Torch-bearers of venerated traditions are often caught between old-world values and the demands of modern kutcheri craft. Tiruvarur Girish appears to be in this predicament.
A couple of unambiguous phrases of Sahana preceded ‘Karunimpa’ (varnam), sung in two speeds. While there was an element of discomfort in the faster tempo, the chittaipallavi, rendered at ‘medium pace’ was pleasing to hear. Poovalur Sriji embellished the varnam with the trademark gumiki-s of the mridangam.
‘Gajavadana’, composed in Hamsadhwani by Purandaradasa, was a bright invocatory piece while ‘Lavanya Rama’ (Poornashadjam, Tyagaraja) was prefaced with a scholarly thumbnail sketch of the raga. Girish’s rushed alapana of Ahiri (‘Mayamma’, Shyama Shastri — a grossly oversung kriti… come on ye musicians.. Why don’t you learn/sing ‘Aadaya shri raghuvara’ or ‘Tsallare’ for a change?) was disappointing; the raga simply seemed to refuse to oblige his urgency. It settled down to sedateness when he started singing the kriti.
After singing the lower half of the scale common to the next raga, Kalyani, but different by form, Girish sang Latangi (‘Aparadhamula’, Patnam Subramania Iyer). It was only when he rested at the panchama (the fifth note of the scale) that the raga’s essence came forth. Vittal Ramamurthy replied with a short and sweet essay of the raga. The pace-maker, ‘Tatvamerugatarama’ (Garudadhwani, Tyagaraja) appeared and vanished in a trice.
The main raga, Todi (‘Ninne namminanu’, Shyama Shastri) was clearly well in his comfort-zone and Girish did justice to the raga; there was poise, flow and class in this alapana, in the rendition of the kriti and neraval and swara-s at ‘Kamakshi kanja dalayatakshi’. By this time, the time factor began to bear down on the performance.
The percussion interlude by Sriji and E.M. Subramanian (ghatam) was shortened as is often done in radio concerts under time-constraints.
There was barely enough time for one padam (‘Emandunamma’, Kedaragowla, Kshetrayya) and a javali (‘Nee matalemayanura’, Purvikalyani, Pattabhiramayya). Perhaps, Girish can hold on to the concert tradition of his musical family and focus on weighty compositions.
Girish has a good voice that has strong bass. The mikelessness of olden days may have discouraged exploration in the lower register, but present-day musicians are able to venture into this region successfully and effectively.
Vittal (violin) gave good support. Sriji’s enthusiastic support was marred by over-amplification that boosted the voice and the mridangam and left violin and ghatam in the lurch.
(Prof. TT Narendran is a professor in the Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras; a vainika and a connoisseur of music.)