LONG song?
    A: Tilang (the lung)

  • Q: How did the student reach the great heights his guru had attained?
    A: He got taala (taller)!

  • Q: What taaLam does a kangaroo keep?
    A: Jhampa

  • Q: What do you sing when you feel sorry for someone?
    A: Paavani

  • Q: What do you do when someone sings so fast they wander away?
    A: Kaalam (call em)

  • Q: What do you hear when you hear nothing?
    A: Nada

  • Q: What raaga did people sing when Priya was running the race?
    A: Gopriya

  • Raj: I was going to sing a raaga...
    Ganesh: Varja?
    Raj: Yes I was, I swara!

  • Priya: What did Neelaambari say to lonely ShankaraabharaNam?
    Uma: AThaaNaa, what did she say?
    Priya: She said, "Don't worry, I'll janya!"

  • Q: What did Forrest sing to Jenny when they were in a rush?
    A: Ranjani (Run Jenny)

  • Q: What did his mother sing to Mano when he was late?
    A: ManOhari (Mano hurry)

  • Q: What did the priest sing after ringing the bell?
    A: Manirangu

  • Q: What do cricket and Carnatic music have in common?
    A: In both, the pitch is important

  • Meena: Why is everyone in the audience holding umbrellas?
    Arun: Because the musician spits too much!

  • Q: What would T. Rajender say at a kutcheri?
    A: Daagattukku kaavEri, raagattukku saavEri

  • Q: What's the difference between Lalgudi Jayaraman and Mahatma Gandhi?
    A: One's a violinist and the other is a non-violinist!

  • Q: What does a vidwan sing at the end of a really long concert?
    A: Jaavali (jaw-vali)

  • Q: What does a rich musician sing?
    A: BangaaLa (bungalow)

  • Q: What do you sing when Ravi goes away?
    A: Bhairavi (bye Ravi!)

  • Q: What do you sing when the Ravi you really hate goes away?
    A: Aananda bhairavi!

  • Q: What's a great raaga first thing in the morning?
    A: kaapi (coffee)

  • Q: Which raaga would a thief sing?
    A: shuruTTi

  • Q: What dish can make you cry, laugh, or yell?
    A: Rasam

  • Q: How did the mridangam teacher help his student fight?
    A: With the caapu (chop!)

  • Raghu: Guess what? At the Tyaagaraaja Utsavam, the performers fell right through the floor!
    Anjali: Oh no! How did that happen?
    Raghu: They were singing all ghana raagas!

  • Q: What do you call a Carnatic music reviewer?
    A: A krithic

  • Q: What did the musician sing to his distant beloved?
    A: Varnam

  • Q: Why did the musician perform at such a high pitch?
    A: Because she was singing a mEla!


    Got a good one? Email me

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    updated on 03/20/2009