A blend of vocal fluidity, unbridled imagination and surefooted approach to music marked Vidya Kalyanaraman’s performance at the Music Academy on Sunday. The crowd that dispersed after the morning concert, steadily gathered by the time she was done with her Varali alapana.
Having begun with the Saveri varnam rendered at a lackadaisical pace, Vidya brightened the air up with ‘Pahimam shrirajarajeswari’, a Shyama Shastri kriti in Nattai. Given that the raga tends to perk up the audience, her rendition of this rare kriti was equally uplifting.
Next up was a soothing essay of Varali, albeit the lower octaves lacked in stability. Matching the same was a short but all-encompassing stint on the violin by M. Rajeev. The loud volume of the shruti was, however, a hindrance to his soulful playing throughout the recital.
This season seems to the season of Muttuswamy Dikshitar’s ‘Sheshachala nayakam’. I have heard this kriti in at least eight of the 10 concerts this month. Neraval and swaram-s were sung at the same place — “aravinda patra nayanam”, with almost similar ideas and korvai endings. Though her neraval lacked some crispness and lost pace in a couple of places, Vidya did not make the experience boring. Her fast-paced swaras were indeed engaging. But, it has been an overdose of ‘Sheshachala nayakam’ for this season.
Patnam Subramania Iyer’s Paridanamichite in Bilahari followed with its usual speed — a clean and no nonsense delivery.
Her main raga of the afternoon was Kharaharapriya. Vidya’s voice is capable of producing almost anything she desires in the middle octave. However her higher and lower octaves exhibited some shakiness and a few phrases lacked conviction. Her Pakkalanilabadi was nothing unusual with neraval and swaram-s in “manasuna” — it was flawless singing here and business as usual.
She concluded the concert with a Dasar padam ‘Narajanma’ in Madhuvanti preceded by a beautifully sung Tamil viruttam from Prabhandam — ‘Oorilen kaani illai’ in Sindhu Bhairavi that ended with Madhuvanti.
A humble suggestion to the artiste is to look at the context of the lyrics and sing phrases in a manner that is fitting. While lyrics offer enormous scope for elaboration and imagination, an artiste cannot overlook aesthetics or context.
M. Rajeev on the violin was very supportive through the concert with his pleasing bowing, contained and disciplined accompaniment. Kudos to him and also to Guru Raghavendra on the mridangam, for a supportive role.
Vidya is definitely a promising musician among the young crop and, with more concert experience, is bound to shine.
(Ashok Subramaniam is an engineering professional, a musician and teacher, based in California.)