The varnam can often be a comprehensive pointer to the skills and musicianship of a vocalist. That was indeed the case at K. Dharini’s vocal recital for Sri Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha on Thursday afternoon.

The opening varnam in Kedaragowla by Tiruvottiyur Tyagayya ‘Sami dayajuda’, showcased Dharini’s potential as a solid vocalist in the making. The varnam was rendered at a brisk pace. The voice control, and full presence of gamaka-s and the shining raga bhava even at the high speed were notable. The varnam was followed with a short and crisp round of kalpanaswara-s.

The next piece, Muttuswami Dikshitar’s ‘Gananayakam’ in Poornashadjam was followed by Patnam Subramaniya Iyer’s ‘Korina vara’ in Ramapriya. The essay of the neraval for this was well-executed and the upper kala neraval sections especially exhibited both creativity and control. Unfortunately, Dharini did not switch gears for the alapana in Sahana that followed. Sahana requires a mellower approach for its beauty to be unveiled. When Sahana is rendered with a strident approach, it loses its rakti.

Todi was chosen as the main raga for the day. The alapana was copybook and rendered well. A more relaxed approach and more focus on the lower sthayi would have lent it even greater depth. The violinist Jayanthi Keshav gave a good account of herself in the alapana.

The Tyagaraja kriti, ‘Dachukovalena’, was rendered majestically with neraval and kalpanaswara-s. Akshay Ananthapadmanabhan on the mridangam, who accompanied with poise throughout, gave an excellent account of himself in the tani avartanam in Mishra Jhampa tala.

Even though it was a very short tani, he packed it with interesting korvai-s and variations in tishram. It was unfortunate, that he stumbled on the final korvai, which was probably the result of being rushed by an impatient vocalist. The viruttam in the ragamalika that followed was hurried and unnecessary in view of the limited time.

All young artistes, including accompanists, look forward to showcasing themselves well on stage during the Chennai music season. It is important that the main artiste respects this sentiment.

Dharini has a well-rounded voice and a strong traditional approach to Carnatic music.

However, she has to build her stamina as the energy level waxed and waned during the concert. She lost more than a couple of notes of range in the lower octave within an hour into the concert. Through dedicated voice practice in the lower octaves and mental relaxation, she can overcome this challenge.

(Viswanath Parasuram is a musician, educator and founder of Karadi Tales. He can be reached at