Krishna’s concert was unhurried and emotive, with the artist only exploring the tones of a raga.
If my memory serves me right, the last concert I heard of T.M. Krishna was all sound and fury. This one was just the opposite; extra subtle and over cool. Yes. As it had been the talk around, it deviated absolutely from the present-day concert format. If one happened to look for the start, middle and finish, well, they were not there. It was Krishna’s vague yet highly emotive meandering journey where he seemed to have gone in search of the beauty, subtleties and nuances of each raga he had chosen to render in different forms.
The concert started with a varnam; not the usual varnams, but the Bhairavi pada varnam popular in the dance circuit -- ‘Mohamana En Meedil.’ Krishna indulged in deliberate niraval on ‘Bhoga Tyagesan Anubhogam Seithida.’ The musically superior chitta and following swaras and the lyrically romantic (a bit erotic too!) sahitya were sung with perfect clarity. Very precise preface of Sankarabharanam was segued to Dikshitar’s ‘Nagalingam Bhajeham’ with a few rounds of kizhkala swaras.
Krishna’s next move was to open up Dhanyasi with a serene approach. Here, the kriti ‘Talachinavaru Dhanyu’ by Subbaraya Sastri came charged with emotion. The Atana raga essay was appended with ‘Thiruvottiyur Tyagarajan’ (Ghanam Krishan Iyer) and a few swaras.
Krishna was not ready to leave any raga without a treatise. He took on Kalyani, trying out all phrases on the upper registers, then suddenly switched to Surutti and then to Anandabhairavi. After the violin replies, the kriti chosen was ‘Teliyaleru Rama’ (Tyagraja) in Dhenuka. He thought it was time for the tani avartanam.
The last session had ‘Marubari’ in Khamas, a ragamalika viruttam ‘Thanthai Thayum Nee’ and ended with ‘Varugalamo Ayya’ of Gopalakrishna Bharati in Manji that was soaked in piety.
There were several ragams but no tanam or pallavi; neither was there a dash and race of swara stampedes. The entire concert was completely languid, slow moving and emotive, only exploring the tones of the raga to be exact.
Krishna’s usual sudden high decibel outbursts were also absent.
The mood of the main player always influences the accompanists. R.K. Shriram Kumar was the active player because it looked, literally and figuratively, like the entire concert was something like a conversation between these two only. Manoj Siva (mridangam) and Anirudh Atreya (kanjira) were so subdued and subtle that they were almost non-existent.
Can this show be termed a typical concert? Perhaps, one can and one cannot. It was more of his informal musical expression. The concept of ‘manodharma’ had been deployed by Krishna here to suit his sombre mood, on this particular concert. Tomorrow it may change; he may erupt like a volcano, comfort like a cool breeze or blow like a hailstorm. Before the start of the concert, an expectant rasika sitting next to me made a candid comment to his friend, ‘Hope he doesn’t start this concert with Mangalam!’
But, the serpentine queue outside the auditorium, the full hall and stage, and the patient listeners who stayed till the end, obviously goes to show that they just want to ‘listen to’ Krishna, irrespective of ‘what’ and ‘how’ he serves it. Period.