The relatively less popular Sankaran Namboodiri floored the audience with his brilliant renditions, with many an asset to his credit. With crystal-clear diction coupled with a rich voice that was both varied and compelling, his distinctive manodharma with absolute adherence to tradition was enough to place him on the top of the chart in this year's Sica annual music fest.

The Hamsadhwani set the tone of the recital, which gained momentum as it passed on to Panthuvarali and Madhyamavathi with marked improvisations that brought out the nuances of each raga and endowed them with a magnificence that seemed to be the trademark of this vocalist. Dwelling on the single syllabic rishabham or nishadam, Sankaran lent a stylistic rendition which was admirable. The ragam (Thodi), taanam and pallavi (Nee padamule gati yani…) was the masterpiece of the evening, especially the taanam in clear tones and the swarakalpana during pallavi presentation wherein his creativity was manifested in its full form.

Earlier, Unnikrishnan's opening varnam in Thodi and kriti in Mayamalavagowla suffered from lack of clarity (auditorium acoustics were partly to be blamed). The kriti in Latangi gave the impetus to the recital especially his expertise with neraval and swarakalpana to the lines ‘kripa jesina…' The succession of swaras was wonderfully rendered, to say the least. The elaborate alapana that preceded this kriti brought out the nuances of the raga with minute detail.

Then came a very soulful song, Sarvardharatmaidavu, in Lalitha raga. The vocalist wrapped up this poignant piece from Annamacharya in a touching manner. In the RTP in Kaapi, Unnikrishnan displayed his prowess. The swarakalpana in the vilamba kalai was exclusive as it gained momentum, finding its match in the violin (Sriram Kumar). The taanam was in his typical style. Mridangist Satish Kumar was enthusiastic with the right balance. P.V. Ramamurthy on the ghatam was totally in tune.

The popular Priya sisters (Haripriya and Shanmukhapriya) were their usual best, from the opening varnam in Shankarabharanam to the bhakti pieces in Sindhubhairavi and Kaapi. There was absolute sync in their tones which is one of their strong points. Despite the accuracy in recital, the right mix of an elaborate alapana as in Thodi (misrajaati jhampa talam) and Dharmavati, the neravals, and lengthy swarakalpana, the duo hardly made a difference to any presentation. The rendition, though near perfect, failed to tug at the heart-strings. It did not bear the individual stamp of the singers. It looked like a textbook concert without a personal touch. They were not disappointing but the concert was not exhilarating either.

Chitravina by Ravikiran showered the audience with choice treats in the form of Hamsadhwani, Naatakuranji, Panthuvarali, Sriranjani and Nilambari to the best compositions of Thyagaraja, Deekshitar and Oothukaadu. His deft handling of an extensive alapana without putting on the ‘meetu’ was stupendous.

He won the audience over with his vocal rendition of the swara and its delineation through the strings of his instrument. The chitravina spoke eloquent at the touch of Ravikiran’s nimble fingers.

Akkarai Subhalakshmi on the violin was a fitting tribute to the ace artist. She deftly shifted the raga rendered by the veena from Behaag to Kaapi while he scaled through Mukhari in the ragam, taanam, pallavi. Mani noopura dharuvi rajagopala created a rippling effect in Nilambari , especially in madhyamakalai towards the end of the charanam due to its alliterative allure.

Kudos to Sica for showcasing brilliant artists in the form of Sankaran Namboodiri and Ravi Kiran. They are gems worth attention, appreciation and applause. The week-long Sica festival is being hosted at Ravindra Bharati.