The 37th Sree Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Aradhana Mahotsavam opened in a grand fashion. Erudite vocalist Neyvelli Santhanagopalan opened the fete with his concert which began with the familiar ‘Vathapi Ganapathim’ in Hamasadhwani, to which swaras were strung at the conclusion of the kriti. An in-depth version of Poorvikalyani raga was tagged to the popular Neelakantan Sivan composition ‘Anantha Nada’ that had interesting phrases of manodharma swarams.
The singer’s voice seemed strained in the higher range and he found it difficult to maintain perfect sruti while sustaining certain notes in the visthara. Another Neelakantan Sivan composition in Mukhari, ‘Endraiku Sivakrupai’, and ‘Padmanabha Pahi’ in Hindolam followed.
After a pleasant Kannada raga elaboration, the Dikshitar kriti ‘Palayamam Parvathisha’ had sweet improvisations in the niraval by violinist M.A Sundaresan. The special swaras were enriched by the Carnatic flavour present in its inherent ‘major scale’ content. A detailed exposition of Thodi (main raga) by the vocalist and the violinist was a special treat for rasikas.
The main kriti was ‘Karthikeya Gangeya’, a Papanasam Sivan composition, and it had niraval and swaram that took Thodi through complex undulations and powerful passages. The entertaining tani avartanam session by B. Ganapathyraman on the mridangam and Adichanallur Anilkumar on the ghatam was followed by the concluding ‘Vaanchitha Bala’ in Karna ranjini raga.
The second day's concert was by the exuberant Abhishek Raghuram who created magic with his music. Abhishek began with the attractive Navaragamalika varnam, ‘Valachi’.
His crystal clear voice essayed an intense but soothing Reethigowla raga. The Neelakantan Sivan composition in this raga – ‘Oraru mughane’ – was drenched in feel and fervour. Arabhi raga delineation could not have been better than the one he rendered, when each sangathi and phrase had something different to convey about the scale.
The pulsating rendition of the Tyagaraja composition ‘Saalakalara’ entered a phase where Abhishek invited the rasikas to his own world of supreme creativity and innovation. The pauses and starts by mridangam artiste Ananth R. Krishnan were on the dot.
The singer utilised the wide spectrum in his reverberating voice in a descriptive essay of Panthuvarali raga. The fantastic rendition of aalaps, fine volume control and exquisite modulations showcased the flexibility in his singing. The kriti was ‘Shankari Ninne,’ Mischra Chapu. The extraordinary niraval and swaras at ‘Pankajaksha’ travelled through a complicated route that touched all the important nodes of the raga. The lively tani by Ananth and Udupi Sreekanth on the ganjira revealed the aesthetics in percussion. The dual flavoured RTP, a mind-blowing feat, had Nattakurunji and Shanmughapriya raga seamlessly integrated in the raga, the thanam, and the pallavi ‘Samaganalolane’ (Mischra Chapu). Vittal Ramamurthy on the violin was awesome throughout the concert. Abhishek wound up with soft kritis in Maand and Sindhubhairavi.
On the third day, Ranjini and Gayathri proved how a disciplined style that is steeped in traditional texture can be most effective in capturing the hearts of the listeners. They opened their concert with ‘Era Napai’, a varnam in Thodi, and went on to sing ‘Umayorbagane’, a Papanasam Sivan kriti in Natta.
An expansive Mayamalava gowla raga by Ranjini was followed by ‘Vidulaku mrokkeda’, which had a niraval at ‘Kamala Gowri’. The synchronised presentation enhanced the beauty of the Dikshitar kriti ‘Ranganayakam’ in Nayaki. The classic rendition of Sahana, which seemed to be a forte of Gayathri, had captivating elements that were beautifully recreated on the violin by Sampath. The crowd-puller among the kritis was the fast-paced ‘Sharavana bhava’ in Pashupathipriya raga.
Shanmughapriya, the main raga, came out from the depths of classicism, and Gayathri performed a slightly difficult sruthibhedam that gave a glimpse of Kanada. It was tagged to the Swati Tirunal composition ‘Mamava Karunaya’ (Mischra Chapu) that was adorned with a niraval and swarams. The sisters concluded the concert with an abhang and a thiruppugazh. They were accompanied by Manoj Siva on the mridangam and Udupi Sridhar on the ghatam.
On the founder's day of the fete, TNS Krishna wooed the rasikas with his unbounded manodharma. Although the singer sounded too loud most of the time, the dominant style turned into a powerful advantage during the concert. ‘Saami ninne kori’, the opening varnam in Panthuvarali and ‘Yochana’ in Darbar was sung with utmost confidence.
Poorvikalyani raga visthara, embellished with the singer's ingenious ideas, was tagged to ‘Anantha Nada’. Young violinist Nagai Sriram made his presence felt during the raga delineation. The improvised swaras in the kriti enriched the composition. ‘Sivanai Ninaithu’, another Neelakantan Sivan kriti in Kamboji, was filled with the devotion that the sahityam was soaked in.
Krishna, who generally plays a lot with intrigue brigas, rendered Hamirkalyani with a pronounced serene feeling. The main kriti was ‘Gopala krishna’ in Sankarabharanam. A slokam in Kamas towards the end evoked a light mood. The vocalist was accompanied by Kallekulangara Unnikrishnan on the mridangam and Vazhappally Krishnakumar on the ghatam.
Ramakrishnan Murthy, a confident young vocalist, gave a commendable performance on the fifth day. A neat rendition of ‘Suma Sayaka’ in Kapi was followed by an elaboration of Jaganmohini raga visthara, which was tagged to the popular kriti ‘Shobilusaptaswara’. Vachaspathi raga delineation was the pick of the day, as it conveyed the soul of the scale. The kriti was the Tyagaraja composition ‘Kantajoodumi’. Neelakantan Sivan’s ‘Endrakku Suvakrupai’ in Mukhari, was sung with emphasis on its sahityam and bhava.
While Keeravani raga was developed methodically, tanam was pleasing, especially when Arjun Kumar on the mridangam made it rhythmic. Violinist Attukal Balasubramaniam enhanced it with his manodharma by nurturing each phrase. Tyagaraja's ‘Kaligiyunte gada’ in Keeravani was the main kriti. The soft number ‘Navasidhipetralum’ in Kharaharapriya essays Neelankanta Sivan’s complete devotion towards Lord Shiva. Perukavu P.L Sudheer accompanied the singer on the ghatam.